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Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra arrive for debut performances in the Philippines

The Philippines is the 2nd stop on the choir’s ‘Hope’ tour

PASAY, Philippines — Music and dance welcomed members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square to the Philippines this week as they begin the second stop on their multicity, multiyear “Hope” tour.

“Mabuhay,” said Elder Yoon H. Choi, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Church’s Philippines Area presidency, sharing a traditional Filipino welcome to the choir and orchestra members.

He said the Filipino members are excited and looking forward to choir and orchestra performances in the country — the first time the groups have been to the Philippines.

This “is a historical event,” Elder Choi said of the “Himig ng Pag-asa” or “melody of hope” tour stop. “It’s really going to touch the hearts of many.”

Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are greeted by young performers at the airport as they arrive in Manilla, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are greeted by young performers at the airport as they arrive in Manilla, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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Welcome to the Philippines

Dancers, drummers and cheering young adults greeted the two flights of choir and orchestra members, leaders and staff as they arrived after the 15-hour flight late on Wednesday, Feb. 21, and in the early morning hours Thursday, Feb. 22.

After dinner later that evening, youth from 10 different stakes performed “Upon the Isles of the Sea,” with several traditional Filipino dances, including “Pandanggo Sa Ilaw” with holding and balancing lights, “Maglalatik” folk dance with coconut shells, “Sayaw Sa Bangko” with dancers balancing on benches, “Bagobo: 3 Flaggey Libon” danced with sticks and paddle-like boards, and “Tinikling” with its quick steps over moving bamboo poles.

They concluded with “Peace in Christ,” with all of the youth performers joining in at the end of the song. Many of the performers and the choir and orchestra members were emotional as the last notes were sung. The choir responded with applause and singing an impromptu “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

One of the youth performers from the Camarin Philippines Stake becomes emotional as the choir sings “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” after the youth performed for The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square members at the Conrad Hotel in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“The love they are expressing is overwhelming,” said Cami Purtschert, who sings first alto in the choir.

Krista Paulson, also a first alto, said her daughter served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tacloban area, adding that her daughter said they were very faithful people.

“You just feel it,” she said of the spirit she felt as they sang “Peace in Christ.”

Many of the young performers and choir members visited and took pictures together after the performances.

During his remarks, Elder Choi also noted the role the Tabernacle Choir’s music has played in his life. He and his wife, Sister Bon Kyung Koo Choi, would listen to the choir’s music on their dates.

When he proposed marriage to her, “we sang together for two hours, and I proposed. … She said ‘yes,’” he said as many of the choir and orchestra members clapped and cheered.

“We appreciate your talents and your eagerness, and especially your great love of God,” Elder Choi said.

Elder Yoon H. Choi, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Church's Philippines Area presidency, center, and Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square President Mike O. Leavitt, center right, join with the rest of the audience in applause as youth from stakes around the Philippines complete their performances for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Choir President Michael O. Leavitt thanked those from the Church Philippines Area who have been helping for many months to plan and prepare for the choir and orchestra’s tour.

Also on Thursday, choir members were fitted for the clothes they will be wearing during their concerts. The men will wear a barong embroidered with the choir’s logo, three stars for the country’s three largest islands and three rays of the Philippine sun. The women will wear a poncho over their dresses that is embroidered with the sampaguita, the country’s national flower.

Sherry Poll, who helps with women's wardrobe, shows choir member Karen Chatelain, who sings soprano, her poncho embroidered with a sampaguita flower as her father Lynden Cheshire, who is also a member of the stage crew, looks on during a fitting as members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square enjoy their first day in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

‘Hope’ tour concerts in the Philippines

There are 323 members of the 360-voice volunteer choir on tour and 68 members of the orchestra, along with choir leaders and staff on tour. These “musical missionaries” are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days and choir members have a monthslong audition process.

They will be in the Philippines through Thursday, Feb. 29, performing at a sacred music concert on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Quadricentennial Pavilion of The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas and two concerts in the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 27, and Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Signage announcing The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concerts are shown on the Mall of Asia Arena marquee in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Guest performers for the SM Mall of Asia Arena are Broadway singer-actress and “Disney Legend” Lea Salonga, singer-songwriter Ysabelle Cuevas and TV personalities Suzi Entrata-Abrera and Paolo Abrera.

