SUN VALLEY, IDAHO
Alasdair Neale's philosophy that you can't dream too large led to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir being invited to perform at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's annual fund-raising concert on Aug. 9.
Saying, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing," the symphony director welcomed the choir and acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves to central Idaho's newest performance venue, The Sun Valley Pavilion.
Organizers said they wanted a performance worth the symphony's rather steep fund-raiser-ticket price that each patron would pay to fill The Sun Valley Pavilion. Audience members numbering approximately 2,000 got what they happily paid for, judging from the vigorous applause, whistles and shouts of "Encore! Encore!"
Mr. Neale conducted all the program except for a medley, "An American Songbook," that was led by Tabernacle Choir Director Mack Wilberg at the concert's end. Brother Wilberg also directed an encore, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
After the concert, Mr. Neale described the experience of directing the choir with the Sun Valley Symphony as "unforgettable."
"It's something I've been dreaming of for many, many years," he said. "This is a night that I will never forget in my life. It was absolutely spectacular."
Mr. Neale heard the choir for the first time in person earlier in the day during a rehearsal in the new pavilion, which was not 100 percent completed, yet was fully operational and acoustically remarkable. Asked what were his thoughts when he heard the choir during those first few moments during the rehearsal, he said, "There are no words. I was speechless. I knew they were good. I have recordings, but I never imagined they were this good."
The program was varied and challenging. Along with choir standards such as "America the Beautiful," "Danny Boy," "Shenandoah" and "Goin' Home," it featured selections from works by Cilea, Bizet, Verdi and Saint-Saens. Particularly crowd pleasing were "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen and "Triumphal March" from Verdi's Aida.
Ms. Graves said, "I know of this very famous choir. I was excited even before arriving, when the invitation was first extended. For me, it was a real joy. I've listened many hours to this choir. It's a privilege and honor to share the stage with them."
She spoke of her first few moments on stage with the choir during the rehearsal, saying, "When I heard that sound envelope me, I said to someone, 'I want to be closer to them. I want to be in there with them.' I was singing with them in my head. I sang a lot of choral work before branching out as a soloist, so it feels very familiar to me, like being at home. You know that when you share something like that, when you see a beautiful spot like the one we're in, you're just staring into the face of God. For me it's a real pleasure."
While the concert program brought in funds to support the symphony during its summer season, the rehearsal was open free to the public. Church members were among several hundred people who showed up.
Beth Duke of Hailey and house guest Kristin Fletcher of Pocatello, Idaho, were driving by on Saturday afternoon when they saw that "something was going on" at the new pavilion.
Ms. Duke said, "I have never cried during a song, but I cried and cried during 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.' I've never heard anything so beautiful, so moving."
As the rehearsal ended, a woman who appeared to be in her early 30s, seemed overjoyed. Dressed in clothing that indicated she might have been on a hike along some of Sun Valley's beautiful trails, she jumped up and down while clapping her hands. Her expression of delight seemed to speak for everyone present.