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For week ended August 01, 1999 Posted 29 Aug 1999

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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in transition

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in transition
Deseret News 1Aug99 L2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News staff writer

With Jerold Ottley stepping down as the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in December, Craig Jessop will step up and accept the baton as the new director. Ottley's belief that, "the sum of the choir's parts is greater than the individual parts," and that a "good choir is not a combination of solo voices," will usher in the new Temple Square Chorale and Training School, which some call an MTC for singers.

The choir is currently rejuvenating itself. "Now, everyone who comes into the choir will have sung in the chorale," Jessop said. "The chorale becomes the gate to the choir and a training tool. President Hinckley on three separate occasions has praised the choir and called it the finest in the world, but then he'll turn around and say, 'and they must get better.'"

Current choir members will rotate through the chorale's school until all have had the experience. "Instead of dealing with 320 voices, we'll have 60 voices, and the conductor can hear every individual voice," Jessop said. Jessop compares the progress of the choir to that made in LDS missionary work. "Thirty years ago, missionaries had one week at the little old mission home on the corner. Thirty years before that, there was nothing. Today, we have the MTC (missionary training center). The brethren have made certain that these missionaries are as prepared as possible. This is what we're trying to do. In a sense, this chorale is an MTC for singers. It's a revolutionary step."

The current application process is "a three-tier audition," Jessop said. Half of the chorale will be current members of the Tabernacle Choir and the other half will be new singers who aspire to join the Choir. The age span in which singers may be considered for the choir have been broadened from 30-55 to 25-55. Sixty is the imposed age of retirement from the choir. "It's just very difficult when you're dealing with something as personal as the human voice to tell someone to hit the road. It's better to give everyone the same treatment, whether their voices are diminishing or not."

James Fairbanks, a 26 year-old music major at the University of Utah has been invited into the chorale. "I'm really enjoying the experience. One of the reasons I majored in music is to one day get into the Tabernacle Choir." To meet the challenges of the Choir, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, and Ottley and Jessop decided to try to empower members through an academic setting in order to develop better skills. Jessop paraphrases a familiar phrase by saying, "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime!"

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices at 7:30 every Sunday morning, prior to their 9:30 live broadcast. Jessop says, "No singer should ever be required to sing before noon. It's really a transformation from 7:30 when they can barely croak. I'll tell you, miracles happen every Sunday morning." Ottley remembers Enrico Caruso, who once said, "A singer shouldn't even spit before noon - let alone SING!"

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information