SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that during their general conference this weekend, international singers will sing with The Tabernacle at Temple Square for the first time.

General Conference is a bi-annual event the church presents in its conference building in Salt Lake City and broadcasted online. According to the church’s website, during General Conference, church leaders from around the world share messages or sermons focused on the living Christ and His gospel.

“Viewers learn how to find peace, hope, and joy in Jesus Christ; how to strengthen families by following Jesus’s teachings; and how to receive personal guidance and inspiration from God.”

General Conference is broadcasted live in 70 languages on their Youtube page on April 1 and 2. During the conference, the Tabernacle at Temple Square, a choir formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs religious songs between speakers. The international participants will sing with the Choir in the Saturday morning session and both Sunday sessions of general conference.

For the first time in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ history, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has invited international singers to participate in the choir. Previously, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is limited to participants that live within a 100-mile range of the Tabernacle at Salt Lake. They said this is due to the rigorous practice schedule the choir members participate in.

In a press release, the church announced that the choir, consisting of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has recently broadened its mission to reach a global audience, said Choir President Michael O. Leavitt, who describes the pilot program as a natural progression in the Choir’s growth.

“The entire Church celebrates Christ. We not only speak His words, but we sing his praises,” President Leavitt said. “Our goal now is to reach throughout the world to bring peace and healing. More than half the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lives outside the United States. This is a means by which we not only reflect that membership, but it’s also a way in which we can bring a sense of belonging to people who live all over the world.”

Those selected to sing with the Choir in the upcoming General Conference represent six countries:

  • Alvaro Jorge Martins of Natal, Brazil
  • Rodrigo Domaredzky of Curitiba, Brazil
  • Thalita De Carvalho of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Tubo-Oreriba Joseph Elisha of Accra, Ghana
  • Jonathan How of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico
  • Georgina Montemayor Wong of Monterrey, Mexico
  • Ronald Baa of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
  • Sundae Mae Indino of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
  • PeiShang Chung (Kylie Zhong) of Taipei, Taiwan

Along with their vocal ability, the international participants were required to demonstrate proficiency in music theory and English during the selection process, the press release stated.

The new choir participants said they have spent weeks preparing with digital recordings and virtual practice sessions. They arrived in Salt Lake City the weekend of March 18, where they joined choir rehearsals, choir school, and toured several Church historical sites, including Temple Square.

According to the press release, the international participants were asked to keep their auditions confidential until they were accepted into the choir, and for one participant, the announcement that she made it in came with an extra surprise.

Elorza Avalos said after she was accepted into the choir, she found out her sister-in-law, who lives hundreds of miles away, was also selected.

“When they told me that I was chosen and one person more from Mexico and … her name was Georgina Montemayor [Wong] from Monterrey, I was like, ‘What! It’s my sister-in-law!’ I felt so happy,” said Elorza Avalos.

“She was like, ‘I didn’t know you were auditioning too!’… so she was crying, then I was crying,” Montemayor Wong said.

This 360-member choir of men and women, all volunteers, has performed at world’s fairs and expositions, at inaugurations of U.S. presidents, in acclaimed concert halls from Australia and Europe to Asia and the Middle East, on television broadcasts, and on YouTube and Facebook.

To watch the choir, with its new international participants, you can tune in to General Conference on Youtube, the church’s website, or through the Gospel Library app on April 1-2 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.