There’s a rich, full feeling when you do anything with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
The history of the group is remarkable. Their weekly Sunday half-hour program, Music and the Spoken Word, constitutes the longest continuous network broadcast in all the world, in place every single week since 1929, including through world wars, plagues, tornadoes, and other forms of world suffering. All of the 500 top-notch musicians in the bells, orchestra, and choir (who all went through an audition process that demanded extremely high skill at the very least and was usually extremely competitive) are volunteers! As Lloyd Newell, the Choir’s announcer and former CNN anchor, would say, “It’s a remarkable thing to consider.” This organization is completely unique! People serve because they want to.
And why not? From an insider’s perspective, Choir members are regularly so gracious, telling us in the orchestra how “amazing [we] sound” and how the Orchestra at Temple Square has definitely helped to boost the overall sound of the Tabernacle Choir. The conductors are energetic and inspired. The organists are brilliant with their technique. All the musicians in that room probably have thousands of years of experience cumulatively.
But none of that can fully explain what creates this peaceful sauna of warmth in my heart. It goes beyond unity. It goes beyond grace. It goes beyond volunteerism. Of course, the work is enjoyable. But a challenge. And at the pace the Choir keeps with it’s rigorous performance schedule, there’s plenty of mental and spiritual exhaustion, let me tell you.
For those who travel long distances, up to 100 miles, which can include places as far away as Idaho and Wyoming, early Sunday mornings are the norm. Some years, circumstances call for a donation of over 30 hours of playing time in a week, not counting the time spent traveling to performances.
We perform more than we rehearse--in front of throngs of people who come from all over the place . . . . In a Church of Jesus Christ "Everything Creative" radio interview highlighting the Orchestra at Temple Square, I recounted how, at Christmas time, we often get to sight read two hour’s worth of challenging new music, one or two rehearsals before playing a series of concerts in front of 20,000 people. Of course, that doesn't include the millions who see many of our performances online.
Yes, all of these things contribute to the amazing spirit of this ensemble, but there’s a sacred sense that’s hard to explain about top-notch local musicians—musicians who could be making $100/hr giving of their music elsewhere—putting all their gifts on their individual altar of consecration; giving up the worldly accolades that they could have chosen instead; and then allowing God to pull at their heart strings and demand even more than they ever thought they could give!
The blessings do flow for those willing to be brave enough to give more than they ever deemed possible. One of those blessings is that feeling I mentioned. . . It is hard to explain, but here’s my meager attempt: It’s stunning. And mild. And powerful. Indeed, it’s the Savior’s influence that permeates this group. Not by any merit of the individuals (a religious discourse in itself). We members pray for that spiritual influence despite our weaknesses. I count it a true privilege to dedicate so much of my life (part time for over twenty years!) to missionary work in the Savior’s cause, among such humble warriors, where we all use music as our secondary tool. The first tool?
Well, I would have to call it the Spirit, or in other words, God’s Love!!