Choir on the Road for Summer Tour
By Walter Cooley, Church Magazines
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir began its 37th major concert tour last Friday, June 17, singing to a crowd of 1,200 in Pocatello, Idaho. Through July 3, the choir will tour five northwestern states in the United States, performing in nine cities.
As of the beginning of the tour, two of nine concert venues were sold out. Pocatello's venue was one of them. Scott Barrick, choir general manager, said most venues are expected to sell out. At the conclusion of the tour on July 3, the choir will have sung for nearly 80,000 listeners.
The choir did not originally plan to stop in Pocatello, Idaho. However, the choir accepted a special invitation from the governor of Idaho and the president of Idaho State University to sing at the university's new Jensen Grand Concert Hall. The hall recently opened in April 2005. The choir's performance was one of the inaugural events for the new center.
The Pocatello concert is one of only two concerts scheduled for a concert hall. The other seven concert venues will be in professional basketball or hockey stadiums. Brother Barrick said this is different from the more classical music venues of the 2003 northeastern United States tour.
Performing in stadium venues presents some challenges. At most of the stadiums, crews will partition off two-thirds of the arena. After the adjustments, each hall will seat 8,000 to 11,000 visitors.
The choir's first large venue performance was June 18 at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho. The choir last visited Boise in 1985 for the National Governors' Conference. This year's performance was the first time the choir included the city in a tour and is only the choir's third concert ever in the city. The choir first visited Boise in 1909 for a Sunday afternoon concert but did not perform. At the time, Idaho state law prohibited public concerts on Sunday. The choir did not visit again until 1982.
This is the first choir tour to include 50 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square. On other tours, the choir has taken a smaller traveling ensemble of 25 musicians. Brother Barrick said that the choir is thrilled to have the orchestra touring with them.
"Having the full complement of strings adds a great new dimension to the performances of the choir while on tour," Brother Barrick said.
President Gordon B. Hinckley organized the Orchestra at Temple Square in 1999. Like the choir, all orchestra members are volunteers. Of the 370 choir members and musicians touring this summer, the majority will be taking time away from family and work to participate.
On the tour, choir members follow a rigorous schedule that requires travel almost every day. Brother Barrick said that moving equipment, orchestra instruments, choir members' luggage, and an eight-foot-long (2.4-m) organ console that accompanies the choir can seem like moving the children of Israel through the wilderness.
He said: "Choir members follow whoever is in front of them. It's like moving a small city from place to place. We have gained a new appreciation for Moses and the Israelites."
The choir's most recent tour included the northeastern United States in 2003. Since then the choir has visited Orange County, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Diego, California; and the American Chorale Directors convention in Los Angeles, California. Touring is an opportunity for the choir to fulfill its primary missionto be an ambassador for the Church.
"Our mission is to open doors for the Church that could be opened in no other way," Brother Barrick said.
The choir's first tour outside of Utah was in 1893 to the Eisteddfod Contest at the Chicago World's Fair. Since its first international tour 50 years ago in 1955, the choir has visited the following 28 countries:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Korea