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Tabernacle Choir finishes tour at Red Rocks

Pres. Monson is surprise guest at the inspiring finale

DENVER — The Mormon Tabernacle Choir wrapped up its seven-city, 13-day tour with a performance Monday evening at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

The tour's concert program has offered something to appeal to just about everyone and has featured some surprise guest conductors at various venues, but nothing topped the surprise that awaited the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square at the Red Rocks performance: President Thomas S. Monson made an unannounced appearance in the audience, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter guest-conducted the choir and orchestra in an encore number, "This Land is Your Land." Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal also attended the concert.

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Monson is the choir's priesthood adviser. He met with choir and orchestra members four days before they left on tour June 18 and hinted he might show up at one of the concerts.

During intermission at the concert, President Monson told the Deseret News, "This is absolutely fantastic. This choir is an example of devotion to one's assignment and a manifestation of the absolute beauty of music.

"There's an old saying, 'Practice makes perfect.' We see an example of that tonight."

Dean Singleton, an officer of the concert's sponsor, the National Sports Center for the Disabled, introduced the choir's performance of "Call of The Champions," written by John Williams and performed by the choir at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. He noted that the performance of "Call" at Red Rocks was the only one on the choir's tour, adding that it originally was dedicated to the athletes who came to the Olympics with hopes of winning.

"Tonight, we're dedicating 'Call of the Champions' to the tens of thousands in NSCD whose courage proves that a disability doesn't have to mean a handicap," he said.

This year's tour took the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square to Central and Midwestern states. The tour began June 18 with the choir performing with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in Cincinnati. The choir's music director, Mack Wilberg, shared conducting duties with Cincinnati Pops' Erich Kunzel.

At that concert, former U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, who nearly 40 years ago became the first man to walk on the moon, gave a reading of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," which was performed to mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

After the concert in Cincinnati, the Orchestra at Temple Square joined the choir and the tour continued with performances in St. Louis, where former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft conducted the encore number, and Omaha, Neb., where Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller conducted.

Other concerts were in Kansas City, Mo., and Norman, Okla.

David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma and former Oklahoma governor and senator, conducted the encore number at the concert on the university's campus.

"It was a great honor and, at the same time, a terrifying experience to conduct the choir," Boren said. "My wife and I have been following the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for years. I'm a great music lover. I was in a band and orchestra at Yale."

Before the concert, Boren arranged for a university tie to be presented to choir announcer Lloyd Newell. When Newell appeared on stage saying he was wearing an OU tie and that the women in the choir were wearing the university's crimson color, the audience cheered and applauded. During the day, good-natured comments were made about the rivalry between OU and BYU. The two schools face each other in football this September.

The choir and orchestra members, along with staff and guests — with more than 560 people on the tour — arrived at their hotel in Golden, Colo., around 1 a.m. Monday after traveling 12 hours from Oklahoma City on Sunday.

They began Sunday morning with a sacrament meeting after breakfast. Along the way, Latter-day Saints in Hays, Kan., served them dinner in the student union building on the campus of Fort Hays State College.

The concert at Red Rocks marked the end of the tour, during which the choir and orchestra traveled more than 3,400 miles.