Tour Diary 8—The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same
By Brian Johnson, Mormon Tabernacle Choir member
The Choir’s tour manager said the most important thing for tour for him is to make sure the Choir and Orchestra get on stage and perform at each venue. He knew when he got us on stage, our music would bring the spirit to make the hall resound with joy. This is the one major thing that has not changed over the years for me as a singer in the choir.
Our final concert of the 2016 European tour was Wednesday July 13th in Rotterdam, Netherlands. We had sold out auditorium filled with a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience at the beautiful De Doelen concert hall. We have enjoyed performing at the finest concert halls on this tour that have very nicely complemented the sound of the choir and orchestra. This particularly fine hall required very little amplification so the audience was able to hear a very clear and natural sound from the choir and orchestra.
During the concert, comparisons struck me between this year’s tour and our 1998 European tour in which I was privileged to participate. Those comparisons included the halls, the audiences, the music and many other things. Some key differences include having a full orchestra that makes the music so rich, new directors which have brought the choir and orchestra to new musical heights, and new repertoire that reaches a broad audience. We also have better trained singers, fully memorized music and a younger choir. We now have our own lighting and sound professionals that travel with us to help make us look and sound our best. We even have our own organ that we use in halls that don’t have one - adding flexibility in choosing venues. These all combine to produce a more dynamic and interesting concert experience for the listeners.
This particular hall had a stage large enough to provide well for the orchestra but the choir was actually in audience seats that surround the stage. This made it so that most of the sopranos and basses were in seats to the left and right of the stage respectively. However, this arrangement actually worked well for our ability to hear each other with a live sound rather than amplified sound. That’s a factor that automatically improves the quality of the performance. The sound the audience heard was also minimally amplified which made the sound quality more rich, natural and full for them.
From a singer’s perspective, the entire concert was well presented and uplifting. We felt the audience reactions to the pieces and loved the energy they added to the whole experience. Concerts are a collaboration between the performers and listeners – neither is uplifted without the other. This will never change.
In preparing for tour this year we were told to not expect as much emotion and enthusiasm as we’re used to from our audiences back home. European audiences, we were told, are more reserved, more expectant of fine performances and less likely to call for encores. This is the same message we heard before our 1998 tour. However, our experiences both on this tour and in 1998 showed us that these audiences genuinely appreciated our music and the way they felt during the performances. Our audience in Rotterdam was exceptionally warm and enthusiastic in their applause. They wanted more than our one encore. It was easy to see how they were surprised and emotionally moved when we sang our farewell of “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” in Dutch. We came away with greater appreciation for our wonderful European brothers and sisters and emotionally moved by the experience. This is how it always has and always will be.