News Release

Austrian Singer Joins the Celebrated Tabernacle Choir

"I feel honored."

Last year, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square launched a program to include international singers in their ranks. This year, European singers were invited to audition for the Choir.  Heber Ferraz-Leite will be the first Austrian global participant to sing with the Choir in the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6-7 April 2024.

“I cannot say that this is a dream come true,” said Heber, “because I had never even dreamed of singing with the Tabernacle Choir. It was something so out of reach for me.”

The award-winning Tabernacle Choir is one of the oldest and largest choirs in the world. The Choir has performed before audiences in more than 28 countries and sold millions of recordings.

Born in Uruguay, Heber immigrated to Austria with his family just before he turned twelve. His father, a neurosurgeon, had accepted a job offer in Vienna. “The plan was to stay for one or two years, but they extended his contract and we ended up staying forever,” says Heber with a smile. “So, I am surely more Austrian than Uruguayan by now. My love of skiing is proof of that.”

Heber grew up an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After serving a full-time Church mission in northern Spain, Heber returned to Vienna and to his love of salsa dancing. That’s how he met his wife, who was born and grew up in Peru but has Austrian ancestors. Now they live in a suburb of Vienna where Heber works as an IT business analyst, designing systems that improve complex business processes. They enjoy the company of their four grown children and many friends.

When Heber was six, he began piano lessons and learned some basic music theory. During Heber’s teenage years, his mother served as the ward pianist, and she would practice at home. She asked him to sing the hymns while she played so she could practice the tempo. Before long, Heber began to sing the different vocal parts with each new verse. So, while his mother strengthened her piano skills, he learned how to harmonize and discovered that he had a good ear for music.

“When I was 16, I saw the film ‘Amadeus’ with my father and discovered that I loved classical music,” said Heber. “I like opera and oratorios very much.” Heber has always sung in church choirs but had no formal vocal training. “I really don’t consider myself to be a musician, but I love music.” His mission leaders in Spain were both former singers with the Tabernacle Choir, so music was an important part of his mission experience. “Every missionary conference was like a choir rehearsal,” he recalled.

After being recommended by the Europe Central Area Presidency, Heber received an email from the Tabernacle Choir, inviting him to audition. The process took about ten weeks, starting with an online interview to cover practical details. Next came the technical audition. He had about one month to make recordings of his voice performing in various ways, so he reached out for help. A family friend who is an opera singer in Spain gave him his very first voice lessons—online twice a week. “You have four weeks to turn me into the next Pavarotti,” Heber told her. He submitted the recordings to the review committee in Salt Lake City and fully expected to be cut.

But he wasn’t cut and went onto the final round, a 15-minute live online audition with Ryan Murphy, assistant conductor of the Tabernacle Choir. “I was very nervous,” said Heber. “I set up my computer and microphone in the best place at home that I could find and sent my wife and kids into the other room.” The audition started well but gradually became more difficult and Heber thought “No, I’m not good enough.” He finished strong but was again sure he wouldn’t be selected.

His 16-year-old daughter told him, “Dad, remember, this is not just a choir. This is a calling and so if Heavenly Father wants you there, he's going to make it so that you're there.” He was moved by her insight. A few weeks later, he opened an early-morning email with the good news. “I would have loved to yell, but everybody was sleeping at home, so I stayed silent,” said Heber.

Heber will have a few weeks to learn the 11 pieces of music he will perform with the Tabernacle Choir. When he arrives in Salt Lake City, two weeks ahead of the Conference, he will be designated as a musical missionary and spend all his time preparing for the performances. “I'm not there to visit family and friends, but I'm there with a very specific assignment and that's what I'll be devoting my whole time to,” said Heber.

Heber will be an official member of the Tabernacle Choir for a period of five years, with the chance to sing in at least three different General Conferences of the Church. The first global participants performed with the Choir in April 2023, and for the first time this year, singers from Europe were invited to audition. There will be twelve global participants for the upcoming April 2024 General Conference, seven of whom come from Europe—from France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and England.

Heber has already shown his salsa dance group a video of past General Conferences and invited them to watch in April to possibly see him in the Choir.

“This is for sure the best choir I will have ever sung in and probably will sing in for the rest of my life,” said Heber. “It is a tender mercy of the Lord. I wasn’t chosen because I’m the best musician in all of the Europe Central area. That’s certainly not the case. I feel that this is a way for the Lord to tell me that He sees me and wants to give me this experience. Enjoy it now!”

General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take place twice each year, in April and October.

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