“Free Concert Series at Temple Square Assists Missionary Effort,” Ensign, Sept. 1993, 77
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is alive with music all year around, thanks to the Temple Square Concert Series. Persons from all over the world and of many different faiths come to perform in and enjoy the concerts given at the Assembly Hall.
The series, sponsored by the Church’s Missionary Department with the assistance of a volunteer committee, consists of several concerts each month throughout the year. Certain months have special themes: December features “Christmas on Temple Square,” June is piano month, and July is vocal month.
The Temple Square Concert Series began with thirteen outdoor concerts in the summer of 1980 as a celebration of the Church’s sesquicentennial. The concerts were so popular that ongoing, year-round performances were authorized by the First Presidency. Any fears about not having enough performers evaporated as groups from throughout the world put the Assembly Hall on their itineraries.
Singers and musicians are invited to perform in the series or are chosen from the hundreds of tapes sent in from groups or performers who hope to participate in the concert series. A selections committee comprised of prominent local musicians listens to the tapes and makes recommendations to the Concert Series Committee. An invitation is then sent to the artist.
“The series is a wonderful missionary tool,” says Iain B. McKay, chairman of the Temple Square Concert Series. “Our job is to soften hearts through music and make visitors more receptive to the missionaries.” Several known baptisms have resulted from the positive exposure the Church receives from the concert series.
Alvin and Lena Marie Pack, members of the Temple Square Concert Series Committee who host many of the out-of-state performers, have had inspirational experiences with visitors. One couple in particular, Vladislav and Natasha Mesheryacov from Russia, joined the Church after coming to Utah to do a documentary. The two couples first met on Temple Square. The Mesheryacovs filmed one of the concerts performed in the Assembly Hall. Other footage of Utah was also taken. The documentary was shown all over the former Soviet Union. At the end of each showing, copies of the Book of Mormon were offered to anyone who called the station.
“There were more than three thousand calls! The mission president needed additional copies of the Book of Mormon because the mission didn’t have enough,” the Packs said.
Brother McKay said many visitors are impressed that the Church has world-class concerts but does not charge admission or ask for donations.
Often, when singers come from other countries to perform, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir invites them to sing with the choir on the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcasts. Parts of the broadcast are then aired in that performer’s country. “It is good exposure for the Church,” Brother McKay said. “It’s a conversation starter for missionaries in those parts of the world.”
During the months of August and September, groups such as the Hong Kong Children’s Choir, the New Zealand Youth Choir, Utah Opera Youth Artists, Utah State Fair competition winners, and the National Association of Teachers Singing will be performing at Temple Square.
The series is also a platform for talented Latter-day Saint performers. One young performer said it was a “great experience to be playing in the shadow of the temple.”
Concerts are free, and everyone eight years of age and older is invited to attend. The concerts begin at 7:30 P.M., unless otherwise noted, and generally last for one hour. Attendance fluctuates from several hundred concert-goers to crowds with standing room only, Brother McKay noted.
Programs are available at Temple Square, stake and ward meetinghouses in the Salt Lake Valley, many Salt Lake hotels (at the front desk), and by writing to the Temple Square Concert Series, Third Floor, West Wing, 50 East North Temple St., Salt Lake City, UT 84150.