Mack Wilberg</I>

ALPINE — Cathy Jolley laughed when Mack Wilberg asked her if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could sing "her song" on its new CD.

Jolley is the director of the Timberline Middle School choirs and Wilberg is the new Tabernacle Choir director, and the song he was talking about is one he wrote for the school.

"The fact that he wants to do a CD and include the song he wrote for us on it tells me he valued what he did for us," Jolley said.

Early in the year, Jolley commissioned Wilberg to write a piece for her choirs. His wife had adjudicated a number of competitions involving the Timberline Middle School choirs and recognized Jolley's singers as exceptional.

"We had no idea what he'd do. All we could do was approach him and see what happened," said Jolley.

"He agreed. He wrote it. We performed it at our grand concert," said Jolley. "The kids loved it. It's fun. It's something that's accessible that the kids can do well. It was absolutely glorious."

"Down to the River to Pray" has notes at the top of the score listing the names of the choir, orchestra and band directors (Jolley, Candis Taylor and Jennifer Halverson) as well as Terry Hill, the school principal. The notes also indicate that the song was written for the Timberline Middle School in Alpine for its grand concert.

Jolley said Wilberg brought down the music and asked her to turn the pages as it was played, which proved to be challenging.

"He does everything longhand and what he was playing was not what was written on the pages!" said Jolley.

"He wanted to be here to hear it at our dress rehearsal, which, of course, turned out to be the same day they announced Craig Jessop's retirement (as the Tabernacle Choir director). I didn't expect he would make it (since he was named as the new director), but he was there," Jolley said. He signed autographs and scores for all 130 choir members.

Wilberg said he is quite pleased with the result of his efforts to provide a song for the school choirs.

"I've known that tune for a long time. It was on my short list of things to do," Wilberg said. "I didn't write it with that in mind (being on the Tabernacle Choir's CD) but when I got down to working it out, it seemed to fit."

Wilberg said the number is rhythmic and "a little jaunty," a kind of spiritual folk hymn.

He also said Jolley was "quite tenacious" in her effort to persuade him to do the song for the school.

He said he was happy to be able to do so.

"I've known about Cathy's program and her reputation for some time," he said.