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NEW YORK CITY — It was a memorable sight in a place where it is hard to stand out.
Beneath the bright lights of Broadway, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square marched through Time Square in tuxedos and gowns.
"Go Tabernacle Choir. Welcome to New York!" yelled a woman as choir members and musicians streamed past her.
They were on their way to perform at Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious venues in the world, and they left the audience in awe.
"I'm a music teacher. They were so outstanding. I can't even begin to tell you. All of the arrangements, the orchestrations — mind blowing!" said Sheryl Johnson, as she was leaving the concert.
It was a dream come true for choir members. "It was amazing to be in there and it was fun and exciting and the crowd was electric. It was awesome," exclaimed soprano Alaina Wilcock.
Tour manager Barry Anderson began working on plans to bring the tour to New York City more than two years ago and he was thrilled with the outcome at Carnegie Hall. "It was a dream," he said. "I was so proud of them and they did a great job."
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square's East Coast tour started in Bethesda, Maryland, with two sold-out performances at Strathmore.
The tour chartered three planes and 11 buses to transport nearly 600 people, including choir and orchestra members, some of their spouses, production volunteers and a few paid staff. A caravan of four semi-trucks and six vans traveled ahead to set up at every venue.
"It really is a visual effect, as well as when the music comes out, and I don't think people realize who put those risers together. Where did the instruments come from? How do they do the sound? How do they get the lighting?" said Anderson. "We've got this large contingent of production folks and they've hit all of their marks. I was so pleased with how the choir looked at Carnegie Hall."
The tour's first performance in New York took place at Bethel Woods, near Woodstock. In 1969 a half million people gathered there to sing for peace and love. "It's difficult to walk the grounds and not feel their serenity and the optimism for humanity," explained museum director Wade Lawrence.
The choir and orchestra added to that spirit of optimism with their music of hope. "Like the musicians at Woodstock, they are singing from their souls. They are singing music they believe in and that they feel and that feeling gets shared with the audience," said Lawrence.
Everywhere the choir performed hearts were touched and healed. New York Congressman Paul Tonko attended the concert in Saratoga Springs the day after his father passed away. "To hear some of my dad's favorite songs or some that really touched me, and I could feel his presence. So it was a great connection. A great healing."
Everyone that traveled with the choir recognized that this tour was not just about entertainment.
"Being in the choir and just singing songs of praise, it grounds you and it makes you realize what is the most important thing," explained soloist Alex Boye. "Also, why we do this music and why we entertain, it really is to glorify the Lord."
I'm a music teacher. They were so outstanding. I can't even begin to tell you. All of the arrangements, the orchestrations — mind blowing!
–Sheryl Johnson, concert attendee
All members of the choir and orchestra serve as musical missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"They are conveying a message of God's love, of God's desire to reach out to every individual through song rather than words," said Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy.
The choir's unified voice reached tens of thousands when they sang at a New York Yankees game.
"It sent a chill down our spines because here was America's choir, perhaps with one of the great American icon of sports, the New York Yankees, and it all came together on a Fourth of July weekend," said Elder Ronald A. Rasband, senior president of the Presidency of the Seventy. "I don't think you could've scripted anything more fantastic."
Choir director Mack Wilberg agreed, "This has been a wonderful tour. We've performed in wonderful places and performed some beautiful music and both the choir and the orchestra have just outdone themselves in the quality of their performance."
Choir and orchestra members got to check off several bucket list experiences on this tour.
"It's been bigger, better, more amazing than anything I could've thought," said second bass Siope Kinikini.
The tour concluded in New York with a Fourth of July performance at West Point Military Academy and then moved on to Boston for the tour's final performance at Wang Theatre on July 6. KSL will have more on that Friday on Primetime 5 at 6:30 p.m.
Contributing: Dave McCann