Karen Maxwell says not to underestimate "the power of 600 people giving their all to something they feel so intensely."
Maxwell is in her second year with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. During that time, she has helped record four albums. The most recent is "Glory! Music of Rejoicing," a project meant to "raise the roof."
"I think that Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy just picked songs that allowed the choir and orchestra to be intense and exuberant about glorifying the Lord, and it's something that we feel so strongly about in our calling as musical missionaries," said Maxwell, an Alto I from Salt Lake City.
Maxwell said that to record an album, choir members come prepared to sit and wait while other parts are working on their sections.
Rehearsing for recording a CD takes about 12 hours, according to John Maddox, a Tenor I from Orem. Rehearsal time is used to make the music presentable and get the different parts to sing together and make sure the orchestra timing is correct. Then recording takes from 22-24 hours to complete.
"Looking forward to the finished product is the reason we do it," Maddox said. "Rehersal isn't all that fun. Mack is very good and all business, and it's not a party. He knows what he wants and expects us to deliver it and we typically do."
Maddox said one song from the album was particularly hard, "Cum Sancto Spiritu," by Gioachino Rossini, because it is a very long song and the choir had to memorize it to take on tour.
"There are a lot of notes and the parts are contrapuntal so everyone is singing a different part and different rhythms so it's tough to sing," he said.
For Maddox, "Nella Fantastia" from the movie "The Mission" was his favorite song to sing and learn. The song gave the tenors a chance to sing Italian opera style.
"We cut loose a little bit," Maddox said. "That was fun."
The Tabernacle at Temple Square is the choir's best recording studio and makes for the best sound, according to Maxwell. Members of the choir bring quilts to hang over the seats to make sure the sound doesn't reverberate too much.
She said that when the choir finishes a song, all the members sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the phone to ring that sits near the podium. A ring means that the people in the sound booth either need the choir to run it again, or the song is ready to go.
"Those (recording sessions) can be sometimes a little bit tedious, but we all come so excited because we want to record and want others to hear our testimony through song and instrumentation," Maxwell said.
Maxwell had a hard time deciding her favorite song to sing for this album, but said "Pilgrim Song," arranged by Ryan Murphy, might have been the one. She said the whole choir tears up when they sing that song.
The best part for her, regardless of the song they are singing, is the not only the opportunity to share her testimony with the rest of the world, but the chance to sing with others at such a high level under the direction of Murphy and Wilberg.
"Being able to work with Ryan Murphy and Mack Wilberg — that is just an opportunity that's worth anything you have to sacrifice because they are just genius," Maxwell said. "They program with genius, they arrange with genius, they conduct with genius and they inspire with genius. We are so lucky to have them."