Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Photo: Deb Gehris

Tour Diary 2—Berlin: A Remarkable Beginning for the 2016 Tour

By Barry Hillam, Orchestra at Temple Square member


For the Choir and Orchestra members, our morning in Berlin was a time of learning about an isolated Berlin—and about the wall that ran through the city from 1961 to 1989. Our evening was a time of connection with the people of this storied city, in what is sure to be remembered as one of the most transcendent tour concerts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

From our morning visit to the Berlin Wall Museum, we learned that after World War II, newly occupied Germany was partitioned among the four prevailing allied powers in 1945: England, France, United States, and Russia.  Even though the city of Berlin was well within the Soviet (eastern) portion of this new Germany, it too was partitioned among the four allied powers. This created a microcosm of the larger country of which it was the capital. However, this also created the geographic and strategic island known as West Berlin.

Our evening concert took place at the home of the storied musical venue known as the Berlin Philharmonie. The highest possible standard for musical performance has been set through the years since it was built in 1963.

Several of our pieces took on a special new significance as we performed them in this place -- especially in light of our visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial: as we wondered how we could possibly pay tribute to the lives affected by this wall, the concert selection from Mack Wilberg's Requiem provided an answer, as its pleading, mortal string motive was reassuringly matched to the tone and text of a heavenly choral layer.

In the second half of our concert, we celebrated the toppling of city walls in "The Battle of Jericho." The end of the piece was not met with a "Bravo!" shout, but instead by a surprising, single "Whoa!!" Then more shouts and enthusiastic applause came after that. After all, who besides Berliners would feel such a strong kinship to a song about the destruction of a city wall?

Our concert ended with encores, unison clapping, gifts of flowers, and many tears from both sides of the stage. It was the result of a convergence of an incredible venue, a heartfelt and well-executed musical gift, and a gracious audience. This concert will be fondly remembered by all who were in attendance.