Appropriate to the Pioneer Day that it commemorates, Friday night’s concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square paid homage to perseverance, strength and triumph over adversity.
Playing to a capacity audience in the 21,000-seat LDS Conference Center, the choir and orchestra were joined early on by guest tenor Nathan Pacheco, who sang his own inspirational work, “Don’t Cry,” which he composed with Leonardo de Bernardini.
“Don’t cry, your heavy tears will fade away,” he sang. “Hold on until the journey’s end. Your heart is strong enough to see this battle won. Your faith will make the morning come. Your faith will bring the rising sun.”
The second selection in Pacheco’s opening set, “Prendi I Miei Sogni,” was a “brand new, fresh off the press” creation by his friend Colin O’Malley, who, when he found out Pacheco would be performing it at the concert, wrote parts expressly for the choir.
Two selections by the choir and orchestra from “The Secret Garden” — “Hold On” and “Come to My Garden” — were followed by the entrance of guest artist Lindsey Stirling, whose kinetic blending of hip-hop violin playing and modern dance has garnered her a following of 300 million YouTube viewers.
“This is quite a different concert from the shows I normally do,” acknowledged Stirling, who, like Pacheco, is a recent Brigham Young University graduate. “I’ve played in smelly rock clubs all over the world, and I love it, but tonight, it’s very special.”
Stirling displayed her dazzling stage artistry with her own composition, “Elements.”
She then turned to “Poor Little Lambs,” a favorite song of her now deceased grandfather, Henry Leigh, a veteran Army Air Corps pilot in World War II and the Korean conflict.
Her voice breaking with emotion, she recounted that her grandfather never spoke of the war, but he often sang that song to her mother as a lullaby and likewise a few times to Stirling and her sisters.
She said the lines in the song, “Gentlemen fliers off on a spree, Doomed from here to eternity, Lord have mercy on such as me” speak to the plight of mortal men in search of God’s comfort as they are flying into battle, not knowing if they will ever return.
“I feel like each of us are similarly little lambs, searching for our way home as well,” Stirling remarked.
She added that she played the song at her grandfather’s funeral several years ago.
“I know my grandfather will hear it again tonight.”
Among the crowd pleasers was Pacheco’s performance of one of his own favorites, Giacomo Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from the opera “Turandot.”
The opera, he explained to the audience, tells of a young man’s unrequited love for a princess, who has him imprisoned and condemned to death. While in prison, he vows not only to be released but to win the heart of the princess.
“I still think I would have chosen someone who wasn’t so bent on taking my life, but to each his own. But what it really comes down to is this song is about a man who refused to given in and refused to give up. It’s about a man who chose courage instead of despair, and who, in his darkest and most hopeless moment chose through his act of holding on to eventually overcome.”
The Mormon pioneers were honored in the concert with performances of “Come, Come Ye Saints” and “They the Builders of the Nation.”
Stirling added her unique flair to “Scotland the Brave,” and the closing selection, the choir’s popular arrangement of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
Tonight's performance of the concert is a sell-out as well, but it may be seen via live Internet streaming at www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/pioneer2013 beginning at 8 p.m. Or, would-be attendees may arrive early and take their chances in a stand-by line.