Saturday, April 24, 2010

All Mongolia Choir Festival

On April 17, 2010, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mongolia commemorated the dedication of Mongolia for missionary work by holding an all-Mongolia Choir Festival.  Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar Mission President D. Allen Andersen reported, “It was a day of rejoicing for Latter-day Saints in Mongolia today as we celebrated the 17th anniversary of the dedication of Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel by holding a choir festival.  It was held in the finest performance center in Ulaanbaatar and there was standing room only.”

With only a handful of choirs in Mongolia, the main objectives of the Choir Festival were to: strengthen ward and branch choirs by having a choir in each unit, encourage choirs to practice every week and perform regularly in Sacrament meetings, and to celebrate the hymns of the gospel.  Each unit was encouraged to call a choir director if they didn’t already have one and to begin choir rehearsals. 

Training was provided for choir directors and all but the three distant countryside branches sent a choir director to Ulaanbaatar to be trained. 

After the Choir Festival was announced, many of the wards and branches started choirs started for the first time.  Many of the choir directors were teenagers or young adults. Khailaast Branch’s choir director Erdene-Otgon (Eggy), who recently returned from her mission to Hawaii, said that before her mission, she never imagined her branch would ever have a choir or that she would ever be able to direct a choir.  Shortly after her return from her mission, she was called to be the choir director and attended the choir director’s training. Now she directs Khailaast’s choir of about thirty people. She is thrilled that her branch has its own choir.  When one of the senior missionaries complimented her on her good work, she said, “It was a gift from Heavenly Father and I am really grateful.”

Eighteen-year-old Hulan, the director of the “grandfather” of Mongolian choirs in Erdenet, has been a member of the Church for three years.  She has been the choir director for one and a half years.  Hulan said, “In our choir directors’ training meeting, I heard this spiritual thought.  President Gordon B. Hinckley said that every new convert needs a calling, a friend, and to be nurtured by the good word of God.  The workshop  leader said, ‘ . . . all of this happens when new members join a choir.’ I love this thought.”   Hulan also said that she also loves Doctrine 25:12, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”  She said, “I love this scripture and I have all of my choir members memorize those words.”  She continued, “I am not a professional.  I know Heavenly Father just gave me an amazing gift.  When I was an investigator, Elder and Sister Morrie taught me to play the piano and lead.  One time our branch didn’t have a choir director, so I tried it.  I try do like the Tabernacle choir.  I tell my choir they need to understand the spirit and the words. It wasn’t easy. I can only play the parts with one finger, but Heavenly Father has blessed me.”

For the festival in Ulaanbaatar, each unit was asked to sing one familiar hymn from the current hymnbook of forty-six hymns and children’s songs, and one hymn from the forthcoming, expanded hymnbook.  One of the purposes of the Choir Festival was to help Mongolians become familiar with the hymns that would be included in the new hymnbook.

The Choir Committee planned to have all of the choirs join together to sing “The Spirit of God” in parts at the end of the program, but most of the choir participants had never sung parts before.  So the committee recorded the parts separately and sent a copy of the CD to each choir director. Many of the choirs diligently practiced this hymn in parts, and as a result of this challenge, many Mongolian choir members discovered the joy, satisfaction, and beauty of singing in parts. President Andersen reported, “Every choir was well prepared. The concert was concluded with all 715-choir members coming together on the stage, in the aisles, and surrounding the first and second balconies to sing ‘The Spirit of God,’ with the audience joining in the last verse. Truly a joyful sound!”

Eighteen choirs from all of the wards and branches in:  Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan, Erdenet, Bulgan, Zuun-Kharaa, Selenge, Baganuur and Nalaikh joined together in the beautiful Drama Theatre in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to perform in this Choir Festival.  Only the far distant branches of Choibalsan, Murun and Khovd were unable to travel to Ulaanbaatar; but they participated by holding their own choir festivals in their own buildings.  The countryside branch of Murun held their festival at the same time and in the dark because their power was interrupted, but that didn’t stop them.  They just kept singing.  The eighteen choirs in Ulaanbaatar totaled 715 participants. Adding those who performed in the three countryside branches put the total to over 800 participants, President Andersen said that roughly a third of the total average sacrament meeting attendance in Mongolia is now participating in choirs.

President Andersen, observed, “Baganuur Branch had an amazing choir of fifty.  Erdenet, the grandfather of all the branch/ward choirs, was wonderful as always. There was not a single choir that could be anything but proud of their performance. ”

Many of the choirs either included sign language participants or signed some of their hymns.

Bulgan, a rural city, which was recently opened for missionary work and has only three baptized members, participated by bringing a choir of
twenty-one singers.  The rest of their choir was made up of investigators and missionaries.  The audience felt inspired to hear them sing “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus,” “Love One Another,” and “We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet.” 

Elder Richard Lasson, a Humanitarian missionary in Mongolia, e-mailed the following to his family, “The ‘All-Mongolia Choir Festival’ was held today and was a wonderful success.  It was one of those experiences that you wish you could put in a bottle and savored forever!” He added that the mostly Mongolian Choir Festival committee “prayerfully did everything they could within their power and the Lord took over from there.” 

As choir members and audience drifted out of the Drama Theatre following the Choir Festival, tiny droplets of rain started falling from the blue Mongolian sky. Young adults, who had been Choir Festival committee members, Baigalmaa and Uyunga, told Sister Carol Lasson, “The people are saying that God is crying.”  Sister Lasson replied, “I’m sure He is.  Tears of joy.  He loves His Mongolia.”

The day following the Choir Festival, President Andersen’s wife, Sister Jill Andersen, said, “Yesterday in Bayanzurkh Branch, the [Bayanzurkh] choir sang and did a marvelous job.  The longest time member in Mongolia and his wife were the speakers.  She spoke about sacred music.  She said she was inspired to do this because of the festival on Saturday.  She said that one of the main things that influenced her to be baptized and helped her to feel the spirit was the singing of hymns.  This was at a time when all they had here was the English hymnbook to sing from.  She said how grateful she was when they were able to have hymns in Mongolian.” 

The evening before the Choir Festival, twenty-four converts were baptized in Mongolia; the Church is growing steadily. The members love the gospel and are excited to share it with their friends and neighbors. It is hoped that by having a choir in each unit, the attendance in meetings will increase, which will help lay the groundwork for another stake to be created in Mongolia, and, hopefully, for Mongolians to someday have their own temple.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful article. I'm so happy all that was able to happen. It sounds like the already strong members and branches of the Church in Mongolia are even stronger now! Thank you so much for sharing. I love you!