“Tabernacle Choir and Other Church Members Participate in U.S. Presidential Inauguration,” Ensign, Apr. 1989, 76–77
More than five hundred Church members, including the Tabernacle Choir, were part of the inauguration of United States President George Bush on January 20.
President Ezra Taft Benson and his Second Counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, attended the ceremony.
McLean Virginia Stake president Stephen M. Studdert, executive director of the inaugural committee, invited the choir to perform. The group was frequently referred to during the inaugural as “the nation’s choir,” he said. “They represent more than just Utah or the Church. They represent the values of America.”
Highlights for the choir included performances at the inaugural gala; in a prelude program at the U.S. Capitol Building; on the last float in the inaugural parade, which stopped at the presidential viewing stand as the choir sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; and in “An American Tribute to Democracy” with the U.S. Air Force Band, which is headed by Church member Lt. Col. James M. Bankhead.
“The choir is fabulous,” Brother Bankhead said. “There’s none like it. The spirit of the music, the beauty of the music, the power of their message is unsurpassed.”
The choir’s performance at the gala, seen on national television by millions, included “So Many Voices Sing America’s Song,” a patriotic anthem written by LDS composer Robert Brunner and sung by operatic tenor White Eagle, a nonmember.
“The Tabernacle Choir appeared more times, at more events, than any other group or individual except for President and Mrs. Bush,” President Studdert said.
Fred Volcansek of Farmington, Utah, who was managing director of events, had the responsibility of coordinating and establishing all of the activities for the choir as well as overseeing events for the governors’ and congressional areas. Brother Volcansek was assisted by staff member Patti Cannon, the local coordinator for choir events. Gene Morlan, director of the Mormon Choir of Washington, D.C., was the official host for the Tabernacle Choir. He organized the one hundred volunteers who served as guides, ushers, office staff, and porters and helped Tabernacle Choir members load and unload more than eight hundred pieces of luggage. Laurie Snow Turner, director of communications for the inauguration, prepared credentials for the seven thousand media representatives covering various events. She also produced a media handbook listing story ideas and inauguration details.
Greg Hopkins of Salt Lake City, former executive director of the Utah Republican Party, assisted Sister Turner, primarily as a writer, and many congressional staffers volunteered their personal time as well.
Virginia Schmidt, from West Jordan, Utah, was brought to Washington to write and help produce the first-ever children’s inaugural event, “From George to George.” Sister Turner commented that this “was acclaimed as one of the most popular and creative events.”
Many others took roles that were low profile but important—people like the Brent Clark family, who stuffed envelopes and counted fliers, and Wayne and Ann Scott and Dan and Connie Jones, who served as stand-ins for President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle and their wives during rehearsals for the opening event at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Tabernacle Choir closed its busy schedule in Washington, D.C., with its regular national broadcast, which originated from historic Constitution Hall on January 22, the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Area President of the North America Northeast Area, praised the choir for its impact during the five-day event. He said that Church members could “burst our buttons with pride at what you’ve done, how well you’ve represented us.”
At a sacrament meeting for Tabernacle Choir members on Sunday night, the ninety-voice Mormon Choir of Washington, D.C., provided music. Tabernacle Choir director Jerold Ottley commented, to the delight of the Washington choir members, that “this experience [the sacrament meeting] has been an extremely high point for us spiritually. We’ve had some tough going, with a lot of high points along the way, but this has capped it.”
Correspondent: Jane Dumont, assistant public communications director, Washington D.C. Stake.