New BYU opera professor performs as featured soloist for Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra’s summer concert

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BYU professor and director of opera Shea Owens performs as the featured soloist along with members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the annual summer concert last weekend. This years’s theme was “Love Thy Neighbor.” (Church Newsroom)

BYU professor and director of opera Shea Owens performed as the featured soloist along with members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for their annual summer concert.

The concert, which took place on July 15-16, marked the first public performance of the music group at the Conference Center on Temple Square since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

This year’s theme was “Love Thy Neighbor” and it included music and narrations to share a message of coming together and finding unity despite the differences.

Although the Tabernacle Choir’s summer concert is known for remembering and honoring the pioneer heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this year’s concert had a more inclusive theme and a focus on the refugee crisis.

“I remember when the Conference Center was dedicated and President Hinckley said that it would be a home for the arts and a place where we would celebrate the culture of our people,” Owens said. “In this concert, we celebrate the cultures of people all over the world with music from different genres and time periods.”

Taking the music from Switzerland to Provo

(Pepperfox Photo)

Before moving to Utah, Owens had been working in St. Gallen, Switzerland for a few years as an opera performer. Along with his wife Madison, who is a singer as well, they had planned on staying in Europe for a while when they received a message about a faculty opening at BYU.

“Even though I had somewhat written off academia as I was in the performance world, they told me they thought I would be a good candidate so I decided to apply and see what would happen,” Owens said.

Owens explained how the interviewing process was long and consisted of a lot of waiting.

“In the end, it seems like they thought I would be a good fit because they ended up hiring me,” he said. “The best thing was that I was going to be able to teach about what I had been doing since I graduated, but also perform on the site, so it ended up really becoming the perfect fit.”

Owens moved to Utah last summer and said he has been loving it since.

In June 2022, Owens received another unexpected call – this time about the opportunity to perform as the featured soloist with The Tabernacle Choir for their annual summer concert.

“I was actually in Switzerland again, doing a little recital tour when I was contacted about it,” he said. “They weren’t really sure whether they were going to be able to go forward with the concert because of COVID-19, but in the end they made a decision to go forward with it.”

BYU professor and director of opera Shea Owens, center, performs as the featured soloist along with members of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for their annual summer concert, with associate choir director Ryan Murphy (left). This years’s theme was “Love Thy Neighbor.” (Church Newsroom)

Owens said the opportunity to perform at the Conference Center with The Tabernacle Choir is been a dream come true for him.

When asked about the preparation that performing in the concert took, Owens said he was grateful to have had Mack Wilberg do some music arrangements, and Ryan Murphy, associate choir director, adapt and arrange “Hold On” specifically for him.

“In some ways, learning the actual music is a bit easier than opera because in opera, I am most of the time singing in a foreign language, so singing in my native tongue is a little easier,” he said. “However, these wonderful and beautiful arrangements are complex in some ways and it still takes me some time to speak the words and find the right inflection, emphasis, the dynamics and the right rhythm.”

In the end, Owens said he feels very blessed and acknowledges he wouldn’t have been able to do what he has done without the Lord’s help.

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