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Wilberg, choir shine at conference debut

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Mack Wilberg, the newly appointed 15th music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, made his debut at general conference this weekend.

President Thomas S. Monson said Sunday that church members are fortunate to enjoy the quality and beauty of music the choir regularly provides. The group sang at three of the five general conference sessions Saturday and Sunday.

In the Saturday morning session, Wilberg directed the choir, which opened with "O My Father." That hymn set a somber mood for the solemn assembly to follow. The choir appeared flawless and as well-directed as ever.

"Praise to the Man" was the choir's second morning selection.

"Our hearts have been touched by that beautiful rendition," President Monson said following the rousing hymn.

"We thank thee, O God, for a Prophet" was the next hymn, also sung by the congregation.

Wilberg was named to replace Craig Jessop, who resigned March 4 after more than eight years in the position, on March 27. Jessop was named Friday as the new head of the music department at Utah State University.

Wilberg was a professor of music at Brigham Young University until he joined the choir in May 1999 as its associate music director.

As music director, Wilberg will oversee all musical and creative aspects of the choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square, the Temple Square Chorale and the Bells on Temple Square, including selecting repertoire for concerts, recordings and tours, as well as the creative direction for the weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast.

Wilberg is a former director of choral activities at BYU, where he conducted the Concert Choir and the 240-voice Men's Chorus. He also taught both graduate and undergraduate music courses at BYU and is a pianist, chamber musician, clinician, composer, arranger and guest conductor.

Edgar Thompson, former director of the University of Utah School of Music, was named the interim assistant to Wilberg until a formal search is conducted.

Choir president Mac Christensen said the choir has an immeasurable impact on the church's success in missionary work.

"The choir can open doors and minds where no one else can," he said.

For more information on the choir, go to mormontabernaclechoir.org.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com