SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced Thursday a series of upcoming concerts with pop icon James Taylor, YouTube sensation violinist Lindsey Stirling and rising tenor Nathan Pacheco.
Five-time Grammy Award-winner Taylor will be featured with the Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony at the LDS Church's downtown Conference Center for the 30th anniversary of the Tanner Gift of Music concert series on Sept. 6 and 7.
Stirling and Pacheco will be the featured performers with the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square in this year's Pioneer Day Concert on July 19 and 20.
"Between Lindsey, Nathan and James, we truly have something for everyone this summer to cross generational and cultural boundaries with the choir's music," choir president Ron Jarrett said. "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is so enthused to be able to perform with such a talented group of artists representing a wonderful breadth of musical genres, from hip hop to opera to pop."
Jarrett took a short break from his preparations for the choir's upcoming tour of America's upper Midwest — "Oh my goodness," he said, "it's like taking a family of 550 on a trip!" — to talk about the summer concerts.
"James Taylor is such a coup for us," Jarrett said. "This is a man of such enormous talent, with so many years of history making amazing music, it's going to be wonderful blending him with our incredible Utah Symphony and the Tabernacle Choir."
The Tanner Gift of Music series was established 30 years ago by Obert Tanner, founder of the O.C. Tanner Company, and the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley as a way to build bridges in the community through a free concert featuring two Salt Lake City arts treasures, the Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony.
"It's intended as a gift to the entire community," Jarrett said. "So one year we will have a guest artist with a more classical orientation, and the next year we'll invite someone who is more of a popular performer."
And as far as Jarrett is concerned, there isn't anyone who better fits the "popular performer" description than James Taylor, whose celebrated career has spanned five decades, with more than 100 million albums sold featuring his warm baritone, introspective lyrics and heartfelt music. With such landmark pop music hits as "You've Got a Friend," "Fire and Rain" and "How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by You)," Taylor was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2011.
"We went to see him in concert while we were still courting him for this concert," the choir president said. "He just mesmerizes everyone during his concerts. And no one plays better and finer professional music than the Utah Symphony, so this really should be a memorable concert."
Equally memorable will be the Pioneer Day concerts, which will feature the first hip hop artist ever to perform in the LDS Church's Conference Center.
"Lindsey (Stirling) bills herself as a 'hip hop violinist,' so I guess she's our first," Jarrett said. Then he added with a chuckle: "When I was first made choir president I told (choir musical director Mack Wilberg) that I wanted to broaden our audience and asked him how he felt about trying some hip hop. This may be as close as we're going to come.
"The thing about Lindsey is, she does it beautifully," he continued. "She is a classically trained violinist, and she mixes those beautiful sounds with the energy of hip hop — while dancing! She's incredible!"
A California native who grew up in Arizona and attended BYU before and after her LDS mission, Stirling first came to the public's attention in 2010 as a quarterfinalist on NBC's "America's Got Talent." But she is best known for her YouTube channel, which has nearly 2.5 million subscribers and more than 327 million video views.
She just finished a 55-city tour of Europe, Canada and the United States and is willing to interrupt another tour to make her Pioneer Day concert appearance because, she said, "I have always loved the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."
"I have been brought to tears by so many of Mack's arrangements," she said. "It is such an incredible honor to be working with him."
Pacheco also mentioned Wilberg as one of the reasons he "can't wait" for the Pioneer Day concert.
"I had the privilege of singing under his direction during his last year with the BYU Men's Choir," Pacheco recalled. "So it goes without saying that to be able to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, directed by Mack Wilberg, is an experience I'm quite certain I'll never forget."
Jarrett said Utah audiences will enjoy Pacheco, a rising star for whom the choir president predicts great things. Born in Virginia of Brazilian descent, Pacheco was also educated at BYU before beginning his professional career.
"He is that rare performer who is equally comfortable with both pop and opera," Jarrett said. "We are grateful that we caught him on the way up. The time will probably come when he will be so inaccessible we won't be able to get him."
Jarrett also noted that although both the Tanner Gift of Music concert and the Pioneer Day concerts will be presented free of charge, because of the demand for seating tickets will be required for both events.
Tickets for the Pioneer Day concerts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting June 11 at www.lds.org/events, by calling (801) 570-0080 or at the Conference Center ticket office.
Because the number of requests for tickets to the Tanner Gift of Music performances are expected to outstrip the number of tickets available, they will be distributed through a random selection process. Those interested should register online at www.lds.org/events from July 27 at 12:01 a.m. through Aug. 5 at 11:59 p.m. Those without internet access should register by calling (801) 570-0080 or 1-866-537-8457. All registrations during this time will have an equal chance in the random selection process, although only one registration will be accepted from each household, and the maximum number of tickets each household can request is four. All who register for tickets will be notified whether or not they will receive tickets via email.
Admission to both events is limited to those 8 years of age and older.
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