Sublime music, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing under the leadership of the music director of the Mormon’s Tabernacle Choir, and the chance to perform in Christ Cathedral. This was all part of the Fall Festival of Faith, which took place Oct. 26 and drew some 800 members of children’s and adult choirs from Southern California and beyond, including members of both the Protestant and Catholic faith traditions.
“The Fall Festival of Faith will be a thrilling day for every single person involved,” says According to Dr. John Romeri, Christ Cathedral’s director of music, it was a thrilling day for all involved. Romeri assisted the Mark Thallander Foundation in planning and producing the 36th annual event.
Mack Wilberg, American composer, arranger, conductor, and choral clinician who has served as music director of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square since 2008, conducted the choirs.
The Palm Springs-based foundation founded by Thallander – a former organist who helped grow the music program at Crystal Cathedral from 1976 to 1993 – uses the power of music to grow faith and connect communities. The Festival of Faith has been held in Hawaii, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and in other locations; this is its first time at Christ Cathedral, which was dedicated on July 17.
About 200 children from fourth to 12th grades, who make up the Diocesan Children’s Choir, the National Children’s Chorus and the All-American Boys Chorus, joined nearly 600 adults from almost 20 church choirs from as far away as Stockton, Lompoc, Menlo Park, and locations throughout Southern California.
The program consists of readings and sacred music in several faith traditions, Romeri said, and musicians were accompanied by a brass ensemble as well as David Ball, Christ Cathedral organist, and the Sts. Simon and Jude Church Handbell Choir from Huntington Beach.
Special participants in Saturday’s event, noted Romeri, were Robert and Donna Schuller. Robert A. Schuller is an author, televangelist and pastor and the only son of Crystal Cathedral founders Robert H. Schuller and Arvella Schuller. In addition, former Crystal Cathedral organist and music director Frederick Swann played the organ, and another former Crystal Cathedral organist Richard Unfried read a reading.
“For all of us to be back in the iconic building is very special,” said Mark Thallander, the foundation’s namesake. “It’s where we spent so many hours, for me playing the Hazel Wright Organ for pageants, weddings, celebrations and funerals, and it is so impressive how the Catholic Church has taken what was there and restored it to last for decades.”
“The Fall Festival of Faith is a real celebration of faith,” Romeri notes, “offering participants a rare opportunity to learn from a master conductor, to make new connections, to pray and sing together in an ecumenical service in the beautiful Christ Cathedral.”