The story behind Adassa’s surprise performance of the song ‘Uniting’ at RootsTech

RootsTech creative director Jonathan Wing and Adassa tell the story behind the song and why it was meaningful

One of the most memorable moments of RootsTech 2023 came at the end of the global event in the form of a surprise musical performance.

It began with a video reveal featuring Adassa, an actress, singer and songwriter known for her performance as Dolores in the Disney animated feature film “Encanto.” A film crew captured the musical artist learning new information about her family tree at her home in Nashville, Tennessee.

As the tender video ended, the lights came on and Adassa was welcomed to the stage with thousands seated in the Salt Palace Convention Center and many more watching online.

Adassa was joined by singer/songwriter Chad Truman of the Truman Brothers and the One Voice Children’s Choir as they performed a powerful rendition of “Uniting,” a song celebrating the RootsTech 2023 theme.

Adassa said the experience was “truly magical.”

Seeing everything come together was a “special and meaningful moment” for Jonathan Wing, RootsTech creative manager.

Wing wrote the song, and with the help of others, orchestrated the performance in a matter of several weeks. He attributed the event’s success to divine guidance.

“For me, seeing it all come together, knowing how impossible it could have been for us to throw that together in such a short amount of time, was meaningful because it helps me remember that the Lord is in charge. ... When we have the courage to act upon the promptings that we receive, we can be lucky enough to be instruments through which the Lord can accomplish His work.”

Jonathan Wing talks to journalists.
Jonathan Wing, composer and video concept creator of the RootsTech “Choose Connection” music video, talks to journalists during filming at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Wing also wrote a song to go with the RootsTech 2023 theme, “Uniting.” | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Backstory for the song ‘Uniting’

Wing says he’s the kind of person who appreciates seeing a good film but most often comes away excited about the movie’s score.

“Music is so powerful in the way that it can support a message or set a tone,” he said.

Wing was raised in a family where he and all his siblings took piano lessons at a young age. He almost quit at one point because he felt he was missing out on playing video games with his friends. But that lasted only a week because “I was bored,” he said.

Wing continued to play the piano as he got older and refined his talent as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Florida.

“When the other elders got together to play sports, I would play the piano because I missed that connection to music,” he said.

Fast forward to 2022. Wing sat at the piano and wrote a song based on the RootsTech theme “Choose Connection” and collaborated with others to create a music video and social media campaign.

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There wasn’t a formal plan to continue developing a theme song for RootsTech beyond 2022. It was something of an experiment and there was a positive response, Wing said.

It took some time for RootsTech organizers to find the right theme for the 2023 event, then came the question: should there be a song?

Why not? One night in January, Wing sat at the piano and started “plunking away.” He said the melody and lyrics for “Uniting” came almost right away. Then he wrestled with the idea — should the song be energetic, upbeat and fun or more like a ballad, slower, heartfelt and meaningful.

He initially thought the song to be upbeat so it could help create energy at RootsTech, the largest family history gathering in the world.

Adassa performs with Chad Truman and the One Voice Children’s Choir.
Adassa performs with Chad Truman and the One Voice Children’s Choir at the final day of the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

How Adassa became involved with ‘Uniting’

While Wing was working on the song, he became aware of possible plans to have a genealogy reveal video with Adassa at RootsTech.

One night as he considered her involvement, the idea of asking her to sing a ballad-style version of the song came into focus.

“It all just kind of unfolded in my mind one night,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, we are weeks away from this event. Can we pull this off? Will she be interested?’”

The next morning Wing said he “hit the ground running.” Here’s what he needed to accomplish:

  • Rearrange the song as a ballad and produce a recording in a studio with members of The Orchestra at Temple Square. Things nearly unraveled as Wing scrambled to get his sister in Pennsylvania to sing a duet with him (he said his sister can sing, him not so much) to make a demo track of the song. “That was the scariest moment,” Wing said.
  • FamilySearch researchers needed to study Adassa’s family tree and find some reveal experiences before Wing and the film crew flew to Tennessee.
  • They also needed Adassa to be willing to sing the song, which she agreed to do.

Before the family history video reveal, Adassa knew painfully little about her heritage. Learning more about her family, combined with singing the song, provided her with a healing and “uniting” experience.

“Number one, I thought the lyrics — every single word — was written with purpose and inspiration. I felt like I was reliving my own family story,” Adassa said. “The song so eloquently captures the essence of doing that search, of trying to find one another, finally uniting in a bond that can’t be broken.”

Adassa performs with Chad Truman and the One Voice Children’s Choir.
Adassa performs with Chad Truman and the One Voice Children’s Choir at the final day of the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

When Wing heard Adassa sing the song for the first time, he thought, “Wow, she nailed it.”

Chad Truman had performed the pop version of the song, so they asked him to join in a duet with Adassa. Then came the idea to add the One Voice Children’s Choir.

“It all came together and the payoff was worth it,” Wing said.

Adassa was impressed with the song and described Wing as an “incredible songwriter.” She hopes she did the “amazing” song justice and is open to performing it again.

“This can’t possibly be the only time people are going to hear this song,” she said. “It is great that we can share it with the world.”

Download the song “Uniting” by clicking here.

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Episode 71: RootsTech 2022 organizers on what it means to ‘Choose Connection’ in a divided world
Watch: Elder and Sister Gong Family Discovery Day features new music video
In case you missed it, here’s a look back at what happened at RootsTech 2023
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