There's nothing quite like traveling with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as thousands of people who have gone along for the ride will tell you.
On the debit side, you'll experience extremes of mass transit and elevator congestion. You'll sometimes stand in long lines, move in the middle of the night and be swept along by tight schedules when you'd rather linger. But most people find all that outweighed by the comfortable accommodations, well-organized, dependable movement (the Tabernacle Choir rivals the Prussian army in this respect), congenial company, sense of mission and people-to-people adventures.On March 17, 633 choir-related souls embarked via seven commercial flights for Epcot Center, near Orlando, Fla. (As mass migrations go, perhaps not a record, but certainly a respectable entry.)
The 298 singers were accompanied by 335 husbands and wives, children, daughters and sons-in-law, sons and daughters-in-law, mothers and/or fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and best friends. Some family parties numbered seven or eight, and many were joined by family and friends residing within driving distance of Epcot. All were amply rewarded in their search for warm tropical sun, interesting sights and a special musical experience.
Four mini-concerts at Epcot Center's American Experience, Music and the Spoken Word beamed out by satellite, and a concert in Orlando on March 21 for the annual convention of the American Society of Neuro-Radiologists were on the choir's official agenda. Characters from Disney animation, led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, welcomed them cordially to the stage. Bright Florida sunlight smiled upon their endeavors, and Disney Productions stashed away many videotaped snippets of song, to be aired on later Easter, Fourth of July and Christmas programs.
Here are a few things I observed while traveling with the choir:
The whole world is home to the Tabernacle Choir, and there's no place where Mormons are not to be found. Just whistle "Come, Come Ye Saints" and a dozen people fall in line behind you. This tends to make of a choir appearance an old home week, with lots of greeting, laughing, crying and scraping up relationships.
Physical discomfort is something the choir doesn't acknowledge. In Florida, sunburned faces, eyes watering without sunglasses and perspiration dripping down the back were just so many annoyances, and only one person fainted in the heat. (If you faint, your neighbors move in to fill the gap, and you keep a low profile until the number's over.) Singers walked sedately off stage and through the crowd, but once beyond the garden gate, they did made a break for the picnic hampers full of wet towels and the big bottles of spring water that ringed their tented pavilion.
Choir members are patient and cheerful in lines, and they don't complain about transitory inconveniences, because they know they are some of the luckiest mortals on Earth. They'd rather sing than play. When a timid request came from local public relations people for some public service singing at nursing homes, choir president Wendell Smoot was reluctant to cut in on free time, but at the first suggestion, 32 singers quickly volunteered.
These people go for the gusto in travel, and have learned from experience how to be the fastest and most focused sightseers in the North, South, East or West.
They are brisk walkers, and they ranged everywhere on Monday, their day off, quickly passing the word about the outstanding pavilions (the French display, with its evocative film, Chefs de France restaurant, patisserie and rare perfumes, and the Chinese with its stunning 360-degree film travelogue), the excellent cuisine at the Grand Floridian resort, and the wonders of the Universe of Energy, most people's favorite scientific show. They stayed en masse for Saturday's spectacular fireworks and laser light show.
Best of all, traveling with the choir brings home the realization of how universally known and loved this chorus is.