Even though the roots of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir go back 165 years, the world-famous group is keeping up with 21st century technology. The choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are currently in the middle of a 10-day tour of the Midwest United States, and for the first time ever, the audience gets to choose the show’s encore by texting or tweeting. The contest is just one aspect of the venerable institution’s effort to connect with a younger generation through social media.
In January, Lieutenant Commander James Gennari, a Navy nurse, put his life in danger when he held the hand of a young Marine while an unexploded grenade was removed from his leg at a hospital in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Commander James Gennari was one of the guest conductors of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The choir and orchestra go on tour every other year, and this year, 320 members of the choir and 65 members of the orchestra are delighting audiences in five Midwestern states. Among the thousands of people who heard the first three performances in Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; and the Ravinia Music Festival in Chicago were the young faces of some of the choir’s newest fans.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square are performing concerts in their 2013 Midwest tour.
Eighteen-year-old Ian McCrary from Powell, Ohio, was surprised at how much he enjoyed the concert.
“It definitely exceeded my expectations. It was way better than I thought it was going to be. I guess I kind of expected it to be kind of stuffy, but it wasn’t. It was really fun. It’s one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to.”
Governor Mike Pence of Indiana was a guest conductor for the choir in Indianapolis.
McCrary was one of about 2,000 fans in Columbus, Indianapolis and Chicago who texted or tweeted their choice for the encore. There were three options listed in the program for the audience to choose from, and “God Bless America” won the contest in both Columbus and Indianapolis, while “Climb Every Mountain” was the choice of the Ravinia audience.
McCrary said he was surprised that the choir let the audience choose the encore. “I thought it was kind of cool. It felt like you were a little more a part of it,” he said.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir invited several guest singers to perform with them. Peg Bryan, in green, from West Lafayette, Indiana, was one of the lucky singers.
In Indianapolis, Joseph Smith and the Reverend Dr. Vickie Johnson, members of the Chicago Community Chorus board, loved the idea of the audience voting on the encore and want to try the same thing with their own choir.
“We really thought it was a great idea to text or tweet what you want the encore to be,” Johnson said. “It really draws the audience in and allows them to contribute.”
The choir’s social media manager, Heidi Green, said the encore contest is just one of the things the organization is doing to connect with fans through technology.
“Since the choir first started broadcasting in 1929, it has always used the latest tools available to communicate with its audience. Using social media is just a natural fit to connect with our fans around the world,” Green said. “The music of the choir and orchestra reaches all generations, so we have to make sure our communication does too.”
The choir now has its own pages on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and plans to expand to other social media platforms in the near future. This allows the musicians to share their talents with new fans like 18-year-old Rosalyn Ransaw from Columbus, Ohio.
“This was my first time seeing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and my experience was just so much fun,” Ransaw said. “I was just so amazed, they were so talented and the orchestra was incredible. I was expecting it to be kind of boring, I guess, kind of more like an opera almost, but I was surprised in a good way. I would definitely see the choir again!”
Follow the choir on their tour through the Midwest with pictures on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir blog.