McKenna Miller Reynolds' first reaction to the Facebook message was that it was a joke or a mistake.
The message informed the North Salt Lake wife and mother that she was among four grand prizewinners randomly selected to sing with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
"This can't be real. I didn't even mention it to my husband or my mom or anything like that," she said. "Until I got another message that was like 'Hey, what's your email so we can send you information.' Oh, this is legit. I told my husband and my mom and they thought it was so cool. I was kind of like, 'Yeah, I guess I won.'"
She really did win.
Reynolds, along with Matthew Breshears, Debbie Matheson and Daniel Wilson, were the four winners picked out of more than 6,200 who entered for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing with the Tabernacle Choir.
The Tabernacle Choir orchestrated the contest in timing with the release of the choir's new album, "Let Us All Press On." To enter, people had to do three things: follow the choir's Instagram or Facebook accounts, name their three favorite tracks from the new album, and tag a friend in the comments section.
The four winners were fitted in the official choir wardrobe, matched up with an escort and allowed to rehearse with the choir on Thursday, April 11.
On Sunday morning, April 14, the four winners also took part in a full run-through of "Music and the Spoken Word," including a few camera shots of them singing. The choir recognized the foursome during the broadcast while they sat in the audience.
Reynolds came into the experience having studied music theater in New York City, worked in music therapy and done some songwriting, among other musical pursuits. She even auditioned for the Tabernacle Choir nearly five years ago before getting married and starting a family.
Reynolds came away grateful for how things turned out. She was also impressed by the dedication of choir members, she said.
"The whole experience was so meaningful," she said. "I still have the desire to be in the choir, but now with a young family and everything, knowing it probably wouldn't work out, this is the next best thing, to get a taste of what it's like to be a choir member. If and when I audition again in the future, I know a bit more about what to expect."
The highlight for Reynolds was meeting, associating and singing with such talented choir members.
"Everybody was so nice and welcoming," Reynolds said. "They basically treated us like royalty. The experience was both humbling and inspiring."
Breshears, a cabinetmaker from Palmer, Alaska, had just joined Instagram so he could better communicate with his five daughters. When his wife alerted him to the contest, one daughter helped him to submit the necessary information. Two days later he learned he had won.
"I was a little emotional, shed a few tears," he said. "I sent a picture of the notification to my wife and told the kids. Everybody thought it was an April Fool's joke. Nobody believed it except me."
After flying to Utah from Alaska, Breshears joined the choir's baritone section. He gained a new appreciation for the choir and the hours of practice and preparation that went into the 30-minute "Music and the Spoken Word." The best part was just standing in the midst of the choir and feeling the strength of their voices as they sang the different songs, he said.
"It was powerful," Breshears said. "I just love sacred music. I find God in music like that. The chance to go and stand in that group and be a part of that was what I wanted. It was certainly as wonderful and as powerful and as absolutely as spiritual as I had hoped that it would be. It was a fantastically spiritual experience for me. I hope they keep doing it so I can enter again."
Daniel Wilson, an Arizona resident who works in real estate, developed a love of Tabernacle Choir music at a young age by listening to their music on his father's Walkman. He fostered dreams of one day singing with the choir.
Wilson missed the first notification that he was a winner and a whole day went by. When a second message arrived in his inbox, his response was, "Are you kidding me? Did I win?"
"We are not kidding, you won," came the response.
Choir officials treated Wilson and the other winners to a grand behind-the-scenes tour of the Tabernacle, its inner workings and the music library, which still has music performed by the choir a century ago, Wilson said.
Wilson described the experience as amazing.
"What's most impressive is you don't realize everything that goes on behind the scenes, but they have a well-organized machine down there," Wilson said. "The music library was pretty impressive."
When the choir performed, Wilson was moved by how they blended their voices to sound like one.
"It was like everybody came together and was unified and focused and it all really did feel like we were all giving the same message while we were singing those songs and that really touched my heart," he said. "That was really a special experience."
Singing with the choir was also a unique and special opportunity for Matheson, a mother of five and grandmother of five who lives in Cedar Hills, Utah. She has previously performed with the Ricks College (BYU-Idaho) A Capella choir and the Mormon Youth Chorus. She was pleasantly surprised to be selected.
"I was really surprised, not expecting it at all. It's always been a dream of mine to sing with the Tabernacle Choir," Matheson said. "I've had other opportunities to sing but this is really the ultimate choir to be a part of. It was everything I had ever hoped for and more. … It was a highly, sought-after experience, so it was such a great privilege to be chosen."