Mormon Tabernacle Choir makes difficult look easy
As the old saying goes, it ain’t as easy as it looks.
I have seen many musicians perform in my lifetime and one thingÂ is a constant — the best make the most difficult passages look easy. Â Some of the “bands” I played in in high school spent a lot of time making the simple look difficult. Â We could make three chords and a basic drum beat appear incredibly complex.
Yesterday afternoon, I was privileged to have the opportunity to spend nearly two hours rehearsing with the Â Mormon Tabernacle Choir at Nationwide Arena, as they prepared for the opening performance of a Midwest tour. Â As we approached the doors to the arena area, the sound of 350 voices rolled through the building. Â It’s not unlike the first time I saw Niagara Falls. Â I heard it long before I laid eyes on it. Â Even then, I had no idea what I was about to experience.
I was taken to the front of the stage where I was handed a music-stuffed folder, then led around to the bass section where I was greeted warmly. Â I’m sure they were just glad to have an extra voice!
I quickly realized that I was the only one in the group with music. Â I would later learn of the handicap that presented when my section-mate told me the piece we were about to rehearse would require some swaying back and forth and rhythmic clapping. Â OK so the routine went something like this, read the music, watch the conductor, sway back and forth, clap. Â Got it. Â Oh wait, the piece is in Spanish. Â Â¡Ay, caramba!
Music Director Mack Wilberg and Associate Music Director Ryan Murphy run a tight ship. Â It’s a relaxed group, but focused. Â Much attention is paid to detail, diction, enunciation, entrances and pitch. As I said earlier, it’s not as easy as it looks.
A highlight of my experience was the unexpected appearance of a guest conductor, E. Gordon Gee. Â He was warmly welcomed, entertained with some brief remarks, then got down to the business of conducting 76 Trombones from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. Â Dr. Gee made some comment about considering that his audition since he needed a job, and off he ran.
Nothing, however, can prepare you for the sound. The difference between listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from a distance and singing in it is like watching Niagara Falls from an observation platform as opposed to standing beneath it. Â Instead of feeling the spray, you get drenched!
Any of you who sing in one of the many choirs in Central Ohio know what it takes to perform at a consistently high level. Â It takes sacrifice, time, and a lot of practice. Â We are blessed to have so many great vocal ensembles in our community and I am now blessed with a much better understanding of what it takes to make that happen. Â Bravo to you all and much thanks to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for such a wonderful experience!