Tabernacle Cathedral Hall, Salt Lake City, ca. 1970
Gimme that ol’ time religion...
That isn’t a phrase I use too often, and for theological reasons, I won’t expound upon. If it wasn’t for a recent CD that found its way into my mailbox this month;
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
, I would bend my ear to newer, fresher perspectives.
Come Thou is a collection of American folk hymns and spirituals performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra, recorded in May, 2008 at the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City under the direction of Mack Wilberg.
As a child, I grew up visiting my grandmother who lived up the street from my home and she was a regular viewer of the MTC. I can remember she would have Billy Graham on the radio and the Choir on the tube. Our family vacation even took us to see the Tabernacle in the 1960s and '70s.
The 1980s found me as a Top-40 college radio DJ by day and a member of the college concert choir by night, while listening to the burgeoning Jesus-music, contemporary Christian music of the period.
My classical music background was growing as well; dating music majors, performing in the Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, and the occasional P.D.Q. Bach choral underground performance.
Grownup life, however, pulled me away from such a rich and varied experience in order to keep up with my kids' musical tastes, modern church life and my own musical escapism.
What a wonderful surprise to land this album.
is a touch of angelic grandeur in a revival tent. It blends the hope of the spiritual with the profound theology of hymn writers like Isaac Watts, John Newton and Will L. Thompson.
While the presence of the orchestra would seem to place it firmly in a concert setting; as opposed to what I’m accustomed (piano, organ, guitars and drums in my home church), having the fullness of the orchestral sound transports me at best, to a holy place or at least a simpler time.
The Mack Wilberg and Moses Hogan arrangements capture the hope and faith of previous generations, at the same time it brings it to an era of iPods. Even for my wife, who was familiar with Alison Krauss’ performance of "Down to the River to Pray" from the Coen Brother’s film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, the MTC recording brought tears to her eyes and I suspect will be soon worn off the disk.
is a wonderful offering that crosses that divide between an appreciation for a classical interpretation of American folk-religious music and the spirituality that is sometimes lacking from most professional orchestras and choruses. Not bad considering they're an all-volunteer chorus and orchestra.