Photo: Rolando Villazon Photo: President Ron Jarrett
Bucket Listing The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: At Christmas-time
& All Year Through
On December 10th, I will be fulfilling a very special entry on my personal bucket list. I will be attending the Christmas performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells on Temple Square in the Conference Center. This year’s featured guest is acclaimed tenor and entertainer Rolando Villazon, which makes this incredible opportunity even more special for me as he is one of my favorite performers of all time. I’m considering my good fortune something of a Christmas miracle. I only wish my German grandmother could be here to join me.
Having first learned of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a little girl from my Oma (the German word for grandmother), the choir’s music became synonymous with ‘Christmas’ in my head. Since then, the idea of seeing them perform has never left me. And apparently, I am not alone as the 63,000 tickets made available on October 15th to attend this year’s three concerts (December 8th, 9th & 10th) were fully accounted for within an ‘hour and a half’ of becoming available. Needless-to-say, that the President of the Mormon Tabernacle, Ron Jarrett, wasn’t kidding when he told me that “People come from around the world to attend these one-of-a-kind concerts.”
The accuracy of that statement can not be denied nor can the magnificence these evenings, most certainly, will hold. The Grammy Award-winning, multiple Emmy Award-winning, all-volunteer Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square (a 200-member symphony) and the Bells on Temple Square (a 32-member handbell choir also all volunteer). Their world-famous sound is under the direction of music director Mack Wilberg and associate music director Ryan Murphy.
All this spells “magic” -- the wish of a fifty year-young child, finally, coming true. I can’t wait to live-out this entry on my bucket list or share my interview with President Ron Jarrett, below.
What is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s mission?
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir serves as goodwill ambassadors for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Through music, we prepare the hearts of members and non-members, throughout the world, to actively follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
How long has the choir been in existence?
Since 1847, when the early pioneers moved out west to Salt Lake City. The real infusion of talent came in 1853 when the people of Wells came to this neck of the woods.
How long have you been with the choir?
As President, I’ve been with the choir for four years. I began as a singer in 1999.
Share with us what the process and requirements are to become a member the choir.
The primary stipulation of membership is that you can sing for twenty years as a member or until age sixty, whichever comes first. You may apply no earlier than age twenty-five and all the way through age fifty-five. The process of joining is very selective and unfolds through a series of steps. We, usually, receive 245 applications each year and take between 35-45 new members, annually.
How many choir members are there currently?
Currently, there are 415 members, with 360 in the choir loft. We structure it this way so that we never fall short of the number of vocalists we need at any one performance.
What is it that makes this choir so unique and special?
Obviously, the size. Choirs are not normally this large. The sound this choir produces is strong and magical. Also, the dedication the choir members have to the choir. They love to sing. They bring energy and excitement to their work.
What is the practice schedule like?
We rehearse every Thursday evening, from 7pm to 9:30pm, and Sundays from 7:30am-9:30am. They then perform our regular Sunday morning broadcast, Music and The Spoken Word (9:30-10am). We practice until 11:30am following that broadcast as well.
How many tours are made by the choir each year?
We tour every other year for about two weeks.
Have you had any famous mainstream vocalists originate from the choir?
Alex Boye is the closest the choir has come to that.
How is the choir funded?
We are self-funded, much of this through years of selling cds. We also have digital sales as well as a few generous donors.
Talk about this year’s Christmas concert.
This year’s three Christmas concerts (December 8th, 9th & 10th) will be held in Conference Center in Salt Lake City. It holds twenty-one thousand people, with no visual obstructions. Each concert will be ninety minutes in length. We do not charge anything for tickets and have people coming from all over the world. Although I have not seen a title for this year’s concert yet, I am anticipating “cross over” accompanied by a Matisse-like decor and theme. Rolando Villazon will do the narration to the story as well. We tie a Christmas story into all of these concerts as well as our Christmas broadcast held on December 11th.
Who is this year’s special guest?
Rolando Villazon. Rolando Villazon is one of the most gifted and brilliant operatic voices to-date, whose undeniable charm, professional versatility (as a vocalist stage director, novelist, and television personality), and winning sense of humor has made him one of the most beloved talents worldwide. Rolando Villazón is also an ambassador for the Red Noses Clown Doctors International charity.
When all is said and done, how does The Mormon Tabernacle Choir want to be remembered?
The legacy of music is so important. I believe the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be remembered for the great music it shared everywhere that filled the hearts of people.
It is my opinion that the essence, unequivocal commitment, noble intent, and exquisite music put forth by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir should be placed on everyone’s bucket list, whether musically inclined or not. How memorable would it be if “filling the hearts of others with song” became each of our priority. Peace, hope, and love might just be around the corner -- undoubtedly, the best presents we could ever exchange between ‘people and countries’ at Christmas-time or anytime.
Many thanks to President Ron Jarrett and Kim Farrah for making this interview possible