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Tabernacle Choir begins new tour in Mexico City

The Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square arrive in Mexico City to begin the first part of its multiyear tour centered on hope.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — With festive music, a mariachi band in white welcomed the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square as they arrived in Mexico City — the largest city in North America — on Tuesday, June 13. The choir and orchestra is on the first part of a multiyear tour to spread hope through music. 

“The choir actually amended its mission statement to add three important words: ‘throughout the world.’ Our mission is to testify to Christ and to bring a sense of healing and peace throughout the world,” Tabernacle Choir President Michael O. Leavitt said of the multiyear global tour. 

A Mariachi band plays for choir members as they arrive at the hotel for The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square tour in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It was almost like a family reunion in the Salt Lake airport as choir, orchestra and staff members greeted each other with the underlying excitement of going on tour again. During one of the flights, the passengers sang “Let Us All Press On” and “The Spirit of God.” At the airport in Mexico City, people held signs welcoming El Coro del Tabernáculo de la Manzana del Templo — “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square” in Spanish — that also helped point them to waiting buses. 

There are 319 choir members, 66 orchestra members and 65 staff members on the tour.

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Nancy Pratt conducts choir members as they sing a hymn while flying during The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square’s tour in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For choir members and siblings Damaris Zarco and Hirepan Zarco, who are both from Mexico City, it was a homecoming as family members greeted them at the airport and gave them balloons with “Welcome Home” on them. 

“It’s just going to be a wonderful experience. I think people are going to feel the Spirit and also just have a really fun time,” Damaris Zarco said in an interview before leaving Salt Lake City. 

Added Hirepan Zarco, who goes by Zarco, “It’ll be a great opportunity for the Saints in Mexico and friends of the Church in Mexico to feel a part of the Church in a stronger way.”

The last tour was the 2018 Classic Coast Tour and included concerts in California, Washington state and Vancouver, British Columbia. The 2020 Heritage Tour, which was postponed and ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had concerts planned for cities in six European countries.

Choir members sing a hymn while flying during The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square’s tour in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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Sharing the ‘the gift of music’

Past tours for the Tabernacle Choir have included going to a region and performing in smaller concert halls, President Leavitt said. Now, the touring model is changing. 

The choir and orchestra are “doing two performances in a large venue, the National Auditorium, where we will present to nearly 25,000 people,” President Leavitt said of the two concerts June 17-18 in the National Auditorium. The concerts will follow a format similar to the Christmas concerts with guest artists and a narrator, with Adassa and Alejandro “Alex” Melecio Figuera and radio host Mariano Osorio.

Combination image shows Adassa, left, Alejandro “Alex” Melecio Figuera and Mariano Osorio
Adassa, left, and Alejandro “Alex” Melecio Figuera and radio host Mariano Osorio will be the guest artists at The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square’s two concerts June 17-18 in the National Auditorium in Mexico City, Mexico. | Provided by The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

This tour is a week — shorter than past tours, some of which have been two to three weeks long.

And the choir’s leadership is also using available digital tools to help expand the choir’s reach. 

The June 17 concert is being livestreamed, including to stake centers, chapels and homes — a first for the choir on tour. 

“We anticipate there will be tens of thousands more who will participate,” President Leavitt said of those who will be able to see it beyond the National Auditorium. “Members of the Church are inviting neighbors and friends to join them for the performance.”

Missionaries and members have been giving out cards to share “Un Regalo Musical” or “The Gift of Music” with QR codes leading to the choir’s music or an invitation to watch the concert

“Many more people will be exposed to the music and spirit of the choir than have been affected by previous tours,” he said.

The tour also includes service opportunities for choir and orchestra members and filming a music video on location.

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The Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, pictured on Tuesday, June 13, 2023
The Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, pictured on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, was built in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico City. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Church in Mexico 

Mexico City’s population was 9.2 million in 2020 — larger than New York City’s nearly 8.5 million people. The Mexico City metropolitan area is home to 22 million people.

When President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to members,  missionaries, and Church employees, and participated in leadership training meetings in Mexico City in Mexico City in December 2022, President Ballard shared his optimism for the future

President M. Russell Ballard waves to an overflow attendee after a meeting in Mexico City, Mexico
President M. Russell Ballard Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waves to an overflow attendee after a meeting in Mexico City on Sunday Dec. 11, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Ballard also paid tribute to the people of Mexico. 

“Having the opportunity to come back to Mexico, where I have been many times, and worship with them and visit with them has been a real delight,” he said. “They are as friendly a people as there are in the world. The Spirit of the Lord was with us.” 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ministered in a Mexico Area young adult devotional in October 2022, where he spoke of the Savior’s love and desire to bless every one of Heavenly Father’s children and invited them to strengthen their spiritual foundations, including focusing on the temple — and how this is the time for Mexico. 

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The area is home to the Mexico City Mexico Temple, which was dedicated in 1983. In an historic announcement in October 2022 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson said the Church is planning to build four new temples in Mexico City’s large metropolitan area — in Cuernavaca, Pachuca, Toluca and Tula. A fifth new temple near the Mexico Missionary Training Center on the Church’s old Benemérito de las Americas school property was announced in the April 2022 general conference, and a temple is under construction in Puebla, located 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Mexico City. 

