Since he was 7 years old, Atascocita resident John Heimburger had dreamed of singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As a surprise for his impending birthday, Heimburger’s wife and daughter reached out to a member of the choir to inquire about the possibility of Heimburger joining them, and he was invited to join the choir for a rehearsal in the Salt Lake Tabernacle Oct. 18.
Even more exciting was during rehearsal, when Heimburger was recognized for his military service and received a standing ovation from 360 choir members, 156 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square, and an audience estimated at over 800. It lasted nearly 60 seconds.
“To have the 360 voices of the tabernacle choir, 156 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square, and probably 800 folks in the tabernacle audience itself all stand and applaud for nearly 60 seconds when the associate music director of the choir, Ryan Murphy, introduced me – was a unique and memorable honor that gave me a huge lump in my throat,” Heimburger said. “That has never happened before, even when returning from Vietnam safely and meeting my family after four years of service in-country.”
According to a press release about the honor, Heimburger’s history with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started when he was young: “His aunt was a church organist in Central Illinois in 1948 when she organized a three-car family caravan driving 2,790 miles round-trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, to listen to the tabernacle organ and attend the weekly ‘Music and the Spoken Word.’ That experience never left Heimburger’s memory.”
“Having sung in three different vocal groups in high school and in The United States Air Force Academy Chorale for four years (once for Bob Hope in Colorado Springs, and a second time with Hope in Thailand when Hope brought his 1967 USO Tour to Nakom Phenom Air Base), it was the ultimate experience to be among the highly qualified tenors in the tabernacle choir,” Heimburger said. “And with a wife, three children and grandchildren in the audience and photographers and videographers taking pictures, it was certainly a uniquely special and memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Throughout his military career, Heimburger flew over 660 combat missions as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Vietnam from ’65-68, being awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, and 26 Air Medals. He completed a successful flying career in 2001 as a pilot for Frontier and Continental Airlines, accumulating more than 30,000 accident-free flight hours.
“I’ve flown very high many, many times – but the ‘high’ I received from spending three hours singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one I will never come down from,” Heimburger said.