On the Road Again: Mormon Tabernacle Choir Returns to the Pacific Coast
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News assistant editor
“We want to lift the audience’s spirit and give hope.” —Ron Jarrett, choir president
Given the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s vast television, radio, and online audience, it’s fair to ask why the Church’s “musical ambassadors” still take their show on the road.
After all, the choir’s weekly Music and the Spoken Word has been broadcast since 1929. And its official YouTube channel has captured over 130 million views from around the world.
“But there is nothing like listening to the choir in person,” said choir president Ron Jarrett.
The experience of listening to the choir live, added music director Mack Wilberg, “is impossible to capture any other way.”
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir embarked on its 2018 Classic Coast Tour on June 18. The 360-voice choir, along with its companion Orchestra at Temple Square, will perform in seven cities in California, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada.
Jarrett admits audiences arrive with high expectations of the oft-called “America’s Choir.” Yes, that adds a bit of pressure—but it’s a welcome pressure.
“We want the audience to walk away feeling that this was an experience that they have never felt before,” said Jarrett, himself a former choir member.
The Classic Coast Tour will include performances in the California cities of Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Mountain View, and Rohnert Park. The Golden State is something of a second home to the choir. The choir first performed in California in 1896—and have since traveled there for over 40 performances.
The tour wraps up with concerts in British Columbia, Canada, for their third-ever visit to Vancouver, and then Seattle, where they first performed in 1909.
Jarrett said the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are far more than a collection of talented vocalists and musicians. They are ambassadors for the Church, charged with delivering, through music, the joy and comfort offered by the gospel.
“We want to lift the audience’s spirit and give hope,” said Jarrett.
The choir and orchestra plan to perform musical selections designed to fit a variety of venues that includes the Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Vancouver’s Orpheum, and the S. Mark Taper Auditorium at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
“A great program has contrast and cohesion,” said Wilberg.
Choir veterans such as Wilberg and Jarrett agree each tour takes on its own dynamic and identity. For choir and orchestra members, tours offer rare chances to build friendships with their fellow performers during long hauls on the bus or waiting at airport gates.
Typically, their time together in Utah revolves around weekly rehearsals and performances. “The tour is the only opportunity we give them to really get to know their fellow choir members,” said Wilberg.
On Sunday, hundreds of choir and orchestra members delivered their tour luggage to the Conference Center. The bags were loaded onto trucks and will soon be on their way to California to await their owners.
“Luggage Day” offers tour performers a moment to focus on the busy days ahead. “I’m very excited; we’re doing missionary work and singing for people—that’s our sole purpose,” said soprano Nicole Johnson after dropping off her luggage.
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square drop off luggage at the Conference Center on Sunday, June 17, 2018, in advance of their 2018 Classic Coast Tour. Photo by Jason Swensen.
Music, added fellow choir member Kathie Barnett, “touches lives like nothing else can.”
Sandy, Utah’s Ryan Bateman shoved off Monday for his 10th Mormon Tabernacle Choir tour. Long days at airports, traveling on buses, and performing together makes for one big “family” getaway, he said.
“We look at each concert as a new experience to touch lives,” said Bateman. “We never know who we will impact.”
Additional information about the 2018 Classic Coast Tour is found at mormontabernaclechoir.org.
Under the direction of Mack Wilberg, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square rehearse at California’s Disney Hall during the 2005 tour. Photo courtesy of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.