Registration in January for tickets for the SM Mall of Asia Arena concerts lasted a few hours as organizers received the maximum number of registrations. The concert on Feb. 28 will be livestreamed on the choir’s YouTube channel, and local Church leaders are encouraging people to gather to watch it.

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Salonga was the guest performer in the choir’s 2022 Christmas concert “Season of Light.” It aired on CNN Philippines on Dec. 24, at 8 p.m. with a viewership of more than 1.3 million. It was No. 4 among CNN Philippines programs aired on Dec. 24, according to information from Bonneville Distribution.

Internationally, the Philippines has one of the highest viewerships of the choir’s weekly “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast, according to the Tabernacle Choir’s website.

| Fornecida pelo Coro do Tabernáculo na Praça do Templo; e Jeffry D. Allred, do Deseret News

The Philippines is the second stop on the “Hope” tour. In June 2023, the choir and orchestra’s first stop was in Mexico, where the choir and orchestra performed at the Toluca Cathedral and two “Esperanza” concerts in Mexico City’s National Auditorium, which seats about 10,000 people. The two concerts in the National Auditorium featured guest artist singers Adassa and Alex Melecio and radio host Mariano Osorio and shared messages and songs of hope.

Choir officials announced on Wednesday, Feb. 21 — while choir and orchestra members were en route to the Philippines — that the fall tour from Sept. 5-12 will be to Florida and Georgia in the southeastern United States. On one of the flights, a member of the choir presidency announced it on the airplane’s intercom.

Previously, the choir and orchestra’s tours or travel assignments have been every few years with stops in many countries in a single trip and appearing mostly at small concert halls. Now, the choir and orchestra are traveling twice a year for a shorter time and performing in larger venues.

Youth from the Quezon City Philippines South Stake perform “Sayaw Sa Bangko,” dance on benches, for members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Church of Jesus Christ in Philippines

With 853,254 Church members across 1,272 congregations and 23 missions, the Philippines has the most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia. Outside of the U.S., there are only more members in Mexico (1.5 million) and Brazil (1.4 million).

There are two dedicated temples in the Philippines — the Manila Philippines Temple (dedicated in 1984) and the Cebu City Philippines Temple (2010). The Urdaneta Philippines Temple is scheduled to be dedicated on April 28. Three more houses of the Lord are under construction — in Alabang (started in June 2020), Davao (November 2020) and Bacolod (December 2021). Seven other temples have been announced and are in planning, but without published sites — in Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Laoag, Naga, Santiago, Tacloban City and Tuguegarao City.

The nation is comprised of more than 7,100 islands in the western Pacific Ocean’s Southeast Asia region. The country’s land is roughly the area of Italy or the United States’ Arizona.

The Church’s history in the Philippines dates back to 1898 when two Latter-day Saints serving in the U.S. military first held Church services in the country. During World War II In the 1940s, American Latter-day Saints who were military members returned to the Philippines. The first Filipino to be baptized in the Philippines was Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo in 1945.

The Filipino government granted the Church legal recognition in 1961. It was on April 28, 1961, that then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley officially opened the country for missionary work. In June, four Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived and began sharing the gospel.

President Leavitt said Thursday evening that he’s spoken with two of those four missionaries who reflected on the beginnings of the Church in the Philippines more than 60 years ago and now has grown to more than 850,000 people.

“Beginning with this meeting, we as choir will have the privilege of being part of that miracle,” President Leavitt said.

