2/10-11: Mormon Tabernacle Choir arrive for AZ celebrationMarch 15, 2012
by Richard Nilsen – Feb. 6, 2012 02:59 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is big. Really big.
It is visiting Phoenix for the first time in 40 years, and the trip requires three airplanes to carry the 280 choir members and 65 orchestra members who will be performing at US Airways Arena.
Then, there are the three semitrucks bringing the larger instruments, the portable organ, wardrobe, sound equipment and rigging.
“It’s like moving a little army,” the choir’s general manager Scott Barrick says. “Over the years, we’ve figured out how to do this pretty well.
“On the flight, we get priority boarding for those traveling with their instruments.”
The choir was invited by the state for the Centennial celebration, Barrick says.
“We wanted to come to Arizona, and this gave us a chance.”
With two concerts, the choir should at least break even on the tour.
The choir is not only one of the largest, it is one of the oldest in the country, having been formed the same year as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and gave its first concert just 29 days after the first pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
Since then, it has become one of the best-known music groups in America. Members have sung for 10 presidents, beginning with William Howard Taft. President Ronald Reagan dubbed them “America’s choir.”
“We like singing in arenas,” Barrick says. “We love the concert-hall experience, too, but we like to sing to as many people as we can, and being able to sing to 11,000 people for each of two concerts in Phoenix is just the ticket.”
The program is a mix of hymns, classical music and showtunes.
“We say it’s everything from Bach to Broadway,” Barrick says. “We always start with hymns, then a classical music section to show we have the musical chops to do whatever it takes, classical included.
“But we never do the super-highbrow stuff; that’s not what audiences want to hear.”
There is a “Cum Sancto Spiritu” from Gioacchino Rossini’s tuneful “Petite Messe Solonnelle,” but there is also a Nigerian carol, “like you’ve never heard from the choir,” Barrick says. “When they hear this, they say, it is not your father’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
And the choir’s principal organist, Richard Elliott, will be playing a version of “I Got Rhythm” that “always brings down the house,” he says.
“He just wows the audience.”
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