PROVO, Utah (AP) - The Mormon Tabernacle Choir doesn’t just sit down.
Brittany Wiscombe learned as much recently. She and her brother, director Brian Brough, had teamed up to create “Singing with Angels,” a new feature film that prominently showcases the choir. They planned for hundreds of current choir members to join them for filming inside the Salt Lake tabernacle. She thought they’d all just take a seat. But it was a bit more complicated than that.
“There’s a whole process just for where they sit,” Wiscombe said. “They’re a well-oiled machine - and I’m sure that didn’t happen overnight - but it’s amazing to see how much they think ahead and plan things so that things can go smoothly. You usually just think that yes, they sing every Sunday, but you don’t think about all the people that work to make that happen.”
Filming “Singing with Angels” gave Wiscombe (screenwriter, producer), Brough and their crew an unprecedented peek into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s operations. The choir has never been featured this prominently in a film. The story follows a character named Aubrey over a five-year period as she tries out for, joins and tours with the choir, then experiences family challenges and tragedies that jeopardize her membership in the choir.
It’s a fictional story, but much of it is based on true events. The production team surveyed current members of the choir and compiled a range of personal stories. They also interviewed choir President Ron Jarrett and General Manager Scott Barrett, learning logistical details about how the choir operates, what it takes to join, etc. These stories and background became foundational to the plot, which focuses on how the choir impacts not only the lives of its members, but those within their circle of influence.
“I think she (Aubrey) realizes how much power there is in music, and also especially with the choir, because of that spirit that’s with the choir when they sing,” Wiscombe explained. “I think throughout the movie, she realizes the strength that she has drawn from by being in the choir, and been able to share with others.”
Brough, who previously directed “16 Stones” and “Nowhere Safe,” said the story was a tricky balancing act. Their access to the choir was more thorough than is usually allowed, and they were learning so many details about its inner workings - details that Latter-day Saint audiences are curious about - but they still had a fictional, character-driven story to tell.
“We didn’t want it to be a story just about somebody and you barely see the choir, but at the same time we didn’t want it to be an instruction manual of how you get into the choir either,” Brough said.
One of his goals, Brough said, was to capture some of the iconic imagery associated with the choir. Securing a few shooting hours inside the Salt Lake Tabernacle and in front of the famous Christus sculpture on Temple Square provided just that opportunity.
“It was great to be able to film in the tabernacle,” he said. “I don’t want to just have a close-up, I want to be as wide as possible and show people we’re actually in the tabernacle.”
Brough’s last film, the fictional Mormon story “16 Stones,” got engulfed last year by the Latter-day Saint documentary “Meet the Mormons,” which was released at the same time. Working so closely with the church this time, Brough said he’s happy that won’t happen again. The film is currently scheduled for an April 2016 release date.
“The choir is delighted to be collaborating on this film with Candlelight Media,” said Jarrett in a press release. “The story of the film will be an affirmation that the choir’s music can bring peace and hope and transform lives.”
Information from: The Daily Herald, https://www.heraldextra.com
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