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Unique collaboration between the Tabernacle Choir, Azamara cruise line to benefit relief efforts for 3 global nonprofits


A unique partnership between The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and cruise line Azamara will benefit three non-profit organizations to help alleviate suffering around the world, the choir announced on Wednesday, April 20, at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Due to the pandemic and related scheduling challenges, the 360-member Tabernacle Choir canceled its 2022 Heritage Tour to the Nordic countries and the United Kingdom, which had been originally planned for 2020, and later rescheduled for 2021. The choir organizers had reserved the Azamara Pursuit for the choir’s travel during the tour.

“We’ve never had to confront this situation before where we had to cancel two or three years of tours because of a pandemic,” said Mike Leavitt, president of The Tabernacle Choir, during a virtual news conference. “But as is often the case, necessity has created innovation. And we’ll use this unusual situation to take an asset that was created by our preparation to find ways of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving comfort to the oppressed.”

Now, Azamara will offer two Baltic cruises — a seven-night voyage and a five-night voyage, starting June 17 and June 24, respectively — visiting ports in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany aboard the Azamara Pursuit. The net proceeds will be distributed equally among three global non-profit organizations: CARE, International Rescue Committee and the American Red Cross. Each cruise has the capacity for about 700 passengers and, depending on the demand, the net proceeds for the tour cruises could be in the seven-figure range, said Carol Cabezas, president of Azamara.

CARE is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, achieving social justice, and fighting for the equality of women and girls around the world, including work in Afghanistan and also with the current crisis in Europe. International Rescue Committee is an organization working in more than 40 countries, including the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, and over 20 U.S. cities to help those affected by war, conflict and natural disasters to survive, recover and rebuild their lives. The American Red Cross provides international humanitarian aid and support to communities in crises around the world through disaster relief, lifesaving blood donations, and health and safety education.

These charities were chosen due to their commitment to providing lifesaving aid to those displaced by ongoing global conflict, as well as those affected by poverty and natural disasters around the world, according to the choir’s news release. 

“We are pleased to use this opportunity to honor the sacred directive to love our neighbors,” Leavitt stated in the news release. “We are enormously grateful to be able to assist CARE, the International Rescue Committee, and the American Red Cross in bringing much-needed aid to those suffering worldwide and express our sincere thanks to Azamara for working with us to create this charitable cruise opportunity.”

The first of the two cruises will depart from Stockholm, Sweden, on June 17, for a seven-night journey through the Nordics, with stops in Finland, Poland, Germany and Denmark, including the summer solstice at sea. The second cruise departs from Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 24, and stops in several Norwegian cities including Bergen, Stavanger and Arendal, ending in the capital of Oslo. A 12-day cruise option which includes both itineraries is available. Bookings for those in Alabama or Hawaii will be available starting May 5. For information see azamara.com/charitycruises, thetabernaclechoir.org/charitycruises or call 855-AZAMARA (292-6272). (There are some glitches with the websites that should be resolved in a couple of hours, organizers said Wednesday morning.) The sales price isn’t tax-deductible.

“We are proud to be partnering with The Tabernacle Choir to do our part in aiding global communities in need,” Cabezas said in the news release. “We are committed to connecting our guests with the people and destinations of the world, so we understand the importance of helping refugees across the globe receive the care and resources they need.”

This wouldn’t have been the first tour where the choir traveled by water. They used a ship named the Saxonia in 1955 to sail from Montreal to Glasglow, Scotland, for their European tour, according to the choir’s website.

Tabernacle Choir and the pandemic

The choir paused rehearsals and performances in March 2020. During that time, the weekly “Music & the Spoken Word” continued to air from the repertoire of previous broadcasts and were selected by Wilberg. In late 2020, announcer Lloyd Newell began recording new “Spoken Word” messages that were inserted into the broadcasts. 

In-person rehearsals resumed on Sept. 21, 2021 with a layered strategy including vaccinations, testing at every rehearsal and event, self-reporting, and ventilation.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 3, 2021.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 3, 2021.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The choir sang during the Church’s general conference in early October and the choir resumed live “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcasts on Oct. 24. The choir and orchestra performed live at the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional. The choir, orchestra and bells, along with guest artists, recorded a Celtic-theme Christmas performance. General conference, the devotional and the Christmas performance had limited in-person attendance. 

Live performances and rehearsals were once again paused in January 2022 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. In February, choir leaders announced four high-level objectives along with canceling the tour. The choir resumed in-person rehearsals on Thursday, March 3, and the “Music & the Spoken Word” was broadcast live on Sunday, March 6. The choir performed at three of the sessions at the 192nd Annual General Conference.

For Easter, the online stream of “He is Risen” with the choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, Bells at Temple Square and the Gabriel Trumpet Ensemble premiered on Sunday, April 10. It’s available to stream on a variety of platforms.

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