Who the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings to when they're not looking at the conductor

SEATTLE, Washington — And that’s a wrap.

After traveling more than 3,000 miles and performing in seven Pacific Coast cities, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concluded their 2018 Classic Coast Tour on Monday, July 2, with a sold-out concert at the Emerald City’s Benaroya Hall.

Lives were forever changed over the course of the 16-day tour. Counted among the beneficiaries of the musical performances were audience members, guest conductors and sound-check guests, choir staffers and, of course, members of the choir and orchestra themselves.

“One of the great powers of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square is to draw down the powers of Heaven through their music to heal, uplift and strengthen those that hear their words,” said Elder John C. Pingree Jr., a General Authority Seventy who accompanied the tour through the U.S. Northwest and Canada.

“They are vehicles for connecting people with God, and they do so beautifully.”

As a former choir member himself, choir president Ron Jarrett knows well the ability of the organization he directs to connect with “the one” — even in sold out concert halls.

“Choir members have to concentrate on watching the conductors, but there is always someone who catches their eyes — and it’s that person they will sing to and they will know they have made a connection,” he said.

A sold-out auditorium at Seattle's Benaroya Hall anticipates start of Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert on July 2, 2018.
A sold-out auditorium at Seattle's Benaroya Hall anticipates start of Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert on July 2, 2018. Photo: Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Despite never leaving the Pacific Time Zone, the 2018 tour was defined by the diversity of the venues (four indoor, two outdoor), the guest conductors and, of course, the thousands of audience members who represented and reflected their respective communities.

“There’s nothing in the world like this tour,” said baritone Preston Tenney.

His fellow choir member Michael Dame said his first choir tour “far exceeded my expectations.”

Yes, performing with talented vocalists and musicians was memorable — but for Dame and many others, the impacting moments were about individual relationships and new friendships.

“Four of us found ourselves doing musical missionary work during an Uber ride,” he said. “We sang to our Uber driver, who had never heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. So in the car we sang ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ and gave him a choir CD.”

Following the tour-ending concert, choir and orchestra members were anxious to get back home to family and friends for Independence Day. Still, they won’t forget the many hours spent in airport terminals, concert day sound checks, long bus rides and even an international border crossing.

New friends were made — including many inside the choir and orchestra, who rarely see each other outside of hyper-focused rehearsals and Sunday broadcasts.

Musicians in the Orchestra at Temple Square provide music at July 2, 2018, concert at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
Musicians in the Orchestra at Temple Square provide music at July 2, 2018, concert at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Photo: Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The 2018 Classic Coast Tour included several recovery days. That makes sound “choir sense.” Voices need a rest from demanding performances and long road trips. But a few days of vocal rest also offered time for fun and friendship.

Choir and orchestra members enjoyed boating under the Golden Gate Bridge, hopping aboard San Francisco cable cars, shopping excursions and crossing suspension bridges near Vancouver, Canada.

But the performers never lost focus of the tour’s intent: building bridges, ministering and testifying of Christ through music and song.

“I’ve been so impressed by everyone’s musical skills,” said Elder Pingree, “but even more by the faith they have in God and how they use that to empower their music.”

The final concert offered the choir and orchestra one last opportunity to present a two-hour program designed for indoor theaters. The Seattle audience was perhaps the most enthusiastic of the tour. They cheered, stood, cheered some more and called for encores.

Music director Mack Wilberg was eager to oblige, leading the choir and orchestra in an encore performance of “Climb Every Mountain” before handing the baton over to the guest conductor, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

“I felt so much love and joy from the choir and orchestra,” said Wyman moments after conducting a spirited rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Once back home in Salt Lake City, the choir and orchestra will return to their regular “Music and the Spoken Word” Sunday broadcast schedule and prepare for the annual Pioneer Day Concert on July 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in the Conference Center.

Sorry, no more articles available