Choir and Orchestra Wrap Up 2016 European Tour
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square wrapped up their first European Tour in almost 20 years with sold out concerts and standing ovations from enthusiastic audiences. The Choir and Orchestra gave performances in Berlin, Nuremberg, and Frankfurt, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland; Brussels, Belgium; and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. For 20 days, beginning June 27, the Choir and Orchestra members–all volunteers–gave up their summer vacations, left loved ones to share their music with European audiences.
Europe Area Public Affairs Director for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gabriele Sirtl said, "The visit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square was a great blessing to Church members in Europe. They were able to see the Choir live, not just on video or satellite transmission during general conference. I felt that Church members, along with people of different or no faith, became unified during the concerts in their admiration of the Choir members, their music, dedication and spirit. Many expressed how moved they were by the concerts and especially by the Church hymns."
Such sentiments were expressed by many concert-goers such as religious historian Jean-François Mayer, who attended the Zurich concert and blogged afterwards, “It is not the love of music alone that motivates the members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but their faith.”
It’s that understanding of faith that Elder Patrick Kearon, presiding Church authority in Europe, says is vitally important. “Thousands of people have come to see and hear the Choir and Orchestra—and they love it. It’s helping us to make friends. It is helping to break down any lingering misunderstandings about who we are and it’s softening hearts, and the members of the Church themselves have been lifted.”
The Choir and Orchestra members also feel a responsibility to do justice to the music of the masters, a European legacy which is at the very core of the Choir’s music. Choir member Connie Erickson said, “When we perform—when it is our turn to share music and create beauty—I want our audiences to feel reciprocated by the excellence and spirit of our performance. I want to say thank you for the gift of their composers, their musicians, and their folk music. I hope they feel our sincere love for the art and see their gift returned with interest.”
But for the Choir and Orchestra members, perhaps the greatest joy in performing is giving voice in song to their beliefs and love of God. Choir member Rebecca Cheney said, “I hope the audience was able to feel the love we have, not just for the music, but for them. I hope their hearts were touched with the spirit of what we were singing. There is something almost magical about the special feeling that unites the Choir and the Orchestra with the audience at our performances. I hope they felt that and left uplifted and that their lives will be enhanced by the experience.”
“Sometimes, at very special moments while singing in the choir, I feel that we are touching the very gates of heaven,” said Choir member Rebecca Farnsworth. “When that happens, there simply are no words to describe it, and it is difficult to sing, and tears will fill my eyes. A special spirit and hush falls over the loft and you only hope that the audience is feeling that same ‘otherworldliness’ that you are experiencing. It is as if angels are with you.”
Sonja Sperling Poulter, an alto in the Choir from Frankfurt, Germany, had a special message for the people in her country. “I want the audiences to know that the nearly 400 people on stage didn’t decide to come to Europe to see culture, churches, and landscapes; that the most beautiful things they see are the people they are performing for. I want audiences to know that everyone on stage believes in the good of people, that they all believe that there is a God who knows them and loves them, and that it is never too late to make changes to be happy.”