“BYU Choir Given Warm Reception in Israel, Greece,” Ensign, Aug. 1982, 75–76
“The Mormon Choir brought a new standard of singing into our musical lives.” In these words, Hanoch Ron, distinguished Tel Aviv music critic, praised Brigham Young University’s A Cappella Choir, which just completed a concert tour of Israel and Greece.
According to Mr. Ron, when the choir performed in Israel as part of the Tel Aviv Festival, it “stole the show from all others, smiling and performing with an unusual quality of richness in sound.” The choir is conducted by Dr. Ralph Woodward.
Tel Aviv, a musically sophisticated city of over 360,000 inhabitants, is noted for its critical taste in fine music. In order to accommodate the demand for tickets in the new 5,000-seat concert house, each regular subscription concert of the Israeli Philharmonic must be repeated nine times. The wholehearted reception given to the BYU choir in that city, by standing-room-only audiences, was therefore especially rewarding to the choir.
One BYU concert, performed with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, included the premier of “The Vision of Ezekiel” (celebrating the uniting of the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim), written for the occasion by Merrill K. Bradshaw, composer in residence at BYU. A long and vigorous ovation followed the performance, with numerous requests for encores.
Mayor Shlomo Lahat, present at the concert, and Roni Abramson, director of the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, requested that another concert be scheduled in Tel Aviv. Dr. Eliot A. Butler, associate academic vice-president of BYU, who accompanied the choir, commented that “with only a day for advertising by radio and newspaper, and with the hall available only at 10 P.M., the choir again sang to a packed house. And again encores were demanded long past midnight. Backstage after the concert, Mayor Lahat urged the choir to return to his city soon and often.” In all, the choir gave seven concerts in Israel.
Mr. Ron lauded the choir freely and with a number of superlatives: “There they stood, young students with shining faces,” singing with “an inner power that creates long-lasting reverberations within the listener. This was not just perfect, well-projected singing; it was singing that comes from within, that carries softness, wraps like velvet, and that displays the true joy of singing.” He expressed his admiration of the choir’s conductor, Dr. Ralph Woodward, in similar superlatives, esteeming him as “that sensitive musician, that aristocrat of the podium, who leads his choir with a special nobility.”
Mr. Ron also praised the choir for “singing in such perfect Hebrew as when they sang Haim Alexander’s ‘I Will Gather You Together (Ezekiel).’” Mr. Alexander, present at the Choir’s Jerusalem concert, commented that he had never before seen such vigorous and enthusiastic approval of a choral concert in that city.
The Israel tour, sponsored by the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, also included concerts in the Knights Hall of Old Acre, in two Kibbutzim, and over national radio, broadcast live.
As a result of this extraordinary reception, Brother Woodward was invited to remain in Israel several weeks longer to conduct the Israel National Choir-Rinat in a June concert. He was also asked to conduct a number of workshops and seminars on choral music, and to work with various other choral organizations, conductors, and music teachers in the area.
The choir’s first visit to Greece also took place during this three-week concert tour. Under the sponsorship of the National Youth Foundation, the choir gave concerts in Athens and Tripolis and recorded a concert for national radio. In Athens the choir performed in St. Dionisius Cathedral. The Tripolis concert was performed in the city’s central square. Here as well, the city’s mayor received the choir with enthusiasm, making a personal request, beyond those for normal encores, for the choir to repeat one of the concert numbers.
In both Israel and Greece the choir enjoyed an outpouring of great warmth. Tears flowed freely in every concert when the choir sang “And What Is It We Shall Hope For?” from the Mormon oratorio The Redeemer by Robert Cundick.