Something I have needed to document is the time I spent in the months of November and December making a special tribute to my father. After being called into the Stake High Council, Dad made the tough decision to retire from The Mormon Tabernacle Choir after holding the spot of Tenor #46 for eleven long years. He decided to finish out with the annual Mo-Tab Christmas concert, retiring officially on December 18th, 2011.
My sister Cassie and I were talking on the phone one day in November about this big change in our father's life and decided we needed to do something to thank him for his years of service in the choir. Cassie suggested a book of letters and so began a massive project to contact relatives and choir members (secretly, as Dad didn't want to draw attention to himself and had told very few people that he would be retiring) to write letters about their experiences with Dad and the choir.
After a few weeks the messages began to pour in and I manned the task of creating the actual book. I used a website called Mixbook which is quite a bit more expensive than the site I use to turn my blogs into a journal at the end of each year (Blurb), but in my opinion it is SO worth it due to the user friendly software and the incredible selection of scrapbook paper, stickers, etc to decorate your pages with. (I'm actually using Mixbook to make Daphne's baby book as well and having so much fun with it!)
What started out as just a few letters turned into 101 paged book of loving tributes. I felt so privileged to have the opportunity to compile the letters and read each touching experience that was recorded to honor my father. He has had such a tremendous affect on so many lives and this was just a small sampling of the gratitude from those who love and admire him.
In almost every letter from my 7 siblings and I, they mentioned the dedication Dad exhibited in his years in the choir, not only traveling to Salt Lake for rehearsal and performances so frequently, but for the hours spent practicing his parts at home. I had to laugh after reading 3 letters that all described Daddy in his plaid pajama pants, counting time with one hand, his brows furrowed as he concentrated on the sheet music in his lap. As I scoured some of my old photo albums the next day, I could not believe my eyes when I came across a picture I had taken with a cheap disposable camera as a 13-year-old, depicting Dad in this very attitude that is permanently fixed in the memory of my family.
(Dad commandeering a cart in the underground parking - his driving for the choir carpool is "legendary" as one choir friend put it)
For those of you who don't know, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a 360 member choir that represents The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They perform for a half an hour every Sunday on the longest show running in broadcast history, "Music and the Spoken Word." The process of being accepted into the choir is rigorous and includes an initial audition tape, followed by a written music theory test, followed by a live audition. If you are accepted, you then go into a 3 month training chorale to see if you can handle the pace of the choir. Once admitted into the actual choir, rehearsals are every Thursday night on a regular week, followed by a rehearsal and the broadcast on Sunday mornings. If there are any concerts, choir tours, or CD recordings coming up, rehearsals can be added to Tuesday and Wednesday with recordings on Saturdays. When Daddy first got into the choir in 2001, it was months before the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, so rehearsals were even more often. Once the Olympics actually began, Dad was gone (correct me if this number is wrong Papa) 26 of 29 evenings in the month of February 2002.
(Some memorabilia from singing in the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City)
All choir members are VOLUNTEERS, meaning they do not get paid for their service. For members who live far from Salt Lake, they have to figure out their own transportation. My brother calculated that with the 90 mile drive to Salt Lake from Logan for just the weekly rehearsal and broadcast (not counting any of the extra rehearsals, concerts, tours, etc) Dad drove a minimum of 189,904 miles in 11 years! What a sacrifice of time and money! Choir members are also set apart as music missionaries and wear a missionary-type name tag when on tour. This means that they are not supposed to have extra callings in their wards, but Dad has served in the ward as well as in the choir for all of these years as a high priest teacher, primary music leader, etc.
Dad has been on tour with the choir all over the United States and had the privilege to sing and record with loads of guests artists from Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban to David Archuletta.
(Singing with world renowned Andrea Bocelli - you can see Dad above his left shoulder)
He has been a part of some 25 CD recordings and filled the homes of each of his children with the spiritually edifying music by giving a copy of each new CD to all 8 of us whenever they were released. What a blessing for the next generation to grow up listening to the uplifting music their Grandfather was a part of creating.
The choir has not been all applause and roses. Dad was accepted into the choir when I was only 12 years old and baby sis was only 9. When he was on tour, Mumsie was temporarily a single-mom for 2 weeks and had to get us all out the door to church on Sunday mornings each week without him. I'm so grateful that she was able to finally join him on his last tour this past summer and have closure on this chapter of their lives before he retired.
(Mom and Dad on tour with some of their choir friends - can't remember their names at the moment)
(Terrible quality, but I found this in my photo albums as well from a Sunday morning "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast I attended with the YM/YW of our Cliffside 1st Ward in 2004. I was so proud of my handsome Daddy in his choir tux.
Ultimately, having my father in The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been a blessing in the lives of our family. I am huge believer in the power of music and believe it is one of the purest forms of worshiping our Heavenly Father and praising our Savior, Jesus Christ. I have loved attending countless concerts to hear the beautiful choir and support my father and have always left feeling uplifted and edified.
(Emily and Burke at the Mo-Tab Christmas concert 2008)
Not to mention the choir helped to get Burke to come north while we were dating and give him the opportunity to fall in love with me. :)
(Emily, Burke and Daphne in utero - Mo-Tab Christmas Concert 2010 - notice how tired we look in this picture - I think I threw up 5 or 6 times walking to the concert that night - so gross.)
Where would we be without the choir?!
Photo credit here)
However, as many of the letters expressed, Dad's musical gift did not start with the choir, nor will it end with his retirement from its lofts. The music lives on and Daddy will always be our Tenor #1.
(Dad on tour, enjoying a moment of reflection in The Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York - June 2011)