VANCOUVER, Canada — For Calgary-born alto Carol Salmon, few things are better than celebrating Canada Day Weekend with hundreds of her closest friends/fellow Mormon Tabernacle Choir members.
“And then performing in front of my fellow Canadians is extra special,” she said.
No surprise, Salmon circled Saturday’s concert in Vancouver’s historic Orpheum Theatre long before the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square embarked on the ongoing 2018 Classic Coast Tour.
She’s not the only choir member with a maple leaf-shaped heart.
Alberta native Karen Hornberger is also spending one of Canada’s key national holidays performing in her homeland.
“This is the first time the choir has been in western Canada since I’ve been in the choir,” she said. “It’s fun to think I can share a little of that spirit of the choir and this music with the people in this part of Canada, so close to home.
“It’s such an honor to be part of the people’s celebration here. This will be a Canada Day I’ll always remember.”
The Church enjoys a long and rich history in the world’s second largest (geographically speaking) nation. In 1830, Joseph Smith Sr. and Don Carlos Smith crossed into Canada to tell friends about the Book of Mormon, according to the Church’s Canada website, Canada.lds.org. Key figures from early Latter-day Saint history also ventured here, including Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt.
Meanwhile, southern Alberta became a center of strength for the Church around the turn of the 20th century, culminating in the construction of Canada’s first temple, the Cardston Alberta Temple.
Both President Thomas S. Monson and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided over missions in Canada. Today, there are almost 200,000 members and several temples in operation in this vast North American nation.
Saturday’s concert comes at an odd moment in U.S.-Canada relations. Trade disputes between the two long-allied nations have snagged recent headlines. But no hint of tension was felt at the packed Orpheum Theatre.
“It’s the mission of the choir and the orchestra to create bonds and make friends,” said Salmon. “We can bring peace, joy and opportunities to build bridges.”
A 13-year veteran of the choir, Salmon brought to Vancouver emotional memories of a past performance in her homeland.
“When we sang (national anthem) ‘O Canada’ during a soundcheck for a concert in Toronto I honestly lost it,” she said.
Under the direction of Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy, the choir and orchestra performed a program Saturday designed for a classic indoor venue. The first half of the concert in the nearly century-old facility included hymns of praise and a collection of “sacred song” that crossed over centuries, including Handel’s “How Excellent Thy Name” and Rossini’s “Cum Sancto Spiritu.” Each selection built upon the next, so the audience was asked to refrain from applause until the intermission.
The second half featured rousing Mormon Tabernacle Choir favorites — including “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “Battle of Jericho” that all but demanded an audience response.
The tour’s penultimate concert had a decidedly Canadian feel. Vancouver Chamber Choir conductor and artistic director Jon Washburn led the choir and orchestra during an encore performance of “This Land is Your Land” with modified Canadian lyrics:
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From Bonavista to Vancouver Island;
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters,
This land was made for you and me.
“That felt pretty darn good,” said Washburn moments after stepping off the stage.
A dual citizen of Canada and the United States, Washburn enjoyed celebrating Canada Day Weekend 2018 with the iconic choir and orchestra. “It’s a particular honor to represent your country. It stirs you to sing a patriotic song.”
The choir and orchestra now return to the U.S. northwest for its final concert of the tour on Monday in Seattle.