Choir concert thanks Quincy for kindness
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QUINCY, Ill. For 163 years, this city has been warmly remembered by the Church for the generosity of its citizens in sheltering oppressed Latter-day Saints who crossed the Mississippi River from Missouri. On June 28, the Church said thank you through a concert put on by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
An audience of 1,700 filled the Morrison Theater to capacity for the 90-minute program, the proceeds of which were donated to the Quincy Area Community Foundation, a public charity. The concert was co-sponsored with broadcasting station WGEM by the Quincy Hearld-Whig, a newspaper that existed in 1839, when the beleaguered Church members were given refuge in the city.
"We come here as those who love and appreciate the city of Quincy, Ill.," President Gordon B. Hinckley declared to the audience during the program.
"In the annals of our Church, the city of Quincy and its citizens will always occupy a position of the highest esteem. We shall always be grateful for the kindness, the hospitality, the civility with which your people met our people who were exiles from the state of Missouri. When Gov. Boggs issued his infamous extermination order, our people were compelled to leave the state of Missouri. It's almost impossible to comprehend in this day and time that such a thing could occur. But the fact is it did occur, and they traveled across most of the state of Missouri seeking asylum, not knowing where to go or what to do. And the citizens of Quincy welcomed them, took them in, sheltered them for the winter which was all about them until they were able to find a place up the river in Nauvoo, where they established that beautiful city on the Mississippi."
President Hinckley said the choir's performance was an expression of appreciation to the community for what occurred, and as a further expression, the choir was contributing $75,000, the proceeds of the concert.
"I don't have the check with me," he said playfully, prompting appreciative laughter. "They already have it in the bank. And there it will become a corpus for great civic endeavors and the blessings of the people of this wondrous community, which we shall always hold in sweet remembrance."
Quincy Mayor Charles Scholz responded: "Mr. President, as our forefathers welcomed the saints in their time of need, we renew that welcome tonight, and we add to it our sincere gratitude and appreciation for your generosity and our congratulations on the completion of this beautiful and historic temple in Nauvoo."
The mayor noted that the logistics for the concert were handled by the sponsoring newspaper, "an institution that spans, like the bonds between the Church and this community, the 19th, 20th and 21st century."
That continuing good will seemed to be reflected in the responsiveness of the audience to the program of nearly a score of hymns, anthems, choral masterworks, and folk songs. With applause lasting more than a minute and a half, the audience demanded a double encore and gasped with delight when it was announced one of the closing selections would be the choir's signature tune, "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
At one point in the program, choir announcer Lloyd Newell asked members in the choir to stand who trace their ancestral roots through Nauvoo and Quincy. More than two thirds of the choir stood. "I count myself among them," Brother Newell said.
After an enthusiastically received performance of "Come, Come, Ye Saints," the announcer said: "We come to Quincy to remember and give thanks." Recounting the events of Church members being forced from Missouri, he quoted a March 1839 editorial in the Quincy Whig saying, "We hasten to invite the attention of the charitable and humane to [the Mormons'] destitute condition. Having been robbed of their all, in most instances, by their merciless oppressors in Missouri, they have been compelled to hurry out of the state."
"The benevolent people of Quincy responded with compassion and generosity," Brother Newell remarked. "Opening their hearts and homes, they helped the saints find shelter, food and jobs. They listened to reports from the leaders of the Church and passed resolutions condemning Missouri's treatment of the Mormons. They stood firmly for the right, rejecting a cultural and religious genocide."
He said the humanitarian gesture is "more than a footnote to the 172-year history of the Church. . . . It represents the finest in a tradition of American ideals. . . . Quincy bears a legacy of mercy that ripples down through the centuries, reminding us that the milk of human kindness is always more powerful than force or fury. Those who oppress and do evil, those who willfully hurt others and trod under foot basic human rights have their moment and they soon fade to oblivion. But those who show mercy are never forgotten."
A large display of articles and photos on the front page of the Herald-Whig the next day reflected the impact the concert had made in the city.
"I think that I can't remember an event like this where virtually everyone you saw or spoke to on the street was talking about it," said Mary Winters, assistant general manager of the newspaper, who worked with choir officers in arranging for the concert. "To think you could sit in your own hometown and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir defies expression. I couldn't believe I was sitting in the place where I went to junior high school and hearing the choir sing."
Located in Quincy Junior High School, an immense city landmark built in the 1930s, the Morrison Theater has been refurbished in the last 20 years and is "close to acoustically perfect," she said. Still, it was necessary to bring in a portable air-conditioning system for the concert, because public schools are typically closed in the summer, when air conditioning is necessary.
Prior to the concert, Craig Jessop, musical director, other choir officers and Church representatives were feted at a reception, where a set of keys to the original Nauvoo Temple was displayed. The 16 hand-wrought keys have been in the possession of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County since the 1940s. The society received them from descendants of Artois Hamilton, owner of the Hamilton House Hotel in Carthage, Ill., where the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith were prepared following the martyrdom to be sent back to Nauvoo for burial. Prior to the Latter-day Saints' exodus from Nauvoo in 1846, the keys were reportedly given to Mr. Hamilton by President Brigham Young in appreciation for the hotel owner's efforts.