“It feels so good to finally be able to share our music live with a public audience following the pandemic,” said Michael O. Leavitt, president of the Choir. “Choir and Orchestra members have been looking forward to the summer concert for many weeks to inspire, uplift, and bless the world through their faith-filled music.”
They were joined by guest artist and baritone Shea Owens, director of opera at Brigham Young University (BYU).
“It was heartbreaking when the pandemic forced so many of us to stop working for a time. I will never take for granted the opportunity to make music in person again,” Owens said.
“While I’ve performed with a number of orchestras and choirs in my career, this is my first time performing with a group of this size and caliber. You create a community, a family, when you do something like this, and I’m thrilled to be a part of The Tabernacle Choir family now,” he added.
The Choir and Orchestra’s presentation, titled “Love Thy Neighbor: A Special Tabernacle Choir Event,” featured music and narration designed to share feelings of comfort and hope during today’s troubled times, inspire kindness, and concern and encourage Christlike outreach in everyone.
“Now more than ever, the world needs the comfort and peace the Choir’s music brings,” President Leavitt said. “The music and message of the concert will focus on the Savior’s second commandment to ‘love thy neighbor.’ We hope to help those watching and listening to feel closer to God, experience His love, and feel prompted to share that love with others.”
Owens continued, “One of my favorite lines from the program is from the song ‘Thankful’: ‘Even with our differences, there is a place [where] we’re all connected. Each of us can find each other’s light.’ I hope all of us can make a greater effort to find the good in others around us.”
In keeping with tradition, the July performance opens with songs and a short tribute to the Latter-day Saint pioneers to commemorate the 175th anniversary of their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Other selections on the program include “Fill the World With Love” from “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” and “Love One Another,” “Where Love Is” and “Hold On” from “The Secret Garden.”
Members of the Choir provided the narration for the in-person event. Mack Wilberg, music director, and Ryan Murphy, associate music director, are conducting the music.
Audience members were also given an opportunity to scan a QR code during the performance to share a new Choir video with their friends and family on social media.
Shea Owens was recently a member of the ensemble at the Theater St. Gallen in Switzerland. His roles included Belcore in “L’elisir d’amore,” Marcello in “La bohème,” Valentin in “Faust” and Alvaro in Catán’s “Florencia en el Amazonas,” among others. He sang as Colonel Ricci in Sondheim’s “Passion” at the Théâtre du Chátelet.
He recently sang his first performances of the title role of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with BYU’s choirs at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. He also returned this season to Utah Opera as Samuel in “The Pirates of Penzance,” after previously joining the company as a member of its Resident Artists Program.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to make a professional career out of [singing], starting out in New York City and eventually moving to Europe,” Owens said. “I returned to the States last year to become the director of opera at my alma mater, Brigham Young University. My wife, Madison, is also a professional singer, and in the fall, we welcomed our first child into the world. And thankfully our singing helps to calm him down when he’s fussy.”
Owens received a bachelor’s degree in music from BYU and a master’s degree in music from Rice University.
Watch the entire special Tabernacle Choir event below.