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In total harmony

In his "Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra," Garrison Keillor says bass fiddle players spend a great deal of their time "thinking about transportation."

Perhaps. But not as much time as Mack Wilberg does. Wilberg is the director of the BYU Men's Chorus. And just getting his troops to a concert can resemble a military exercise."We take five buses everywhere we go," Wilberg says. "I had 450 auditions for the chorus this year. We're at 240 members right now. I let a few more in than I anticipated."

And given Wilberg's policy of bringing everybody to every concert, you can bet more than a few good men will be on hand at Abravanel Hall Tuesday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. for the group's annual Salt Lake concert.

Tickets are $10 and are available at Deseret Book, the Capitol Theatre or by calling 355-ARTS.

Each year the concert seems to perk more interest. And each year it grows more diverse, with numbers in various languages, skits and period pieces and songs ranging from chants to chart-busters. This year keep an eye out for trombones, fiddles, drums and washboards.

"We'll be doing some numbers from our CD," says Wilberg. "We'll be doing a fun set we call `Broadway Buddies,' for instance."

But at the core of the evening - and the group - there will be the "Wilberg sound," a sound that weds discipline with emotional commitment and produces vocals that are both majestic and moving. Precision and passion are Wil-berg's watchwords. Watch for them on Tuesday.

It is a sound that prompted Choral Journal to call the group "one of the finest collegiate male choruses in the country" and has led others to proclaim the chorus as "the second most important choral group in the state of Utah."

This concert also comes on the heels of the release of "Awake My Soul," the group's second CD, this one featuring sacred hymns and anthems such as "Amazing Grace" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

Spring and summer should also bring more kudos.

"We're going on a short tour at the end of March to Arizona," Wil-berg says. "We're looking forward to that."

Last year the chorus toured for the first time, taking its show on the road to California. The success of that trip has prompted this one.

Just as the success of past concerts and CDs will undoubtedly prompt future ventures. And more than a few local music professionals are willing to sing their praises for what they've accomplished.

"I think they're one of the finest male choirs in America today," says John Cooksey of the University of Utah. "And I don't hesitate about saying that. They also do interesting literature that is appropriate for the male voice. It's a wonderful tradition they have, and tradition is important in any choral area."