It may be coincidence with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square just having returned from their Atlantic Coast tour, during which they stayed nine days at a hotel on Broadway in New York City, but their Pioneer Day concert this year contains what may be the richest concentration of Broadway show tunes ever staged at a Tabernacle Choir concert.
Part of it may have to do with the presence of guest artist Laura Osnes, nominated for a Tony award for her portrayal in the title role in Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
Osnes was affable at Friday night’s performance in the LDS Conference Center (the concert will be repeated tonight) mentioning that this wasn’t the first time she had performed before a largely Mormon audience, that she had once sung in the Manhattan 8th LDS Ward in New York City, but it was not nearly the size of the Conference Center.
She spoke of her “onstage Prince Charming,” Santino Fontana, who appeared with the choir and orchestra at last year’s Pioneer Day and Christmas concerts.
“After I saw the size of this hall, I called him last night for a little pep talk, and he said to say 'hi' to all of you,” she said.
She then clarified that Fontana was only her “true love” on stage, and she introduced her “real-life Prince Charming and husband,” Nate, who was in the audience.
With the choir and orchestra, Osnes, of course, performed a selection from “Cinderella,” “A Lovely Night.”
That was part of a set of seven Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Osnes mentioned she has portrayed five of the heroines from their Broadway shows. With the choir and orchestra, she sang “If I Loved You” from “Carousel,” and brought one of the concerts three standing ovations when she soloed with the choir on their familiar Arthur Harris arrangement of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.”
The orchestra was showcased in its own right with its performance of “Guadalcanal March” from the 1952-53 documentary television series “Victory at Sea,” the musical score of which was composed by Richard Rodgers and his partner Robert Russell Bennett.
The orchestra opened the concert with the familiar theme from the movie “The Magnificent Seven."
A high point of the concert was the performance by the choir and orchestra of “Cohan’s Big Three,” a Floyd Werle arranged medley of George M. Cohan tunes that they performed at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the choir performed a cappella in center field at Yankee Stadium during the recent East Coast tour.
The song segued into a organ solo on “Give My Regards to Broadway" by Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott, whose whimsical keyboard antics, choreographed with special-effects lighting on the organ pipes, have become a much anticipated and appreciated feature at choir concerts in recent years. Elliott’s performance garnered one of the standing ovations.
The third standing ovation came at the end of the concert after a performance by the choir and orchestra of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from “The Music Man.” A demand for an encore was answered with Osnes singing a reprise of the song with the choir.
The Mormon pioneers were remembered near the opening of the concert with the traditional hymns “They the Builders of the Nation” and “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” The choir and orchestra also performed a unique Sam Cardon arrangement of “The Handcart Song,” composed in 1856 for Mormon immigrant converts from Europe to sing as they pulled their handcarts across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
Tabernacle Choir Music Director Mack Wilberg and associate director Ryan Murphy shared conducting duties.
Tonight’s concert begins at 8. Tickets are sold out, but there were plenty of empty seats in the terrace and balcony at Friday’s performance, so take your chance with stand-by seating. The line forms at the north gate on Temple Square at 6 p.m.