Sunday, September 21, 2008

Good Art Alert!!!

Yesterday at the Conference interpreter meeting they said they had a few extra tickets for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert to be held later that evening. They even said the visiting soloist's rendition of "The Impossible Dream" was especially stirring. Still, I didn't think too much of it, I hadn't heard of the concert before then, and I didn't know if I would be free in the evening.

So then Lacie called later and said her parents had gone to said concert the night before and that she HAD to try and get in with standby tickets. So she called me and asked if I wanted to join her, and also clued me in a little as to what the program actually entailed. It was the O. C. Tanner Gift of Music Concert, "An American Songbook", featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Utah Symphony, visiting conductor Erich Kunzel (conductor of the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra), and guese soloists Denyce Graves and Brian Stokes Mitchell. For those who don't recognize that last guy's name, he's only one of the best stars of contemporary musical theater, having starred in the original cast of Ragtime and the amazing revival of The Man of La Mancha, as well as providing vocals for The Prince of Egypt (as Jethro). I pretty much died at the fact that I almost missed this opportunity. We headed up to the enormous Conference Center, and while we really didn't have anything to worry about as far as tickets go, they still nearly filled the entire hall. The program consisted of American classics, such as patriotic favorites, standards and brilliant Broadway selections (and a lot of pieces that had become my favorites during my mission years). As promised, Stokes Mitchell's "The Impossible Dream" was probably the best I've ever heard, and there were several moments when the choir joined the soloists and the effect was overwhelmingly intense, such as the incredible Denyce Graves leading the choir in "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor". I cried during "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the Ragtime selections, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was appropriately stirring and the choir was impressive in the John Williams-penned 2002 Winter Olympics theme, "Call of the Champions". President Monson and dozens of others rose during the Tribute to the Armed Forces medley, the rousing finale of "God Bless America" was just incredible, and then as the proverbial icing on the cake, an encore of Wilhousky's Battle Hymn. I thought it was odd it was left off the program, but presumed it would be performed as an encore, which it was. We basically floated home, but not before getting a Crown burger and serendipitously catching "Wheels of a Dream" (from Ragtime) on Showtune Saturday. Seriously, what ARE the odds?? I thought I was going crazy looking for and not finding Belinda in the crowd, but turns out she was home, unfortunately not feeling well. Still, all in all, a free night of a brilliant concert which turned out to be exactly what I needed.

So, here we have a clear example of good art. (See previous rant.) It was such a refreshing experience, an amazing venue absolutely filled with glorious music. Now and then there are those experiences that really affect you, and this was one of them. My perspective cleared and I felt for a few minutes like the worries I had were worked out, or at least that they would eventually. The Spirit works through many mediums, and music is one of them, which is why it's so important to seek out that which is "virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy." There is bad art, there is mediocre art, and there is good art. As far as expending our effort and spending our time, why should we settle for anything less than good? It's good to be reminded there are those in the Church making worthwhile art. Balances out the kitsch. (Incidentally, Mom found an amusing 1971 interview with Hugh Nibley entitled "
Kitsch in the Visual Arts and Advertisements of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". If you get a chance, read it, it goes along with my Bad Art Alert post perfectly.) Also, it is always a breath of fresh air to hear a performance by groups and artists who are unafraid to outrightly and unabashedly praise God, as these did, without fear of being politically incorrect or unpopular to certain groups. It makes me even more grateful to Him. As the anthem says, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

In general, I have been really impressed with the direction the choir has been going in the last ten years. I know they were always pretty good, but their CD releases continue to impress me. I was so glad to get to know them better while on the mission. I mean, the visiting conductor even went so far as to add to President Reagan's statement regarding the Motab as America's Choir, and called them "the world's greatest and best choir". There you go.


  1. You beat me to the punch. I wanted to post about this also. It was such an amazing experience and I am glad we went!

  2. Sounds amazing! I'm glad you got to see it. Thanks for the example of praiseworthy art.

  3. I also went to this concert, and it was fabulous. MMM.

  4. I love the choir when they sing up to tempo, and it sounds like they did just fine there! I wish I knew where the "slow is reverent" idea came from. Just a little pet peeve of mine that I think of when I think of the choir. I'll stop ranting now.

  5. That is a good question... I do dislike to hear a choir of this size (or any size, I guess) drag their way through a song. It's so hard especially in congregational singing at church to get people to sing up tempo. I don't even think it has to do with trying to sound reverent, but more with an inability to watch/follow a conductor.

    The choir was appropriately upbeat when the songs called for it. Yay.

  6. Our ward actually proved this Sunday that we can keep up, but our regular chorister leads everything SO SLOW! We've been wondering if it was the fault of the chorister or the organist (some organists don't watch) and we now know it's the chorister. MoTab does it too though, I was listening to the Sunday morning conference session and yikes, SLOW!