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Tabernacle Choir Embraces New Mission, Welcomes International Singers for General Conference

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In the eastern Mexican city of Monterrey, Georgina Montemayor Wong has spent weeks preparing her voice with digital recordings and virtual practice sessions in what she describes as a dream come true.

“It’s just … it’s a dream come true. It’s just like — wow!” expressed Montemayor Wong.

Like Montemayor Wong, nine other Latter-day Saints in several countries have been practicing since December 2022, when they received news of their selection for a new pilot program launched by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

For the first time in its 175-year history, participants living outside the United States will join the Choir during the upcoming 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

“I still can’t believe that I’m going to sing with the Choir,” said Montemayor Wong. “We know it’s impossible for those of us who do not live there. So it’s only a dream very, very far away, like you cannot even think about it.”

The Choir, consisting of members of the Church of Jesus Christ, has recently broadened its mission to reach a global audience, said Choir President Michael O. Leavitt, who describes the pilot program as a natural progression in the Choir’s growth.

“The entire Church celebrates Christ. We not only speak His words, but we sing his praises,” said President Leavitt.

“Our goal now is to reach throughout the world to bring peace and healing. More than half the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lives outside the United States. “This is a means by which we not only reflect that membership, but it’s also a way in which we can bring a sense of belonging to people who live all over the world.”

Ronald Baa of Cagayan, Philippines participates in a Choir rehearsal at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on March 19, 2023.

Due to the Choir’s rigorous practice schedule, Choir members are required to live within a 100-mile radius of the historical Tabernacle. However, Leavitt said the pilot program opens the door for others with exceptional musical abilities to also engage on a temporary basis.

“I think it’s very, very good for all the talent in the world to [get a chance] to be part of [the Choir] because … we sing with all our hearts in our stakes, in our wards, in our choirs,” said Elorza Avalos.

“I’m very happy to use this talent to praise the Lord. I know He has given me this way to express myself through singing, and my way to give back is through praising,” said Montemayor Wong.

Along with their vocal ability, the international participants were required to demonstrate proficiency in music theory and English during the selection process.

Those selected to sing with the Choir in the upcoming general conference represent six countries:

  • Alvaro Jorge Martins of Natal, Brazil
  • Rodrigo Domaredzky of Curitiba, Brazil
  • Thalita De Carvalho of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Elisha RuboOreriba Joseph of Accra, Ghana
  • Jonathan How of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico
  • Georgina Montemayor Wong of Monterrey, Mexico
  • Ronald Baa of Cagayan, Philippines
  • Sundae Mae Indino of Cagayan, Philippines
  • PeiShang Chung (Kylie Zhong) of Taipei, Taiwan

In addition to their participation, each Choir member is called to be an ambassador for the Church of Jesus Christ, to share their goodwill and faith through music.

“When they told me … that I’m going to be like a missionary for the Choir, I [felt] so humble because I always wanted to serve a mission,” said Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico. “Now it’s like two dreams in one — be part of the Choir and serve like a missionary.”

Denisse-Elorza-Avalos,-International-Participant
Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico takes a selfie with a Choir member following a Choir rehearsal on March 19, 2023.

Elorza Avalos said she has experienced miracles and blessings through the process, including a surprise when she found out her sister-in-law, who lives hundreds of miles away, was also selected.

“When they told me that I was chosen and one person more from Mexico and … her name was Georgina Montemayor from Monterrey, I was like, ‘What! It’s my sister-in-law!’ I felt so happy,” said Elorza Avalos.

Montemayor Wong explains that the sisters-in-law were asked to keep their auditions confidential so neither knew about the other’s participation until they received the announcement of their selection.

“She was like, ‘I didn’t know you were auditioning too!’… so she was crying, then I was crying,” expressed Montemayor Wong.

The international participants arrived in Salt Lake City the weekend of March 18–20. They had the opportunity to join in Choir rehearsals, attend Choir school, tour the Church’s Welfare Square and Bishop’s Central Storehouse, visit several Church historical sites and tour Temple Square.

