For its seventh annual Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir acknowledged one of the most visible icons of the pioneers' faith, dedication and industry: the Salt Lake Tabernacle itself.
Re-opened this year after extensive renovation, the Tabernacle has been the scene of a series of gala inauguration concerts. But this Pioneer Day gathering was held in the Conference Center July 20 so as to accommodate a larger audience.
Accompanied by its sister organization, the Orchestra at Temple Square, the choir presented a selection of melodies with which it wowed audiences during a recently concluded tour of the central United States and Canada.
The selection showcased what announcer Lloyd Newell called "the great diversity and scope of its repertoire, from hymns and choral masterworks to folk songs and spirituals from America and around the world. Add a dash of inspirational Broadway and patriotic favorites, and you have a recipe for an evening of entertainment and inspiration."
Clearly, the high point came during the last half hour of the concert, during a segment introduced by Brother Newell in these words: "The pioneers who made this valley their home over 150 years ago left a lasting legacy of faith, ingenuity and perseverance. Tonight we acknowledge one of the most beloved symbols of that legacy, the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Recently rededicated by President (Gordon B.) Hinckley during the April 2007 general conference, the unique and wonderful Tabernacle now shines brighter than ever. As part of our Pioneer Day commemoration, we celebrate this remarkable monument to the pioneer spirit."
Under the baton of music director Craig Jessop, the choir and orchestra then performed the stirring Mack Wilberg arrangement of "Come, Come, Ye Saints," the William Clayton hymn that almost from the beginning became the anthem of the Mormon pioneer epoch.
A video documentary that was exhibited during the Tabernacle's inaugural gala concert this year was re-shown at this concert. It featured dramatized or actual recorded voices from each of the 14 presidents of the Church who have spoken in the Tabernacle, from President Brigham Young to President Hinckley.
In recorded narration in the documentary, Brother Newell said: "Since 1867, the good news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has sounded to one nation after another from this singular building (i.e., the Tabernacle). At first it seemed a small and quiet voice, distanced from the world by its frontier status. But not for long. Soon this sacred space, the product of pioneer ingenuity, foresight and sheer grit, became 'the crossroads of the West,' a place of worship, refuge, celebration and inspiration. Over the years, the rostrum has been extended, the pulpit has been redesigned, the organ has been rebuilt. But the curious architectural design, the remarkable acoustics, the grand purpose to preach the word of God, have never been compromised."
The concert ended in a finale of "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning," a male trio from the choir beginning the anthem, which gradually built to a grand crescendo featuring the full choir and orchestra.
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