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

Singing to the choir: Minnesotans stage a musical turnaround

Audience intones 'Welcome back,' Tabernacle Choir stands, applauds
Published: Friday, July 5, 2013

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.

In a real "singing to the choir" moment, that got turned around at a concert in Minneapolis. The audience sang to the choir. Choir members stood and applauded the audience.

Here is how it came about: Minnesota Public Radio co-sponsored the concert on June 20 by the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the conclusion of their tour to the Upper Midwest that began June 12 (Please see Church News issues of June 16, 23 and 30).

In the opening moments of the concert, Brian Newhouse of MPR welcomed the choir and orchestra to Minneapolis and spoke of Minnesota's strong choral tradition. He asked how many in the audience of more than 8,000 people had been or still were members of a choir. The majority raised their hands.

Mr. Newhouse called on bass singers in the audience to give him a low C. Then he asked the tenors to give him a low G, the altos an E above middle C and sopranos a high C. The Target Center audience hummed the notes in harmony.

Photo by Gerry Avant
Brian Newhouse of Minnesota Public Radio welcomes the audience to a concert in Minneapolis, Minn.

He then said that it had been more than 20 years since the choir had sung in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He instructed the audience to sing a song of two words to the choir: "Welcome back." The audience did so, but Mr. Newhouse reminded the audience of the more than two-decades-gap between past and present visits by the choir and encouraged the locals to sing again.

The arena filled with the audience's blended voices. Members of the choir and orchestra gave the audience a standing ovation. Throughout the evening, the audience reciprocated – several times.

Photo by Gerry Avant
Brennan Summers, guest conductor of concert in Minneapolis, Minn., receives applause from Tabernacle Choir, shown on screen in background.

After the choir and orchestra had performed what the audience thought was the last selection, it was announced that Minnesotan Brennan Summers would conduct an encore performance of "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land."

A couple of weeks before the concert, MPR put out a call asking listeners to submit a brief essay discussing why they would like to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Mr. Summers won the contest. He wrote that when he was 2 years old and his family was driving from California through Utah, his father timed a visit to Temple Square specifically to hear the choir sing. However, Brennan cried so much that his father, Frank, had to take him outside. Frank never got to hear the choir in person. Brennan wrote that he wanted to make that up to his father and give his parents a chance not only to hear the choir in a live performance but also to watch their son conduct the choir.

Jon McTaggart, chief executive officer of American Public Media Group, the parent company of MPR and other companies, said the contest received around 100 applications from all over the U.S.

At a reception prior to the concert, he said that an applicant from Connecticut said she would "…cross mountain and valley, and eat skunks, just for the chance to conduct this glorious ensemble."

Mr. Summers was the sixth guest conductor during the concert tour. The other five were reported on in the Church News issue for the week of June 23, pages 8-9; the concert in Minneapolis occurred after that issue's deadline.

gerry@desnews.com