The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s special Sunday telecast, “9/11: Rising Above,” narrated by veteran newsman Tom Brokaw, was significant for three reasons.
The broadcast was a stirring salute to the American spirit on the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The program aired on more than 900 radio, television and cable networks and Internet stations across the United States.
The event also opened new doors of digital innovation for the choir to share its music with the world.
“What usually happens on the Monday following a broadcast of this special nature, our phones and the phones at Bonneville (Communications) are flooded with people saying, ‘How can I get a copy (of the music)?’” said Scott Barrick, the choir’s general manager. “The stars aligned for us. We were able to put this music out there digitally, a lot faster than a physical piece, and have it out there for people to enjoy the next day. iTunes was a great idea. It will be a really neat thing to see the response we get.”
When word leaked to network affiliates in major markets that Brokaw had accepted an invitation to join the world-famous choir in a special 9/11 performance, Deseret Book, a division of Deseret Management Corp. that operates the choir’s record label, was informed.
“Man, we are going to get phone calls like crazy about where you can get the music that’s in the program,” said Bob Ahlander, director of music and film for Deseret Book. “We went to the choir and said we wanted to build an iTunes digital album that features music from the program. They said go for it.”
In a matter of weeks, the music was pulled together and art was created, Ahlander said. Deseret Book approached iTunes, and their people loved the idea.
“They were excited about it and jumped on board right away,” Ahlander said.
Music from “9/11: Rising Above” will receive iTunes banner ad placement on both the Gospel/Christian and Classical home pages for the next two weeks. The downloadable six-track album will cost $4.99 and includes popular songs such as “Shenandoah,” “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America.” Brokaw’s narration is not included.
“This is the first time we’ve created an album to be sold exclusively in the digital domain,” Ahlander said. “This project opened some doors we haven’t been able to get through before.”
Choir president Mac Christensen said this performance will impact listeners for years to come.
“We know that many people will be moved by the choir’s 9/11 tribute,” Christensen said. “We know from experience that many people will want to hear the music over and over. This digital-only album will enable our listeners to have this music so they can experience the feelings of the broadcast again.”
The tribute performance Sunday was part of the choir’s weekly series, “Music and the Spoken Word.” It originated from Temple Square in Salt Lake City and featured the Orchestra at Temple Square.
Barrick said it was fitting for the choir to have a special program Sunday because the choir performed a special concert on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.
"They had planned to do a mini concert for a group of financial executives who were in Salt Lake City,” Barrick said. “As the events of the day unfolded a request came from the First Presidency to change the program to an impromptu memorial concert. That night the concert, broadcast over KSL Radio, became one of the first musical memorials for the victims of 9/11.
“So it’s appropriately fitting that the choir would do a commemoration concert on the anniversary because their music has been providing solace for memories associated with 9/11 from the very beginning.”
Brokaw and his wife relished their chance to spend time with the choir, Barrick said. During a taping session on Aug. 21, Barrick said Brokaw stood in front of the choir and related how he first heard the choir perform as a young man when his family passed through Salt Lake City on a trip.
“It was his highlight of that trip, so he was very pleased to have this opportunity,” Barrick said. “He talked about what an honor it was for him to be able to be with the choir.”
“Shenandoah” is Brokaw’s all-time favorite song, Barrick said.
“After we finished recording Mr. Brokaw’s narration, he and his wife went to the back of the hall with a host and sat there while the choir and orchestra played the full arrangement of ‘Shenandoah.’ He just sat there with tears in his eyes. At the end of the playing, he just jumped to his feet and yelled, ‘Bravo,’ from the back of the Conference Center. It was a treat to know it had reached him so meaningfully.”
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