America's Choir
Narrator Walter Cronkite and the Tabernacle Choir

Even Sting was surprised by "America's Choir."

"I obviously knew the reputation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I'd never experienced it," said Sting, who performed with the choir during the 2002 Olympics. "I begin the song, and then this sound fills the room. ... I turned to the director, I said, 'I've never heard human beings sound this way.' "

Filmmaker Lee Groberg's hourlong documentary, "America's Choir: The Story of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," which makes its broadcast debut Sunday at 7 and 9 p.m., on Ch. 11, is no doubt full of surprises for a lot of people.

It may be pretty familiar to Utah viewers, but less so to others. And those others get a chance to see it next month, when "America's Choir" is scheduled to air nationally on PBS — on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25.

Already out on DVD (and with a companion book penned by Heidi S. Swinton, who also wrote the documentary), the hour tells of the choir's origins, history, accomplishment and accolades. In addition to historical re-creations, archive photos and film footage, interviews with current choir members and music director Craig Jessop, testimonials from Angela Lansbury, John Williams, Roma Downey, Charles Osgood and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley — oh, and Sting, of course — the hour blends in performances by the choir, proving the high praise is deserved.

And it's narrated by television icon Walter Cronkite, adding further weight to the project.

It's not perfect. Some of the re-creations don't work particularly well, a segment on the building of the Tabernacle implies that the upper-level seating was original to the building, and a statement that Richard L. Evans, J. Spencer Kinard and Lloyd Newell are the only three who "have stood in front of those gilded pipes" on "Music and the Spoken Word" fudges a bit. (They're the only three to hold the job full time.)

But that's quibbling. Groberg and his team have put together a program that has appeal that goes beyond just an LDS audience.


E-mail: [email protected]