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Behind the scenes with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Published: Monday, Nov. 1 2010 6:00 a.m. MDT

At 9:20 a.m., the 360 choir members are given a break, and they head quickly for drinking fountains and restrooms. They will be back in their seats in exactly nine minutes.

In the meantime, a guest host welcomes the audience that has now gathered in the Tabernacle. KSL newsman Duane Cardall has been one of those hosts for the past eight years. \"Mac Christensen realized we had a little gap in time, and thought we could use the opportunity to tell people about the choir, the organization, the facility.\" He is one of four hosts, who rotate from week to week. \"It's the grandest thing, being associated with the choir family,\" he says. \"It's just a wonderful organization.\"

Lloyd Newell, now in his 20th year as announcer, takes over as the program starts. He, too, echoes the sense of privilege he feels each week. \"It's an amazing blessing to be part of this. It's something I never take for granted, or see as a routine thing.\"

As the program begins, as he welcomes both audience and viewers to the \"Crossroads of the West, to Temple Square in Salt Lake City,\" he speaks some words that have been used for decades and also presents messages that are as timely as tomorrow. \"I know we are touching lives. We get so many letters about how a song or a message made a difference to someone, gave someone else a reason to keep going. It adds to the resolve to do your very best.\"

* * *

When stage manager Alex Morris arrives at around 6:30 a.m., he often likes to take a walk around the quiet, peaceful Temple Square, \"just to get things set in my head.\" He knows that the next three or four hours will be packed with activity and pressure.

It is his job to make sure everyone is where he or she is supposed to be, when he or she is supposed to be there: orchestra, soloists, technicians. \"My biggest responsibility is to make sure the conductor worries as little as possible.\"

It is a constant, he says. After Sunday, they take Monday to reflect, and then \"on Tuesday, it all starts again.\"

But at the end of the Sunday broadcast, he says, \"it is worth it. That's not just a pep talk. It really is worth it, worth everything that goes into it.\"

\"It was phenomenal,\" says new cameraman Kevin Bills, who has operated one of the robotics. \"Dreams can come true.\"

It is actually over very quickly. Choir and orchestra members quickly head off to other Sunday activities. A few technicians work to get the show ready for stations who do not carry it live. But the Tabernacle quickly slips back to a place of serenity and peace.

But — choir, orchestra, conductor, producer, director, cameramen, volunteers and more — this is what they all know: \"In another seven days, 'Music and the Spoken Word' will be heard again from the Crossroads of the West.\" That is not just a closing statement that dates back to the time of Richard L. Evans. It is a promise.

\"Our time is now,\" Wilberg says. \"We are privileged to be part of this long chain. We only have a short time to be involved, and that is a blessing for us.\" But one of the secrets of why it has lasted so long, he says, is that it is \"not tied to one time or one individual. This organization is so incredible, and it will continue long after those of us who are here now are gone.\"

It has been that way for 82 years; it will be that way for many, many more.

e-mail: carma@desnews.com

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