Pioneer Day celebrates those who came before, who broke new ground and made untold sacrifices.
"As President Hinckley used to say, July 24 is ours and ours alone. We should celebrate it and give it all we've got," says Mormon Tabernacle Choir president Mac Christensen.
That's exactly what the choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square and their invited guests, the Osmond family, will be doing this weekend, with two concerts in the Conference Center.
"We are the luckiest people in the world," Christensen says, "to be able to celebrate with this choir, this orchestra, this great pioneering family, these great people."
Those sentiments are echoed by choir director Mack Wilberg. What better way to celebrate the pioneer spirit, he asks, than through music? It is a great honor, he says, to have the Osmonds join the celebration. "They are pioneers in the field of entertainment. Plus this concert concludes their worldwide 50th anniversary tour. It's so appropriate to end it here, where it all began for them."
As for the Osmonds, these concerts will mark a bittersweet milestone. "This will be our last performance on stage with the whole family," says Merrill. "So we feel a bit overwhelmed. To have it end here, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir there couldn't be a better way."
The Osmond Brothers Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Jimmy as well as their two older brothers Virl and Tom, were in town for a rehearsal with the choir and orchestra Tuesday night. They will be joined by Donny and Marie later in the week.
The concert will feature pioneer songs and songs of the frontier by the choir and orchestra. The Osmonds will perform a couple of sets featuring some of their hit songs and fan favorites, which will incorporate snippets of home movies and other video of their careers.
It's a lot of fun for the choir to have the Osmonds join it, says Wilberg. "We've sung with Sting and with the Oak Ridge Boys, so it's not entirely new ground for us. But it showcases the versatility and spirit of the choir. And you have to admire the Osmonds and what they have done. They've been together many, many years."
That fact surprises the Osmonds as much as anyone. "When we were kids they told us we'd never make it in show business; we were too clean-cut," says Alan. "Then after we were on TV, they said we'd never have hit records, because we were too television-oriented." But the Osmonds proved the world wrong at every step. "When we were kids we were told that we would open doors. Our whole mission has been to share what family is all about," he says.
The family has had its ups and downs like any other, says Wayne. "But we've been really blessed as a family. And we're grateful to all our fans. It's cool to be here to celebrate Pioneer Day with them."
Some of the Osmonds will continue to perform and work in the entertainment business in various ways. But these concerts will mark retirement for the older brothers. "It's a perfect event that came together at a perfect time," says Merrill. "It wasn't designed to be this way when we started our 50th anniversary tour."
The 50th anniversary tour began in Las Vegas last year and took them to Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of the world. It really hit them that the end was coming after their final concert in London, says Alan. "We cried and hugged each other. So we're really happy to be here."
"Of course, at our age, you might say we're happy to be anywhere," jokes Wayne, who has kept the family entertained with his witty comments for the past 50 years. "He's nuts," says Jay. "But that's what the road does to you."
The family pays tribute to their parents, Olive and George, for the harmony that exists not just in their music but also in their lives. "Our mother taught us to roll with the punches, to prepare ourselves for the opportunities that come," says Jay. "They were our foundation. They lived the gospel."
"This so so amazing." adds Jimmy. "We've had an amazing year, and what a great way to end it."
As the youngest, he says, "I do look at my brothers as pioneers in the entertainment field. They are the longest-running performing group. And I know how hard they've worked."
The family started performing to raise money for their older brothers' hearing aids; both were born deaf. So to have them on stage with the family one last time is very special, he says. "No matter what comes and goes, we've all been here for each other. Being invited to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square is a great personal honor for us.""We don't know what the future holds," says Merrill. "But we do know that we are happy people today.