Mexico has 23 temples operating, under construction or announced, including 13 dedicated, three under construction and seven announced. The country is home to more than 1.5 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in more than 1,860 congregations. 

The Church’s first branch was organized in Mexico City in 1879, after portions of the Book of Mormon were translated into Spanish. A stake was not created in the area until 1961. There are now 227 stakes and 32 missions in Mexico.

Richard P. Condie directs The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square during its birthday celebration in Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 27, 1972. They sang at the Area General Conference for Mexico and Central America was in the National Auditorium in Mexico City, Mexico, Aug. 25-27, 1972. The choir performed the “Music & the Spoken Word” and also a concert on Monday, Aug. 28, 1972. | Church News archives

Choir in Mexico in 1968 and 1972

“The Tabernacle Choir is an important symbol of the Church. And to have the Tabernacle Choir visit there will be useful to the missionary work and in rallying members … and in being able to build the reputation of the Church in the country,” President Leavitt said of the tour to Mexico. 

Area General Conference for Mexico and Central America was in the National Auditorium in Mexico City, Mexico, Aug. 25-27, 1972. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed at the National Auditorium during the conference. | Church News archives

It was 51 years ago that the choir sang in the National Auditorium in 1972 during an area general conference Aug. 25-27 for Mexico and Central America and a concert on Aug. 28. The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast on Aug. 27, 1972, was performed for 16,000 people, and they commemorated the choir’s 125th anniversary. The choir sang in both English and Spanish, according to the Sept. 2, 1972, edition of the Church News. Their repertoire included “Come, Come Ye Saints,” “Cielito Lindo,” “Guadalajara,” “El Manicero” and “Estrellita.” 

In 1968, the Tabernacle Choir went to Mexico City and sang at the dedication of the El Centro Escolar Benemerito de Las Americas school by President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency. It is now the site of the Mexico Missionary Training Center, and a temple has also been announced for the grounds.

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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in front of the Pyramid of the Sun outside Mexico City, July 26, 1968. The choir is now known as the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The choir also sang in concerts that were part of the International Festival of the Arts or Cultural Olympics XIX. While at the Pyramid of the Sun, the choir “sang short groups of songs” that were filmed for Mexico City television shows, according to the Aug. 3, 1968, edition of the Church News.

Prior to the Mexico City performances, the choir performed in Dallas, San Antonio’s HemisFair ‘68 and at Lackland Air Force Base, according to the Church News archives.

Ramon Nobles, famed Mexican composer, far right (no hat, dark suit), and Tabernacle Choir director Richard P. Condie, back, compare notes. Men in sombreros were part of the band greeting The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in Mexico. The choir was in Mexico City July 25-27, 1968, and performed at the dedication of the Beremerito school dedication and at the Palace of Fine Arts and the National Institute of the Fine Arts. | Don Grayston, Church News archives

Pilot programs

Having shorter, more frequent tours is one of three pilot programs the choir leadership announced last fall to help with its global mission. 

Another is identifying and bringing in singers from around the world to sing at general conference. Ten singers from six countries joined the Tabernacle Choir to sing at the April 2023 general conference. Two were from Mexico — sisters-in-law Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico, and Georgina Montemayor Wong of Monterrey, Mexico. They will be participating in the tour, President Leavitt said. 

Expanding the “Music & the Spoken Word” to Spanish and Portuguese is a third pilot program — with Spanish set to debut on June 25. It will feature a rotation of four narrators: Alex Melecio, Ana Yslas, Pepe Valle and Garna Mejia.

Crews were in Mexico City prior to the tour to film “Spoken Word” messages with two of the new hosts.

“We desire for the choir to have an impact throughout the world,” President Leavitt said.

The Monument to the Revolution is lighted at night in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. The structure is a monument to the heroes of the Mexican Revolution. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Past Tabernacle Choir tours (since 2000)

  • 2020 Heritage Tour — 6 European countries; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Cardiff and Newport, Wales; and Edinburgh, Scotland— postponed and canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • 2018 Classic Coast Tour  — Costa Mesa, Rohnert Park and Mountain View, California; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and Seattle, Washington.
  • 2016 European Tour — Berlin and Nuremberg, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland; Frankfurt, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
  • 2015 Atlantic Coast Tour — Bethesda, Maryland; Bethel Woods, Saratoga Springs, West Point, and New York, New York; and Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 2013 Upper Midwest Tour — Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • 2011 Eastern States Tour — Norfolk, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chautauqua, New York; and Toronto, Canada.
Choir member Dorothy Larson and others sing a hymn while flying during the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square’s tour in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • 2009 Central States Tour — Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Norman, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado.
  • 2007 Canada and Midwest Tour — Toronto, Canada; Chautauqua, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.
  • 2005 Northwest States Tour — Pocatello and Boise, Idaho; Spokane and Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento, California; and Reno, Nevada.
  • 2003 Northeast States Tour — Traverse City and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Chautauqua, Saratoga, and New York, New York; Newark, New Jersey; Boston and Lenox, Massachusetts; Washington, D. C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • 2001 Southern States Tour — Houston and Ft. Worth, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Tampa, Orlando, and Miami, Florida.
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