Clay Christiansen: Mormon Musician
Clay Christiansen is a retired Tabernacle organist, having been appointed in 1982. He regularly gave organ recitals in the Tabernacle and the Conference Center. He also accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, now known as the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to his appointment, Christiansen frequently was a guest artist filling in for the principal organists on some of the daily noon recitals presented free to tourists. Former organist Alexander Schreiner was one of his mentors.
Christiansen was born February 28, 1949, in Emery, Utah. He loved to play the piano, preferring it to playing outside with other children, and he played by ear until he started piano lessons at the age of eight. At the age of eleven he became the substitute for the ward organist and was accompanist in Sunday School and Priesthood meetings. At age thirteen, he began taking weekly lessons from J. J. Keeler, who started the organ program at Brigham Young University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from BYU and his master’s and doctorate degrees in composition from the University of Utah.
For ten years, he was the organist and choirmaster at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City. For five years, he served as organist for the only Utah Jewish synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami.
Christiansen has performed as a soloist in many concerts throughout the United States, Canada, and England. He has been a featured artist for groups such as the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants, Canadian Brass, and Danish Radio Choir. He is well remembered for his New Year’s Eve Bach recitals and weekly half-hour radio concerts at St. Mark’s.
He has composed choral, piano, organ, and symphony orchestra music for several major United States music publishers. He wrote the music for the Latter-day Saint hymn “In Fasting We Approach Thee.”
Christiansen and his wife, Diane, are the parents of thirteen children.