Nearing the end of its seven-country European tour, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed Sunday evening at El Escorial, a 500-year-old Spanish basilica.
The choir was invited to perform in the basilica - about nine miles northwest of Madrid - as part of Spain's two-year-long commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the deaths of Emperor Carlos V and King Felipe II. In 1584, Carlos V designed El Escorial to house the tombs of Spain's royalty.The choir's recital at El Escorial came as the result of efforts by Ronald Horton, a former resident of Salt Lake City who worked with the head musician of the Spanish Court in Madrid. He was a former music director and conductor for Ballet West. Horton died of a heart attack Jan. 1 in Madrid.
Several years ago Horton met Jose Peris Lacasa, a composer and director of music for the Royal Palace of His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Peris attended the choir's recital in the basilica Sunday.
"Ronald and I became friends," he told the Deseret News. "We talked about music. He told me that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was going to tour Europe, but it was going to perform only in Barcelona.
"I said to him, `The choir must come to Madrid. Please get it to come here; the door is open. It must come and perform in El Escorial.' "
Tabernacle Choir director Jerold Ottley said that in his mind the concert was dedicated to Horton.
The 90-minute concert featured religious works from various faiths, including the LDS hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints," sung in Spanish.
Peris gave abundant praise to the Tabernacle Choir, which performed one of his works, "O Sacrum Conivium," written for King Juan Carlos on the anniversary of the death of his father. The work commemorates The Last Supper.
"The ones who performed it first could not do it as well as it has been done by the Tabernacle Choir," said Peris of his composition. "The piece seems to be a simple one, but it has a couple of things which are very hard to do. It has modulations and colors in it, and sudden changes - unexpected changes. This must be an excellent choir to do that."
The composer said the choir's performance was "one of the best things that Spain has done within the two years of the commemoration of these anniversaries."
The recital audience, comprised of several dignitaries, came by special invitation and was limited in size compared to the large concert crowds the choir has drawn thus far on its tour. They warmly received the choir, with all 500 audience members standing and applauding until the last singer left the performing area.
The basilica was designed with a huge dome in its center, supposedly to match the grandeur of St. Peter's in Rome. Echoes of the concluding notes of each piece sung by the choir reverberated for about four to five seconds throughout the expansive chapel. The basilica includes an ornate altar accented by gold-gilt statuary and paintings depicting the birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Having recently participated in the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, members of the Tabernacle Choir said they appreciated the efforts of Spain's citizenry to commemorate their nation's heritage.
On Monday evening, the Tabernacle Choir continues its tour with a concert in Madrid's Audiotorio Nacional. It will be the next-to-last concert on the tour, which began June 13 with a performance in London's Royal Albert Hall. The final concert is scheduled for Wednesday in Lisbon.