"9/11 | Coming Together" 20th Anniversary Special

The Tabernacle Choir Blog

The Choir and Orchestra performing the first Cultural Olympiad concert on February 9, 2002 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Photo: Deb Gehris

The Choir’s Intensive 2002 Olympic Preparation and Performances

In February 2002 during the Salt Lake Winter Olympics and Paralympic games that followed, the members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square—all volunteers—had rehearsals or performances on 25 of the 28 days! And many of those days included multiple events on the same day. The preparation and rehearsals for the Choir and Orchestra’s performances during Olympics had begun months in advance.

“We are calling it the equivalent of a three-week tour, but they will sleep in their own beds and work at their own jobs,” said Craig Jessop, then music director of the Choir. “I don’t know when we’ve had a period of more intensive performance and preparation.”

In addition to three official Olympic performances—the IOC Opening Concert, the Olympic Presidential Reception, and the Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony—the Choir and Orchestra also performed four concerts with guests of international acclaim for traditional Cultural Olympiad events associated with each of the Olympic games.  In addition, the Choir performed in 16 “Light of the Word” multimedia presentations to capacity audiences in the Conference Center. All these performances were in addition to the regular broadcasts of Music & the Spoken Word every week which were each followed by a mini-concert.

And all these performances don’t begin to address the hours of rehearsal and recordings that happened during the prior to make each successful!

The Deseret News captured the Choir’s intense schedule in an article published near the end of the Olympics in this way:

“The Choir has hardly had a moment to savor such experiences. With the endurance of a Norwegian Nordic skier, they performed for 14 straight days (sometimes more than once a day), took a day off and started another long stretch. Their daily schedule goes something like this: Rehearse for weekend concert for one hour, perform opening numbers in the "Light of the World" production in the Conference Center, go backstage and rehearse again for their weekend concerts, return to Conference Center stage to perform closing numbers in "Light of the World," then rehearse again afterward. It's a pace they've maintained since December when they did rehearsals and four-hour recording sessions almost daily.”

Cultural Olympiad 2002 Arts Festival

Have you realized the Olympic Games have a tradition of focusing on the arts wherever and whenever the Olympics are held?  During the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and Paralympics that followed, from February 1 to March 16, 2002, 60 performances and exhibitions were designed to celebrate Utah and highlight America’s contributions to the arts and humanities. They all took place in addition to the athletic events.

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s concerts for the Cultural Olympiad were held each Friday night in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Featured guests included composer/conductor John Williams (conducting his own compositions such as “Call of the Champions”) and acclaimed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade in a concert entitled  “America Remembers the World!”; renowned clarinetist Richard Stoltzman for “Music of the Masters”; the ever-popular King’s Singers for “Celebration!”; and Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie for “Make a Joyful Noise.”

“Light of the World,” a multimedia presentation produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was presented 16 times as a gift to Olympic visitors in the Conference Center with original music and a cast of more than 1,000 dancers, singers, and actors. The presentation was given to an audience of 21,000 each night and was sold out for every performance.

If there was a secret to The Tabernacle Choir’s success and stamina at the 2002 Olympics, it was that each member was committed to sharing the unique power of music “to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”—giving them reason to rejoice together.