News Story

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tours West Coast

Performance in Northern California offers message of hope

Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are spending part of their summer on a seven-city tour of the West Coast. They wrapped up their visit to California on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, with a concert at Weill Hall and Lawn at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, one of three performances in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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The 365-member choir and orchestra, known as “America’s Choir,” brought a message of hope to the community that was heavily impacted by wildfires last October. In fact, the choir dedicated the Rohnert Park performance to the fire survivors. About 3,500 people attended the concert in the indoor and outdoor venue.

The fires destroyed thousands of buildings, including thousands of homes in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Jack and Janet Reisner lost their house when the flames swept through their Coffey Park neighborhood.

“It was like one of the worst days in our lives, but it was one of the best days of our life because I think it wasn't until then that we really realized what we do have instead of what we don't have,” said Janet Reisner. “I think one of the things that has helped … is our faith community.”

Residents are now in the process of rebuilding. Homes are being framed and utilities are being restored.

Music Heals

The Reisners attended the concert because they believe in the healing power of music. “I understand its power for good or bad. It's very powerful,” explained Jack Reisner.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy and his wife, Diane, joined the choir for the tour in California.

“Whatever our belief system, whatever our life experience is, there's a core in us that is responsive to the majesty of music,” explained Elder Hallstrom. “And for that reason, when we come together in these experiences of these concerts, it's just been magical in what we have felt and what others around us have felt. And it's because of that commonality of music helping us feel the Spirit of the Lord.”

“I just think music is a powerful force for the ability to heal and to give hope and to give strength,” added Sister Hallstrom.

“One of the things that's foremost in our mind is bringing joy and comfort and hope all in the same performance, whether it be our Sunday broadcast from week to week or when we're on the road singing concerts in various venues,” said Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir.

For Paul Shafer, a baritone with the choir, the concert was an opportunity to come back and visit Sonoma County, where his family once lived while working in the software industry.

“My hope is that if, by some small way, we can bring some joy, bring a smile, lift somebody's heart by coming and singing to them, then I think that will be a great boost to these people,” said Shafer. He remembers how the community rallied around his family when a flood forced them to move out of their home for a few months while crews repaired the damage.

At the concert, he gave Jack Reisner some choir CDs to help replace his music collection lost in the fire. Reisner is a longtime fan of the choir and owned many of their recordings.

“Music is often said to be kind of the universal language,” said Shafer. “I hope that the message is really of love and of peace, of happiness.”

Allan Darrimon, a local Latter-day Saint bishop, attended the concert. “I'm really a believer that music comes straight from heaven, especially classical music and the music that the Tabernacle Choir presents because they present it in a manner that I believe can come straight from heaven,” said Bishop Darrimon. He and his wife are in the process of rebuilding their home that burned down.

“I think our neighborhood will be more of a neighborhood than it ever was before. Someone said when we went to a get‑together … it wasn't until I lost my house that I learned I had neighbors,” said Janet Reisner.

The Reisners say rebuilding their home gives them a chance to leave a legacy for their children. “Before we did so much work to it, and it was a mess when we bought it, and so, begrudgingly, it became our house. But this one will be everyone's house,” said Jack Reisner.


The first half of the concert featured a selection of sacred music. After intermission, the choir sang some African American spirituals and American folk songs, which included the popular song “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The concert ended with two signature hymns, including “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The final encore selection was led by guest conductor Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, who has helped raise money for the fire recovery efforts in Northern California.

“We've had some wonderful concerts and beautiful halls and venues to perform in. And so, when you put all those things together, it makes for a great experience for everyone,” said Wilberg.

The 2018 Classic Coast Tour runs from June 19 to July 2, 2018. The choir concludes its tour with concerts in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Saturday, June 30, and Seattle, Washington, on Monday, July 2. They also performed in Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Mountain View, California.

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