Photo courtesy of Millennial Choirs and Orchestras.
Vowels of “For the Beauty of the Earth” echoed through exhibit hall B during warm-ups at the Utah Valley Convention Center on Tuesday. The adult chorus was practicing good posture, pronouncing “eh as in flesh” and singing with depth in preparation for their concert a week away.
Their conductor reminded the accomplished vocalists to “sing with passion, commitment and storytelling” before they rehearsed “O Magnum Mysterium”—a breathtakingly beautiful piece that filled every square inch of the hall.
Hundreds of Utah singers and instrumentalists ages 4–68 will gather to give Utah Valley Millennial Choirs and Orchestras’ inaugural performance at Abravanel Hall (123 W. South Temple, SLC) on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The Christmas concert features four non-audition youth choirs, a professional adult choir and a symphony orchestra. The program is called “Portraits of Christmas” and will feature a range of music including traditional Christmas songs, perhaps unfamiliar pieces and new arrangements.
“The little 4-year-olds are going to sing the traditional ‘Up on the Housetop,’ accompanied by full symphony orchestra,” says Cory Mendenhall, director of Utah Valley Millennial Choirs and Orchestras. “And we’ve got some songs from ‘The Polar Express,’ which is really exciting for the orchestra to play and the children to sing. And then we’ve got traditional beautiful Christmas carols that are sure to stir the Christmas spirit within everyone in attendance.”
This group is just part of the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras (MCO), which has more than 2,000 participants in locations in California, Arizona, Texas and now Utah.
“MCO did not come to Utah to replace anything. It simply wants to add to the rich choral tradition of excellence that Utah is known for,” Mendenhall says.
Two brothers, Brandon and Brett Stewart, founded the organization in Orange County, Calif., in 2007 to teach and encourage excellence in both sacred and classical music. The website for MCO says it is the largest organization of its kind.
“To be able to have this surge of wonderful music that’s being performed all across America, it’s exciting to be a part of it,” says Mark Petersen, managing director of UVMCO, who participates with his wife.
MCO’s motto is “all ages, all faiths, one voice.” The Utah Valley chapter of MCO has 150 children and youth singers, 260 adult singers and 70 instrumentalists. Four musical directors lead the entire organization, with each one focused in a certain area.
“I’m so proud of their unashamed disposition to really give the true spirit of Christmas away at this special time of year,” Mendenhall says. “That’s something that they really all possess and they truly want to share.”
He said there are no egos, simply a hundred percent willingness and desire to share—not something you find everywhere in the business of performing.
“This is top-notch to me, so it’s really neat to be a part of it,” says Triest Graham, a choir member from Pleasant Grove. “I remember we would finish up rehearsal and (Mendenhall) would say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait until next Thursday!’”
Graham is in the choir with her husband, as well as four other people she studied music with at Brigham Young University–Idaho.
“I think the best part is hearing all the combined voices come together with the orchestra in a singular expression of love and gratitude for the divine and for a free country in which we’re allowed to enjoy such fine art,” Mendenhall says.
Those interested in participating can sign up now for next semester. Adults must sign up for January auditions, and all the choirs have fees. Through Friday, Nov. 29, there is a Black Friday discount.