Orchestra and Chorale Performs Utah Premier of “The Prodigal”

Contributed By Noelle Baldwin, Church News contributor

  • 18 May 2016

On April 29 and 30, the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  Photo by Debra Gehris.

Article Highlights

  • The performances were some of the first of their kind performed in the United States.

On April 29 and 30, the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale performed their spring concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Ryan Murphy, the associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conductor of the Temple Square Chorale, conducted both concerts.

Each performance was divided in two. The first half featured the Orchestra at Temple Square, which played two pieces—excerpts from The Wise Virgins and From Death to Life.

The Wise Virgins is from a ballet set to music composed by J. S. Bach, which was orchestrated by William Walton in 1940.

From Death to Life is a symphonic poem in two connected movements that was written by Sir Charles Hubert H. Parry. Parry composed the work in 1914 as a personal reaction to the outbreak of World War I. While the piece has been performed throughout Europe, Friday’s performance marked one of the first times it has ever been performed in the United States. The first movement conveyed the sorrow and pain that Parry felt when the war started. The long, haunting phrases built in grand crescendos before dying out, reflecting the chaos and tragedy of battle. The second movement was lighter and carried a sense of new hope and new life with marching, staccato notes that were Parry’s way of portraying soldiers coming home.

Ryan Murphy, the associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and conductor of the Temple Square Chorale, conducted the April 29 and 30 concerts. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Ryan Murphy stands in front of the Orchestra at Temple Square after a performance on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Ryan Murphy accepts applause after conducting the concert on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

During the concert, Brother Murphy said that he selected orchestral pieces that complemented the second half of the concert, where the Temple Square Chorale joined the orchestra to perform the Utah premiere of Mack Wilberg’s The Prodigal.

The chorale sang three pieces with the orchestra: “Let All the World in Every Corner Sing” arranged by Brother Murphy, “Te Deum” by Franz Joseph Haydn, and The Prodigal, written by Brother Wilberg with text by David Warner.

“[Brother] Wilberg and [Brother] Warner are great friends and are two of the finest artists and musicians that I know,” said Brother Murphy.

The University of Southern Mississippi commissioned The Prodigal last year, but Friday’s performance marked the first time that it was played in Utah. The Prodigal is based on the parable of the prodigal son, and Brother Warner used scriptures from the New and Old Testaments to describe the different situations that the wayward son found himself in.

Brother Murphy also said that Brother Wilberg’s orchestration adds beautiful emotions and understanding to the lyrics without detracting from the story. The music, whether harsh and cutting or smooth and subdued, reflected the characteristics of the wayward son—his stubbornness and pride in the beginning and then his humbleness and meekness after he returns to his father.

RaNae Dalgleish, a member of the Tabernacle Choir and a second-year member of the chorale, said, “It is like nothing I have ever sung before. It’s beautiful and mournful,” adding how hard the musicians have worked to bring the emotions of the piece to life.

There is a “take on the story of the prodigal son that is quite unique and quite beautiful,” said Brother Murphy. He quoted the first line, which says, “A certain man had two sons—as every man has two wills to be made one.” He continued by saying that “we look at the story of the prodigal son and … we picture ourselves as one of the sons. … This piece challenges us that we actually have both of those sons within each one of us.”

Brother Wilberg and Brother Warner followed the parable until the end where they shifted to the metaphor behind the story. The last lines read, “And by His blood be free, unbound. Return into His arms and there be home. Be one, belong.”

Cellists and violists in the Orchestra at Temple Square play during the concert on April 30 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Ryan Murphy conducts the Orchestra at Temple Square on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Ryan Murphy queues the Orchestra at Temple Square as he conducts on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

The Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale were conducted by Ryan Murphy on April 29 and 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Members of the Temple Square Chorale sing on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.

On April 29 and 30, the Orchestra at Temple Square, led by Ryan Murphy, played in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Photo by Debra Gehris.

Ryan Murphy conducts the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale on April 30. Photo by Debra Gehris.