Wednesday July 6, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland- Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour ~
Today marks the half-way point of our whirlwind tour. It’s hard to believe how fast it seems to be going by. I don’t want it to end yet, so I’m relieved we still have many more adventures ahead. Best of all, we still have 4 more Concerts – and tonight is one of them!
On The Road Again
We were up early for our final Breakfast Buffet in Munich. Then we loaded the buses for our long day; driving to Zürich, Switzerland for a concert and then taking another “red-eye” bus ride to Frankfurt, Germany afterward.
Somewhere between Munich and Zürick we drove past an amusement park. I had to take a photo for Mr. Mo because he LOVES Roller-coasters. He hasn’t been able to discover what the name of the park is [anyone know?]. We saw several lovely sights out of our windows as we drove by. We briefly passed through the top corner of Austria during this trip. So, we were actually in THREE countries today within 5 hours. Europe is cool like that.
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Time To Spare
Our first surprise of the day – Our bus arrived at the Hallenstadion a whole hour ahead of schedule! The stage crew was hard at work getting everything set up for our afternoon sound check. The Hallenstadion is actually a large hockey arena, but tonight it will be transformed into a concert hall with flooring covering the ice, and black drapes being hung around the walls to cover billboards and help acoustics. There will also be some very nice stage lighting projected onto black drops behind the Choir, and we found out we will actually be filmed and projected onto two large screens. This will be our largest audience on this tour of about 8,000 people!
Since lunch would not be ready for another 2 hours and our sound check wouldn’t happen for another hour after that, several Choir members decided to get a little fresh air and perhaps find some Swiss Chocolate. From outside the stadium I could see the spires of two beautiful churches topping a nearby hill, so a group of us decided to make the trek and go exploring!
Of course, we all had to stop and pose with the posters advertising our concert outside the Hallenstadion! I never get tired of seeing our concerts being advertised in foreign languages. I’m still pinching myself I am actually getting to sing in Switzerland.
The Reformed Church of Zürich-Oerlikon
Zürich is the largest and capitol city of Switzerland. Today, we are in the very northern part of Zürich, in an area called Oerlikon. The climb to the first church was a lot steeper than we expected! Many of the streets and homes in this part of town remind me of San Francisco, CA.
The beautiful Reformierte Kirche Zürich-Oerlikon [Reformed Church] was built in 1906. It is a classic “Swiss Church” style, and there are also many Art Nouveau elements. The 4-sided clock tower majestically rises over the church below. Becuase the church is also built on a hill above street-level, the spire seems even more massive. The front door was locked, but luckily, a back door was open so that we could quietly slip inside and enjoy the stunning interior. Each of the four quarters of the inner domed design are framed with either gorgeous stained glass, or the organ. I also loved the paintings and the raised podium.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, its presence going back to the Roman era. The Reformation came to Zürich in 1519. Since then, Switzerland has been divided primarily into Roman Catholic and Reformed confessions. A 2012 Swiss census reports that 27% of the Swiss population are registered members of a Reformed cantonal church.
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The next church we wanted to see was only about a half mile walk away, gratefully it was a downward slope this time. It was simply the most lovely day! The sun was shining. The weather was a perfect temperature. This was such a special surprise to get to spend some time outdoors, and seeing something of this beautiful city! We expected we would just be stuck inside the stadium all day. So, this was simply delightful to have the opportunity to stretch our legs, soak up some sunshine and breathe some fresh Swiss air.
The Church of the Sacred Heart – Oerlikon
The second beautiful church we visited is Herz-Jesu Oerlikon [The Church of the Sacred Heart], and it is a Roman Catholic parish.
According to its website the original church on this site was built in 1893. There have been multiple rebuilds, additions and renovations documented over the past eleven decades. Their most recent upgrade was in 2003.
We fell in love with the 19th Century organ here, which was actually being played for a rehearsal with a violinist up in the choir loft.
