Choir's Unique Welcome to Berlin in 1955
In post-war Germany in the 1950s, it was unprecedented to have permission to travel “through the Russian zone on a regular train” to Berlin with a group as large as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, " explained Justus Ernst. "After long hours or preparation, wondering, worrying and much praying, the world-famous Tabernacle Choir finally arrived in Berlin Monday evening, September 5, 1955... This was the largest group of foreigners ever to cross through this strip of communist-held territory except on military trains.”
When the Choir’s train pulled in to the station and the choir members began descending the stairs to the large main hall of the station, Gilbert Scharffs, German Church historian wrote, “something happened that the choir members had seldom experienced. They were met by another choir singing to greet them. The Berlin District choir was singing ‘For the Strength of the Hills We Bless Thee.’ Behind the German singers was a huge throng of church members with large signs proclaiming, ‘Welcome Tabernacle Choir."
The Reuters News Agency reported that as the German choir started up the first verse of “For the Strength of the Hills,” “the Americans, many wiping away tears of emotion stopped in a solid phalanx to listen," wrote tour director and choir member W. John "Jack" Thomas.
The Berlin group next sang “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy.” They had just begun to sing when the Berlin choir director turned and invited all present in the hall to join in this moving Mormon hymn.
“’Each in his own language burst forth in to a mighty song, and the saints of two great nations were suddenly welded into one people by the Spirit of God and the brotherhood of man through this glorious anthem. The building seemed to almost rock on its foundation.’”
“’The entire hall was by this time jammed full of spectators, members, and choir members. Truly there was never a more joyful moment in history than at this fusion of two peoples into one people on this momentous occasion in the hall of the Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin.’”
Herold L. Gregory, then serving in Berlin as the East German Mission President was present.
“I stood in the midst of that throng, and I want you to know the tears would not be held back. I have never had a more glorious experience in my life. Here we were these people of vastly different background and tradition looking questioningly into the eyes of each other. . . . The singing was in two languages yet, there can be no doubt that the music was in one language, the language of the heart.”
“To me, those few minutes at the station were as important and glorious as the concerts themselves.”