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Piano Guys duo to be guest artists at Tabernacle Choir’s ‘Music & the Spoken Word’ on Sunday

It will be the piano-cello duo’s first time on the Conference Center stage

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, talk about their upcoming “Music & the Spoken Word “performance with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, talk about their upcoming “Music & the Spoken Word “performance with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. The August 28 performance will be the first time the piano and cello combo take the stage with The Tabernacle Choir.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News


The Piano Guys have played their piano-cello duets in many locations and stages throughout the world, including places where grand pianos take some effort to get to, such as the Great Wall of China and the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil. 

Now, they’ll take the stage at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City for “Music & the Spoken Word” with the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square on Sunday, Aug. 28. It’s the first time for either pianist Jon Schmidt or cellist Steven Sharp Nelson to perform on the Conference Center stage. In an interview in advance of their performance on Friday, Aug. 26, they bantered effortlessly.

“There’s a dramatic difference between playing on the Great Wall of China and playing with the Tabernacle Choir,” Nelson said. “It’s different, but it’s just as epic.”

For Schmidt, “It’s a top-5 experience,” he said.

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, during a rehearsal for their “Music & the Spoken Word“ performance

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, during a rehearsal for their “Music & the Spoken Word“ performance with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The August 28 performance will be the first time the piano and cello combo take the stage with The Tabernacle Choir.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

During the choir and orchestra’s Thursday evening rehearsal, they both got a taste of being on the Conference Center stage with the choir. 

“It’s amazing,” Schmidt said. “When they started to emit sound, Steven and I just looked at each other, and we saw it in each other’s eyes.” 

Nelson added, “Such a moment.” 

Schmidt said, “This is incredible. I loved it. It’s so pristine, and it’s so spiritual. So it’s like working with no other professional artists in the world.” 

But there were some moments of anxiety, Nelson said. 

“Imagine yourself in the position of whatever art form,” he said. “Imagine being in front of all of your heroes and then having the director say ‘OK, why don’t you start right here in front of everybody with nobody else playing or singing, OK?’

“It was seriously the height of intimidation, and it was scary.” 

Nelson said what he did was to “give all of this anxiety over to Jesus and play by the Spirit and get into the music.” And also not to get caught up in all of the tiny details. 

Also, during the Thursday rehearsal, the Tabernacle Choir presented a $25,000 donation to the Make-A-Wish Utah on their behalf — it’s one of the Piano Guys’ favorite charities. 

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson, left, and Jon Schmidt, and conductor Mack Wilberg during a rehearsal for “Music & the Spoken Word““ with the Tabernacle Choir.

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, during a rehearsal for “Music & the Spoken Word“ with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The August 28 performance will be the first time the piano and cello combo take the stage with The Tabernacle Choir.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“It was this beautiful collaboration of an organization that is using hope to heal, and Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square uses music to heal. It just makes so much sense to put that all together, and it’s a beautiful equation,” Nelson said. 

Members of the Tabernacle Choir participated in Piano Guys’ video that set a record for the largest live Nativity scene in 2014 that included director Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” Schmidt and Nelson said that the duo has since wanted to do more with the Tabernacle Choir. 

Both have grown up with the music of the Tabernacle Choir. For Schmidt, a concert the Tabernacle Choir with the King Singers was particularly impactful for him. 

“Some of my most touching musical experiences have been with the [music of the] Tabernacle Choir,” Schmidt said. “My appreciation for the choir has become very personal.”

Nelson added, “For me, it’s a very deep-seated appreciation of love.”

His mother sang soprano and music was a huge part of their lives. She preferred to sing in church rather than speak. 

“It was how she lived her life,” he said. “So to be with all of these people that understand that principle for themselves, just like feeling like I’m being that united with my mother, who I lost earlier in my life. “

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, talk about their upcoming “Music & the Spoken Word” performance with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt, talk about their upcoming “Music & the Spoken Word” performance with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. The August 28 performance will be the first time the piano and cello combo take the stage with The Tabernacle Choir.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

For this Sunday’s “Music & the Spoken Word,” both want to help share hope and comfort. 

“I hope that they bring their heaviness, like we all have been feeling, and leave lighter,” Nelson said of those who watch. “I hope they leave it, just there, and walk away feeling like ‘It’s going to be OK, I can do this’ and feeling lifted to the point where they can now be motivated to help others feel the same.”

Schmidt said, “I hope people feel God. I hope we can be instruments in that process,” to help people feel love, comfort and the Spirit.

The Piano Guys gained popularity through YouTube beginning in 2011, when they began posting videos combining classical, pop, film scores and original music. 

“We believe music and hope and feeling all are synonyms,” Nelson said. 

Schmidt and Nelson are two of the Piano Guys that also include producer and videographer Paul Anderson and music producer and songwriter Al van der Beek. 

For more information about the Piano Guys, including other upcoming performances, see thepianoguys.com

How to watch …

The weekly 30-minute broadcast of “Music & the Spoken Word” is at 9:30 a.m. in the Conference Center. Those attending the live performance should be in their seats by 9:15 a.m. Tickets are not required, but attendance is limited to those 8 years old and older.

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on the choir’s website at tabernaclechoir.org, the choir’s YouTube channel, and on Broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, BYUtv.org and KSL.com. The audio is available on KSL Radio, BYUradio and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). Past episodes are available on demand on the choir’s YouTube channel, Facebook page and website. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.com/viewers-listeners/airing-schedules.

The choir returns to the Tabernacle for Sunday morning broadcasts beginning on Sept. 11, and then moves back to the Conference Center at the end of November for the Christmas performances.

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