By Janet Brimhall Siler, Meridian Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square and Feed The Children combined efforts in presenting “A Salute to the Armed Forces — Christmas in August” on August the 19th at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

The concert was recorded and taped.  It will air as the annual Christmas special, through The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to U.S. military troops both in the United States and on overseas assignment.  The Feed the Children relief organization will also air the program during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

During a reception prior to the concert, Craig Jessop, Music Director of the Tabernacle Choir, related that the event was about three years in the making.  Hill Air Force Base had originally asked the choir to give a performance at the base, paying tribute to the Armed Forces in Utah.  As the project grew, it became difficult to find a suitable venue large enough to hold the audience.  It naturally made more sense to offer the Conference Center for the concert, which enabled thousands of military personnel and their families to attend.

Presented at the reception was a donation of $250,000 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Salt Lake City for the building of a non-denominational chapel.  Church services have been held in the cafeteria for years, and a chapel will allow for a more reverent worship service.

Crook & Chase were hosts for the evening.  They currently host a daily radio show and are affiliated with the Nashville Network (TNN).  The Band of the Air Force Reserve, under the direction of Commander/Conductor Captain Chad A. Steffey, joined the Orchestra at Temple Square.

Setting the mood for the concert were stars, projected against a red, white and blue background, set off by the soft glow from the organ pipes and rich wooden casement.  Old Glory stood at attention amongst lighted Christmas trees on either side of the orchestra.

Highly awarded and acclaimed Christian music vocalist, Sandi Patty, and the Tabernacle Choir opened the concert with a grand performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” after the Colors were presented.

General Bruce Carlson, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, then gave a holiday greeting to the U.S. troops serving throughout the world.  He also thanked them for their service in keeping our country safe, as well as other nations not able to do so for themselves.

SSgt. Tamiko Boone sang a lovely rendition of “Who Would Imagine a King.”

Many favorite Christmas carols were sung, including, “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.”  Sandi Patty’s performance of “O Holy Night” was very moving.

Lt. General John A. Bradley, Commander, Air Force Reserve Command, and the Choir were the highlight of the Christmas portion of the program.

General Bradley related the oft-told story in the trenches of Europe on a cold, dark Christmas Eve.  The men stopped the war for a few brief moments.  And somewhere in the quiet of that night, one soldier began to sing “Silent Night” in his own native tongue.  The words weren’t understood, but the spirit was.  And, one by one, they all joined in — one from one side and two from the other, until all stood singing in one voice.  With one thought, with one hope, they stood, looking at each other across the battlefield.  It took courage to stop fighting.  It took more courage to start fighting again, at the stroke of midnight.

The men of the choir then began to sing “Silent Night.” The audience was absolutely quiet, except for a sniffle here and there.

 

To the delight of the crowd, the combined orchestra, band and choir sang and played the anthem from each branch of the service.  The audience stood and joined in singing “God Bless America.”

After a thunderous standing ovation, the choir appropriately encored “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

At one point in the program, a duet of bagpipes began a tribute to the thirty-one Utah heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, while each of their photographs were shown on the large screens, along with their name, branch of service and the date of death.  All were men.  Many were members of the LDS Church.  All were children of God.

And ultimately, this program really wasn’t about the music, the well-rehearsed performances or bravado.  It was about the defense of all we hold dear and those who make that defense for all we hold dear.

The fight we joined pre-mortally still rages around us.  Sometimes it’s in a distant land on a battlefield, sometimes it’s home and sometimes it’s between a husband and wife.

So let us not be faint-hearted.  Let us encourage each other in the fight for all that we hold dear.

From Chief Captain Moroni:

And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it — In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children — and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

… (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land —

And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them (Alma 46: 12, 13, 19-20).

Before the United States of America became a nation, with George Washington as its president and Commander-in-Chief, he was the first and greatest general to lead us into battle and deliver us from bondage.  After his death, Thomas Jefferson said of him: 

His mind was great and powerful… as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder.  It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion… Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw doubt, but, when once decided, going through his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed.  His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known… He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good and a great man… On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect… It may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great…”

George Washington addressed the Continental Army before the battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776):

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them.


  The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.  Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission.  We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.