Tour Milestones
October 1991

“Tour Milestones,” Ensign, Oct. 1991, 44–48

Tour Milestones

Friedrichsdorf and Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, June 10: If anxious members of the Tabernacle Choir seek a confirmation of things to come, they receive it on this first concert day here on the lawn of the Frankfurt Germany Temple in the suburb of Friedrichsdorf. A twenty-minute outdoor “concert” scheduled to begin at 12:30 P.M. has been delayed some minutes due to heavy drizzle, but with five hundred townspeople looking on, those in charge move ahead with the public greetings between Friedrichsdorf Mayor Gerd Schmidt and Elder Russell M. Nelson. Drizzle continues. Then the choir begins to sing “Alleluia,” a song whose lyrics consist of one reverent word—alleluia, meaning “praise to God,” repeated sixty-five consecutive times. Within a minute the rain stops. In a few more minutes, wind breaks up the clouds, blue skies appear, and sunlight beams down. A Frankfurt newspaper headed their story “Alleluia Stops the Rain.” Tonight’s opening concert in Frankfurt’s palatial Alte Oper before an audience of 2,250 is a striking, four-encore success.

Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday, June 13: Following a Tuesday night concert in Strasbourg, France, in the scintillatingly acoustic Palais des Congrés hall before an enthusiastic audience of 2,000, tonight the choir sings in the Hallenstadion—an indoor stadium where hockey games and horse shows are held, and major musical figures often perform. Though it is impossible for even 313 voices to reverberate in this vast arena with its audience of 8,400, a beautiful spirit prevails. Far-off listeners seem riveted to their seats. Tonight’s sellout crowd is particularly noteworthy because, in contrast to all the other tour concerts (booked by the London firm Specialized Travel and promoted by local promoters in each city) this concert was booked and promoted by the members of the Church, at their request.

—Friday morning, June 14: A Church member delivers the equivalent of three bags of M&M candies to each choir member in appreciation for last night’s concert. Choir members vote to open no candies, rather to transport them to Poland and Russia and give them to children.

Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, June 15: A major change in the nature of the tour takes place tonight in the aged Opera House before 1,400 when the choir performs its first concert in a previously Communist-controlled, Eastern Bloc state. “The Spirit was so strong tonight you could almost reach out and touch it,” says a choir member after the first of many emotionally draining and spiritually soaring evenings. In tonight’s concert, the first of three “Music and the Spoken Word” performances is videotaped as part of the concert—amidst proud Hungarians who know that the segment will be broadcast throughout the world.

—Sunday, June 16: Elder Nelson thrills choir members in their Sunday sacrament meeting as he tells the details of the Church’s planting gospel seeds in the Eastern Bloc countries and the Russian Republic.

Vienna, Austria, Monday, June 17: Tonight in the Musikverein, home of Brahms and many other musical giants, the second “Music and the Spoken Word” performance is videotaped for delayed broadcast worldwide. Two thousand joyful listeners, many of them Saints, do not want the choir to stop—even after six encores! A head of ORF SAT 3, a TV station televising the concert, says that tonight’s standing ovation is a rarity in the Musikverein, where he has previously seen only two others.

Prague, Czechoslovakia, Tuesday, June 18: Another very spiritually rich concert experience, this time in Smetana Hall before 1,300, in the second former Eastern Bloc land visited by the choir. The evening becomes a lifetime memory for choir and audience when the first encore is sung—a Czech folk song “Tece, Voda, Tece.” The song, understood by all to be about the elusiveness of liberty and freedom, has been banned during periods of Czech history because dictatorships did not want it fomenting rebellion among the people. Since the crumbling of Communism’s powers, the song is no longer banned—yet it is with some boldness that the choir sings it tonight. Not all Soviet soldiers have departed from Czechoslovakia.

The audience’s response is awesome—except for the choir, a great hush fills the hall. Over a third of the audience stands, some holding their arms up in the air, many tearful and weeping—some seeming nearly overcome—as the audience drinks in words and music with great emotion.

