Busses filled with choir students left BYU-Idaho’s campus at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday. The singers were told there would be no time to get ready at the Conference Center, so before the sun came up, BYU-I’s Conference Choir looked performance-ready, even with the 4-hour bus ride ahead of them.
BYU-I’s Conference Choir is made up of all six campus choirs, including Collegiate Singers, Concert Choir, Women’s Chorus, Men’s Chorus, Bella Voce and Vocal Union. These choirs made up about 250 singers, but with 364 seats for the choir to fill at the Conference Center, other music majors and even alumni were invited to join. This last group made up the seventh choir, nicknamed the “Sunday Evening Choir” because of the time they practiced each week.
Each individual choir practiced during its own designated time. All seven of the choirs only got together for a conjoined practice once before General Conference weekend came.
As the choir arrived in Salt Lake City, conductors and BYU-I Professors Paul Busselberg and Randy Kempton introduced organists Joseph Peeples and Linda Margetts to the choir for the first time as they started their last practice. The choir spent the Saturday morning session doing one last rehearsal in a practice room in the Conference Center.
Busselburg wrote the arrangement for the opening number “Now Let Us Rejoice” as well as the closing number, “Thy Spirit, Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls.”
“They asked us to recommend pieces that we’d like to sing,” Busselberg said, “and there are four slots. We ended up suggesting 12 options for those four slots, so basically three per slot. And then those suggestions go to the First Presidency, and they review the pieces, and they then send back their acceptance of which ones they would like. And so it was kind of interesting because one of the pieces that we were going to sing was in a different slot and they actually moved it to a different slot. To me that’s meaningful. It’s a simple thing. But it says, you know, President Nelson and the First Presidency are looking very closely at the messages and what we’re bringing and … they rearrange things for us.”
Both Busselberg and Kempton put a lot of thought into what songs they would suggest.
“For me, and I think I can speak for Brother Kempton too, we have not picked hymns for their music value, per se, but we have picked hymns for their texts … (Brother Kempton) said very pointedly, ‘what texts do we want our students focusing on the entire semester while they’re preparing for General Conference?'”
Students in the choir shared their testimonies about the importance of music.
“Music has been the source of my testimony,” said Caleigh Tippetts, a junior studying business management and a member of the choir. “Being able to share my testimony through music to help touch the other people’s lives of general conference is super special to me.”