In 1972 while I was employed in Mexico City, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir arrived to perform at the Auditorio Nacional located in beautiful Chapultepec Park. In advance of the tour, choir leaders sent a technician from Utah to make sure that the auditorium organ was in tune and functioning properly. It was my privilege to be assigned as his assistant to make sure he had everything he needed and to get him around that huge, congested, fantastic metropolis.
When the 340-member choir arrived, it was lodged at the Camino Real Hotel located not far from where it would perform. Many of the singers brought family members with them resulting in practically the entire hotel being occupied for several days by “the Mormons”. I heard only one complaint from hotel officials: the bar, which was usually quite profitable, might as well have closed its doors for lack of customers.
Thousands of Mexicans thrilled at the singing of the Mexican National Anthem in their own language and many traveled great distances just to hear the famed choir perform. It was a particularly memorable event for me as I was intimately involved during the entire time it was there and I, along with all the others, basked in the choir’s unique awe-inspiring sound.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square were recently on a summer tour of the eastern United States performing in venues in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. A recent Deseret News Article reported that the governor of Virginia was among 7,500 audience members who “clapped, cheered, whistled, waved and wiped tears” during the June 20 concert in Norfolk. The governor even conducted an encore performance of “This Land is Your Land.”
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, re-creates life during Revolutionary times and is a favorite tourist destination. The Choir made a surprise visit to the park removing name tags and mingling unannounced with the 4,000 visitors. “As the park’s daily re-enactment that tells the story leading up to the American Revolution concluded, a trio of male singers began singing ‘Free states attend the song/Now independent on the British throne./To earth’s remotest bound echoing skies resound/ The sweet melodious sound, Liberty’s our own.’ Gradually, others joined in until the full choir was singing.”
“Many spectators,” reported the Deseret News, “seemed dazed at what one described as ‘the most beautiful singing I’ve ever heard.’” One woman said, “It was just a thrill to be among them. I didn’t know it was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These people started singing. It was so beautiful. Now that I know who they were, I keep thinking, ‘Who would have thought I’d be surrounded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?’”
“I suppose the event at Colonial Williamsburg could be described as a ‘flash choir,’” reported Jim Steadman, a member of the choir. “A ‘flash mob’ usually includes choreography and dancing. The choir didn’t do any of that. But the people looking around and realizing we were singing, I think that added to the whole program at Colonial Williamsburg.”
A “flash mob” is usually a well rehearsed group that suddenly breaks out in song and dance at some public place much to the surprise of visitors and patrons. I have heard of flash mobs in such places as Grand Central Station, subway stations and airports in major cities and in Times Square. After the performance they usually disappear as suddenly as they came leaving people wondering if what they just witnessed really took place.
“It was fun,” said Kevin Jenson. “From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the choir members but I could hear them. It started out softly with just a few voices and then became like a solid wall of sound, seemingly coming from nowhere.”
The daughter of Mrs. Dottie Schmidt secretly entered her mother in a contest. “I didn’t know until yesterday,” said Mrs. Schmidt, “that I would be singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.” She is of another faith and yet had always dreamed of performing with the group. “I listened to the first part of the rehearsal,” she said. “It was masterful. I was crying. I feel I’ve experienced three miracles: they chose me, I’m too old to sing in the choir and I heard that only Mormons can be in the choir. The whole experience has been awesome. I don’t know how to explain it.” (Gerry Avant, Church News editor, week ending June 25, 2011)
I have never personally sung in the Tabernacle Choir but I admit to occasionally belting out the bass line while listening to one of its CD’s or DVD’s. There is nothing to compare with music that lifts and exalts the spirit.
The Lord, Himself, has said, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12)