"Jerusalem, city of light, has a heart."
The holy city of Jerusalem was visible in the background when Lloyd B. Newell spoke these words for the Jan. 3 broadcast of the Tabernacle Choir's "Music and the Spoken Word."Standing on the stage of the auditorium in BYU's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, he narrated the choir's first broadcast from Jerusalem. No one in the choir or on the production end of the broadcast disputes that this was a moment in history, one to remember and cherish. Brother Newell was reflective before the broadcast began, and filled with awe by the time it ended.
"What an honor to tape our historic broadcast from the Holy City," he commented to Church News. "The teamwork demonstrated by Bonneville Media Communications and the Israel Broadcasting Authority was a symbol of the cooperation possible through working together toward a common goal. It was as if we saw the peace process manifest through our united efforts." (See Jan. 2 Church News report about taping this broadcast.)
"What better place to bring this historic broadcast than the `City of Gold,' Jerusalem - a city whose history is so significant, whose places are holy, and whose people long for peace," he said.
Brother Newell has been the "voice" or narrator of the choir's weekly CBS broadcast a little more than two years. While he writes most of the Spoken Word messages for each week's programs, the script for the broadcast from Jerusalem was written by Truman G. Madsen, director of BYU's Jerusalem center.
The script noted that in Jerusalem is "the story of the human family. Jerusalem is the reality and the symbol of the heights of civilization and sanctity; yet, it has often been ravaged by degradation. . . . To this hour, the city is an unspeakably powerful lure to the religious impulses of the peacemaker. But few cities have witnessed as much of war and laying waste. It reminds us that there is no invincible city in the world - that violence may erupt anywhere, any time."
The significance of being in such a city was not lost on the Spoken Word's narrator. "It's been such a humbling experience, an honor, a blessing to do the broadcast," he said. "And doing it from Jerusalem is one of the great honors of my life. Because of the history of the broadcast, I am mindful of the power of its music and message. It is loved by millions throughout the world.
"We receive letters all the time from people who say it has touched, even changed, their lives. Sometimes, I think we who live in Utah don't understand the power and importance of the Tabernacle Choir, and of `Music and the Spoken Word.' Being part of it under any circumstances is an honor. To be part of it in the great city of Jerusalem is an honor I never would have dared to imagine.
"As a youth, I admired Elder Richard L. Evans [a member of the Council of the Twelve who narrated the broadcast from 1930 to 1971T. When my voice changed as a teenager, people began asking me if I took classes to train my voice. I didn't. My voice was the same as it is today.
"At family home evenings, I play acted that I narrated the broadcast, but I never entertained the idea that I actually would do this." And he certainly never entertained the idea that he would travel with the choir to Jerusalem and say, "Again we leave you - from within the shadow of the hallowed hills and sacred monuments of Jerusalem. . . . May peace be with you, this day and always."
His wife, Karmel Howell Newell, traveled with him on the choir's tour to Israel. They married nine months ago.
Brother Newell's background is in television, but he is now self-employed. In addition to his Church calling of narrating "Music and the Spoken Word," he also serves as a member of the bishopric in the Union Fort 8th Ward, Midvale Utah Union Fort Stake.
Professionally, he worked as a news anchor in Pennsylvania and for CNN in Atlanta, Ga. He moved back to his native Utah to teach at BYU and to be near his mother, Verna, after his father, Neil, died in an accident seven years ago. "One of the most difficult things for me is that my father never got to see me do the `Spoken Word,' and he didn't get to see me marry.
"No one on this planet would have been more proud of me than my father. But I have faith that he knows what I am doing. I've felt his strength many times. He was such a humble and spiritual man."
Brother Newell, a professional speaker who travels throughout the United States and to many other countries to address seminars and participate in various forums, admitted he was at a loss for words to describe his experience of narrating the Tabernacle Choir's broadcast from Jerusalem.
"It was a great privilege to tape the broadcast in Jerusalem, and it was a thrill to know that our program would also be broadcast in the Near East on both radio and television for the first time.
"What an appropriate place to make history."