Mormon Tabernacle Choir returns to Chautauqua with ‘sublime, beautiful’ sound

Beverly Hazen | Staff writer

A stage presence of gracefulness, peace, and vibrant melodic sounds in near-perfect synchronization — that is one description of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, which will perform at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater.

The choir is no stranger to Chautauqua; it has performed at Chautauqua in 1967, 2003 and 2007.

It is no secret that the choir members like performing at Chautauqua.

“The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has told us that this is one of their most favorite venues on which to perform,” said Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming. “They love the old Amphitheater, the audience and the reception they receive while here.”

He said that it is one of the few places that they get to actively meet the people on the grounds while walking back and forth to the Amp and between meals. Usually they perform at a venue, get back on a bus and leave, never mixing with the audience as they can here.

“Chautauqua is unique in that way,” Merkley said.

According to its website, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir organization was established in 1849, and last year marked its 100th year of recording. The Choir is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are members of the Church who volunteer to practice and perform weekly with no monetary gain.

Merkley said there would be approximately 585 people in the tour group of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir here at Chautauqua.

The choir performs weekly on a radio and TV program, “Music and the Spoken Word,” which began to air more than 80 years ago. In 30 minutes, the choir performs choral music and broadcasts inspirational words.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed for 10 U.S. presidents; Ronald Reagan called the performers “America’s Choir” after they sang at his 1981 inauguration.
They have sold millions of records, won scores of awards and performed to audiences in more than 28 different countries.

Merkley said that he is very much looking forward to welcoming the Mormon Tabernacle Choir back to Chautauqua.

“They have a sublime, beautiful, very spiritual sound that they make as a choir,” he said.

The choir’s schedule for the Chautauqua visit begins with breakfast in Buffalo at 7:30 a.m., traveling by bus and arriving here around 10:30 a.m. Sound checks follow, with lunch at 12:30 p.m. and lining up for the matinee concert at 1:45 p.m.

After the concert, the choir and orchestra tour group will have dinner, which will be served in two shifts under a tent at the Athenaeum. They will reassemble at 7:15 p.m. to line up for the evening concert. By the time they regroup after the concert, load the buses and travel, it will be close to midnight before they arrive back in Buffalo.

People travel from near and far to attend the performances of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Chautauqua. Kass and Marilyn Crooker will be traveling from Ithaca to be here for the weekend.

“(The Mormon Tabernacle Choir) is a name so recognizable,” Marilyn said. “Being in the choral music field, we appreciate their music. We will enjoy two of our great passions this weekend: the incredible Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the magical beauty of Chautauqua. As a visitor to Chautauqua for 60 years, we can’t wait to return.”