'Stop mocking the Mormons,' says opera star Bryn Terfel who has been 'embraced' by the faith

The bass-baritone, recently in Salt Lake City to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was visited at home in Wales by missionaries who tried to convert him

The Mormons’ adherence to chastity and clean-cut family values has been mocked in a hit musical. But the leading opera singer Bryn Terfel has called for greater tolerance towards the faith after revealing how a musical journey to Salt Lake City resulted in a spiritual awakening.

The second-fasted growing religion in American, Mormonism continues to attract hostility over its opposition to gay marriage and suspicion over some of the faith’s beliefs. The Book of Mormon musical mocked the do-gooding naivety of its young missionary protagonists.

But Terfel, the Welsh bass-baritone famed for his commanding performances at the world’s leading opera houses, told The Independent that he had been “embraced” by members of the faith after recording a new album with the 360-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The singer, raised in a Methodist family said the experience, which followed a separation from his wife of 30 years, led him to question the faith he was born into.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then sent a pair of missionaries to visit Terfel, who welcomed them into his home in Wales.

“I was going through a divorce and I was questioning my own spirituality before I went to Salt Lake City,” Terfel, 47, said. “To be embraced by those people in such a manner and to be loved not only as a musician but as a human being is quite an eye-opener.”

Terfel, who broke through with his portrayal of Figaro and Falstaff but in recent years won acclaim for his performances as Wotan in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, rejects the mocking portrayal of Mormons.

Stig Anderson as Loge, Bryn Terfel as Wotan, Sarah Connolly as Fricka “They’re good people and they welcomed me with open arms. The polygamy stories are very much a thing of the past. If you’re not moved in a spiritual way when that choir sings the hymn, God Be With You Till We Meet Again, there’s something wrong.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, called “America’s choir” by President Reagan, was founded 166 years ago by Pioneers, migrating from the Midwest to Salt Lake Valley. Many of the original Pioneers included Mormons hailing from Wales.

Terfel’s album, Homeward Bound, released this month, features classical, spiritual, Welsh and American folk songs recorded with the Choir.

The church sensed a high-profile conversion. Terfel said: “They came to my house in north Wales. They knew that I’d been to Salt Lake City and I welcomed them into my house. They are sent out to different parts of the world on their journey. I gave them a glass of water.”

Terfel added: “I questioned my religion, do I read the Bible? No. Do I go to Church? No. The only thing that hasn’t happened between us is me being baptised as a Mormon?”

Could Terfel follow in the footsteps of John Parry, an early Welsh convert who became the Tabernacle Choir’s first conductor in 1849 ? “I know how my parents brought me up which was in the Methodist tradition. The Mormon connection is musical and I can’t wait to sing with them again at their Christmas concert.”

Terfel would like to bring the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Britain to sing with him at the Royal Albert Hall. “They sing in stadiums to 20,000 people but they haven’t travelled across the Atlantic for many years now. Maybe there’s a security reason because the highest people in the religion sing in the choir.”

Terfel has seen The Book of Mormon, the controversial musical written by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker but he did not find it offensive. “Even the Mormons in Salt Lake City have embraced it as something positive. The music in it is fantastic.”

A farmer’s son from Caernarfonshire, Terfel made his operatic debut in 1990 but his repertoire extends to duets with Sir Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey.

The singer revealed a little-known secret of the Royal Opera House – the most expensive seats aren’t necessarily the best. “If you’re not afraid of heights, the best seat, aurally and visually, is up in the amphitheatre. You can see everything in the house and the sound is mixed beautifully by the time it reaches there. Yes, opera is exclusive buy why pay £300 when you sit there for £40?”

A keen viewer of televised talent shows, Terfel is set to become the Simon Cowell of classical. “I’ve signed a contract for my own record label, Snowdonia, and that will give me the chance to find three new artists and help them record an album,” he said.  “It could be classical, jazz, a male voice choir, anything. We’ll be working with Universal Music. My head is full of ideas. I can’t wait to find somebody who has never made a recording so I’ll have to keep my finger on the pulse.”

Homeward Bound is released on Monday 9 September

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital