By BENJAMIN BREWER
NAUVOO, Ill. — Celebrating their 40th anniversary, BYU’s Young Ambassadors returned to the roots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by performing in and around Nauvoo this summer.
The Young Ambassadors arrived in Nauvoo on June 7 and began performing at the Church’s Visitors’ Center the next night. The group followed with two weeks of performances not only in Nauvoo but also in Carthage, Ill., Quincy, Ill., and several locations in Iowa. The majority of the group returned to Provo on Sunday.
The historical importance of performing in areas rich with Church history was not lost on the Young Ambassadors.
“We have had a lot of fun with the people in these communities,” said Ivan Hoffman, a member of Young Ambassadors, from Agoura Hills, Calif. “We are here to serve the Lord and to serve a purpose higher than our own.”
BYU performing groups Vocal Point and Folk Dance Ensemble will also perform in Nauvoo this summer.
“We always go to BYU performances,” said Sue Frazee, a Carthage resident who saw the Young Ambassadors during their first week in Illinois. “I have been to BYU campus many times and have learned to expect great things from BYU performing arts.”
On their second night in Nauvoo, with their live band playing in the background, the Young Ambassadors brought a high-energy performance to the Nauvoo Outdoor Stage. The performance included three pieces from the hit Broadway show “Wicked.” The popular song “Defying Gravity” was performed by Whitley Osborn, a music, dance and theater major, from St. George. It was received by a roaring ovation as the new “wicked witch of the west” flew free from captivity.
“It is a fun number to perform,” Osborn said. “Everyone seems to like it.”
Osborn had a humorous experience while singing “Defying Gravity” on the Nauvoo Outdoor Stage.
“There were a lot of bugs flying around the stage,” Osborn said. “Right when I sang the last note, a bug flew right into my mouth and down my throat.”
The performance also included “Mamma Mia” and “Dancing Queen,” ABBA hits during the 1970s. The Ambassadors’ renditions of these pieces allowed many to relive the colorful days of disco, with their vibrant jumpsuit costumes adding an extra dimension.
Besides performing in Nauvoo, the performers had a busy schedule that took them all over Iowa and Illinois to places like the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Ill., and several retirement centers. One of the most unique performances took place June 10 in Carthage, the site of the 1844 martyrdom of Joseph Smith. The BYU group was the first to perform in the newly remodeled Charger Center in Carthage.
During the tour, virtually every minute of Young Ambassadors’ time was mapped out to ensure they were able to accomplish everything they went to do. Little time was left over, but the performers did take time to tour Church historical sites in Nauvoo and surrounding areas.
In keeping with the spiritual traditions of BYU performing groups, the Young Ambassadors concluded their performances with an a capella rendition of “I Am a Child of God.” The Young Ambassadors are led by artistic director Randy Boothe, conductor Ron Simpson, associate director Janielle Christensen and production manager and technical director John W. Shurtleff.