A multicultural choir will sing live during October 2021 general conference. Here’s one choir member’s experience preparing

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, music for the upcoming October 2021 general conference will be performed live.

As part of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s COVID-19 protection plan, half the 360-member choir is slated to sing in the Saturday morning session and the other half in the Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon sessions, to allow for social distancing. 

Music for the Saturday afternoon and evening sessions will be provided by other live choirs: a multicultural choir and a choir from Brigham Young University. 

Thom Reed, deputy chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch, is one of the 180 women and men from Utah in the multicultural choir. In a public memory posted on FamilySearch, Reed shared a little bit about the multicultural choir and his experience preparing to sing for general conference. 

“This is a bit historic and a long time coming,” he wrote. “Members of the choir speak dozens of different native and second languages, are from homelands on every populated continent on the earth, and represent a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Reed said his journey for participating in this choir began in February 2020. After going through an application process, he was selected along with 359 others to join a multicultural choir that was scheduled to sing in the April 2020 general conference

Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic the month prior, the format for that general conference changed. “At one point, it was thought that we might record our songs that would be broadcast as part of the conference,” he continued. “But out of an abundance of caution, that plan was changed and we were left not knowing if we would ever get the chance to sing in this historic setting.”

About 16 months later, in June of this year, Reed and other participants were informed of the First Presidency’s decision to permit the multicultural choir to sing in October 2021 general conference — with a revised plan. The choir was reduced in size and several safety protocols were put in place to allow the choir to sing live. 

“It has been a personal sacrifice and a sacrifice for my family to devote the time necessary to adequately prepare both spiritually and vocally for this opportunity,” said Reed, who currently serves as bishop of the Eastlake 3rd Ward, South Jordan Utah Eastlake Stake. 

“I just pray that I will be equal to what the Lord needs for this session of general conference.”

Read Reed’s full post at FamilySearch.org

Other global musical numbers at general conference

Though the multicultural choir did not perform live at April 2020 general conference, a global choir from six countries closed the Sunday afternoon session with a version of “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

A prerecorded Tabernacle Choir sang with six smaller choirs composed of Latter-day Saints in Accra, Ghana; Mexico City, Mexico; Seoul, South Korea; São Paulo, Brazil; Frankfurt, Germany; and Auckland, New Zealand.

Each small choir’s performance was recorded in early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated restrictions on group gatherings. The Latter-day Saints around the world sang to a Tabernacle Choir recording that was later edited to match the song’s timing, according to a Newsroom release.

Musical selections during Easter morning session of April 2021 general conference also represented the global Church and its members. 

The first international choir was a group of men and women from Merida, Mexico. They sang “Redeemer of Israel” recorded in a chapel in Mexico in 2016. 

Two other musical numbers broadcast Sunday morning originally aired in general women’s sessions of conference in 2014. A children’s choir of 50 girls from South Korea sang “I Love To See the Temple” in native dress for the general women’s session on Sept. 27, 2014. 

The final number originally aired March 29, 2014. The video featured a choir of women and children from around the world singing “I Am a Child of God” and included a video of attendees from the Conference Center joining on the third verse. 

“Music is a language that we can all speak despite our varied circumstances,” Katie Bastian, music manager for the Church, told the Church News in April. “It has the power to unify Saints through our shared faith in Jesus Christ, all while celebrating the need for our differences.”