Response to European Tour Overwhelmingly Positive
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square returned home from a three-week European tour on July 16, 2016. It was their first visit to Europe in 18 years. Concerts were presented in seven cities: Berlin, Nuremberg, and Frankfurt, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland; Brussels, Belgium; and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Although Choir and Orchestra members arrived home tired and a little road-weary, each would say that the trip was worth the months of preparation and practice.
The audience response at every concert was overwhelmingly positive. The Choir and Orchestra members had been told before the tour that European audiences may be more reserved than audiences in the United States, so they found the enthusiastic standing ovations in each venue both rewarding and satisfying.
Ralf Grünke, Europe Area Associate Director of Public Affairs, said that local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “consider the Choir an embodiment of their faith, of the hope, of the peace that comes from the restored gospel, and many of them will never have a chance to see the Choir perform at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. So having the Choir in the concert halls they’re familiar with in their own home cities has helped them feel appreciated and feel uplifted. And it has given them the hope they were looking for in many places.”
When asked about the many Europeans who came who were not of the LDS faith or no faith at all, Grünke said that “for many of them it was their first exposure not only to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but in some cases to its sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Grünke indicated that they heard from many that the concerts were a “powerful experience.” He received an email saying that it wasn’t so much the sound of the music that touched her but something that she couldn’t put her finger on—the atmosphere, the feeling—and referred to attending the concert as an experience of a lifetime.
The musical program for this tour was selected with great care. “When we experience great music, in great spaces, it makes for a great experience—not only for the audience, but for the performer as well,” stated Mack Wilberg, Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director. “We did want to give an emphasis to the master composers because this part of the world is where much of this music originated.”
“With the exception of one piece on our program, everything is from the sacred repertoire,” Wilberg told one interviewer. “As a result, I think because we were so unified by our faith and our own spiritual beliefs, that comes across to the audience. I heard of several people, some of them really fine musicians, who said they felt such warmth, their hearts were overflowing from what they had experienced and that’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Elder L. Whitney Clayton, senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy, who along with his wife, accompanied the Choir and Orchestra on the first half of their tour remarked, “I have been so impressed to watch the audiences and to feel in the audiences this growing affection for the Choir, for the music, for the spirit that people feel.”
He continued, “I have been astonished, really, to see that the Choir and Orchestra have this great capacity to touch people’s hearts. I’ve seen that effect in every concert. I’ve felt that effect in every concert, the music is beautiful, the Choir is dignified, the spirit of reverence is there and people who come to the concerts leave different people than they were when they came in.”
A leader from another faith sitting next to the Claytons at one of the concerts, turned to them at intermission and remarked: “I didn’t understand that the Mormons know God—such a thing never occurred to me—but the Mormons know God.”
Choir member Sonja Sperling Poulter, born of German parents and raised near Frankfurt, Germany, remarked to an interviewer: “The reason I want to do music is because it is the most wonderful form to praise the Lord… I believe when one person speaks of Christ that is powerful—but when people sing together of Christ, that is magical and powerful beyond measure.”
Without much more than a moment to catch their breath, the Choir and Orchestra will perform two concerts commemorating Utah’s Pioneer Day on Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. England’s famed a cappella ensemble, The King’s Singers, are the guest artists.