What Should You Consider When Planning a Choir Tour? Everything!
When the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square go on tour, it is a logistical feat unlike any other, transporting hundreds of people, thousands of pieces of luggage, a clothing store-equivalent of concert attire, dozens of musical instruments—including a touring organ—and staging equipment to venues far from home. The operation is as well-orchestrated and rehearsed as the musicians themselves.
The logistical wizard is the Choir’s administrative manager of 18 years, Barry Anderson, who always is one step ahead of the action. He is usually thinking years in advance. When one tour ends, he is out finalizing details for the next time the Choir hits the road, which is usually every two years. There are, of course, smaller, less extensive concerts and travel sandwiched in between the major tours. During three months in 2018, Anderson spent 47 days on the road refining and perfecting not only their 2018 tour itinerary but also plans for a future tour.
In all, he creates detailed itineraries for dozens of distinct groups, including performers, staff, bus drivers, caterers, security personnel, and even a medical team, so they each know, day by day, minute by minute, exactly what their responsibilities are during the tour, whether it’s juggling hundreds of pieces of luggage or having food ready for a small army in a very short window of time to stay on schedule. He has also perfected his communication skills so that everyone knows exactly where they need to be and exactly when.
“The concert performances are the focal point for me. That’s why we are going—to give audiences the experience of hearing the music of the Choir and Orchestra in person,” said Anderson. “Everything I do is to ensure that our musicians are able to perform at the highest levels at each concert.”
“For 18 years I have been sleeping with a notepad next to my bed,” Anderson reports. “When I have a prompting, I’ve learned to write it down.” From freezing the water bottles distributed to the singers in an extremely hot outdoor venue to planning rest stops for 11 buses at staggered locations and times so the large group doesn’t overwhelm a location or business, he always has always a plan.
No detail is too small for Anderson to consider. One thing Anderson has learned over the years is that even with the most detailed plan, unexpected events always pop up, and he always has contingencies in place for flexibility in difficult situations.
For example, when the Choir goes on tour, it travels in multiple buses. Anderson never fills the buses to capacity even though people often tried explaining to him that it would be more efficient and cost-effective to fit everyone into fewer buses and not leave any seats empty, but Anderson insisted he needed more buses.
“In 2013, we got to a place where we were having lunch on our way to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the lead bus driver came up to me and he said, ‘Barry, we’ve got a real problem. One of the buses is broken down.’ Well, I’m 250 miles from our next concert in Minneapolis and there’s nothing around,” Anderson said. “But I had the extra seats in all of the other buses. We put the stranded Choir members on these buses and all went to Minneapolis, on schedule, and right on time for the concert. The moral of the story is always having more buses than we need.”
“Tour is like a large puzzle,” Anderson said. “Performers, administrative people, staging people, the audiovisual people—all of those people work so hard to make sure their piece is just right. What audiences end up seeing in concert is the final result of the puzzle and the goal of all our hard work—performing music that will touch and uplift the hearts of those who attend.