June  2002

The Sound of Glory
Telarc SACD-60579
Released: 2002

by John Potis

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on Multichannel SACD]It’s unlikely that anyone could be completely unfamiliar with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The Choir serves as the public-relations arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and has been heard by millions of listeners on radio, television, Internet and satellite broadcasts, concert tours, recordings and six inaugural performances for US presidents, including that of George W. Bush in January 2001.

The weekly radio program Music and the Spoken Word, which features music by the choir interspersed with readings, serves as the inspiration for The Sound of Glory. The disc features selected hymns and short sacred choruses, the Tabernacle’s pipe organ, and the solo tenor Christopher M. Cock, all under the direction of Craig D. Jessop, the Choir’s music director since 1999.

Don't be put off by the disc's subtitle: "Featuring Battle Hymn of The Republic and other Great Hymns of Faith and Inspiration." The disc is not only an excellent demonstration disc, but also a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Sound of Glory will inevitably serve as a demonstration disc in countless multichannel systems everywhere. And why not? If ever there was a form of music that was meant to be experienced in multichannel sound, this is it: Start with a full orchestra at stage front, a large chorus spread across the stage behind it, a large pipe organ in the rear-center; place it all within the lively confines of a real cathedral; record it in 5.1 sound, and you finally have the successful realization of the sound that inspired the cheesy "church" setting on surround processors the world over. But, oh what a different beast the real thing is! The Sound of Glory succeeds admirably in transforming my living room into a much larger and much more lively venue, one deserving of such a performance.

The only sonic nit I could pick about the recording is that the orchestra isn’t intimately miked and sometimes instrumental detail is slightly abridged. Of course, this is a Mormon Tabernacle Choir recording, so it's not surprising the disc accentuates the chorus -- and it succeeds marvelously at showcasing the singers.

While not quite the recording one would pick to demonstrate the majesty of a great pipe organ (the selections seldom spotlight it as the featured performer), the great piped beast makes its presence known from time to time, and its commanding presence is precisely captured here.

Lateral imaging across the front is spectacular. The disc makes proper use of the center channel, while maintaining a wide, even image across the stage with no bunching or gaps. The use of the surround channels is realistic -- there are no instruments or voices in the rear channels, nor is there any other silliness. The venue is naturally represented; the sound is open and engulfing.

As for the music, both the spiritually faithful and the doubtful alike will find plenty to like about the selection. Grand and majestic, this choir of choirs combines with the Orchestra at Temple Square for a rousing and truly uplifting program guaranteed to raise anyone’s mood. The program and the artistry on display here make for a listening experience that will entice any music lover to return again and again.