Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Wondrous Gift of Christmas

Across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, is an amazing architectural wonder called the Conference Center.
Completed in April of 2000, it was built to accommodate an audience/congregation of 21,000.

Each December it is transformed into a virtual winter wonderland in preparation for the most anticipated concert of the entire year.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Christmas Concert. CLICK HERE
Photo from the Deseret News

It is miraculous to me how we as musicians can begin rehearsals on Tuesday, and by Sunday afternoon we have performed for over 84,000 people!

Photo from the Deseret News

It requires an exhausting amount of effort from all involved, but is so richly rewarding. Last year "I sold my birthright for a mess of pottage" and took a paying job that week instead. Audrey performed without me that year. I determined then, that would be the last time... Some experiences are worth way more than their weight in gold. This year we would experience this together.

Photo from the Deseret News

Our special guest artists were Natalie Cole, grammy award winning daughter of the late Nat King Cole...

Photo from the Deseret News

And Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, David McCullough. I became an admirer of this great man after he spoke at our son, David's University of Utah graduation last spring.

Photo from LDS Church News

After "Music and the Spoken Word" and a mini concert on Sunday morning, President Monson presented our visiting artists gifts and gratitude.

Natalie Cole responded,

"I've never been deeply as moved as I have been since I arrived here in Salt Lake City. President Monson, meeting you moved me to no end. The presentation of the genealogy was more than I could take. Your church and your people are beautiful people and I am so glad to know that we share the same faith, the same heart. All your hearts are so good. I [could] feel it every day, as I would wake up, that this is my city. Thank you for your hospitality, your love. …I hope to see you soon. God bless."

And Mr. McCullough spoke these very moving words,

"President Monson, I am, oddly, at a loss for words. (That brought a chuckle from the audience) "I want to say it is a thrill beyond anything in my experience to have taken part in the last several days here and an honor beyond my capacity at the moment to stand with two such great Americans, you and Natalie."

"I just want to say one thing quickly. Toward the end of his life, President John Adams was having a conversation in privacy at his home in Quincy, Mass., with the young Ralph Waldo Emerson who was newly out of Harvard College. The president said, 'I wish to God that there were more ambition in the land.' And then he paused and said, 'By that I mean ambition of a laudable kind: ambition to excel, not to have more power or money or fame, but to excel.'

"And I have felt that these past days in a way that I have never been a party to; this desire of everybody involved in this production to excel. Your great Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the high achievements of our nation. To me, it stands as a noble attainment, and we've had many of those in our story as a people. I like to think of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Marshall Plan, for example. I would include the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as one of the proudest achievements of our country, an expression of the human spirit for all."

As they faced the choir and orchestra, we sang, "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again." It was so touching to see the two of them so visibly moved -- I felt such a sense of gratitude well up inside me; I couldn't sing a note.

What a treasured blessing!

Last year’s concert, Ring Christmas Bells will be broadcast across the nation on PBS during the next two weeks. CLICK HERE for local listings.


  1. It was a wonderful concert and I must admit, I choked up a few times because I realized that my wife AND daughter are a part of History in the making.There was a great Spirit there and I think everyone felt it.

    Thank you to both of you!

  2. Everytime I see the orchestra, I can pin point you out very quickly. Wonderful job. You also have a sweet spirit like your daughter Emily and you were sent to this at this time to raise a wonderful family, be with a wonderful man like Randy and be a major part of your grand kids life. Way to go.