The Tabernacle Choir in the Philippines 

Members of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform during a sacred music concert at Mall of Asia Arena Manila, Philippines, on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2024.

I love listening to The Tabernacle Choir. Since I grew up in a small town in South Dakota, I wasn’t exposed to The Tabernacle Choir and knew very little about them. The first time I started to gain an appreciation of the Choir was on my mission to South Africa. The saints there had a great respect for the Choir which rubbed off on me and that I’ve held ever since. 

Nearly every time that I am in the Utah, I try and attend the Spoken Word or any other events the Choir participates in such as the annual Christmas Program held at the Conference Center near Temple Square. Also, when the Choir has been on tour I’ve attended their performances outside of Utah several times over the years. These touring performances were unique and always full of energy, special songs, and with unique aspects in these performances. 

When I first learned of The Tabernacle Choir visit to the Philippines as a part of their World Tour, my first thought was that I would not try and secure tickets and take away from a Filipino saint’s opportunity to see the choir in person. A few weeks before the Choir’s arrival in the Philippines I was asked if I wanted tickets. Again, I declined using the same logic as I had initially had…better to allow Filipino saints attend than us. When I again asked and told that there were four tickets available, I paused. Who could I invite to join us in attending one of the four Choir’s performances? 

I have a first cousin that I met later in life. One of the first times I visited with her, I learned that she had lived in the Philippines for twenty years. After we learned of our call to the Philippines, I called her and told her of our senior mission call. She was excited to hear that we would be living in the Philippines for a couple of years. 

She shared with me that her three children were born in the Philippines and that her eldest son currently lives in the Manila area. To make a long story short, we eventually were able to meet and have lunch with him on New Year’s Day 2024. We hit it off…you never know how a first-time meeting will go with relatives you’ve never met before. In this case, the lunch went well.

Since I managed to snag four Choir tickets a few days before the concert, I decided to invite my second cousin and his significant other. I was looking forward to sharing an inspiring evening of music with my cousin and left it at that. However, I was totally unprepared for what we experienced. Words fail me as I try and describe the evening…but I’ll try.

More than 39,000 people gathered at some 200 watch parties throughout Luzon in the north, the central Visayas and Mindanao in the south — the three main island groups of the more than 7,100 islands that comprise the Philippines. The watch parties were in Church meetinghouses, movie theaters, town halls and public squares.

In Manila, two of the four performances were held at the Mall of Asia Arena also known as the MoA Arena It is an indoor arena within the SM Mall of Asia complex, in Bay City, Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines. It has a seating capacity of 15,000 for sporting events, and a full house capacity of 20,000 and was officially opened on May 21, 2012. For the Choir’s performances, the arena was configured to seat slightly less than 9,000 people. 

We were fortunate to get four seats 12 rows back on the center floor which is a perfect place to sit in a venue like this. As I said, I was expecting a pleasant evening of music and as the Choir began their performance, I was noticeably taken back. Yes, the music was outstanding for a choral stand point but the manner in which the program was crafted integrating two Filipino masters of ceremonies and after the 323 choir members and 60-plus orchestra members sang several songs of faith the crowd burst into rancorous applause as Lea Salonga, a world famous recording artist, actress, Tony Award recipient, honored as a Disney Legend, and numerous other award walked on stage to the microphone and began to sing – and sing she could. 

From this point of the performance continued to pick up more and more momentum and with heightened emotions as several Filipino songs were performed in English and several faith-based Filipino songs were sung in Tagalog the audience was visibly moved.  There were a Jewish and African songs sung in each of these country’s native language. At the beginning of the evening, the MC’s shared that this is the first performance in another country by the Choir where they dressed in a traditional native dress – in the Philippines this is called the Barong – the formal attire – see below. If you ever see the President of the Philippines addressing their Congress or meeting with world leaders, he will be wearing a Barong .  

The male Choir members are all dress in a Barong – the formal wear in the Philippines.

The female Choir members were dressed in a traditional dress in light royal blue.

Two thirds of the way through the performance, a group of 50 youth ran down the isles to the stage and performed a melody of songs centered around the Savior with a choreographed dance routine and in a stage acting sequence that added to the sacred nature of the song that were being performed.

The Choir continued to show their versatility and range with a number of sacred songs and spirted songs from America. As I said, it is hard for me to put into words the emotion and feeling that existed in the arena as these Filipino saints from all over the Philippines participated in the once in a lifetime event for them. As the concert drew to a close, the audience were asked to take out their cell phone and turn on the flashlight feature as the choir performed. With a thunder of applause, as the final song ended and Mack Walberg, the conductor walked off of the stage and after an extended round of applause returned to the stage for the finale which was one of the Choir’s signature songs – the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Quite an evening.

Now my description is just words…what can’t be put into words on a page is the emotion that myself and I’m sure nearly everyone felt during the concert. Even when I watched a YouTube video of the concert a few days later, it doesn’t even come close to capturing a fraction of the feeling in being there in person. It was something totally unexpected and I doubt these Filipinos will ever in their lifetimes match this type of experience. 

A Filipino family that we brought to the Tabernacle Choir concert with our senior couple friends. The family couldn’t have attended the concert because they had no way to get to the performance. We live about a 90-minute drive to the concert.

Post concert gathering where the Tabernacle Choir members mingled with the Filipino attendees.

Here are a few links if you would like to watch the performance in its entirety which I’m sure none of you will.

Here is a short news article (2:30) that doesn’t capture 1/1000th of the energy or spirit of the concert.

A night that I will long remember.

Spiritual Thought: Bible  = Basic, Instructions, Before, Leaving, Earth.

Scripture of the day: D&C 6:36: Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not.