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In a 'grand night for singing,' Broadway-themed concert celebrates Pioneer Day

In a "grand night for singing," the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square celebrated the 171st anniversary of the arrival of the first pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley with the Broadway-themed concert, “Music for a Summer Evening,” on July 20.

Before the Broadway numbers were kicked off, the choir and orchestra performed “They, the Builders of the Nation,” and, “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” which featured visuals of pioneers pulling handcarts through rivers and snow before the concert moved on wholeheartedly to songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from musicals such as “Oklahoma!” “The King and I,” and “The Sound of Music.”

Interspersed through the performance, narrator Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of the famed lyricist, gave context to the musical selections and plays. “Their songs remain as popular today as when they were last written,” he said. “These songs are still played over and over. The names Rodgers and Hammerstein have essentially become one word.”

The lasting success of Rodgers and Hammerstein is because the memorable songs “are set into wonderfully well-written stories that people want to tell over and over again,” Hammerstein said. “The secret of the show is the story.”

This isn’t Hammerstein’s first time with the choir and orchestra. Last year, he narrated “Music: It Runs in the Family,” the 2017 RootsTech concert.

The Pioneer Day concert featured special guests Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly. Morrison is an Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award nominated singer, dancer and actor, most recognizable from his role in the television series “Glee.” Kelly is a Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress and singer for her role as Mary Poppins, and has performed for many other musical productions in radio, television and concert.

“What a privilege to be here singing with this choir and orchestra,” Morrison told the audience.

Having toured all over the United States, Kelly said that this was her first time in Utah. “It’s such a beautiful city here and such a heavenly choir and orchestra,” she said.

Together, they created an affable presence on stage to engage and entertain the audience, especially with songs like “Oklahoma,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy.”

The song “When I Marry Mister Snow,” held significance for Kelly. She told the audience that she recently became engaged. “He has my heart, so I’m thinking of him when I sing this to you,” she told them.

Morrison and Kelly concluded the concert, along with the choir and orchestra, with the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from the musical, “Carousel,” earning a standing ovation from the audience.

Hammerstein explained that the lyrics are true of every pioneer:

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone,

You'll never walk alone.

While tickets for Saturday’s performance are sold out, “Music for a Summer Evening” will be live broadcast on mormontabernaclechoir.org at 8 p.m. and available for on-demand viewing at MoTab.org/pioneerday following the live stream. Visit mormontabernaclechoir.org for more details to view the performance.