Our Not-Quite Tabernacle Choir
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“Our Not-Quite Tabernacle Choir,” Liahona, Dec. 1998, 36

Our Not-Quite Tabernacle Choir

During the 1993 Christmas season I was serving as a missionary in India. The first week in December, three days after I arrived, I was asked to help organize and direct a choir in the Bangalore Branch because the members wanted to participate in an annual choir festival held in Bangalore. Neither my companion, Sister Annie Christensen from Utah, nor I was aware of what this festival entailed, but we agreed to help out.

I selected “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” (Hymns, number 212) to sing in the program, and 16 people attended two enthusiastic rehearsals held on the roof of a member’s home. They were not familiar with singing in parts, so we sang in unison without musical accompaniment. If a piano was available at the festival, I would play instead of direct.

The date of the performance arrived. As we stepped down from our harrowing motorized ricksha ride to downtown Bangalore, we stood astonished before a huge city building. It was draped with a large banner that read “Festival of Christmas Music.” Stunned, we walked up the broad flight of stairs and into the foyer, which was filled with costumed participants. This festival was a big event!

We scrambled to get one of the printed programs. Listed were the names of several church, college, and university choirs. We looked for our group and gasped as we read, “LDS Choir (Mormon’s Tabernacle).” We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We found a quiet place and pleaded for heavenly help. I turned to my companion and said, “You’ll need to direct the choir!”

She replied, “I’ve never done that before in my life!”

“Just smile,” I assured her. “Wave your arm in a figure eight and look confident.”

When the curtain opened for our number, my companion had our Indian “Mormon’s Tabernacle” choir arranged on risers ready to perform. All seven of the sisters on the front row wore beautiful saris, and the nine men behind them wore suits. Sister Christensen, as director, was magnificent. She even took a bow!

Then I took a deep breath, walked on stage, and sat down at the piano. My companion raised her hand and started her figure eight, and I played the first chord. The sound that came from the choir and piano shocked me, and I could hardly play. It sounded as if the real Tabernacle Choir were singing that night.

I knew then that our prayers had been answered and that there must have been a choir of angels singing along with our little group. As the last note sounded, there was silence. Then, in the auditorium, thunderous applause erupted. The curtains closed, and we wept with joy. Guess who won a prize that night? We did!

The fourth verse of the carol we sang that evening reads, “Hasten the time when, from ev’ry clime, Men shall unite in the strains sublime: Glory to God, … Peace on earth, goodwill to men!” The voices of many, both seen and unseen, must have united that night in Bangalore, India, in singing praises to the Lord.

Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay