Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were refreshed by two days' rest before giving their first New Zealand concert on Monday night in Auckland's Town Hall.
Painted gray and maroon and seating 1,800 listeners, the hall is of that wood and plaster construction with curving balconies that delivers the finest acoustics. The choir sounded in prime estate, with rich resonance and wide dynamic range.The concert, a little heavier than the Hawaiian repertory, opened with excerpts from Mendelssohn's "Hymn of Praise" and included Robert Cundick's "Unconquerable," a celebration of the pioneer spirit, composed especially for this tour. Edward Hart's poem is obtuse, and on first exposure the work seems turgid and not too singable, though it was graciously received.
Like others on this tour, this audience was well disposed to the choir's Americana, folk songs and show tunes, and vastly enjoyed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
For conductor Jerold Ottley, Auckland has been a poignant point of return. It was here as a young man - indeed in this very hall, while listening to a performance of the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony - that he knew his future would be in music. At that point, he could little foresee this day's outcome.
The choir rounded out its Hawaiian stay with a concert in Honolulu's Waikiki Shell, where fine acoustics and a balmy tropical night capped off a memorable evening. June 16 was Mormon Tabernacle Choir Day in Hawaii, so proclaimed by Gov. John Waihee.
An arduous journey has led the singers to New Zealand - a sky-path that has crossed the international dateline and dipped south of the equator.
But at the end of the rainbow lay a rousing Maori greeting with ceremonial dancing and chanting, and the exchange of songs and tokens, including a carved boat paddle for the choir and seagull statuettes for the Maoris.
These people sing as naturally as they talk, and just as musically. Indeed, their Maori songs and offering of "America the Beautiful" moved many Utahns to tears and led to a feeling response with "Deep River."
Sunday found the entourage at the LDS Temple in Hamilton, and being received by the Maori elders at the nearby Turangawaewae Marae, - a singular honor accorded to few visitors, since it is the Maori Queen's own exclusive Marae, or reception house.