Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra Help Celebrate Saratoga Springs Centennial

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 6 July 2015

Music director Mack Wilberg conducts a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square June 29, 2015.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Article Highlights

  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square help observe the centennial celebration for Saratoga Springs on June 29.
  • The occasion was especially meaningful for Rep. Tonko, who had just suffered the death of his father the day before.
  • Teenage members of choral groups from the area, such as the Princeton Girls Choir from New Jersey, sat in with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the sound check.

“It was probably the closest time I ever felt like I got to heaven.” —Mayor Joanne D. Yepson of Saratoga Springs

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NEW YORK

This city, known for its natural spring waters and thoroughbred horse racing, is observing 100 years this year since its founding as a municipality, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square helped observe the centennial with a June 29 concert in the covered amphitheater at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

It was the third stop for the choir and orchestra on their two-week Atlantic Coast tour and the choir’s third visit to the city, the previous occasions being in 2003 and 1967. This concert, presented before a sold-out audience of some 5,600, including those in reserved seating in the amphitheater and general admission seating on the lawn above, was an official centennial celebration event for the city.

Mayor Joanne D. Yepsen of Saratoga Springs and U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko of New York, whose district includes Saratoga County, were on hand for the occasion. Mayor Yepsen was given the traditional honorary privilege of directing the last encore song of the concert, “This Land Is Your Land.”

The occasion was especially meaningful for Rep. Tonko, who had just suffered the death of his father the day before.

“It felt very uplifting,” he said after the concert. “The heavenly voices of the choir just resonated with tremendous grace and beauty.”

He said that with his grieving, he had second thoughts about coming but decided to attend in search of a spiritual connection.

“I found it,” he said. “And it was so powerful. So powerful.”

The performance of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” touched him deeply, he said, as he thought of his father.

“It just really hit home, because as I leafed through so many bits of music today, that was one of the pieces that I thought may be appropriate for his salute, for his farewell, and to hear it tonight and to have it performed so tremendously just touched me. I could feel his presence. It was a great connection, a great healing. I think the arts are healers.”

Mayor Joanne D. Yepsen of Saratoga Springs, New York, is the guest conductor on the final song of a concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square June 29, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, left, and Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne D. Jepsen comment on their experience attending a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square June 29, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square fill the stage at the covered outdoor amphitheater of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Springs, New York, June 29, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Holding sheet music, Allison Taft, left, and Ashley Fugal, high school students from Burnt Hills-Balston Lake Central Schools in New York, sit in with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during their sound check rehearsal prior to their concert at Saratoga Springs, New York. The two were among young choral music students who had the opportunity to sit in with the choir during the rehearsal. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Mayor Yepsen said her opportunity to conduct the choir and orchestra was humbling and overwhelming.

“It was probably the closest time I ever felt like I got to heaven,” she said. “The colors and the glitter and this full sound, the professionalism and synchronicity were very intense. It was pure fun for me to be up there and be a part of it.”

She said when she was invited her first thought was to ask her son, Cole, to help her prepare. He is studying music at Belmont University.

“But what really went through my mind is, what a great way to celebrate the centennial. … Arts have been a part of our city right from the beginning, just like the mineral waters and the horses. Arts are a big part of what make up Saratoga Springs and why we feel we are different and special from most other cities.”

The sound check for the concert earlier in the day was an opportunity for teenage members of choral groups from the area, such as the Princeton Girls Choir from New Jersey, to sit in with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

“We brought two of our high school girls—one graduating senior and one who’s moving up to be a senior—and they’re very excited,” said Rob Soricelli, who teaches for Burnt Hills-Balston Lake Central Schools in New York.

“I honestly can’t believe we have this experience,” said Ashley Fugal, the graduating senior, who is a member of the Church. “I’ve grown up listening to them, so to be able to actually sing with them is like just kind of breathtaking.”

Allison Taft, the other student, said, “It’s amazing. I feel so grateful to be given this opportunity. I never thought I’d be doing something like this.”

The Atlantic Coast tour for the choir and orchestra continues this week with two concerts at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall and an appearance at Yankee Stadium, where the choir will sing the national anthem to open a New York Yankees baseball game.