We sat for awhile enjoying the music and the beautiful simplicity of the church with its unique wooden ceiling and whitewashed walls. The Mary Chapel in the rear of the church is also very beautiful. When I took my photo I noticed there was an otherworldly sacred glow on the statue. Perhaps a sunbeam through the stained-glass window?
The unique bell tower with it’s Gothic turrets and open three-sided clock was added in 1907.
Like the Reformed Church we visited first, this stunning clock tower can also be seen for many miles. Its gold accents glisten brightly in the sun. It would have been exciting to hear the bells chime in both of these towers – or even one – but neither played while we were here today. As of 2014, the parish of the Sacred Heart Oerlikon has 6,565 members. It is the third largest Roman Catholic parish of Zurich. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion of Switzerland with 38.21% of the population registered.
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I also took a few extra minutes to wander around the nearby cemetery. I love how they have garden areas for each grave site, and each of them are beautifully tended.
What I Didn’t See – Lucerne
While I was exploring the churches in Oerlikon, and then working on the sound check in the Hallenstadion, Mr. Mo was off with the tour guests exploring the beautiful Swiss storybook village of Lucerne [“Luzern” in German]!
Perched on the banks of Lake Lucerne, this Altstadt (Old Town) is a gateway city to hiking, skiing and other outdoor adventures in the nearby Swiss Alps. Here are some of his favorite photos – click any image to enlarge:
A First Time For Everything
Tonight’s concert is a night of firsts for this European Tour.
Our first [and only] time on this tour to have a dressing room that properly accommodates us.
Our first [and only] performance on this tour in a Stadium converted into a concert hall, with a very large audience, being filmed and projected onto two big screens like a rock concert.
Our first [and only] time on this tour to wear our fucsia dress [which looks red in stage lighting] – in honor of the Swiss flag.
Two Sisters From Verona
When our announcer Lloyd Newell thanked everyone for coming tonight, he acknowledged that “many have traveled far distances to attend this concert”. Because of Mr. Mo, I know that two of those people came from Verona, Italy. He enjoyed watching the concert “through their eyes” and sharing their story with me.
The sisters were aged their late 60s – early 70s. They had driven 7 hours together one-way just to attend our concert. The younger of the two sisters knew a little bit of English, so she was able to speak with my husband. She told him that they converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they were in their late teens, baptized on the same day. They both served LDS missions in their homeland as young women, and have continued to give faithful service in the church the rest of their lives. The younger sister shared that many years ago she traveled to Salt Lake City and had the chance to hear the Choir perform in the Tabernacle. She has dreamed ever since of being able to hear them again. Her older sister has never been outside of Europe. She was afraid she would die without ever being able to see or hear the Choir in person.
Tonight, their dreams came true.
Mr. Mo glanced at the sisters from time to time as they experienced the performance. Both of them sat very still and focused when Choir began to sing. From time to time they would lean forward and cover the side of their faces with their hands – he finally realized they were trying to hide their tears. By the second half, they were holding hands and smiling while freely wiping away tears. Toward the end of the concert, when the Choir began to sing well known hymns, the two sisters quietly sang along together in Italian. When we concluded with “God be with you ’til we meet again” they openly sobbed. They told Mr. Mo it was the “greatest blessing” of their lives to be able to attend this concert together to hear the Choir sing. They asked him to thank the Choir and Orchestra for coming, because they felt it was all just for them! They planned to spend the night in a hotel in Zurich and then get an early start the next morning for their 7 hour return trip.
God knew what they needed, and He sent us.
That is what this Tour is all about!- MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Visits Switzerland For The First Time in 25 Years
As much as I enjoy hearing about the places you’re going, and seeing the pictures, the story of the two Italian sisters really touched my heart. I couldn’t read it without getting teary eyed myself. How sweet they were and how good God is to bless them that way. I hope someday to hear the Choir in person myself. However, if it doesn’t happen in this lifetime, I know it will in the next.
Love you Holly,
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I agree – with both! 🙂