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March 8, 2005

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Dominates Classical Charts

Billboard (NY):

In recent weeks, a full 20% of the 15 titles on the Top Classical Albums chart have been occupied by one act. Those three spots do not belong to some fresh-faced newcomers, but to one of the choral world's most venerable institutions: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Its newest album, "Choose Something Like a Star," released Feb. 15, celebrates the music of American composer Randall Thompson. It debuted at No. 3. Like its chart-topping brethren "America's Choir: Favorite Songs, Hymns, & Anthems" and "Peace Like a River," this latest MTC release comes from the group's own label, also called Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which was established two years ago.

"I'm really astounded by this success," says the choir's music director, Craig Jessop. "It says that there's really a market out there for us. People are looking for something that brings peace, comfort and hope."

The 54-year-old Jessop says he feels very close to Thompson's music. "I met him in 1983, while I was director of the U.S. Air Force's Singing Sergeants," the conductor recalls. "Thompson died only a year later. I think of this album as a wonderful tribute to a great composer whose work isn't very well-known." The conductor says his group's enthusiasm and love of music has found root not just in its home base of Utah, but nationwide and on its trips abroad as well. (The group's next tour is in June to the West Coast; its next planned album is a recording of lullabies spanning Brahms to newly composed works.)

At the same time, however, Jessop says that the all-volunteer choir's foundation was built in coming together, week-in and week-out, in rehearsals and performances broadcast from its home base in Salt Lake City. "We're a church choir, first and foremost," he says. "The choral legend Robert Shaw was one of my great teachers," Jessop says. "One of the things that he said that always stuck with me is that you can't import culture. It has to be a real part of the community. You need to live in that community, nurture that community and let it grow."

Posted by acapnews at March 8, 2005 12:23 AM