The Tabernacle Choir “Walking on Ice”
What has the Choir got to do with “walking on ice?” At the September 9 “restart” online orientation meeting for members of The Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra, and Bells at Temple Square, newly called Choir president Mike Leavitt described returning to singing, broadcasting, and even a potential Christmas concert with a comparison to a man about to cross a newly frozen lake.
Leavitt said the man “pauses to assess if the thickness of the ice will hold his weight, knowing a sudden breakthrough would produce a terrible result. He takes a few careful steps, pauses to listen for cracking sounds, knowing he can step back to safety if necessary. He repeats the process until his full confidence has been gained, mindful that the ice is not uniformly thick, and he must choose his route carefully.” The first few steps out on the ice have been the return to rehearsals and participating in general conference.
The Choir members have not strapped on skates, but they are out on unfamiliar ground taking tentative steps just the same, as they return to the loft to sing. To be eligible to sing, Choir members must have received vaccinations. They then were split into two groups to sing for general conference meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one half performing on Saturday, October 2, and one on Sunday, October 3.
But to walk confidently on the ice also requires screening, social distancing, self-reporting, and wearing masks. Every member of the Choir and support staff are coming an hour early before every rehearsal to be tested for COVID to assure the health and safety of the group. Once cleared, the singing can begin. For the most part, medical professionals in the Choir handled the testing under the direction of Choir medical director Dr. David Palmer. Testing will also be done prior to performances at general conference
That process will remain in place—a way of checking for cracks in the ice—while the Choir carefully returns to its regular schedule with the weekly broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word. The Choir hopes to present the ever-so-popular live Christmas program in December. But it’s one step at a time. Extending the analogy further to the Christmas concerts, Leavitt said, “Decisions will need to be made soon. . . . We are working behind the scenes to preserve those options as we venture carefully across the frozen lake.”
While the fall Orchestra and Bells concerts have been postponed, the Choir School for new members will resume as soon as possible. “We are leaning forward with preparations for our Heritage Tour next summer to the Nordic countries and the UK,” President Leavitt has said.
Music director Mack Wilberg has encouraged the Choir members—out on the ice—with the reminder, “It’s about doing what we all long to do: share music and testimony with a world much in need of encouragement and hope.”