Ruth Stevenson - Choir Alto
Friday, July 19, 2013
Music memorized? Check. Voice warmed up? Check. Hair and makeup “camera ready”? Well, it’s the best I can do, so check. Cough drop ready (just in case)? Check! The audience of 20,000 is waiting in anticipation, just as I am, for the concert to begin. Suddenly the crowd stands and I realize we are honored to have President Thomas S. Monson in attendance tonight as he takes his seat with a smile and a wave. With guest artists Lindsey Stirling and Nathan Pacheco, this year’s annual Pioneer Day Concert is proving to be an exciting, rich, and rewarding “Summer Evening of Music” that I can’t wait to share with the world!
The stage has been adorned with lights that transform the conference center to feel like an outdoor concert under the summer night’s sky. Mack Wilberg steps up to the director’s podium and gives us that “Here we go!” look. At his signal, the harp quickly glides up and down, chased by the rest of the orchestra, and the choir sings “On a Wonderful Day like Today!” This joyful arrangement by Sam Cardon makes me want to dance and sway, even if only in my heart! Songs from Broadway are some of my favorites to sing in the choir, so I’m thrilled that we follow with “Who Will Buy?” from Oliver!Later, we visit The Secret Garden with two numbers, this time directed by Ryan Murphy. I’m excited to sing Ryan’s stirring new arrangement of “Hold On,” a definite new favorite, followed by “Come to My Garden.” My sweet tooth for Broadway music is satisfied.
Our first guest artist, Nathan Pacheco, is introduced and the audience goes wild as he enters the stage. Can I admit that I’m at a loss for adequate words to describe what it’s like to hear Nathan sing? The adjectives and superlatives that come to mind seem too common. All I know is when he sang Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” I felt I was listening to one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard sing one of the most beautiful songs ever written! To make it even more unforgettable, he invited the audience to sing the part of the opera chorus with the choir (a last-minute surprise to us as well!). As it turned out, it is so familiar that it worked beautifully. We all felt privileged for the chance to be part of this incredible concert moment.
Next, Lindsey Stirling lights up the stage as sheenters to thunderous applause. Dressed in cream-and-black lace and pink that matched our choir gowns, she danced and twirled effortlessly while playing what seemed to be her magic violin! Because the choir is seen on camera behind her while she performed, it was necessary that we not follow her movement with our eyes and focus only on our conductors. This is when I discovered my superpower of peripheral vision, and I didn’t miss a single lovely dub step! Along with her exuberant music, she shared a very personal arrangement of “Poor Little Lambs,” which she dedicated to her grandpa, a WWII veteran. You’ll just have to watch the concert yourself, but trust me, it’s a performance that connects generations and makes you want to hug a loved one. Later she added her unique sparkle to “Scotland the Brave/Simple Gifts” with the choir and orchestra. At this, I’m thinking the pioneers would have subscribed to Lindsey’s YouTube channel if they could have.
Richard Elliot’s organ solo this year includes Mack and the orchestra joining him in the Jongen “Toccata” (which, of course, Richard plays from memory!). I discreetly enjoy a pep-o-mint Lifesaver, listening in amazement as I imagine dramatic scenes of, say, the world being created or something equally significant and majestic!
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Pioneer Day Concert without “They, the Builders of the Nation” and “Come, Come Ye Saints.” And while I don’t want the concert to end, the best possible way to conclude is with Mack Wilberg’s singular arrangement of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It is so tender, powerful, and glorious that by the final chorus I am tempted to look up and see if the heavens have actually parted. This concert is such a wonderful way to honor and celebrate the pioneers. I’m so grateful to be part of it, as the music has inspired me to find joy in each new day, hold on to my faith, have courage, love deeply and express it, appreciate the complexity and grandness of great music, and feel and say—as did the pioneers—“All is well!”