July 24, 1847, for those of you who are not members of theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the day that Brigham Young stood on the mountain overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and said, "this is the right place."
July 24 is a state holiday, and Salt Lake has a huge celebration including a parade and many things that go on leading up to this day.
One of the things that happens, the morning of the parade is a Sunrise Service held in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square.
The acoustics in this building are such that you can stand at the back of the building and they can drop a pin in the front, and you can hear it drop. Likewise when you stop singing, you can hear the reverberation for at least the count of 4 or 5. The Tabernacle is the home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir . This is where the historic broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word originate and have since 1929. The program has since become the world's longest-running continuous network broadcast.
Anyhoo, enough history. The Tabernacle has been closed for the last two years and was being renovated so it stands up to building code and earthquake standards. It just recently reopened in April.
Back to the Sunrise Service. Our choir director is on the Days of '47 committee and helps to plan the Sunrise Service, therefore we, choir members, get the opportunity to sing in the Tabernacle. It is such a privilege.
Today, the keynote speaker, Ronald Rasband spoke about the hardships of his ancestors who were among the pioneers in the Willie Martin Handcart Company who came West late in the season and as a result of this late start suffered many hardships in order to get to the Valley. He told of his ancestor, Sarah, a young 18 year old girl at the time, and how she pulled a handcart across the prairie in some of the most brutal weather and snow storms. How her smaller brother suffered from frostbite on one hand, and later had to have the fingers removed without anesthetic.
The story was touching and brought tears to my eyes. But that became worse when I looked up and our director was standing ready to cue us into our next song which I suddenly realized was "When You Walk Through a Storm". Yes we have been practicing this since our last concert, in mid July, but the fact that these people had walked through one of the most brutal storms ever, made the words to the song even more poignant and made the page hard to see through the tears. Then we sang Come, Come Ye Saints .
I talked to Elder Rasband after the concert, and he asked me if we knew what his topic was. As far as I know, our director did not. Which brings the chill bumps to the arms.
I have sung in the Tabernacle twice before in the Sunrise Service. I don't know if it was the fact that it has been closed and is now re-opened, or the speaker or the songs, or maybe a combination of all the above, but this was a highlight to my singing career, and is something I shall never forget.