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Choir tours under spotlight of European media

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One would think that the Tabernacle Choir is one whole contingent of celebrities: Wherever the singers of the choir have arrived on their European tour, television news and documentary crews have met their planes, buses and cruise ship, which is transporting them during a portion of the tour.

Concerts and "Music and the Spoken Word" programs performed by the choir on the tour are being widely broadcast in the countries on the singers' itinerary. The British Broadcasting Company filmed the entire performance June 14 in London's Royal Albert Hall for a special program to air on its "Songs of Praise" program Sept 13. Belgium's State Radio and Television Network filmed the concert in Brussels June 16 for broadcast later, and in Geneva, Switzerland's Radio and Television Romande filmed the concert for broadcast.The choir had two performances in Italy, one in Turin (Torino) on June 20, and another at Accademia Santa Caecilia, in Rome on June 22. The concert in Rome was carried on Italian State Radio and Television Network. During the final days of the tour, the choir will perform three concerts in Spain and one in Portugal.

Iain B. McKay, director of international media for Bonneville Communications, is the man behind the scenes in all the television and radio publicity the choir is receiving.

"Bonneville Communications has responsibility to conduct broadcast relations worldwide, befriending, opening doors and placing Church programs on radio and television stations," Brother McKay said. "Specifically, on this trip, my assignment has been to get radio and television coverage for the major concerts on the tour. Most concert halls accommodate only a few thousand people, at the most. With the expense of moving the choir over to Europe, we wanted to get the choir's presence out to multitudes."

Brother McKay worked closely with the Church's missionary and public affairs departments in what he described as "a tremendous team effort" to open doors with key broadcasters in countries. He made several trips to Europe during the past couple of years, taking local public affairs directors to meetings with the media in their countries.

"Incredible things happened," Brother McKay said of the widespread media coverage the choir is receiving on its tour. Television stations have been enthusiastic about carrying coverage of the concerts, he said. Twenty years ago, Brother McKay made the first inroads for television and radio coverage for the Church in Italy. Now, with his long associations in Italy, he said that he feels this is the "cream" of his many years' work.

"The Tabernacle Choir and `Music and the Spoken Word' are known in Italy, as well as the Church-produced `Home Front' spots. Dozens of television and radio stations have carried the choir's Christmas and Easter specials. The choir is known and loved in Italy, but this is the first time the choir is being featured on RAI, Italy's state network. The choir's concert in Rome is one of only two that the national network is producing this year; the other is being done in Bejing." Brother McKay said that officials at the Italian network told him that they "could not let this opportunity pass" to carry a program featuring the Tabernacle Choir.

While others on the tour praise Brother McKay for his abilities to get expansive media coverage of the concert tour, he modestly shakes his head. "There have been so many coincidences, little miracles, as we've set up the broadcasting arrangements. Conversely, there has been the most intense opposition than I've ever experienced in the past 20 years," he said. "I'm convinced that this tour is in the timetable of the Lord, and is extremely important to promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ in these countries."