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The Tabernacle Choir Resumes First In-Person Rehearsals Since the Beginning of the Pandemic

They are implementing COVID-19 preventive measures, including frequent testing and smaller group practices

On Tuesday evening, members of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square reunited at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City for their first in-person rehearsal in 19 months.

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"We've been waiting for this for so long and we're anxiously ready for it, we're so ready to be here," said Staci Dame, a member of the Choir from Layton, Utah. 

Choir leadership paused rehearsals, performances and recordings when the pandemic began in March 2020. 

"There are so many steps that have been taken to make us feel safe, to make us feel at home, to make us feel like we can be in our element," said Dame. "We feel very lucky to be able to sing and to share our testimonies of the Savior."

A few days before the anticipated reunion, Choir leaders announced a seven-step COVID-19 protection plan in an organization-wide “Restart Orientation” videoconference.

"The purpose of our COVID plan is to keep the virus out of the loft in which the Choir sings," said Michael O. Leavitt, the Choir organization’s new president and lead of the health-centered plan, who previously served as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

When President Leavitt began serving in August, he and a team of health care experts (including Choir medical director Dr. David Palmer and other staff) developed the plan in consultation with leaders of the global faith.

"We sought the advice of medical professionals and public health officials to say, 'What's the best way for us to keep the virus out of the loft?'" Leavitt said. "We know that we can sing safely if the virus isn't there."

"Before every event, every person that comes in the building is tested, and then there are other things that we're doing," said Dr. James Sutherland, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah, who is also a part of the Choir's committee that put together the plan for the Choir's safe return to singing.

"Asking people to self-report if they have exposure, asking people to use caution in their everyday lives outside of Choir rehearsals, wearing masks outside of those situations as well, so that we can do everything we can to prevent people from being infected," Sutherland shared.

Dame was one of the first members of the iconic Latter-day Saint music group to arrive at the Conference Center on Tuesday. Before doing anything else, she sat down to take a COVID-19 test.

"I am so ready to sing my heart out," said Dame, shortly after testing negative for the virus. She then made her way to the auditorium, where other Tabernacle Choir members gathered to rehearse.

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Staci Dame, a Choir member from Layton, Utah, makes her way to the Conference Center's loft in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, September 21, 2021, leading up to the iconic Latter-day Saint music group’s first in-person rehearsal since the beginning of the pandemic. 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The rigorous plan will allow the Choir to sing at the October 2021 general conference. Half the Choir will sing in the Saturday morning session, and the other half in the Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon sessions. 

Music for the Saturday afternoon and evening session will be provided by other live choirs including a multicultural choir and a choir from BYU.

Rehearsals and performances of the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Bells at Temple Square will come later, as will live broadcasts of Music & the Spoken Word.

"We're looking for ways in which we can coexist with this virus, and the best way is to protect ourselves from it," said Leavitt. 

He asked for patience as the protocols are implemented and for the faith and united prayers of all involved for a successful outcome. Leavitt also said the Choir is prepared to pause rehearsals if needed.

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Health care workers prepare to carry out COVID-19 tests on members of the Tabernacle Choir on Tuesday, September 21, 2021, in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, leading up to the iconic Latter-day Saint music group’s first in-person rehearsal since the beginning of the pandemic. 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Choir’s multi-level strategy includes:

  • Vaccinations: All performers must be vaccinated and provide evidence of immunization. (Those not vaccinated will be granted a special leave until conditions improve.)
  • Screening: Those with health conditions that limit the effectiveness of their immune systems, even if vaccinated, or with immunocompromised household members will also be granted special leave.
  • Testing: Performers and support personnel will be tested prior to each rehearsal and performance.
  • Social Distancing: At the October 2021 general conference, half of the Choir will sing at each session the Choir performs to allow for social distancing.
  • Face Coverings: Choir members will wear masks when gathered except when rehearsing or performing.
  • Self-Reporting: Organization members will report COVID symptoms or household exposure and stay home with any symptoms — even sniffles.
  • Ventilation: Performances will be limited to the Conference Center for now because of greater ventilation safety.

"It's about sharing part of ourselves, it's about reflecting on the Savior, and who He is," said Dame. "It is our opportunity and our honor to be able to share...what He means to us and to be able to share that with everyone else."

Made up of hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life, The Tabernacle Choir transcends cultural and generational boundaries and brings together people from around the world through its music. The Choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square, and the Bells on Temple Square act as goodwill ambassadors for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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