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Volunteer choir is a highlight of LDS women's meeting

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 10:00 a.m. MDT

Members of the 2014 General Women's Meeting choir participate in a dress rehearsal at the Conference Center on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Thousands applied to participate in the 364-member choir.

Leslie Nilsson, IRI

SALT LAKE CITY — The overwhelming number of volunteers along the Wasatch Front who applied for the 2014 general women’s meeting choir is indicative of the willingness of Latter-day Saint women to engage in the work of Jesus Christ, said Sister Linda K. Burton.

LDS women “have something to give and they are willing to give it,” explained the Relief Society general president. “I love the women of the church.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted applications for the volunteer choir to sing during the 2014 general women’s meeting, held in the Conference Center on March 29.

The First Presidency announced Nov. 1 that beginning this spring, the semiannual general women’s meeting will replace the general Relief Society and general Young Women meetings held annually since 1993.

The volunteer choir for the meeting included 364 women and girls who live within 100 miles of church headquarters and have experience singing in choirs. They also committed to attend all six rehearsals.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, general Young Women president, said thousands of women, young women and children from across the Wasatch Front applied to participate in the choir.

“It was exciting to see how many people wanted to join and be involved in this," she said. “And they're in families. We have mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, coming together to sing together.”

She said church leaders wish the choir could have been larger — filling the entire Conference Center if necessary. The responses to the call for choir members “tell us that women just want to be part of it and they are excited about this meeting. … We were just blown away by the sheer numbers of people who wanted to be in the choir.”

Sister Burton said sifting through the applications was a lot of work. But, she added, leaders wanted a volunteer choir that would represent women of all ages, rather than assigning a group from a specific area.

“There's just been so much interest that it's absolutely thrilling,” she said.

Sister Oscarson said women in the choir “are in their 90s, and it goes all the way down to 8-year-olds.”

Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, said it was important for Primary-age girls, 8 years and older, to participate in the general women’s meeting and in the choir. “These girls are capable of feeling the spirit of the Holy Ghost, they're capable of receiving personal revelation. ... And they're excited. So are we.”

Diane Bastian, music manager for the church, said during the selection process, directors concentrated on families and tried to fill all the age groups. The outcome was that about 50 of the 364 participants were children ages 8 to 11. Another 70 choir members are ages 12 through 18. The adults in the choir represent the remaining decades, she said.

Selecting participants from the many thousands who applied was a “a very difficult process,” she said. “We looked at choir credentials, especially, and looked at musical experience.”

The "choir by application" in the church is unique, she said.

In many ways the process followed the pattern established by the Eagle Scout choir that participated in “A Century of Honor” — the Conference Center event that celebrated the LDS Church’s 100-year affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America held Oct. 29, 2013.

However, many more people applied for the women’s choir, she said. “A lot of them have given up other things, other opportunities, to be able to sing in the choir.”

Sister Burton said the choir brings a great spirit of unity to the women's meeting. The meeting "is about what we feel when we are together," she said. "It is about working together as disciples of Jesus Christ."

Email: sarah@desnews.com

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