REXBURG, Idaho Celebrating the recent establishment of Brigham Young University-Idaho, a new four-year university recently created from Ricks College, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir quickly won the hearts of 7,500 audience members.
The choir came to this small Idaho town, population 17,257, and performed before two full houses Saturday night and Sunday morning. Oct. 26 and 27.
Following the Saturday night performance, many students from the BYU-Idaho Men's Choir and Collegiate Singers stood and cheered for more than 15 minutes as the choir members filed off the crowded stage.
BYU-Idaho music major Esera Mose of Tacoma, Wash., sang a final selection with the choir. A member of the university's Collegiate Singers, he said, "It was the most wonderful experience I ever had. They are amazing people so sincere and they portray it through their music."
Choir member Ron Gunnell of Salt Lake City sang his first solo in the same Hart Auditorium while a student at Ricks in the early 1970s.
"I loved Ricks College. It's like coming home," he said following the Sunday morning concert. "Rexburg is a special community of saints and it's particularly meaningful for the choir to come here."
Bob Devine of Rigby, Idaho, now principal of Rigby High School, said he came to watch Brother Gunnell, who was his former singing partner from a double quartet formed at Ricks. Speaking of his longtime friend, Brother Devine said, "His dream was to be in the Tabernacle Choir. It's cool to see the dream of a former roommate come true."
Like many choir members, Susan Olson of Midvale, Utah, also returned home to her roots in Idaho. The Idaho Falls native attended Ricks from 1973-75. "I found the same old Ricks spirit," she said.
"People still say 'hi' and the care and compassion are still here."