Mormon Tabernacle Choir Veterans and Rookies Blend to Enrich 2018 Tour

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News assistant editor

  • 1 June 2018

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square perform at Berkeley's Greek Theatre on June 23, 2018, as part of the 2018 Classic Coast Tour. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

BERKELEY, Calif.

Elite pro sports teams typically boast a mix of seasoned savvy veterans and a few talented, ambitious rookies.

That veteran/rookie formula worked equally well during the 2018 Classic Coast Tour of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square.

Numbered among the performers were choir members participating in their 10th tour—and plenty experiencing “the road” for the first time. And like a winning football or basketball squad, one relies on the other to bring out their combined best.

But don’t bother asking the vets to name their favorite tour. Like children, each tour brings its own qualities and challenges. “All of the tours are special in their own ways,” said Doug Furness, a bass in the choir who was participating in his eighth and final major tour.

His fellow choir member, Jeanette Eggett, concedes the 2018 tour would be her last. Her major choir tours now number in double digits (10). She’s performed throughout Europe, Canada, and across the United States—but she still marvels at her good fortune as both a vocalist and a Latter-day Saint.

“I still pinch myself,” she said. “I still ask myself, ‘How did a simple elementary teacher have all these opportunities with this choir?’ ”

Meanwhile, maiden opportunities invigorate tour “newbies” such as tenor Jason Robbins and soprano Josie Angerhofer. Both are experiencing the long tour bus rides, the rehearsals under the broiling late June sun, and sharing hotel rooms with a fellow performer—all for the first time.

“The tour has been both an overwhelming and an amazing experience,” said Angerhofer, a returned missionary who finds several similarities between tour life and full-time missionary service. “It’s been incredible to sing at the different venues and see the differences in the audiences.”

Robbins already appreciates the opportunity that touring offers the choir and orchestra to connect with people in the each audience. “I’m seeing, on a personal level, how we are doing missionary work as musicians,” he said.

Both Robbins and Angerhofer add they’ve made new friends during the first week of tour. The choir and orchestra’s weekly rehearsal and performance schedule in Salt Lake City offers limited opportunities to get to know the man or woman performing at your side.

“It’s great because we usually don’t have much time to interact with the others,” said Robbins, who has been in the choir a little over a year. “But on tour you get to know people. You can develop relationships and friendships.”

Each tour is memorable and usually a lot of fun—but it’s not a vacation, added Eggett, who remembers skipping a sightseeing excursion in history-rich Boston so she could save her energy for a concert performance. “Focus on the music and why you are there,” she said.

And no matter the circumstances of the day to day on tour, the veteran advice to the rookies was the same: “Just enjoy the moment—whether it’s 100 degrees on stage or if you waiting again in a long line,” said Furness. “I like the saying ‘Blessed are the flexible—for they shall not get bent out of shape’.”

Several choir and orchestra members point to Saturday’s concert at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre as emblematic of the unique missionary opportunities the tour offers veterans and rookies alike. Following an exhausting afternoon rehearsal under the exacting direction of music director Mack Wilberg and associate music director Ryan Murphy, the choir and orchestra were eager to perform in the tour’s first outdoor concert.

With the evening sun setting on the nearby Pacific Ocean, the choir and orchestra enthralled their informally dressed audience with a diverse program that included selections from the American songbook, “music of rejoicing” from around the world, along with music “of the masters,” and, of course, beloved hymns such as “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It was long after dark when the last encore concluded, but the Berkeley audience seemed almost reluctant to head home. Among the audience was California State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who was handed the conductor's baton to lead the choir and orchestra in an encore rendition of “This Land is Your Land.”

“It was so amazing to feel the music and soulfulness of everyone on that stage,” said the lawmaker and former middle school drum major. “They are all such talented musicians; they make [conducting] easy.”

Female singers in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform at June 23, 2018, concert at Berkeley's Greek Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir clap in unison during spirited selection during June 23, 2018, concert in Berkeley, California. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Lloyd D. Newell announces musical selections at June 23, 2018, concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square in Berkeley, California. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.