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Tabernacle Choir wows Deer Valley

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DEER VALLEY MUSIC FESTIVAL, Deer Valley Amphitheater, Friday.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir opened the Deer Valley Music Festival's Friday classical series last weekend. Friday's concert also marked the first time the ensemble has performed in Summit County.

Choir music director Craig Jessop led his group and the Utah Symphony in a wonderfully rewarding program that spotlighted the choir's diverse repertoire. The first half of the concert was devoted to the music of some of the masters of the 19th and 20th centuries, while the second half featured folk tunes and hymns.

Although their last few CDs focus primarily on sacred music, it was refreshing to hear the choir perform classical works at Friday's concert. It is no exaggeration to say that no one sings classical choral works better than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And under the inspired direction of Jessop, who has led the choir since 1999, the ensemble has once again found its true voice.

Jessop is one of the most talented choral conductors on the international scene today. He knows how to bring the best out of his singers. The gifted and dedicated singers in the choir make Jessop's job all that much easier.

An added treat last Friday was having the choir paired with the Utah Symphony. All too infrequently does one have the opportunity of hearing these two ensembles perform together. Last weekend's concert showed that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony truly are made for each other.

The highlight at Friday's concert was the magnificent performance of Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms." One of the composer's most significant and heartfelt religious works, the symphony gave a sincere and expressive reading that captured the angularity of the outer movements and the supple lyricism of the middle movement. Jessop elicited a dynamic performance out of his forces that was nuanced and subtle, yet filled with vibrant energy. Bookending the Stravinsky in the first half was music by Vaughan Williams and three short settings of the Gloria by a trio of Slavic composers — Dvorak, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Vaughan Williams' brief "O Clap Your Hands" and his evocative "Serenade to Music" opened the concert. The Serenade was notable for the tenderly played solo by concertmaster Ralph Matson and the fluid singing of the choir, including the featured solos by choir members Shawna Gottfredson, Patricia Swanson, Laura Garff Lewis, Scott Miller and Shane Warby.

After intermission, the program highlighted the exceptional arranging skills of choir associate director Mack Wilberg. Four of his arrangements of American folk hymns concluded the evening — "Saints Bound for Heaven," "Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort," "We'll Shout and Give Him Glory" and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

The second half opened with Leroy Robertson's arrangement of the English folk tune "Come, Come, Ye Saints" and Morricone's "On Earth as it is in Heaven," featuring symphony English hornist Holly Gornik in a beautifully played solo.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com