Sunday, March 24, 2013

RootsTech Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tour

RootsTech 2013 is over but doesn't mean I'm finished writing about the conference.

One of the most memorable moments happened on Thursday evening.

RootsTech attendees were treated to a mini concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The event featured songs of Irving Berlin and had a family history/immigration theme.

I took a couple of photos. The camera settings were off and there was a person's head in my view, so these were the best I could get:

Before the concert, FamilySearch provided the official RootsTech bloggers with a behind the scenes tour of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MTC) offices. Though I took photos, I'm not allow to publish them. I will try my best to describe what I saw. 

Much of the office and practice space is under the Tabernacle, so it's windowless. From a side door (#2 if you know where that is) we were led down a hallway. We saw the (locked) official MTC office. Off to the side, you could see a cabinet that held some of the awards they've won. 

Further down the hall maze, we went to the "horseshoe." This was the practice room. It had a piano and stacked chairs among other things you'd see in a music company. Our wonderful tour guide--whose name escapes me--told us about the audition process. Basically you send in a tape. You're either told yes, no or maybe so with a tactful letter. Turnover is not uncommon as people get busy with life or age out at 60.

On the way to the horseshoe we saw the lockers. Each member of the choir has one. They look like p.e. lockers, but they're more like mailboxes for music. I saw a post-it note on one mailbox reminding the person to turn in some music, similar to having an overdue library book.

What's on the other side of the lockers? The music room. I'm not sure that's what they call it, but it is the room where all the sheet music is stored. They use hand crank shelving to store 1 million pieces of music. At one end of the room, there is a work table for sorting things. On the other side of the table are the open sides of the lockers. It look like a big mail sorting operation, which it must be to manage all the sheet music. The music librarian was very helpful. She has an awesome job, in my opinion.

We also got to see the men's and women's changing rooms. They had open clothing racks and individual mini-closet enclosures for each individual member. It was similar to a sports locker room without all the space and luxuries. These personal closets included about 6-7 different uniforms (slacks and jackets for men, dresses for women). Because the men have so many combinations, a mannequin is dressed with the correct pants, jacket and tie for each event. You're supposed to look at it  to confirm what you're supposed to wear that day. Our tour guide said that even with the model, someone always manages to wear the wrong tie or something.

All of the women's clothing is handmade. Big bolts of fabric are purchased. We saw the ladies that do the sewing and their room of machines, racks, ironing boards and notions. Many of the dresses are simple and bright. The simple is for the many shapes of women. The bright is for television.

While leaving the dressing area, we could hear singing. It was choir class for incoming MTC members. New members have about 3 months of training to learn music theory and the ways of the MTC. All choir members are volunteers and have practice or shows 150 days a year.

When the backstage tour was over, we were led to reserved seats. That was pretty cool. When the show started, they did VIP introductions. The host called the RootsTech bloggers and asked us to stand. That was surreal. I only mention it because my dad will be amused to read it.

The highlight of the evening was hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing Irving Berlin's God Bless America. It was definitely a bucket-list moment. I am so thankful I got to experience it.

I am grateful to FamilySearch for the tour and to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for putting on a concert on a Thursday, when they usually just practice that day. It was one of the highlights of this RootsTech week that I won't soon forget.


  1. Thanks for the photos, especially. They are gleaming and grand and golden. I love choirs and chorales, and I've been in a number of them. It feels kind of shivery and exciting to be within a choir group, being a part of one gi-normous sound. I'm glad to see and hear about the scene from inside!

  2. How exciting! To see them perform is another to do on my bucket list!!!! Thanks for the great article Amy!

  3. I LOVE the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I got to see them when they performed in Houston nearly a decade ago. To hear God Bless America sung by that choir is so powerful.

    I'm a little envious, only a little, about your tour. However, I feel like I was there with you thanks to this post. I can't thank you enough for sharing your insights. And I have wondered how that many men were ensured to wear the right outfit when the combinations are numerous. That's for the insight!!!