Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

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The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not only one of the oldest and largest choirs in the world, it is also one of the most famous, having performed in more than 28 different countries as well as across the United States. In fact, after they sang at his 1981 inauguration, President Ronald Reagan dubbed the Tabernacle Choir "America's Choir." The 360-voice choir is made up of faithful Latter-day Saints between the ages of 25 and 60. Members of the Choir are not only exceptionally talented, they are also all volunteers, often still working in their various occupations and join the Choir out of a love of music and the Choir’s message.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square
Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and the Orchestra at Temple Square. © 2006 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Broadened Mission to Reach a Global Audience

In 2022, the Choir launched a pilot program to broaden its mission to reach a global audience, said Choir President Michael O. Leavitt, who describes the program as a natural progression in the Choir’s growth. “The entire Church celebrates Christ. We not only speak His words, but we sing his praises,” said President Leavitt. “Our goal now is to reach throughout the world to bring peace and healing. More than half the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lives outside the United States. This is a means by which we not only reflect that membership, but it’s also a way in which we can bring a sense of belonging to people who live all over the world.”[1]

The pilot program means that for the first time in its 175-year history, participants living outside the United States will join the Choir during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (April 2023). Ten members of the Church outside of the United States, were selected through a process that required vocal ability and proficiency in music theory and English. The ten are Alvaro Jorge Martins of Natal, Brazil; Rodrigo Domaredzky of Curitiba, Brazil; Thalita De Carvalho of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Tubo-Oreriba Joseph Elisha of Accra, Ghana; Jonathan How of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Denisse Elorza Avalos of Tijuana, Mexico; Georgina Montemayor Wong of Monterrey, Mexico; Ronald Baa of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Sundae Mae Indino of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; and PeiShang Chung (Kylie Zhong) of Taipei, Taiwan. They have been practicing since December 2022, when they received news of their selection. Each Choir member is called to be an ambassador for the Church of Jesus Christ, to share their goodwill and faith through music.

Due to the Choir’s rigorous practice schedule, Choir members are required to live within a 100-mile radius of the historical Tabernacle. However, Leavitt said the pilot program opens the door for others with exceptional musical abilities to also engage on a temporary basis. The international participants arrived in Salt Lake City the weekend of March 18–20, 2023. They had the opportunity to join in Choir rehearsals, attend Choir school, tour the Church’s Welfare Square and Bishop’s Central Storehouse, visit several Church historical sites and tour Temple Square. The group also spent time with President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency and his wife, Kristen M. Oaks. “It is a very important step forward,” President Oaks said to the new participants. “It’s something I hoped for many years could happen but it’s very difficult. You make sacrifices — all of you — to be here. People all over the world are going to be proud that the Tabernacle Choir is not just a Choir for Utah and Salt Lake City but it’s a Choir representing the whole world.”[2]

Before the conference, Choir President Leavitt explained, “It is possible that this will be a one-time event. Or perhaps it will be something we do periodically. The most likely outcome, however, is that through this pilot project we will gradually see new options and possibilities that will help the Choir to better represent the worldwide Church.”[3]

“I hope when you return to your country you will testify of this experience and you will raise a new generation of singers everywhere — all over the world,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said to the global participants at the conclusion of the conference.

Of the pilot program’s future, President Leavitt said it remains in the experimental phase, with a commitment to finding ways for the Choir’s influence to be felt throughout the world.

“We’re going about it in the only way we know how, which is one step at a time; learning, improving and asking the Lord for more guidance,” President Leavitt said. “With each step, it now becomes clearer that this can happen.” He also said, “In October, I think it’s clear that we have learned enough that we will proceed to bring another group from other countries to have an experience that will be informed by all that we learned in this first step,” President Leavitt said, adding that the Choir’s leadership will make final decisions on “next steps” at the end of this year.[4]

A new group of global participants joined the Tabernacle Choir to sing during the October 2023 general conference as part of its pilot program launched during the April 2023 general conference. The choir members arrived in Salt Lake City on September 17 and were able to join in choir rehearsals, attend choir school, go to the Church’s Welfare Square and Bishop’s Central Storehouse, visit the Missionary Training Center in Provo, and tour Temple Square. The Choir participants sang with the choir in the Saturday morning session and both Sunday sessions of general conference.

The pilot program helps participants gain new skills and enhance their ability to contribute to their local congregations and choirs. The ten participants were Aaron Wi-Repa, New Zealand; Esteban Ojeda, Puerto Rico; Gianfranco Vizzini, South Africa; Hikari Harvey, Japan; Idaliz Santiago, Puerto Rico; JinHyoung Park, South Korea; Miguel Rodriguez, Puerto Rico; Sundae Mae Indino, Philippines (she also participated in April); Tin Kin Lam, Hong Kong; Yanina Murga, Ecuador.


History of the Choir

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has considered music a vital part of worship from the very beginning. Early headquarters of the Church in Kirtland and in Nauvoo both had standing choirs. It was no surprise then that a choir was formed and ready for the first conference held in the Salt Lake Valley less than a month after the pioneers' arrival.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is named after the Salt Lake Tabernacle where it has performed for over a hundred years. The Tabernacle itself was finished in 1867 and the Choir held its first concert there on July 4, 1873. The Tabernacle also houses a very impressive organ consisting of 11,623 pipes, making it one of the largest and most elaborate organs in the world. The organ has long been associated with the Tabernacle Choir's "signature sound," though the Choir does sing to orchestral accompaniment as well.

The Choir started out fairly small and (considering its current quality) rather undisciplined. But in 1869, George Careless was appointed as the Choir's conductor and the Tabernacle Choir began to flourish. