Mormon choir sells out Abravanal Hall

May 27 2011 - 10:41am

SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 700 musicians from the Mormon Choral Organizations of America will begin pouring into Salt Lake City over Memorial Day weekend. MCOAmerica will begin a weeklong recording session at Abravanel Hall, culminating with two sold-out concerts: first at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on Friday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m., and second at Abravanel Hall on Saturday, June 4, at 2:00 p.m.

MCOAmerica, an independent non-profit organization based in Arizona and California, will bring their 400-voice adult choir, 200-voice youth choir, and 100-piece symphony orchestra to Salt Lake City to record and perform Messiah in America. This newly composed neo-Romantic oratorio by Brett Stewart, consists of 34 movements, and highlights the following world-class soloists: Jennifer Welch-Babidge, soprano; Francesca Forsyth, alto; George Dyer, tenor; John Huntington, bass.

"This tour to Salt Lake City was pitched by enthusiasts of our organization because they wanted to see our combined choirs and orchestras record and perform Messiah in America," MCOAmerica Executive Director Susan Stephensen commented. "They knew there were only a few venues in the world large enough to house an organization of this size." The recording is projected to be released this fall, and will be available on iTunes.

The organization will clock nearly two-dozen hours of recording from Tuesday through Friday at Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony. "We had originally planned one celebration concert at the Tabernacle to culminate a tedious week of recording," Stephensen said, "But when the entire Tabernacle sold out within 25 minutes at the box office, we found ourselves scrambling to accommodate the thousands of hopeful audience members who were left ticketless. Abravanel Hall graciously opened their doors for us on Saturday, making it possible to secure a second concert. With the exception of a few wheelchair accessible seats, that concert has also sold out."

Messiah in America is composed to text from the Book of Mormon, detailing Christ's visit to the American continent. Bass soloist John Huntington remarked: "With Handel's Messiah and Stewart's Messiah in America as bookends, the musical library of influences between them is masterfully integrated into Stewart's composition. We hear Bizet and Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Holst and Elgar, John Williams and Howard Shore in Stewart's focused and powerful score. But Stewart's writing is not mere imitation; this is inspired composition. The unity between text, meter, melody, and orchestration shows a deft and mature artistry. This is a genuinely important new major work of American art."

MCOAmerica is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although one of its primary purposes is to strengthen music in the LDS Church at the local levels. It is comprised of the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization (EVMCO) based in the East Valley of Arizona, and the Orange County Mormon Choral Organization (OCMCO) based in Orange County, California. These organizations open their doors to members of all faiths. Many of the participants are not Mormons, but they enjoy the feeling of unity and camaraderie. The overarching mission of MCOAmerica is to teach and encourage excellence in quality sacred, choral, and classical music for youth and adults alike.

"This organization with its two performing groups provides a unique and unsurpassed level of music education to members of all faiths throughout the community," Stephensen remarked. "We have performed dozens of times in Arizona and California to sold-out audiences. To receive a similar response in Salt Lake City has been exciting for all our participants."


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