Speak softly, and carry a big stick. That is what he does; only he is not Theodore Roosevelt. His name is Mack Wilberg, and he looks like he could be an accountant or an estate lawyer. He speaks humbly and modestly with a demeanor that belies the fact that he is head of an organization that is known around the globe. The stick he carries is called a baton, and with its motion he wields power over hundreds of people fixated on his every move.
He directs what is arguably the world’s most famous choir, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, formerly known as The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22, he will be appearing as guest conductor of the Arlington Master Chorale at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Dr. Mack Wilberg was named director of the Tabernacle Choir in 2008, having served as its associate music director since 1999. He is a former professor of music at Brigham Young University, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Southern California. Dr. Wilberg is currently responsible for all the choir’s music, its 100-piece orchestra, and annual auditions. Choristers can sing for 20 years or until age 60, whichever comes first. They tour worldwide and sing more than 300 pieces of music each year. Dr. Wilberg also oversees creative facets of the Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in rehearsals, concerts, recordings and travels, as well as the weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word.
To most in the choral music world, Mack Wilberg is renowned not just for his directing, but more so for his choral arrangements and original compositions, especially those which he has written for the Tabernacle Choir. They feature rich and remarkable choral sounds with lush orchestrations, so much so that he has been called the “John Williams of choral music.” For 20 years his works have been featured on almost every recording by the Choir and have become staples of the choral repertoire of churches and schools throughout the United States and the world. The title of this AMC concert is An Evening with Mack Wilberg, and the concert will feature 15 of his most well-known arrangements of folk songs and sacred hymns with full orchestra, piano and organ.
The Arlington Master Chorale is Tarrant County’s largest organization of its kind with 120 members. The choir was founded in 1973 as the Arlington Civic Chorus, then became the Arlington Choral Society, and finally named the Arlington Master Chorale in 2005. Its purpose then and still today is to bring outstanding choral music to those living in Arlington and surrounding communities.
As the Chorale reviews the past 46 years, a variety of concerts, directors, venues and musical presentations can be cited. Among the major works the choir has performed are “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony” with the Fort Worth Symphony, “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff, Handel’s “Messiah” and the “Requiem Masses” of Mozart, Rutter, Duruflé, Fauré and Brahms.
In addition to these famous classic works of music, their repertoire includes varying genres from the traditional spirituals of Moses Hogan and Jester Hairston and folk songs from around the world to the contemporary arrangements of Ola Gjeilo and Z. Randall Stroope.
The choir has appeared at Carnegie Hall, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, and they have performed for the Texas Choral Directors Association and the American Choral Directors Association. These national and international travels do not detract from the heartfelt belief that the Chorale is “homegrown” in the city of Arlington.
AMC singers have various occupations, including veterinarians, educators, architects, realtors, accountants, music directors for all ages, doctors and dentists. Some are charter members and some have joined in the past two months. But the common denominator is a love of choral music and singing. One frequently overheard comment following a concert is, “They surely looked like they were enjoying themselves.” Interestingly enough, studies show that choral singing improves the mood, decreases stress, anxiety and depression. Making music as a group produces a “sense of awe” in the listener but even more so in the performer. The moment becomes truly magical, and naturally the performer wants to share that magic.
“The Chorale is so fortunate to be able to sing under Mack Wilberg’s direction,” says Randy Jordan, director of the Master Chorale, “as this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the best. This performance with full orchestra will be unlike any we have ever done. It will feature some of the most awe-inspiring music ever written.”
Jordan says AMC is thrilled to present an evening dedicated to his works, both sacred and secular and is inviting everyone to share this exciting performance at Trinity UMC at 7:30, on Friday, March 22. The “awe” will indeed be present as the 120-voice choir and 40-piece orchestra perform under Dr. Wilberg’s baton.
For more information, visit arlingtonmasterchorale.com.