Nearly 400 hopeful singers submitted applications for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the 2009 call for new members. Of those who applied, 78 were accepted. The Choir had not auditioned in two years so the group applying and those accepted were both large numbers.
Now, these singers enter an intensive 16-week training period. On Tuesday each week they will sing as members of the Temple Square Chorale which culminates with a concert in April. The Chorale will also feature members of the Choir who joined in 2007. Ryan Murphy, associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will conduct the Chorale rehearsal sessions and performances. On Thursdays, they will attend Choir Training School-sort of a graduate course in choral singing. Required attendance is 100% of the Tuesdays and Thursdays for the 16 weeks.
Cherilyn Wirthin, who is in charge of the Choir Training School, explains it’s “boot camp” with an intense schedule but short- lived. The purpose is to get people ready to sing in the Choir. Essentially, the Training School and Chorale provide a “run-up” to full Choir participation and a final check to insure the singers are a good match for the Choir. The goal is to introduce new voices to the choir “in a homogenous way.”
“When we send new members up into the loft, we want them to know how to be good choir members,” she explains. Everything from policies and procedures to music is covered in the three months of training. As part of the two-evenings a week schedule, vocal coach Rebecca Wilberg will address pedagogy, issues related to voice, and basic singing techniques and Tabernacle organists Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts will cover what is expected in Thursday night practices and Sunday performances from music theory to music notation. How to sing correctly in the ensembles is emphasized as are expectations for participation in the ensemble.
“Once we send them up into the loft, we’re counting on them to apply what they’ve learned,” Wirthin explains. “We hope that once they have had the Choir training, they will sing responsibly, blend, listen, and read accurately, all in the spirit of becoming part of the team.”