On day four of the tour the Choir and Orchestra performed in a suburb north of Chicago. They greeted a crowd of more than 8,000 people who filled the pavilion seats as well as the lawn area.
"The end of the concert was particularly poignant. Instead of honoring a single person as guest conductor, the Chicago committee decided it wanted to honor a class of people: our servicemen and servicewomen worldwide,” wrote alto choir member Kristin Gerdy. “To represent that group and lead us in our encore was James Gennari.”
Gennari served as a trauma care nurse in the Navy, and he received a Bronze Star for his service. In Afghanistan, Gennari stayed with a wounded soldier who had a live grenade impaled in his leg until it was removed.
“We serve because you need us to. None of us do it alone, and the ‘big guy’ was there, too,” Gennari said.
Day five of the tour fell on Father’s Day Sunday, where the choir stayed in Schaumburg, Ill. Choir and orchestra members filled the day with worship and reflected on their fathers.
“There’s nothing like a Tabernacle Choir sacrament meeting. It’s wonderful to look out over this singular congregation and notice that everyone is singing,” Bonita Cross wrote on the Choir’s website. “And we can sing the melody if we want to.”
With the tour halfway through, the choir and orchestra kept sharp to maintain a high level of excellence.
“Midway through our tour, we have come to the point where the concert program has become quite familiar. In a way, this presents a potential challenge of its own because it is easy for us to become almost too comfortable with the pieces,” said baritone choir member Eric Huntsman on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir site. “Repeating his frequent observation that ‘it does not happen on its own,’ Dr. Wilberg encouraged us to concentrate and keep working hard, and I think we were successful.”
The Milwaukee concert’s guest conductor for the final encore was Jerome E. Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee, who was already familiar with the choir.
“A former military chaplain, Archbishop Listecki joked with us during the sound check about meeting with small groups of tired soldiers for mass and having them sing the opening hymn. After their tired efforts, he would often retort, ‘You’re no Mormon Tabernacle Choir,’ ” Huntsman said.
Listecki thanked the choir and orchestra for their values, and he also approached the honor of guest conducting with humor for the audience.
“He told us how much he appreciated us, not just musically but for what we stood for, noting how our church and the Roman Catholic Church stood together on so many social and moral issues,” Huntsman said. “At the end of the concert, when it came time for him to ‘conduct’ our encore, he was particularly humorous. Before he began, he crossed himself and placed his hands together in a position of prayer, looking up to heaven as if asking for help. Then, when he had successfully conducted the number, he dropped to one knee and ‘Tebow-ed,’ flexing his arm and bringing his fist to his forehead in a pose of triumphant thanks. It seemed that we had again made another influential friend for the church.”
The choir and orchestra performed in Madison, Wis., on their seventh day on tour. The Overture Center served as the concert hall venue that overlooked the state capitol dome. Retired high school choir and band teacher Ron Rockow guest conducted the choir. It was the first time a guest conductor was a high school music teacher.
“This is the highlight of my career," Rockow said in an interview with Church News after a rehearsal. “[They] were very responsive. There was not one eye that wasn’t on me.”
Jonathan Gochberg, a bass in the choir, is a Madison native and had Roccow as his choir teacher.
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