Before Criticizing the Mormon Choir, Consider the Playlist

01/17/2017 02:58 pm ET

By Clifton Jolley and Bob Rees

Some of the Radio City Rockettes are performing at the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

Also some of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

No word as to whether they will perform together, and Trump insiders have refused to confirm a report that Trump exclaimed:

“All those girls kicking up their heels to the music of all those Mormons: sounds like a RATINGS BONANZA to me!”

Some of those girls and at least one of those Mormons have refused to perform, for reasons that should be clear to both girls and Mormons: Trump is as well-known a Lothario as he is a vulgarian, a bigot and misogynist who thinks as little of Mexicans and Muslims as he does of women. (He also appears to be suspicious of Mormons, having described their faith as “alien”… and we all know how he feels about those.)

The objection of a number of Rockettes is understandable: they are women, and they live in and around New York City where they have heard Trump interviewed by Howard Stern and joking about his disrespect for women.

But the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is half men, many of whom are likely fans of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Nevertheless, the Mormon Church—itself not the most liberal of institutions—has found itself discomforted by the personality if not the politics of Trump, objecting to the President-elect’s uncouthness, immorality, racial and religious prejudice, and his demeaning comments about women, who Mormon’s believe are on a fast-track to becoming goddesses and who darn well should be treated as such!

So, forget how many presidential inaugurations the Tabernacle Choir has performed at where the politics of the candidate did not agree with the predisposition of the Mormon Church (one of the five was a Democrat!). There has never been a president-elect who has given Mormons so much by which to be offended. And a lot of Mormons—liberals and conservatives alike—are expressing dismay that “America’s Choir” will be singing at the inauguration of a president who appears to be Vladimir Putin’s President more than theirs.

But dancers and believers alike may be missing the point and the opportunity. Perhaps whether or not they perform is not so important as what they perform.

Undoubtedly the program of the choir and the routines of the Rockettes must be approved. And undoubtedly Trump’s people have been to more than a few of the performances of the Rockettes and listened to the Choir’s broadcasts. And in addition to dictating instructions as to the high kicks of the Rockettes (“The boss says the higher the better!”), they may have made requests of the Choir, such as “Praise to the Man.”

All of which is fine, so long as the dancers and the Choir do other than they are told. After all, this is a Trump inauguration. How could it be thought appropriate without last-minute unapproved changes in tone and content, without a certain degree of unpredictability?

Imagine a performance of the Rockettes in which there is no unison high kicking or those scant costumes but all the “girls” wear muumuus and dance discretely and ambiguously to hymns especially selected for the occasion by a Choir Master as keen on commentary as on celebration.

Imagine: The dancers enter (stage left)— in chin-to-heal draping of the kind the first missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands dictated—as the Choir begins to sing Abide with Me. It’s a traditional Anglican hymn reprinted in the Mormon Hymnal, well established in the repertoire of the Choir, and offering ironic commentary on the sort of change we are about to experience with a president who thinks the Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir make for a great buddy act:

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!

The Rockettes sway and weave, their muumuus sweeping the stage, the slender ankles tucked out-of-sight as chastely as by a Burka.

The holy, worshipful harmonies of the Choir swell:

Change and decay in all around I see;

O thou who changest not, abide with me!

And now the unison for which the Rockettes are famous: their arms in perfect symmetry reach to the heavens in simultaneous supplication as the Choir pleads:

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day,

Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me!

Help of the helpless! At which the Choir breaks into a joyous rendition of one of its most famous performances, from Handel’s Messiah:

All we like sheep!

All we like sheep!

All we like sheep!

Have gone astra-a-a-a-a-a-ay!

And so we have. We have elected a President most of us didn’t vote for and more of us increasingly don’t want. And for the moment, we seem helpless to do anything about it.

So, like peasants hoping to appease a new king, we send him our Big Choir and our relentlessly coordinated troupe of dancers. And we try to cheer ourselves with Paul’s admonition to the saints of Corinth in 1 Corinthians (“One Corinthians,” according to Donald Trump):

God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised….

In other words: Donald Trump.

So watch for it: The Donald Trump song-and-dance team of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing back-up for the Music City Rockettes in a show—admit it!—most of us would go to see.

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