After the concert, a head of Czech TV observes that he has never before seen a standing ovation in Smetana Hall.

Dresden, Germany, Wednesday, June 19: En route, the choir detours to lunch at the Freiberg Germany Temple grounds. Speaking to choir members, temple president Henry Burkhardt says, “It didn’t take long for citizens of Freiberg to say ‘our temple.’ Many times we see couples—young people who are not members of the Church and who are preparing to marry or have married—who come to have their picture taken with the temple in the background. They know they can’t go inside. But they know something about its being a symbol of everlasting marriage and love. They feel the spirit of the grounds.”

Tonight’s concert is the first in what used to be known as East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) prior to the coming down of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. In the Kulturpalast, the 2,400-person audience introduce a first for the tour—their clapping will not stop until the last choir member has walked offstage five or more minutes after the last encore. Audience and choir members wave good-bye to each other for the entire five minutes.

Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 20: A very weary choir, running on the Spirit, love, and memory, performs two concerts, matinee and evening, in the spectacular former Communist showcase, the restored Schauspielhaus. Tonight, more than 1,500 attenders foot-stamp uproarious ovations. The evening becomes doubly memorable for attenders when administrative assistant of the choir and former [1953 to 1957] mission president over East Germany Herold Gregory steps up to the microphone to wish all a good night and to announce that Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has just voted a few minutes ago to transfer its offices, the nation’s chancellor, and his cabinet from Bonn to Berlin. The response is ear-splitting!

Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 22: A repeat again of emotional and spiritual outpourings. What it must be like not to have had freedom! At 3:30 p. m. the dedication of the first LDS chapel built on Polish soil occurs in Warsaw. Much media attention is given as a result of this “religious initiative.”

Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 24: The third “Music and the Spoken Word” performance is videotaped during this evening’s Bolshoi Theatre concert before 2,400, seated three-deep in the five circular balcony tiers of this renowned hall. For many, another rich, emotional evening occurs, the same as at all concerts in the former Eastern Bloc lands. Hope and the Spirit of the Lord seem to press everywhere!

The first encore, “Hospodi Pomilui” (meaning “Lord, have mercy on us”), a hymn during which that phrase is voiced repetitiously seventy-seven times, seems this night to be as a great prayer of national penance in this land that has been seen by many as a symbol of oppression. The choir’s great, emotional pleading of the words powerfully moves the entire audience.

At the dinner of state held after the concert, the vice president of the Russian Republic announces that on May 28, less than a month ago, this largest of the fifteen republics in the Soviet Union has given official recognition to the Church throughout the entire breadth and depth of the republic, which covers three-quarters of the land mass of the Soviet Union and holds approximately 150 million people.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve joins the choir entourage, enlarged this day by the hundred or more Utahns joining Jon M. Huntsman in the dedication of a factory in Armenia that will produce high-tech concrete to house homeless Armenians suffering from a 1988 earthquake. In appreciation for the service the Church rendered to quake victims, a plot of land in the city of Yerevan is given to the Church by officials of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy express gratitude for the gift. The site will be used to construct a multipurpose building containing offices, a Church meetinghouse, and residences for Church volunteer workers helping to train Armenians in home construction.

Leningrad, Russia, Thursday, June 27: How is it possible for the emotional, spiritual, and musical highs to keep on going! Tonight six encores are performed to a cheering, crying audience! For the second time, an audience will not stop clapping until the last choir member has walked offstage, audience and choir members poignantly waving good-bye to each other.

“Wonderful! Wonderful! Spiritual! Spiritual! Leningrad is happy again! This is a holiday,” calls out a man in strongly Russian-accented English. The concerts are now over. But a day remains for visiting new Russian friends and tomorrow’s closing fireside of choir music and the testimonies of Russian converts. Elder Nelson tells the choir: “You have been totally successful in all we expected you to do.”