President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, and his wife, Kristen M. Oaks, also spent time with the global participants. President Oaks listened intently as the group sang two hymns for him and Sister Oaks on Friday, March 25, in the Church Office Building.

“It is a very important step forward,” President Oaks said to the new participants. “It’s something I hoped for many years could happen but it’s very difficult. You make sacrifices — all of you — to be here.”

Chung Pei-Shan of Taipei, Taiwan participates in a Choir rehearsal at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on March 19, 2023, following the weekly Music & the Spoken Word broadcast.

“People all over the world are going to be proud that the Tabernacle Choir is not just a Choir for Utah and Salt Lake City but it’s a Choir representing the whole world.”

The new program also helps participants gain new skills and enhance their ability to contribute to their local church congregations and choirs.

“I think they will leave better musicians and they will take new skills and new understanding back to their countries. This is, in fact, a pilot. We’re going to be learning one step at a time and we hope that it will continue,” said President Leavitt.

The international participants will sing with the Choir in the Saturday morning session and both Sunday sessions of General Conference.

About the International Participants

Alvaro Jorge Martins of Natal, Ponta Negra, Brazil: Alvaro sings baritone. He is a practicing attorney and graduate of Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Rodrigo Domaredzky of Curitiba, Brazil: Rodrigo sings baritone. He is an architect and has been singing since his youth. He currently volunteers as a stake music specialist for his local congregation.

Thalita De Carvalho of Sao Paulo, Brazil: Thalita sings second soprano. She received an undergraduate degree in choral conducting. She volunteers her professional skillset as a stake choir conductor made up of several congregations.

Elisha-Tubo-Oreriba-Joseph,-International-Participant
Elisha Tubo-Oreriba Joseph of Ghana and Nigeria participates in a Choir rehearsal at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on March 19, 2023.

Elisha Rubo-Oreriba Joseph of Accra, Ghana: Elisha sings second tenor. He works as a marketing manager. Elisha is also an accomplished organist who teaches others how to play.

Jonathan How of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Jonathan sings first tenor. He received a bachelor’s degree in music and is a drum teacher.

Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico: Denisse sings second soprano. Denisse is a mother of three children and received an undergraduate degree in architecture. She is currently working towards a second bachelor’s degree in vocal performance with an emphasis in opera.

Georgina Montemayor Wong of Monterrey, Mexico: Georgina sings second soprano. She has four daughters. She is an English teacher who volunteers as a stake music director for several congregations in her community.

Ronald Baa of Cagayan, Philippines: Ronald sings tenor. He is a university music professor.

Sundae Mae Indino of Cagayan, Philippines: Sundae sings first soprano. She is working toward her master’s in education.

Pei-Shang Chung (Kylie Zhong) of Taipei, Taiwan: Pei-Shang (Kylie) sings first alto. She received her degree in music performance and education and works as a music teacher.

About the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square was founded on August 22, 1847. Since that time, the Choir has given voice to the hopes, joys, trials, and triumphs of people around the world.

In November 2022, the Choir unveiled a broadened mission statement: “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs music that inspires people throughout the world to draw closer to the divine and feel God’s love for His children.”

This 360-member chorus of men and women, all volunteers, has performed at world’s fairs and expositions, at inaugurations of U.S. presidents, in acclaimed concert halls from Australia and Europe to Asia and the Middle East, on television broadcasts, and now on YouTube and Facebook. The Choir has even been referred to as “America’s Choir,” as a result of its high standard of popular choral music.

Known from its beginnings as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Choir changed its name in October 2018 to more closely align with its sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Choir is now called “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.”

Since 1929, nearly the lifetime of radio, the Tabernacle Choir has been a phenomenon of broadcasting, with the longest continuous broadcast on the air, Music & the Spoken Word, which reaches thousands around the world.

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