Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Flash mob: Tabernacle Choir 'bursts' into song

'The most beautiful singing I've ever heard'
Published: Saturday, June 25, 2011

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COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Flash mob.

Those phrases don't seem to go together but they seemed to be a perfect match June 21 at Colonial Williamsburg as the famed singers burst into song, delighting some 4,000 spectators.

The choir and members of the Orchestra at Temple Square visited the historic private foundation in eastern Virginia while on its summer tour, which began Monday evening, June 20, in Norfolk.

Photo by Gerry Avant
Mormon Tabernacle Choir members sing during visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Va. Some 3,500-4,000 visitors were on hand to hear the choir.

Foundation and choir officials tried to keep the flash mob event as a surprise. Choir members removed their ID badges before entering Colonial Williamsburg and mingled among the crowd. As the park's daily re-enactment that tells the story leading up to the American Revolution concluded, a trio of male singers began singing "Free states attend the song/ Now independent on the British throne./ To earth's remotest bound echoing skies resound/The sweet melodious sound,/ Liberty's our own." Gradually, others joined in until the full choir was singing.

Many spectators seemed amazed at what one described as "the most beautiful singing I've ever heard."

The choir and the rest of the visitors then sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

As the song concluded, John Bacon, senior vice president of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, announced to the audience that they had just participated with the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The crowd cheered.

While Colonial Williamsburg and choir officials tried to keep as a surprise the choir's participation, word apparently leaked out. "We teased the news of a special event, without saying it was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Bacon told the Church News, "but a lot of people figured out who the special guests would be. I would guess we had 3,500-4,000 people here today."

Photo by Gerry Avant
Marty Mears, a local resident, was surprised to be surrounded by members of Mormon Tabernacle Choir during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

Marty Mears, a lifelong resident of the area, heard the news of a special event and showed up.

"It was just a thrill to be among them," she said. "I didn't know it was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These people started singing. It was so beautiful. Now that I know who they were, I keep thinking, 'Who would have thought I'd be surrounded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?' What a thrill."

Amy Staley, a choir member, talked to two women for about 45 minutes. "They live in an active retirement place," she said. "They told me they grew up listening to the choir; they're not LDS. They went to the concert in Norfolk and heard that we were going to be in Colonial Williamsburg, so they went there. They went on and on about how much they loved the concert."

Jim Steadman, another choir member, said, "I talked to two ladies who were at the concert Monday. They didn't know we would be at Williamsburg. They said it was a double treat."

He said he would describe the event at Colonial Williamsburg as a "flash choir."

Photo by Gerry Avant
Claudia Beal walks with her husband, David, who is a tenor in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Va., on June 21.

He said he looked up "flash mob" and learned that it usually includes choreography and dancing. The choir didn't do any of that. "But the people looking around and realizing we were singing, I think that added to the whole program [at Colonial Williamsburg]."

Kevin Jenson, a member of the orchestra, said, "It was fun. From where I was standing, I couldn't see the choir members but I could hear them. It started out softly with just a few voices and then became like a solid wall of sound, seemingly coming from nowhere."

gerry@desnews.com