What a wonderful week! I feel so very lucky to not only attend the Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert every year, but I get to be there for every performance, and even perform with the choir. We do the concert four times, and the conference center seats 21,000, so that’s roughly 84,000 people who can attend. That seems like that would accommodate everyone who wants to see the concert, right? But there are over a million requests for tickets. Every year I hear people complaining that they have NEVER gotten tickets, even though they try every year. That’s why it’s so wonderful that PBS carries the concert the following year, so everyone can have a chance to see it.
Every year the choir puts on quite a show, but this one was extra special. It’s hard to describe how touching and joyful the concert was. The story of Gail Halverson, the candy bomber was especially touching, and to have Alfie Boe there singing Bring him Home brought me to tears.
As a bell choir, we usually play in the processional, play a little part in the dance number in the middle, and we always play in Angels from the realms of glory at the end. Some years we are lucky and get to play in a fourth song. This year, we played Jingle Bells for the overture, then made a quick switch and came back to play in the last part of the processional, and then we didn’t play again for the whole program. Our director jokes that we would have plenty of time to go to crown burger (which is an inside joke, because during the concert our very first year, a couple of the guys did go to crown burger in their tuxes, and brought back 15 junior hamburgers and fries–enough that we could each have half a burger and half an order of fries!) We did not, however, make it over to crown burger. They had set up a tv with sound up in our concrete bunker area where they store chair and things, and that was our little hangout place.
Thursday night, we all watched the concert in awe and wonderment, laughing at the camera flub ups, and cheering at the wonderful moments. We commented when they showed choir and orchestra members that we are friends with, and laughed when Alfie Boe said, “Couldn’t you find a bigger place?” He was light and funny, and joked about his next medley of Led Zeppelin songs. But when he sang Bring him Home, we were silent. We had all heard him sing that before on the Les Miserables show that PBS broadcasts during pledge week, but to be in the same building as he was singing it was simply amazing. When he was done, we clapped and cheered, and some of us wiped away tears.
When the story of the the candy bomber was told, we all listened intently. Tom Brokaw’s telling of the story was calming and mesmerizing. I knew that the actual Candy Bomber, Gail Halverson, was going to be there, but I had no idea there would be little parachutes falling from the sky!
Well done!! We gasped right along with the audience, and wiped away tears. It was an amazing story, told in heartful honesty.
After that narration, we had to go and get our bells for our last number, so we didn’t really hear the rest of the concert, but we were so thrilled to have been able to see that much all together.
And that was just the FIRST night!
In light of Friday’s horrible events, we came to the conference center a bit downtrodden and sad, wondering how there could be so much evil in a person to kill innocent children. While we didn’t want to say goodbye to our precious families, we were so grateful to be doing something we loved, with people we love. At the beginning of Friday night’s concert, Lloyd Newel asked everyone to participate in a moment of silence for all those who were hurting and had lost loved ones. Everyone was silent. 21,000+ people, sharing a moment of respect and sadness. But sadness turned to joy once the amazing concert started once again.
Here I am with some dancers. I fit right in, right?
This is my favorite security guy, Toby, who I only see once a year at concert week, but he tells me stories of what drama has been going on on the square, or if someone threw up or got sick during the concert. Did you know there are defibrillators hidden around Temple Square? Cool!
Friday night, a few of us stayed overnight. We had some plans change and a last minute cancellation because our friend Liz here broke her foot right before the concerts started, and wasn’t able to be with us.
Saturday morning we were able to sleep in a bit, have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then do our hair and makeup while watching a movie on tv. At 1:00 we headed over to the conference center for our day of recording. We had also planned to take a new group picture of our group, so after we recorded our songs with the choir, we did some posing.
After the recording session, the choir, orchestra, bells and dancers shuffle over to the church office building cafeteria for dinner. They treat us right there, and the price is nice (free!). But we usually eat too much and then are sluggish and tired before the Saturday evening performance. But we pulled it together!
He was so warm and gracious and allowed lots of picture taking, even if he really felt like just getting back to his dressing room to lie down. I’m so glad I got to see him and personally thank him for sharing his voice with us.
By the end of the night Saturday, we were exhausted. So glad we had our hotel room again so we didn’t have to drive all the way home just to turn around and come back by 7:30 Sunday morning. On our way out, who should we see, but Mitt Romney! He was coming out the back after the show. I tried to just put my bells away and keep out of his way, but other in our group got pictures or shook his hand. As I was walking down the corridor with a fellow bell ringer, we stopped and looked back to see where our friend Linda was. She was right behind us. And walking toward us down the hall, there was Mitt and his lovely wife Ann. When they got to us, he said, “Good job tonight,” and we said “thank you.” Governer Herbert and some security were right behind. Cool!
Sunday morning was another concert, and my family came to see that one. My heart was full. It had been such an amazing week full of blessings and joy. We were excited to play for the prophet again, and kind of sad that the week would be over. After the Music and the Spoken word broadcast, we had to make a really quick bell change. One of the guys had been suffering with plantar faciitis (No idea on the spelling there) for the week, so I offered to get the bell he needed from two flights down. Once our song was over, we literally RAN out of there, down the stairs, through the backstage area, found our new bells, and RAN back up. I had almost made it and was breathing heavily. Then came the last step, and I missed it. Splat. 5 bells on the ground, with me looking oh so graceful on that last step, surrounded by dancers and other bell players.
This one dancer was so sweet, “Are you ok?” Totally embarrassed and angry at myself, I brushed it off and grabbed those bells, and ran into place. Sigh. We had one more song later in the mini concert, and I limped down to change my bells. Ugh.
When Bring him Home was sung that last time, I started crying. With Cole leaving on a mission soon, it just hit too close to home, and emotions from the week came pouring out. I got myself together and made it through the last song. After the gifts were presented, the Choir did a special number for Tom Brokaw’s wife, Merideth. Her Birthday is on Christmas, and she has always said that when the choir sang the Hallelujah chorus, she thought it was sung just for her. So they sang it just for her. I was in the isle on the men’s side, between the baritones and the basses, and the Hallelujah chorus has never sounded better. The tears came again, I was so touched.
It was a wonderful week, and one I will never forget.