Mormon Tabernacle Choir History In Europe

Since Thursday night’s exciting Tour announcement I’ve been doing a lot of “Googling”. I’ve read websites about the artistic and historical significance of the countries and cities the Choir will be visiting. I’ve read about the history of the LDS church presence in those cities, the LDS temples in close proximity, and other significant historical events and sites within the tour route. I also researched historical accounts from the past Mormon Tabernacle Choir tours to Europe – there’s been five; 1955, 1973, 1982, 1991, 1998. Reading these accounts have been enlightening, faith-promoting and yes, I’ve shed many tears.

One of the jewels of my search has been a report by Cynthia Doxey, found in the Brigham Young University archives entitled The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tours. As a research paper, this would classify as a “long read,” but it’s packed with wonderful details and stories which make it a real treat to read, and is so well worth your time!

Here are just a few of many highlights.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS

med-cruise-ship

“When the choir travels together on a tour, people who meet them are impressed not only by the number of people but also because the entire group embraces the same beliefs and lifestyle. individuals keeping the Word of Wisdom often impress the attendants who serve the choir on airplanes, ships, buses, and in the hotels. One steward on a ship in the Mediterranean in 1998 asked about the beliefs of the Church because the steward noticed that, “Other people on cruises have dull eyes and glazed expressions. But people on this cruise have eyes that look into their souls.”

The paper not only shares events and experiences from the past 4 Choir tours to Europe but also does a great job detailing the important ‘behind the scenes’ work and mission of the Choir to build bridges, improve perceptions of Mormons, share the gospel message and change lives for the better.

Denmark has had a special association with the choir over many years. During the 1982 tour, the mayor of Copenhagen, who was not a member of the Church, provided a special luncheon for the choir and other guests in gratitude for their presence in Copenhagen.

Equestrian statue of King Frederick V, against background of Christian VII's Palace, Amalienborg, Copenhagen, Denmark, Northern Europe.

Equestrian statue of King Frederick V, against background of Christian VII’s Palace, Amalienborg, Copenhagen, Denmark, Northern Europe.

It may not be mere coincidence that broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word were first aired in Denmark in 1982. In addition, Kent Gade Oleson, a Dane who also was not a member of the Church, is an enthusiastic Tabernacle Choir supporter and founded the “Danish Tabernacle Choir Society.” This society is a 500-member group which helps distribute choir recordings and ensure that broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word are available throughout Denmark and other European countries.

An article published in the church’s Ensign Magazine shortly after the 1998 Choir Tour details wonderful accounts of the Choir’s positive impact.

LONDON

Royal_Albert_Hall-London

Royal Albert Hall, London England – photo @Wikipedia

Tears coursed down the faces of many at London’s Royal Albert Hall at the tour’s beginning, where an extremely emotional audience joined with the choir in singing an encore number, “Jerusalem,” a deeply loved British hymn referring to the legend that Christ came to Cornwall and Somerset as a youth.

BRUSSELS

Brussels Belgium, Grand Plaza (featuring the annual festival floral carpet) - @Wikipedia

Brussels Belgium, Grand Plaza (featuring the annual festival floral carpet) – @Wikipedia

“In the reception following the Brussels concert I talked with the head of a very significant government office,” said Brother Smoot. “‘You know,’ the person said, ‘we’ve never really understood your people. For that reason we’ve not always classified you as a mainstream religion. But you’ve given us a whole new appreciation for what “Mormon” means. In terms of your concert and its themes tonight, it was absolutely magnificent. And if the songs you sang are the things you believe, then we know who you are.’”

GENEVA

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing in Victoria Hall, Geneva Switzerland, 1998

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing in Victoria Hall, Geneva Switzerland, 1998

“The Mormon Choir … makes God its most powerful instrument,” Le Temps, Geneva, Switzerland.

~~

In 1998, current Choir president Wendell Smoot stated that the Choir’s goal was “to make friends with the people and raise the level of acceptance of the Church and its members in countries we visited.” [A Company of Angels, Oct. 1998] That goal was fulfilled and exceeded. The Choir continues to build on that goal two decades later.

In June 2016 the Choir once more will embark to Europe to strengthen existing bonds, and reach out to a new generation. We will make lasting friendships and share the goodness of God through music. The 2016 tour will be an epic undertaking –  moving upwards of 700 people over the span of nearly 3 weeks to 10 cities and 6 countries – a fairly exhausting itinerary, but I know it will be a glorious experience, using our instruments from God to create heaven on earth. – MoSop

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