The Tabernacle Choir Blog

As July 4th as it gets!

Flags flying.  Cannons blasting. Cadets marching. Fireworks. Drums and bugles, a crowd of more than 12,000.  And the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  The Choir’s concert July 4, 2015 was an extravaganza of sounds and sights “Under the Stars” at the United States Military Academy best known as West Point.

The Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square strings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir joined the famous West Point Band and cadets to mark the anniversary of the nation’s founding. The event, at the prominent Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson River on the West Point campus, drew more than 12,000 guests for a program that included American patriotic favorites such as “America the Beautiful,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Talk about a show!

That the Choir was performing for the 1,200 new cadets, the Class of 2019, in an extravaganza had been kept a secret even from the Choir until they sat down on the bus early Saturday morning.  Early, even for the Choir, was 6:30 a.m.  Arriving at West Point, the Choir toured the facility as the rain drizzled down, by lunch it was pouring. The strings of the Orchestra at Temple Square did a sound check in the rain and all hoped for clear skies for the evening.  By the time the Choir took its place on stage, the rain had vanished.

Singing with the West Point Band on the campus was a first for the Choir. The West Point Band is legendary reaching back to early in the American Revolution, when units of George Washington’s Continental Army, including fifers and drummers, established the garrison of West Point in January of 1778 believing if the fledgling forces could control the Hudson, they could stop the advance of the Brits.

During the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, the drum was the primary source of battlefield communication. Throughout the day it signaled various orders, and its steady beat established the cadence for road marches and troop movements. The bugle served an increasingly important role starting in the 1800s, when army commanders grew more dependent on its bold, brilliant sound to present commands both in camp and over the din of battle.

The rhythmic beats of these instruments were just as bold and brilliant during this year’s concert. Only this time they weren’t signaling commands in battle but patriotism to everyone with ears to hear. And thanks to modern technology, that will be milions more, the concert is being produced by the Choir as a half-hour radio and TV special for next year.

Ed Payne, the executive producer of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, is heading up the recording project. He was inspired by a similar special the Choir made with Tom Brokaw to celebrate the 10th anniversary of September 11, which has become a Choir classic. It made perfect sense to mount a similar project to capture the 4th of July concert at West Point.

“The Choir and Orchestra are part of the patriotic fabric of our nation,” said Payne, “It is about as iconic as it gets to produce a special celebrating the lives of all those who sacrificed to keep us safe and free.”