Mormon Tabernacle Choir and U. singers will give Utah Symphony’s ‘Messiah’ Sing-In a boost
The Utah Symphony’s long-running “Messiah” Sing-In has a new twist this year. In addition to the Utah Symphony Chorus members onstage, there will be a few dozen bonus singers interspersed among the crowd to help less-confident audience members tackle a dozen choruses from the Handel oratorio.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is sending 100 volunteers to the Saturday sing-along; on Sunday, the ranks will include 75 singers from the University of Utah, where new Utah Symphony chorus master Barlow Bradford is director of choral studies.
Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer will conduct the event. The job always has fallen to the Utah Symphony chorus master in the past, but the orchestra hadn’t yet appointed a replacement for longtime chorus master Susanne Sheston while planning the upcoming season. Fischer knew he’d be in town, so he volunteered his services.
“I have a weak point for ‘Messiah,’ ” he said, noting he has participated in numerous performances as a conductor, singer and even flutist (in the Mozart orchestration of the score). “It’s very close to my heart. It’s always special for me to do it.”
The idea of beefing up the audience chorus with more experienced singers arose during a brainstorming session last fall, Fischer said. Attendance at the annual event was declining, and “we like to collaborate with as many organizations in the community as possible.”
Tabernacle Choir president Ron Jarrett said in an email that the choir is “happy to support our fellow musicians in this wonderful seasonal activity. Music and Christmas go hand in hand.”
Fischer said he realizes that achieving perfect ensemble between the musicians onstage and in the audience is “an impossible mission,” but he’ll do his best to be “collaborative and helpful, with large gestures.”
“My approach is to take this absolute masterpiece for the beauty and symbols it represents, which I believe in,” he said.
The Saturday installment of the sing-along also marks the debut of the Utah Symphony’s newest outreach organization: Utah Symphony and Opera Latinos, or Utah Sol for short. (“Sol,” the Spanish word for “sun,” also is the fifth tone of the musical scale.)
Gonzalo Peña, a member of the Utah Opera Chorus since September 2012, is one of the founders of Utah Sol. He’d been a liaison between Utah Symphony | Utah Opera and the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and “jumped on the opportunity immediately” when a social group for Latinos was proposed. Like members of USUO’s other networking groups, Vivace and Cadenza, Utah Sol members will sit together at concerts and take part in a related social activity. This Saturday’s event includes a walk across the street to see the lights on Temple Square.
“The idea is not to segregate or discriminate,” but to create the most welcoming introduction to symphony and opera performances, Peña said. “Many local Hispanic residents have never been to a live production. They may be invited, but they may not be receiving the message.”
The first two Utah Sol events — the “Messiah” Sing-In and next month’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” family concert — are family-oriented by design, because of the Latino culture’s strong emphasis on family, said Peña, who expects the group to sponsor two or three events each year. “The idea is to bring people to Abravanel Hall, which they’ve probably never visited, and show them it doesn’t need to be intimidating.”