Have you ever experienced something so amazing and surreal that you wonder if it is really happening, or if it is just a fantasy? In that dream-like state, you keep hoping you can stay asleep just a little bit longer. That’s what I experienced on Tuesday night, September 22, 2021. In my dream, I was sitting in my usual seat of the Choir loft of the Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. I gazed out at the vast 4-tiered auditorium filled with row upon row of its 21,000 maroon colored seats. Beside, above, and below me were dear friends, fellow Choir members.
Our director, Brother Mack Wilberg was standing at the podium smiling, welcoming all of us back, and giving musical instructions. Then, raising his arms, and giving a flick of his wrist the mighty organ began to play, and I began to sing! I was joined by more than a hundred other voices, immediately enveloped in the warm, familiar sound of praise that can only come from the Tabernacle Choir.
I was back. I was home! Oh, how I had almost forgotten this glorious feeling! It’s been a long 555 days. Please don’t wake me from this dream just yet.
And then, something marvelous and unexpected happened. Or rather, didn’t happen.
I did not wake up.
It was not a dream after all! I was actually singing and rehearsing in the Conference Center – working hard with fellow Choir members in preparation for the upcoming General Conference of our Church. In fact, within minutes it almost felt as if the previous 19 months of COVID-19 pandemic shut-down had been one long, terrible nightmare and the evil spell was finally broken. Now it was finally time to awake, arise, shine forth, and joyfully “sing our hearts out”!
Plans and Prayers
The Choir is pioneering rigid safety protocols for its Comeback, carefully designed by an A-Team of leading physicians, scientists and other health experts. A 7-layered plan [following the proven “swiss cheese model“] is being overseen by the new Choir President, former Utah governor and U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, Michael Leavitt.
The mammoth undertaking is created to protect each participant, prevent the spread of disease, and allow the mission of the Choir to proceed. Our “seven layers” are as follows:
- Full vaccination required, and documented.
- Wearing N-95 masks at all times when not performing.
- Passing a rapid test administered by trained professionals each time we arrive, and prior to entrance into the choir loft.
- Distanced seating [splitting singers into two Choirs, with separate rehearsal schedules for the two days of Conference].
- Washing hands & disinfecting surfaces.
- Self-reporting of any potential COVID-19 exposure or symptoms [not coming to rehearsal if there is any known exposure or potential illness].
- Rehearsing and performing in a properly ventilated space [the Conference Center passed a rigorous test]
Bonus Number 8 = Prayer.
Is this a 100% fool-proof come-back plan? Nope.
Nothing is ever 100% with a rapidly mutating virus. We know that by now, right? However, it’s a solid effort. I work in healthcare. My medical team and I personally believe this is the very best laid out plan anyone could possibly have right now to safely return to large group activities – especially when it involves singing! [a notoriously dangerous activity during COVID]
I am hopeful, and prayerful, that if we do our part to follow every possible precaution available to us, we can make this work. I also know that circumstances could change at any moment. If I’ve learned anything over the past 19 months it’s to roll with it! However, despite the risk, to me this plan is worth the effort. More than anything, I want to help share the Choir’s unique music with the world; to provide a much needed balm for wounded souls, and solace to troubled hearts.
Music is the language of the soul; it expresses ideas and feelings using a much higher level of communication than words. Music can create a sacred bond between people, removing any barriers due to differences. Music really is the universal love language of humanity! More than ever before, this kind of communication is desperately needed!
In the immortal words of Robert Lowry;
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
Be safe my friends. Do everything you can to protect yourself and others [watch this video]. Together, we are strong enough to conquer a global pandemic, and heal a broken world. Soon, we will see our “long night” reach an end. We will wake to a much better, and brighter day ahead, and together we will sing Hallelujah!