NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell added one more accomplishment to his official biography Monday: conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
At the conclusion of a concert by the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in Norfolk's Scope Arena, McDonnell stepped onto the conductor's podium to lead the choir and orchestra in an encore number, "This Land Is Your Land."
While it takes years of training to perform with the choir and orchestra, McDonnell had a tutorial that lasted about 10 minutes. A couple of hours before the concert began, the governor arrived at the arena where he met with the choir's music director, Mack Wilberg, who showed him some of the finer points of directing.
The governor proved to be a quick study. "I've been around music, but never in such a big stage. I played drums a little bit in high school, but I've had a long layoff and now I'm directing the whole orchestra, so there is a lot of pressure on me tonight," he told the Deseret News after he spent a few minutes on the conductor's podium during his rehearsal.
"What a treat to have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir here in Virginia for two events, here and another in northeastern Virginia (at Wolf Trap). I remember growing up watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on television with my parents. I always admired the talent. This is a great ministry for the church. We're glad to have (the choir) here.
After the concert, McDonnell said that having "300-plus of the best vocalists in all of America on stage and I got to conduct them — it was a thrill."
The performance in Norfolk was the first on the choir's 2011 summer tour. The tour continues with performances at Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C., on Wednesday; Philadelphia, Thursday; Chautauqua, N.Y., on Saturday; and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Monday. The choir and orchestra will give two performances in Chautauqua and Toronto.