5 questions about the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s latest return to rehearsals, live performances
An Omicron-induced pause ends as the famed choir and Orchestra at Temple Square return Sunday for a special live performance of ‘Music & the Spoken Word’
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is back together again after a second long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why it matters: The Omicron variant turned the choir’s planned two-week break in December into a 10-week suspension of both rehearsals and the live Sunday broadcasts of “Music & the Spoken Word.”
Here are five things you need to know as the choir resumes its schedule, including the first hint about when the public will be able to attend performances.
1. When did the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square hold its first rehearsal after the Omicron outbreak?
The 440 members of the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square rehearsed together Thursday night, March 3 — their first time together since Dec. 19.
The choir’s first pandemic pause lasted 555 days, from March 2020 to September 2021. The second pause was 74 days.
The three months the choir had together from September to December last year was what new choir president Mike Leavitt had called, when the choir’s live performances first resumed back in October, a “step back on the ice.”
“You take a few careful steps, pausing to listen for cracking sounds, knowing you can step back to safety if necessary,” he said.
The past 10 weeks were the step back into safety.
That step back due to Omicron led to the cancellation of a scheduled Jan. 23 joint performance with the St. Olaf College Choir on “Music & the Spoken Word.” The choirs plan to reschedule the performance.
2. What did they practice?
The pattern of the choir and the orchestra is to rehearse music for “Music & the Spoken Word” two weeks ahead of the broadcast. That wasn’t possible this week.
“(Choir director) Mack Wilberg selected a special repertoire that the choir knows well and is well-loved so that we could do a broadcast just on one night’s rehearsal,” general manager Scott Barrick said.
The songs are “Come, Ye Children of the Lord,” “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” “The Ash Grove,” “Give Glory to His Honored Name,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “Look to the Day.”
3. Where are the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square practicing and performing now?
The choir and orchestra practiced Thursday night at the Tabernacle, where they will rehearse and practice for at least a few weeks. That is not unusual. While the choir regularly performs at the 21,000-seat Conference Center across the street from Temple Square, it still rehearses and performs often at the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
But performing from the Tabernacle on Sunday will have special meaning for the choir and orchestra, Barrick said.
Sunday, March 6, will be the first time they have performed in the Tabernacle since March 8, 2020 — their last performance before the pandemic struck.
4. When will the public be able to attend Tabernacle Choir performances again?
Barrick said the choir will rehearse and broadcast “Music & the Spoken Word” at the Tabernacle this month because the Conference Center is being made “rostrum-ready” for the 192nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2-3.
COVID-19 still looms over choirs and the smaller Tabernacle’s ventilation isn’t as good as the Conference Center’s, so even though masks are now optional on Temple Square, a live audience is not yet wise, Barrick said.
The Tabernacle Choir is still following COVID-19 protocols designed to keep its members healthy and safe when singing. Each member is tested before every rehearsal and performance.
“Our current plan is to open to the public again once we’re in the Conference Center, after general conference. We’ve got some target dates, but things are still in flux,” Barrick said.
5. How did the choir broadcast “Music & the Spoken Word” without live performances?
For the past 10 weeks, the choir used its archive of digitally-recorded choir music for newly-compiled “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcasts each week. A new “Spoken Word” was included in each weekly broadcast, too.
“Music & the Spoken Word” will begin Sunday as usual at 9:30 a.m. MT and will be broadcast live on YouTube and on BYUtv, BYU Radio, KSL-TV, KSLNewsRadio and other local stations around the United States and Canada.