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1st concert for Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra in Mexico at Toluca Cathedral

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square share songs in Spanish, English and more during first concert of the Mexico tour

TOLUCA, Mexico — Under the soaring vaulted ceiling in the Toluca Cathedral and surrounded by art, windows and statues pointing to Jesus Christ, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square performed “Esperanza,” or “Hope,” their first concert of a multiyear tour to spread hope through music. 

From spiritual hallelujahs to hymns to songs from around the world and singing in several languages, the choir and orchestra presented 14 songs plus three encores during the Thursday, June 15, concert in the Toluca Cathedral. One of the encores was the popular Mexican song “Cielito Lindo.” 

Mack Wilberg reacts after The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Archbishop Raúl Gómez González of the Catholic Diocese of Toluca welcomed the choir, orchestra and guests to the Toluca Cathedral and pointed to their common beliefs of Jesus Christ and that sharing the beauty of music will help “bring us all closer to Christ as our Savior.” 

“At the end, we proclaim the same thing — faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ joins us through the gift of salvation,” Archbishop Gómez said after the concert. 

The concert opened with hymns of praise: “Praised to the Lord, the Almighty” in English, followed by “Come, Ye Children of the Lord” in Spanish and “Alabaré a mi Señor” (“I Will Praise My Lord”) in Spanish. 

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Archbishop Raúl Gómez González of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toluca delivers a welcome message during the Tabernacle Choir’s concert at the Cathedral of Toluca in Mexico on June 15, 2023. | Cody Bell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Two different songs titled “Hallelujah” followed — one felt like a spiritual chant and the other soared, filling the space with music. 

Next were the celebratory “¡Ah, El Novio!” a Sephardic wedding song, and the Nigerian carol “Betelehemu,” both sung in those native languages. The choir and orchestra then performed a trio of songs about being in love: the upbeat “Music Everywhere,” the softer “We Shall Gather at the River” and the hand-clapping “Cindy.” 

Transitioning to songs from the masters, the choir and orchestra performed “Meditation,” including “Ave Maria,” and “Hallelujah” from “The Messiah,” which was followed by a standing ovation from the audience.  

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico on Thursday, June 15, 2023.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“These are two expressions of the love of God and gratitude for blessings,” said narrator Alejandro “Alex” Melecio Figuera, who will be one of the guest performers in the June 17-18 concerts in the National Auditorium.

The last two songs on the program were hymns, “Let Us All Press On” and “The Spirit of God,” sung in both Spanish and English. The final “amén y amén” rang throughout the cathedral. 

A trio of encores followed with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in English, and then in Spanish, “Cielito Lindo” and the choir’s signature song — “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”  When the choir was last in Mexico in 1972, “Cielito Lindo” was part of the repertoire, according to the Church News archives.

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Dignitaries applaud after The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Afterward, Archbishop Gómez said the concert was beautiful and noted the spirit he felt during the concert. “It all worked together — the listeners and the choir with the orchestra, we all felt joy.” 

Elder Hugo Montoya, General Authority Seventy and president of the Mexico Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, welcomed the audience and shared gratitude for the archbishop and other diocese leaders and city officials for welcoming them.

Working together “helps bring roots of faith to the deepest parts of our hearts,” he said. 

Attendees listen as The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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Conductor Mack Wilberg and associate conductor Ryan Murphy led the choir and orchestra.

After the concert, Wilberg called it “a magnificent experience” to perform in the cathedral. The ornate cathedral took 111 years to build, from 1867 to 1978.

“We wanted, as with everything that the choir and the orchestra does, we hope that there is something for everyone. And so we not only sing the works of the great master composers, but also some folk music, of course, hymns, and then some of the music of this beautiful land,” Wilberg said after the concert.  

Mack Wilberg conducts during The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square concert in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Many of the choir members previously spoke Spanish, whether in school or on missions, which helped learning the songs in Spanish for this tour. “Then the rest of us, including myself, learned as we went along.”

He added: “It’s been a wonderful experience particularly tonight to see the reaction of the audience as we sang many of our selections in Spanish.” 

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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The Tabernacle Choir and orchestra will also perform Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18, in the National Auditorium in Mexico City. The June 17 concert will be livestreamed on the choir’s YouTube channel.

Toluca is about 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Mexico City and the capital of the state of Mexico. It is also the site for one of four temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Mexico City that President Russell M. Nelson announced in the October 2022 general conference.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square members prepare to perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

‘Celebrate together’

Prior to the concert, choir President Michael O. Leavitt announced a $5,000 donation to the Diocese of Toluca’s Superior School of Sacred Music. 

“Toluca is a great example of collaboration between various denominations,” President Leavitt said at the event at the nearby Museo del Paisaje José María Velasco (Museum of Landscapes of José María Velasco) that included representatives from the Diocese of Tuluca, including Archbishop Gomez, government officials and those from Toluca’s interfaith council. 

“Tonight, we will celebrate together,” President Leavitt said. “Music speaks directly to our souls. [It] has the power to connection. … It has brought religions, cultures and various ethnicities together tonight. … May we continue to work together in many ways.”

The Mexican flag is retired for the day in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Montoya shared about the power of interfaith collaboration. 

“We are more together,” Elder Montoya said. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity that we can unite and not divide.” 

Also, the Church presented black plates with the Tabernacle Choir’s logo incorporated into a golden design. 

President Michael O. Leavitt, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, presents a plate that includes the choir’s logo to Archbishop Raúl Gómez González of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toluca during an event Thursday, June 15, 2023, prior to the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s concert in the Toluca Cathedral.  | Cody Bell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

On Wednesday, June 14, the choir and orchestra members filmed part of a music video for  “Meditation” in the cathedral, the nearby plaza and Cosmovitral Botanical Garden to be shown in the National Auditorium. Afterward, several choir members visited with local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Attendees shoot photos as The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square perform in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square rehearse in the Toluca Cathedral in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square pose for a picture with a leader of the Catholic Church on Thursday, June 15, 2023. From left: L. Whitney Clayton, first counselor in the Tabernacle Choir presidency; Michael O. Leavitt, president of the Tabernacle Choir; Mack Wilberg, music director; Archbishop Raúl Gómez González of the Archdiocese of Toluca; and Gary B. Porter, second counselor in the Tabernacle Choir presidency. | Cody Bell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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