SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable’s annual Interfaith Month will come to a festive, entertaining and spiritually uplifting conclusion Sunday when it presents its traditional Musical Tribute at 6 p.m. in the LDS Church’s Tabernacle on Temple Square.
“The musical is a microcosm of what we’ve been trying to do all month with our interfaith activities,” said Josie Stone, Interfaith Month chair for the 11-year-old organization. “We’re not just trying to inform and entertain — although we’re certainly trying to do those things. But more than anything, we’re trying to increase respect and understanding between people through real, meaningful experience.”
Those experiences will be diverse and varied, Stone said. Intentionally so.
“Regardless of what faith tradition you come from, it is likely that you will come to the Musical Tribute and see something you’ve never seen before,” she said. “That’s why we would love to have people come and bring their families — especially their young people because they are so open to seeing things that are different and accepting them.”
This year that is especially true, with at least two Tabernacle firsts: a gamelan orchestra, a traditional Indonesian musical group featuring unique metallophones, flutes, drums and gongs, and a whirling dance by Turkish Moslem clerics called dervishes.
That’s right: whirling dervishes.
The historic Tabernacle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may never be the same.
“We’ve had a number of Tabernacle firsts through the years,” said Elaine Emmi, SLIR secretary. “The first Moslem call to prayer, the first Native American chanting, the first sounding of a Jewish shofar. But the LDS Church has encouraged and supported everything we have done in the Tabernacle through the years. They are an important part of what we are trying to do.”
Other performances during this year’s Musical Tribute will include a dance group from the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, taiko drummers and three children’s choral groups: the Salt Lake Children’s Choir, the Juan Diego Choir and a Hindu children’s choir.
“It’s always fascinating to watch the children interact with each other and watch each other perform,” said Stone. “They seem so open to each other. By the time we are through there are a lot of tears and hugging.”
According to Emmi, that’s what happens when you participate in an annual miracle.
“Every year I sit there with my mouth open,” she said. “There’s just something miraculous about getting all these different people together and putting on a program like this without any rehearsal. We’re always scared. We always wonder if something is going to go terribly wrong. But every time it goes off beautifully, and you just sit there in awe.”
That is especially true of Utah visitors who happen to be in town for the weekend and wander into the Tabernacle expecting to see something very “Mormon” and see something quite different.
“We always have a bunch of visitors who are in town and see the posters and come to the tribute,” Emmi said. “They are absolutely amazed that in a state that is known for being so Mormon, we have this spectacular event during which we are celebrating this wonderful diverse population that we have. Here in one wonderful night they get a peek at the depth and breadth of Utah’s religious landscape.”
Which is just as it should be with a microcosm.
Tickets are not required for the Musical Tribute. The Tabernacle doors will open at 5 p.m., and all seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company