World-renowned vocalist Sissel celebrates the pioneer spirit during performances with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on Friday, July 19, 2019, in the Conference Center. © 2019 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sissel delights audience in Pioneer Day Concert performance

SALT LAKE CITY — The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square played host to an internationally-renown soprano, Norwegian-born Sissel on Friday night.

Sissel is a familiar guest of the Choir. She performed with the Choir and Orchestra for the annual Christmas concert in 2006.

The Choir began the concert with a rousing rendition of “The Handcart Song.”

Lloyd D. Newell, the voice of Music and the Spoken Word, came onto the stage to introduce the Pioneer Day Concert. The audience burst into applause when he stated that Sissel was the night’s guest. The applause was the first of many at the Conference Center.

Sissel sang a variety of songs to the grateful audience. She sang some traditional Scandinavian ballads in Norwegian. She offered some of those ballads in English. She also sang a few traditional American hymns.

Her first performance on Friday was “Like an Angel Passing through My Room,” a piece originally created for Swedish neighbor ABBA.

For this first song, Sissel sang without the accompaniment of the Choir. Her unobstructed sound filled the Conference Center. She received a gentle piano accompaniment by choir organist Richard Elliott. A single violin and cello accentuated the tune at moments during the song.

Sissel was a graceful and grateful performer, gesturing to the Choir and Orchestra after each song.

“I just have to say I love to sing with you,” she said.

Sissel told the audience that she loves to sing from her heart.

In between songs Sissel offered her own commentary of the songs and her reflections on pioneers.

She described how Scandinavian people provided masses of pioneers. This generation of Scandinavian theists produced notable Christian hymns. These composers from the north wrote hymns like “How Great Thou Art” and “Beautiful Savior.”

She brought “Beautiful Savior” closer to her homeland of Norway when she sung a rendition of the song that was composed by Norwegian Frode Fjellheim. American audiences would recognize the song’s appearance at the beginning of the Disney movie “Frozen.” The song, also called, “Song of the Earth,” adapts aboriginal-Norwegian chants in the song.

Sissel described a Norwegian man who was caught in a sudden storm. He quickly sought shelter from the ravaging winds. After the storm passed, she said, he was amazed at the beauty of the scene left by the storm. He drew from this experience to write the hymn “O store gud,” known in English as “How Great Thou Art.” Sissel sang the first verse in Norwegian and the second verse in English.

Sissel said “How Great Thou Art” is “for those who endure the storms of life.”

The highlight of the night came when she sung the religious song “Slow Down,” composed by Chuck Girard.

Sissel performed the song with a slow, gentle tune and its lyrics that emphasize turning to God in times of confusion. The audience was delighted with her rendition.

The audience gave Sissel a standing ovation for the performance. Sissel was visibly touched by the gesture of gratitude from the audience. She put her hands to her heart. Tears began to well up in her eyes.

She told the audience that the song may tell the listener to slow down, but the reaction is often to cause people to stand up and act.

Sissel performs again with the Choir and Orchestra on Saturday. The Saturday concert will be streamed on thetabernaclechoir.org and it will be carried live over the Church satellite system. The concert will rebroadcast on BYUtv Sunday, July 21, at 5 p.m., 9 p.m. and midnight.

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