About the Project
It’s not surprising that the BYU Men’s Chorus is often referred to as a “missionary choir.” If any choir knows the joy, excitement, dedication, difficulty, trials, and tears of missionary work, this one does. Nearly two-thirds of the 180 members have already served full-time missions for the Church, and most of the others either have their calls or are awaiting their assignment. Collectively, they’ve given over 2 million hours of missionary service, having walked, biked, driven, flown, and even canoed over 7.8 million miles to preach the gospel. These men have served in 98 different missions, speaking 31 languages, and covering 67 countries and 23 of the United States.
Obviously, the announcement that the age of eligibility for missionary service was to be lowered had a profound effect on this unique group of young men, were both elated and thrown into some disarray. As many changed their plans and announcements of missionary calls amongst the choir increased dramatically, the choir’s commitment to missionary work, which has always been strong, grew more and more intense. It was this that motivated their conductor Rosalind Hall to include missionary hymns in their immediate repertoire plans, which quickly led to the decision to record them and share them with the world.
Creating a new album for a choir of this size is a massive endeavor under regular circumstances. It involves a great deal of planning, selecting music, rehearsing, recording, editing, designing and creating artwork, and more. The previous four albums from the Men’s Chorus each took between one and two years to complete. This album, however, faced a staggering timeframe: the goal was to release the album on April 5, in time for the next General Conference – barely four months from when the idea was born!
To give these hymns a fresh sense of energy, the project leaders decided these hymn arrangements needed to be new. Previous albums had always drawn upon existent music, so this time an entirely new, ambitious step of soliciting composers for new arrangements was added to the timeline. Add to that the process of fine-tuning each submitted piece, and the timeframe seemed nearly impossible. Several talented composers submitted inspired new settings, all of them graciously agreeing to waive their royalty fees so the album could be released for free.
Once the arrangements were complete, the choir spent hours learning, memorizing and meticulously polishing each piece, while also maintaining their regular practice schedule. While learning the new music, they were also practicing for and performing in four full-length concerts throughout the semester. The choir then put in extra hours for a series of strenuous recording sessions. With the assistance of BYU recording legend John Holloman and sound engineer Troy Sales, each track was recorded, edited, mastered, and converted into the proper format for release.
Meanwhile, the choir’s leadership worked intently with Yvette Arts of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications to design an album cover, advertising materials, and a website to match the spirit and message of the music they accompanied. Nearly 80 designs for the album cover were proposed, created, and then rejected. None seemed to satisfy. Finally, the right one emerged and the decision to use the feet of the Master, whose ministry each missionary is set apart for today. It is a reminder of “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings” (Mosiah 12:21).
Inspired by the desire to share the gospel, hundreds of individuals have spent thousands of hours creating this album. In the spirit of those who have dedicated their time and talents, this album lives up to its name as something set apart from any previous album from the BYU Men’s Chorus. Set Apart will be an inspiration to anyone who has ever “felt to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).