President Michael O. Leavitt, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, speaks to the youth performers as they complete their show for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
MaryKatherine Farnsworth, Pierre Dartiguenave and Desiree Syme, members of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, watch the youth from stakes around the Philippines cheer and dance around after performing for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth performers from stakes across the Philippines pose for photos with Dallen Herzog, a member of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, after the youth performed for them at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
One of the youth performers from the Camarin Philippines Stake becomes emotional as the choir sings “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” after the youth performed for The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Jenny Wadsworth and other members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are brought up to dance during "Tinikling," a traditional dance that includes jumping over bamboo poles, with the youth performers at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Elder Yoon H. Choi, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Church's Philippines Area presidency, speaks to the members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square prior to a welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth from stakes around the Philippines gather as they complete their performances of traditional songs and "Peace in Christ" for members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square President Michael O. Leavitt speaks to the youth performers as they complete their show, including traditional dances, for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Brandy Stubbs and Katie Bastian, members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, pose for photos with youth performers after their show at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square members pose for photos with youth performers after their show at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square members Alma Broadbent, left, and Matt Kuehnl, pose for photos with youth performers from stakes around the Philippines after the youth performed traditional dances and "Peace in Christ" during a welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A choir member jumps up and down with a group of youth performers from stakes around the Philippines after their show for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square members Julia Darley, second soprano, left, Heather Hodge, second alto, Cami Purtschert, first alto, and Krista Paulson, first alto, pose with fans that were given to the choir and orchestra members by the youth from stakes around the Philippines during a welcome dinnerat the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Hirepan Zarco, a member of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, joins others in taking photos of the youth performers from stakes around the Philippines that performed traditional dances and the song "Peace in Christ" during a welcome dinner for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Emily Densley, a percussionist in the Orchestra at Temple Square, plays the kulintangan with youth from the Dasmariñas Philippines Stake after they and others performed traditional dances for the members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Josherrizz Vincente, of the Dasmariñas Philippines Stake, gives Emily Densley, a percussionist in the Orchestra at Temple Square, her necklace after Emily played the kulintangan with them after youth from stakes around the Philippines performed for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square watch as youth from stakes around the Philippines perform traditional dances during a welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Young women from the Taytay Philippines Stake perform  “Pandanggo Sa Ilaw," including holding and balancing lights, for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Young women from the Taytay Philippines Stake perform  “Pandanggo Sa Ilaw," including holding and balancing lights, for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Young men from the Taytay Philippines Stake perform “Maglalatik,” a folk dance with coconut shells, for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Young women from the Taytay Philippines Stake perform “Maglalatik,” a folk dance with coconut shells, for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth performers watch from the hallway as other groups perform traditional dances for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth from stakes around the Philippines perform "Peace in Christ" for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth from stakes around the Philippines perform traditional dances for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square members watch as youth from stakes around the Philippines perform traditional dances at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square members stand and applaud after watch a show put on by youth from stakes around the Philippines at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth performers from stakes around the Philippines get emotional as the choir stands and sings “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” after the youth’s program at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Youth performers from stakes around the Philippines get emotional as The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square stands and sings “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” after the youth’s program at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A young woman dances as youth from stakes around the Philippines perform traditional dances for members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Elder Yoon H. Choi, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Church's Philippines Area presidency, speaks to the members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square prior to a welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Sister Kathy Clayton, wife of President L. Whitney Clayton, first counselor in The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square presidency, greets young adults as members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square arrive in Manila, Philippines, in the early-morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Choir member Damaris Zarco Gonzalez claps as she watches youth performers from stakes around the Philippines perform for members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Elijah Collado, who is on the ticket committee, talks a bit about what its like to have the choir in the Philippines while working in the fitting room at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Sherry Poll, who helps with the women's wardrobe, shows choir member Karen Chatelain the men’s shirt, called a barong, during fitting as members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square enjoy their first day in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Jason Manabet works to make alterations on a traditional barong for members of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel as members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are fitted during their first day in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The women of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will wear a poncho embroidered with a sampaguita, the Philippine national flower, during their concerts in the Philippines. This one is shown during a fitting at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The men of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will wear a traditional barong with embroidery representing the choir and the Philippines during their concerts in the Philippines. This one is shown during fitting at the Conrad Hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square wait for their checked baggage after arriving in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Signage announcing The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concerts are shown on other buildings in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square arrive at the Conrad Hotel in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The Mall of Asia in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square will perform two concerts there on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A dragon lighting fixture hangs over a walk walk in the Mall of Asia in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday February 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Brothers Jason Manabet, left, and Ricardo Manabet, work to make alterations to outfits for members of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conrad Hotel as members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra enjoy their first day in metro Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Signage announcing The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concerts are shown on the Mall of Asia Arena marquee in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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