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Multi-nation, multi-tongue tour for choir

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20-day trip to 7 countries will feature 16 eventsAccording to King Charles of Spain, the French language is best for diplomacy, English best for bargaining, Italian for sweet talk and Spanish for speaking to God.

Beginning June 12, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be able to put those notions to the test. The choir will sing in those tongues and others during its 20-day, 16-event swing through Europe.This is the choir's 17th international tour. And it promises to be one of the most ambitious. As an international flagship for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the choir will visit seven countries - including debut appearances in Spain, Portugal and Italy. The itinerary includes performances in London's Royal Albert Hall, the Accademia Santa Caecilia in Vatican City, the 500-year-old El Escorial in Spain and several other revered halls.

But then as with any choir tour, choir president Wendell Smoot says, it's going to be "busyness" as usual.

"And this will be one of the busiest tours we've done," he said.

Smoot and others have cobbled together the details of the tour since 1995. The choir will take planes, trains and automobiles to sing in venues ranging from grand halls to the ambassador's home in Brussels. Various media outlets will broadcast the choir's performances, including the BBC, which will beam the Albert Hall performance throughout the British Isles. An outlet in Italy will feature the choir's concert as its musical culture event of the year.

"We'll also be doing three broadcasts for `Music and the Spoken Word' that will be filmed over there and sent back to the United States," Smoot said. "We'll do them as we go - one in England, one in Switzerland and one in Spain."

In short, putting together the tour has been a little like plotting a military troop movement. It takes time and talent to move so many souls around.

"I've often said that traveling with the Tabernacle Choir is like traveling with a plague of locusts," choir director Jerold Ottley said. "We eat people out of house and home and then move on."

Yet, if there's a lot of movement, there will also be a lot of music.

"Our responsibility is to inspire people. And we can do that not only by doing the great literature but by doing songs the people know well," Ottley said. "We're trying to do something in every language. Our encore will be `I Am a Child of God' in various languages."

But if inspiration is the main focus of the tour, the choir will also be doing its share of educating and entertaining. Among its selections, the group will offer the "Gloria" from Puccini's "Messa de Gloria," selections by Swiss composer Frank Martin and Belgian composer Flor Peeters, a variety of American spirituals, folk songs and anthems and, of course, the 325 voices will bring everything home each time with a rousing "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

"After you do the `Battle Hymn,' " Ottley said, "you try not to do anything else."

Given the choir's demanding itinerary, choice of music and emotional commitment to the tour, after "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" there might not be anything left to give.


Additional Information

Tabernacle Choir

European tour

London - Sun., June 14

Brussels - Tues., June 16

Geneva - Thur., June 18

Turin - Sat., June 20

Rome - Mon., June 22

Marseilles - Wed., June 24

Barcelona - Fri., June 26

El Escorial - Sun., June 28

Madrid - Mon., June 29

Lisbon - Wed., July 1