In 1963, in a monumental effort to promote the college, Crawford Gates took 404 students on tour through Nevada and California, performing Bach’s Magnificat and William Walton’s Belshazzar's Feast, both from memory. A tour group of this size – 405 students – was unheard of. It would be the largest group to tour the country. The logistics of taking such a large group to California made some view the expedition as unfathomable. However, the music directors knew the monumental impact this tour would have on the development of the college and persisted in their arrangements. In April of 1962, the Department of Music received approval from the university administration to take their students to Nevada, California, and Utah the following April.
Finally, on April 8, 1963, after two years of planning, auditioning, and practicing, the eager performers and directors loaded into ten buses and began their monumental tour, traveling 2,500 miles across three states. Stopping first in Las Vegas, the group performed at the LDS Cultural and Recreation Center. The following day they performed for the Western Division Conference of the Music Educators National Conference held in Bakersfield, California.
Their next stop was in Los Angeles, where Albert Goldberg, a music critic for the Los Angeles Times, praised their performance stating, “Brigham Young University . . . can well be proud of its accomplishments. . . The Brigham Young forces easily proved themselves among the best.” Goldberg lamented the “lack of publicity [which] held the attendance to slender proportions (Goldberg).”
The California tour concluded in San Francisco, and the group returned to Utah to give three final performances. The first was held in the Smith Field House on April 15, as part of the Fine Arts Festival. The second performance was to facilitate Century Records of Burbank, California in making a recording of the historic tour. A copy of this recording was sent to William Walton, composer of Belshazzar’s Feast, who later sent a letter to Crawford Gates, commending the performers and their achievements. On April 17, 1963, the final performance was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
In November 2007, the historic tour was remembered and honored by the School of Music as they again performed Belshazzar's Feast. The BYU Philharmonic, BYU Singers, BYU Concert Choir, and soloists Shane Warby and Don Cook again brought the piece to BYU on November 9 and 10, 2007.
An additional performance was be held at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on November 17, 2007 at 7:30. This performance was done in conjunction with the combined choirs at the University of Utah as well as the combined conferences of the National Association of Schools of Music and the College Music Society.
- Wilkinson, Ernest. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. Brigham Young University Press, 1976: 2:285.
- Gates, Crawford. Records 1931-1971. Brigham Young University. Dept. of Music. Brigham Young University Special Collections. 2:16.
- Goldberg, Albert. “University Music Unit Wins Praise.” Los Angeles Times. 12 Apr. 1963:C7.