More than 300 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and 65 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square wrap up a seven-city summer tour in western Europe, with 90-minute live performances that were scheduled from June 29 through July 13, 2016. The music ranged from classical choral to American folk and gospel music to well-known songs of stage and screen.
“We are thrilled that international audiences are enjoying the musicianship of the choir and orchestra in person,” said choir president Ron Jarrett following the first few concerts. “There’s nothing quite like it.”
As they began their three-week tour, the Utah-based performers, goodwill ambassadors for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received standing ovations at sold-out venues in Berlin and Nuremberg, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. Other cities on the schedule included Zurich, Switzerland; Frankfurt, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
“It is not the love of music alone that motivates the members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but their faith,” said religious historian Jean-François Mayer, who attended the Zurich concert and blogged afterwards.
It’s that understanding of faith that Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy and presiding leader over the Church in Europe, said is vitally important. “Thousands of people have come to see the choir and hear the 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 played to a sold-out audience at the 2,100-seat Berlin Philharmonie, the first performance in Berlin by the choir in 25 years. The crowd demanded two encores and continued clapping even after music director Mack Wilberg had left the stage and the singers and musicians began to file out.
Some choir members said one of the songs they sang, “Battle of Jericho,” took on deeper meaning after the members viewed the remains of the Berlin Wall from the Cold War. The song includes the lyrics “and the walls came tumbling down.”
Prior to the tour, the choir was cautioned not to take it for granted that the sophisticated European audiences would give the performers the enthusiastic response they are used to receiving at home in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, audiences rewarded the choir and orchestra with standing ovations following encore performances of the signature songs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Be with You,” a farewell hymn traditionally performed at the end of their concerts. Audience members were pleased when the choir sang a German version of “God Be with You” called “Gott Sei Mit Euch.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, said, “The choir, wherever it goes, whether it’s in Salt Lake City on its weekly program or whether it’s traveling anywhere in the world, is really a representation of the Church and what it stands for. These members of the choir and the orchestra and all those who participate are truly not only missionaries for our message but they are ambassadors for this great cause of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
On Saturday, July 2, the choir performed to a full house at the Musikverein in Vienna and made a sizable donation to the charitable organization Caritas Austria. The contribution included proceeds from the concert as well as from the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Church. The funds will support Caritas projects for local citizens as well as refugee projects.
Jarrett said the donation is one of the highlights of the European tour. “We always want to uplift people through music and give them joy, peace, and hope. To be able to use our musicianship to support the good work of Caritas is a humbling opportunity.”
This was the choir’s first international tour in 18 years.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir first traveled to Europe on a seven-week concert tour in 1955. Since that first grand European tour, the choir has traveled there four other times, including tours in western and central Europe in 1973, northern Europe in 1982, eastern Europe in 1991, and southern Europe in 1998. Last summer the singers and musicians performed on the East Coast of the United States.
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 400 plus 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 that knows them and loves them, and that it is never too late to make changes to be happy.”
For more information on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European tour, visit mormontabernaclechoir.org.