Watch: Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square releases ‘Star Wars’ music video
The ‘Star Wars’ music video is the latest project in the choir’s extensive recording and broadcasting history, which celebrates 110 years this month.
On Thursday, the choir released a music video for “Duel of the Fates” — the grand song that accompanies the final lightsaber battle in “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.” The performance was filmed pre-pandemic, according to the choir’s president, Ron Jarrett.
The choir first released its recording of the John Williams classic in May. Scott Barrick, the choir’s general manager, previously told the Deseret News that through the “Star Wars” recording — which is part of the choir’s recent EP “When You Believe” — the ensemble was reaching a broader audience than ever. Listenership spanned from Utah to Taipei to London to New York City to Madrid and Sydney.
Now, people can watch the choir bring the song to life. The dramatic video, complete with stage smoke, offers a “wonderful contrast” to the music the choir typically performs, Jarrett said at a news conference Thursday morning.
“We love this video because it was fun,” Jarrett said. “It was fun to record, it was an enjoyable experience and different music than we’ve often done, and yet it still has a central core, a belief, a faith.”
The “Star Wars” composer has long been a friend to the choir, according to music director Mack Wilberg. The choir has performed a number of Williams’ songs over the years, and during the 2002 Winter Olympics, Williams even wrote and conducted a piece for the choir called “Call of the Champions.”
But even still, recording “Duel of the Fates” was a different kind of project.
“It definitely took us a little bit out of our box,” Wilberg said at Thursday’s media event. “This was I guess a little bit of a bonus for us to be able to do this piece which we normally wouldn’t do on Sunday morning, for instance. But as you can tell, everyone was having a great time doing it.”
The “Star Wars” music video is the latest project in the choir’s extensive recording and broadcasting history, which celebrates 110 years this month. The choir was one of the earliest choral ensembles to record its music, with its first recording occurring in the Tabernacle on Sept. 1, 1910.
Technology prior to 1910 primarily allowed for solo artists and smaller groups to be recorded. But the three leading record companies in America at the time were involved in a technology race to go beyond these limitations to capture large choirs, orchestras and massive organs, according to longtime church historian Richard Turley. The Columbia Phonograph Company accepted a proposal to record the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
At the time, mics were not used in the recording process. Instead, that Saturday morning saw two large receiving horns suspended on a rope hung between the Tabernacle’s north and south balconies. One was aimed at the sopranos and altos, and the other toward the tenors and basses.
Packed closely together, the choir members faced the horns and recorded 12 numbers, Turley said. Organist John J. McClellan also recorded a few numbers. Of the many recordings made over a few days, eight were judged to be of high enough quality for commercial release. They were released on four records — one song on each side. One of the pieces released was McClellan’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” a rare recording Turley played for those at Thursday’s event.
“If you thought the organist was rushing a bit, that’s because the technology at the time allowed only a maximum of 3 minutes and 15 seconds on each side of the record,” he said. “Today the 1910 records are extremely rare, with all the known copies being in institutions and a couple of private collections. As best I can tell as a historian, they are rarer than the ‘Book of Commandments,’ the first published compilation of Joseph Smith’s revelations — copies of which have sold for well over a million dollars.”
From its early years, the choir was a leader in recording — in 1940, Carnegie Hall would use Tabernacle Choir recordings for its first demonstration of stereophonic sound. Over the years, the choir branched out into radio, long-playing records, TV broadcasts and, in 1981, released its first digital recording.
Today, the choir has more than 200 recordings. By the end of 2020, the choir will have 97 releases under its own label that launched in 2003 — this includes a CD, DVD and companion book of last year’s Christmas concert featuring guest artists Kelli O’Hara and Richard Thomas that will hit shelves next month (Wilberg also noted that people can expect to see that 2019 Christmas concert on PBS and BYUtv this year).
Now embracing a digital-first strategy, the choir has more than 247 million views on all of its social media platforms, and, according to Jarrett, has been viewed “more consistently” and “more frequently” during the pandemic.
“The choir has always been on the forefront of technology,” Wilberg said. “Ninety-five percent of everything that we do has a microphone in front of it. And so almost everything we do is preserved.”
“The choir’s recording history has been a very successful one, and it’s been my honor to be a part of that history,” Wilberg continued, adding that since 2003, the choir and orchestra has been on Billboard’s No. 1 list 14 times, including for the latest EP featuring the “Star Wars” track. “The (Tabernacle) plays a key role in our signature sound, and will continue to do so as we move forward.”