Choir, Orchestra Wrap Up European Tour with Re-created Paris Photo Shoot

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • PARIS, FRANCE

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, in 1955.

Article Highlights

  • The choir and orchestra have brought healing to those affected by recent terrorist attacks.
  • For many concert-goers, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was the first exposure they had to the Church.
  • Choir and orchestra members shared many memorable experiences from the tour.

“[Local Church members] consider the choir an embodiment of their faith, of the hope, of the peace that comes from the restored gospel, and many of them will never have a chance to see the choir perform at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.” —Ralf Grünke, associate director of Church public affairs for Europe

Re-creating a historic 1955 photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on July 15 wrapped up a three-week, seven-concert tour of central Europe two days after the last performance in Rotterdam, Holland.

The photo shoot in Paris was on the precise spot where the 1955 picture was taken during the choir’s six-week tour of Europe that year.

This time, the otherwise joyous occasion was subdued by the sobering news of the night before, that during a celebration of Bastille Day on the other side of the nation, dozens of people were massacred in the city of Nice, amounting to the third major terrorist assault to hit France in 19 months.

The event brought to mind remarks Elder Patrick Kearon, General Authority Seventy and Europe Area President, gave the previous Sunday at a sacrament meeting for tour participants at the hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, where they were staying.

Elder Kearon alluded to a recent terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, where the choir and orchestra would be performing next, at the city’s Bozar concert hall. “You might not see on the streets the healing that is needed there, and as you go to Paris, … although I can see the power that you have and that you will be given to bring healing and to bless those good people who have been hurt by those who have no understanding of truth and light.”

Prior to the tour, Sister Abigail Newell, the missionary daughter of choir announcer Lloyd Newell, had written to her parents from her mission in Brussels.

“The people here in Europe are so excited for MoTab,” she wrote. “Please let the choir know just how much they will be blessing the people here and the missionary work here. People religious and nonreligious love the choir and watch your spoken word. It has been so fun to hear them talk about it. You truly are blessing lives way on the other side of the globe!”

Ralf Grünke, associate director of Church public affairs for Europe, said during an interview in Rotterdam that there had been “great success” with the tour.

Local Church members “consider the choir an embodiment of their faith, of the hope, of the peace that comes from the restored gospel, and many of them will never have a chance to see the choir perform at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City,” said Brother Grünke, a resident of Frankfurt, Germany, where the July 9 concert was held.

“So having the choir in the concert halls they’re familiar with in their own home cities has helped them feel appreciated and feel uplifted. And it has given them the hope they were looking for in many places.”

In Nuremberg on July 1, President Lehi Karl Schwartz of the Nuremberg Germany Stake approached choir administrative manager Barry Anderson after the concert and tearfully said, “The Saints in Germany can get lonely as they hasten the work, but tonight we remembered that we are not alone because you all came to sing for us.”

As for people of other faiths or no faith at all, “for many of them it was their first exposure not only to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but in some cases to its sponsoring organization, to the Church,” Brother Grünke noted. “And we’ve heard from many of them that it has been a powerful experience.”

Among the fans was Volker Schmitt-Illert, a retired Lutheran pastor, who attended the Frankfurt concert at Jahrhunderthalle and was among selected guests invited to sit in with the choir during the sound check prior to the concert.

“This choir sets the standard for all choirs,” said the 72-year-old pastor, who has listened to its radio broadcasts since age 6. “They stand for much more than music.”

At all seven venues—earlier performances were in Berlin and Nuremberg, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and Zurich, Switzerland—audiences have been exuberant, demanding double encores.

But perhaps the final concert at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam was where the crowd was the least reserved.

“Come back next year!” an audience member called out after Brother Newell said the event was “an evening we will long remember.”

“We love you!” another yelled when Brother Newell said, “We want to see you again” and expressed the hope that it would not take another 34 years, as it did this time. All the performers—singers, instrumentalists, and directors—sang the choir’s traditional farewell hymn, “God Be with You,” in Dutch.

In interviews, tour participants shared memorable moments and personal connections with the locales where they performed.

Kim and Jeanette Egette celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary by taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam, Holland, where the performers and guests stayed. She joined the choir just after their last European tour 18 years ago.

Marie Feinauer, viola player with the orchestra, said that at the Nuremberg concert, a mother approached a cellist on the front row. She said her son was a missionary companion with the son of a choir member way up in the loft and that she had been trying to get the other mother’s attention.

“So we played ‘telephone,’” Sister Feinauer said. The cellist “whispered to somebody who whispered to somebody else. And it goes through the violas, through the woodwinds, all the way up through eight rows of the choir to this missionary mom, and they’re waving at each other.”

Niel and Denise Westover are newlyweds of about a year who met in the choir. He arranged to propose to her last year in front of the choir and orchestra on the day the European tour was announced, asking her, “Will you be my tour roommate?”

She said, “Yes,” and they fulfilled that pledge during the tour, actually sitting next to each other at three of the concert venues, she in the alto and he in the tenor section.

Rebecca Cheney, a soprano in the choir, lived in Frankfurt for four years as a child and the Netherlands for three years as a teenager. She met her future husband, Daryn, at a youth conference in Berchtesgaden, Germany. He was 15 and living in Heidelberg. They met again at Brigham Young University and have been married for 23 years.

“So it’s a dream come true for us to be here together,” she said.

Some of the performers saw special meaning in the words of some of the selections, considering the local circumstances, as, for example, applying the African American spiritual “Battle of Jericho” to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

During the singing of the line “We’ll find the place which God for us prepared far away in the West” in “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Lani Hyer Arnette reflected that during the Cold War, West Berlin was seen as a place of freedom by many of those on the other side of the wall in East Berlin.

“The first night we sang, when we were in Berlin, the choir was unified in a way that I’ve never experienced in my almost 10 years with the choir,” she said. “The diction was perfect, and the music was together. That was an amazing beginning to the tour. And even though through the other concerts we were tired or hot or we just didn’t feel completely perfect, those who were listening said the concerts kept getting better and better for them.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Eric J. Schetselaar, a bass in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Dutch ancestry, waves a Dutch flag after announcer Lloyd Newell asks how many of the performers have personal or family connections to Holland during the concert of the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Re-creating a historic 1955 photo, members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square stand in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, at sunrise on July 15, 2016, ending their three-week tour of central Europe. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Re-creating a historic 1955 photo, members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square stand in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, on July 15, 2016, ending their three-week tour of central Europe. In the foreground are music director Mack Wilberg, choir broadcast announcer Lloyd Newell, and associate music director Ryan Murphy. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Flowers are brought to conductors at the end of the concert at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

An exuberant audience gives a standing ovation for the concert at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Music director Mack Wilberg recognizes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during a standing ovation at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

An exuberant audience gives a standing ovation for the concert at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Music director Mack Wilberg leads the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in sound check at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

During sound check prior to the concert in Rotterdam, Holland, the women's section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir claps rhythmically during the folk song “Cindy.” Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Some of the male members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir serve as bell ringers between selections in the first half of the concert at De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam, Holland, on July 13, 2016. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Denise and Niel Westover enter De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam. Newlyweds and Mormon Tabernacle Choir European tour roommates, they married after he proposed to her in front of the performers during the announcement last year of this year's tour. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Volker Schmitt-Illert, a retired Lutheran pastor who attended the Frankfurt concert at Jahrhunderthalle, was among selected guests invited to sit in with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the sound check prior to the concert in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.