Fresh off of their successful seven-city European tour, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square were back in the Conference Center on Temple Square this weekend for their annual Pioneer Day concert. They brought a little bit of Europe back home with them for their “Music for a Summer Evening” performances Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23, 2016.
Grammy® Award-winning guest performers the King’s Singers, England’s six-man a cappella vocal ensemble and one of the choir’s most frequent collaborators, shared the stage with the choir to commemorate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley 169 years ago, on July 24, 1847. A near capacity crowd filled the Conference Center on Friday night.
Many of the pioneers came to Utah from European countries, including Wales. David Hurley, the veteran member of the King’s Singers, said his mother was Welsh. “I know that the Welsh heritage was a major part of [the choir’s roots], and so I feel a wonderful affinity to it.”
This was Hurley’s last performance with the choir and final performance in the United States before he retires in August. Hurley’s last concert will be on his birthday, August 6, in France.
“If I could choose the place that I’d like to do my last American concert, this would just have to be at the top of the list,” said Hurley. “I’m extremely happy, so it’s more sweet than bitter.”
Hurley, countertenor with the King’s Singers, first sang with the choir during the Cultural Olympiad of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The King’s Singers also performed with the choir and orchestra in their Christmas concerts in 2007.
“Every time we come here we feel so overwhelmed by the sense of friendship,” he added. “I love performing in the Tabernacle because it’s just got the history; the acoustics are just amazing. But, the sheer scale of the Conference Center is staggering.”
The concert kicked off with the orchestra performing “Hoe-down” from the ballet “Rodeo,” followed by the choir’s rendition of “The Handcart Song” and signature piece “Come, Come Ye Saints” to honor the pioneers. A series of folk songs were featured in the program, including the King’s Singers’ versions of “Loch Lomond” and “Danny Boy” and the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts.” A crowd favorite was the group’s a cappella rendition of a “Primary Medley,” which brought a standing ovation from the audience. The final number for the evening was “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends.”
The music for the Pioneer concert was conducted by Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, and Ryan Murphy, associate music director. Clay Christiansen and Andrew Unsworth provided the organ music.
The second concert will be streamed live at 8:00 p.m. MDT on Saturday, July 23. It will also be carried live over the Church satellite system and aired on BYUtv, as well as archived for on-demand viewing in English at the end of the July 23 concert. On-demand videos in additional languages (French, German, Portuguese and Spanish) will be available on Wednesday, July 27 atmotab.org/pioneerday.
The King’s Singers will appear once again with the choir on the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast Sunday morning, July 24, in the Conference Center. Patrons should be in their seats by 9:15 a.m. The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is streamed live each week onMormonTabernacleChoir.org.
July Pioneer Day concerts featuring music by the choir and orchestra have been a long-standing tradition. Recent guest artists have included Laura Osnes (2015), Santino Fontana (2014), Nathan Pacheco and Lindsey Stirling (2013), Katherine Jenkins (2012) and Linda Eder and Brian Stokes Mitchell (2011).