Before we left Oregon, Sundy's aunt Carla gave us 4 tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Pioneer Day Concert. We are both Choir fans, but what made this even more exciting was that the concert would be featuring Katherine Jenkins, the British classical singer turned Dancing with the Stars runner-up (who should have won the competition, not that I ever watched the show or anything.)
Wanting to make sure we didn't lose the tickets in the chaos of our move, we put them in a safe place. Of course, once we got to Utah, we found that the place was so safe we couldn't find it. Thinking that they had to be somewhere, I began going through our things, eventually unpacking many of our packed boxes. After all that unsuccessful searching, we left those belongings storage in my family's Benjamin garage and spent the next week with Sundy's family in Orem, fearing that we would not get to see the show. Sundy even called the Choir's ticket office to see if we could get tickets reprinted, but they told us the only way they would do it is if Carla went in person to the office in Salt Lake City and show a photo ID. Otherwise, our only choice was to arrive at 5:30 pm for standby seating. We decided that a 24-hour round-trip drive was not worth a few tickets, and we didn't want to brave the standby line, so we resigned ourselves to missing this concert.
After a few days, though, we decided to search for the tickets one last time. We made the 30-minute drive to Benjamin, said a prayer, and began looking once more. Not long after we started looking, Sundy went through a bag that I had searched several times previously. She pulled out a box of blank thank-you cards, and there were the tickets. (Why didn't I think to check there?)
So on Friday night we rode up to Salt Lake with Sundy's parents to see the performance in the LDS Conference Center.
It was a well-performed concert. Its theme, "The Joy of Song," was expressed through a variety of songs and spoken word segments. The choir began the night with a set of two Mack Wilberg arrangements of pioneer hymns. Though for a few moments the choir dragged behind the orchestra, they soon came together and were in sync the rest of the night - a rather incredible feat for an ensemble that large in a performance hall as spacious as the Conference Center.
Katherine Jenkins is an enjoyable performer - her Welsh accent and sparkling personality are delightful. Her lyric mezzo soprano voice was perhaps best showcased in "Cymru Fach;" her interpretation of the Welsh hymn provided one of the most moving performances of the night. The reality-show-following segment of the audience seemed excited by the appearance of Mark Ballas, with whom she reprised their paso doble routine from Dancing with the Stars. Indeed, the dance provided a welcome reprieve from the showtune-heavy program, which included pieces from State Fair, The Wizard of Oz, Kismet, Carousel, and My Fair Lady (the composition of which was mistakenly attributed to Richard Rogers rather than Frederick Loewe in the program).
While Jenkins certainly has quite a set of pipes, her voice has a dark quality that I find unappealing (though that is a personal that preference stems from my training at BYU, where uber-forward, almost nasal, placement is taught). Her resonance placement, especially in her lower range, is far enough back in her throat that at times she seems to be swallowing the notes.
Abandon is an element of music that adds excitement to performance. Pushing a performance to the limit carries an element of risk - it could reach a new level of virtuosic brilliance, or it could result in a technical mistake. To me, Jenkins played it safe. The high notes at the climaxes in "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "The Prayer" were transposed down, and thus lacked some of the emotional power that can be brought out in the pieces.
Richard Elliott, on the other hand, brought down the house with his organ accompaniment to "Sing!" a piece based on the toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony no. 5. The incessant sixteenth note figures were executed brilliantly at a tempo that must have been risky even for a performer of his skill level.
The concert concluded with two standing ovations and one encore performance by Jenkins.
One final thought: I would sure like to hear Leroy Robertson's setting of "Come, Come Ye Saints" more often. While Mack Wilberg's arrangement, the one performed at the concert and multiple other Choir events, is beautiful and poignant, it lacks the emotional depth and textural complexity of the Robertson setting.