“Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus—Getting Older and Better,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 110–11
The Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus attracts more fans in more places with each succeeding year.
This coming January, after a nationally televised Christmas show, this group of 350 young Latter-day Saint musicians will mark its tenth year. As 1979 begins, the musicians will have taped two new specials—one with singer Burl Ives to be aired on public television in spring 1979 and one scheduled for Christmas 1979. A previously produced Christmas show, “Sing We Noel,” will be aired nationally this December on public television.
The choir also will be featured this December in “Christmas on Temple Square” performances December 20 and 21 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. A spring concert is planned for March, and the group will record a new album for release in 1979.
These activities come on the heels of a successful concert tour through the Los Angeles, California, area that included performances at the Hollywood Bowl and Disneyland. Elder Paul H. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy appeared with the musicians in the Hollywood Bowl concert, “You and Your World,” named after the weekly radio series that features Elder Dunn and the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus. That tour was the group’s first outside of Utah. The Hollywood Bowl performance was part of a six-day tour through the Los Angeles area that included two performances at Disneyland and a three-stake fireside in the North Hollywood Stake area.
Elder Ferrin L. Christiansen, Regional Representative and chairman for special activities in the southern California regions, called the Hollywood Bowl performance “electrifying.”
“We estimate that one of every six in the audience was an investigator brought by local Church members,” he said. “We wanted a missionary experience that would be culturally rewarding for nonmembers. A concert of this caliber was particularly appropriate for that audience. It was a great aesthetic experience in a comfortable, nonreligious setting.”
The Hollywood Bowl and Disneyland performances brought standing ovations for the groups, whose members are between eighteen and thirty years old. Disneyland officials told Robert Bowden, the groups’ director, that Disneyland crowds usually give good applause, but not standing ovations. The audience shouted for more after the Hollywood Bowl performance.
“Here is a very unique group, compared to the other musical organizations of the world,” Brother Bowden said. “I get letters asking me how we maintain our grooming standards, how the musicians do what they do without being paid. I tell them it’s just the principles of the Church coming through. I say, if they’ll look at most people in the Church, they’ll find this is the way they are.
“More than once, professional musicians, not members of the Church, have come to a concert, heard us play, and said that we play as accurately as any group they’ve heard, but that there’s something else—more feeling. It’s the spirit of the group working. When you’ve got the Spirit of the Lord with you, and you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, it comes through.”
Members of the Salt Lake City-based groups travel at their own expense. In the five years that Brother Bowden has directed them, they have increased their performance schedule from five concerts a year to the current twenty, in addition to the weekly radio broadcasts.
A nonmember in Denver recently wrote her response (typical of many others) to the broadcast and televised concerts. She said that she was in her kitchen working when she heard the groups performing on television. She went into another room to watch the show, while her dinner waited an hour and a half. “She said she knew it had to be the Mormons, because of the perfection in it,” Brother Bowden said.
“I feel that the groups are one of the great missionary tools that the Church has. You can say a lot with music that you can’t say with words. You can affect people’s feelings. This moves people to think about things that lead to their conversion.”