FRANKFURT, Germany — In this continental urban and cultural center, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Saturday performed the fifth concert in its seven-city, five-nation tour of central Europe, again receiving a standing ovation and giving a double encore, as they have done at all previous stops so far in Berlin, Nuremburg, Vienna and Zurich.

The 320 singers and 67 instrumentalists performed in Frankfurt’s tortoise-shell shaped Jahrhunderthalle convention center before an audience of some 2,300.

“These are good people; these are my people,” choir member and interpreter Sonja Sperling Poulter, who was reared in Frankfurt, reportedly said to choir announcer Lloyd Newell as the two were returning to the stage in the midst of applause after the signature song “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Elder Patrick Kearon, a general authority Seventy of the LDS Church and the president of its Europe Area, spoke of the concert in spiritual terms the next morning to the assembled choir and orchestra members and their guests.

“I’ve been blessed to hear you quite a lot, but I’ve never heard anything like that or heard you together like that. It was a gift. It’s as if someone had, in a glorious way, interfered with what you were doing and made it beyond extraordinary. I suppose they have interfered with it — in a celestial way — and glorified your efforts, magnified them.”

In an interview prior to the Frankfurt concert, music director Mack Wilberg said that just before they left Salt Lake City, he warned the performers “not to expect standing ovations and not to expect what we would call thunderous applause, because most European concerts that I have attended over the years I think that people appreciate the music just as much but sometimes don’t demonstrate it quite the way that we’re used to with American audiences.”

“But we have been pleasantly surprised the entire tour that the audiences have not been just appreciative but have been enthusiastic in their appreciation for the concerts.”

That said, Wilberg pointed out that the choir and orchestra have performed “on an exceedingly high level this entire tour,” a tribute to the members’ hard work in preparation.

“With the exception of one piece on our program, everything is from the sacred repertoire, he noted. “As a result, I think because we are so unified by our faith and our own spiritual beliefs, that comes across to the audience. I heard of several people, some of them really fine musicians, who said they felt such warmth, their heart was overflowing from what they had experienced, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. Maybe we don’t do it all the time, but I think most of the time we do.”

Among concert attendees in Frankfurt who have felt the warmth from the choir and organization are Wiglef and Edith Puerschel of Nidderau. He is a journalist and she a banker in Frankfurt. They have done volunteer work in helping refugees.

They were invited by their friend Ralf Grünke, the church’s associate director of public affairs in its Europe area.

Born in Berlin, Wiglef Puerschel as a child was introduced by his father to the choir’s radio program “Music and the Spoken Word,” which was carried over RIAZ, the radio station broadcasting in the American sector at the time the wall divided the city.

“I grew up with that,” he said recalling that the program would last a half-hour, and then there would be the sound of a replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

“This choir sets the standard for all choirs,” he said of the Tabernacle Choir. “They stand for much more than the music.”

Volker Schmitt-Illert, a retired Lutheran pastor, attended the concert. A choir director himself, he was among selected guests invited to sit in with the choir during the sound check prior to the concert.

Now 72, Schmitt-Illert was 6 when he first became acquainted with the choir radio program broadcast over the American Forces Network in Europe.

“I was hooked from the first day,” he said, recalling the phrase “from the crossroads of the West” with which announcer at that time Richard L. Evans introduced each broadcast.

“I didn’t understand a word, but I listened to the choir,” he said. “My mother made me run to church afterward, because it was a 15-minute walk and we had only 10 minutes to get there.”

In 1985, he came to the United States to be a chaplain for German armed forces stationed in the U.S.

“Often I was in the West and I always took opportunity to be in Salt Lake either on the day of the open rehearsal was or Sunday mornings for the broadcast,” he said. “That’s how I got to know the choir.”

He said it was a “dream fulfilled” to sing with the choir during rehearsal and described the members as singing with one voice.

“I can appreciate what a wonderful instrument Mack Wilberg created,” he said. “The choir is different than it was some 15 years ago. The quality is at a level that I don’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s a very special level, and I think it’s thanks to the genius of Mack Wilberg.”

rscott@deseretnews.com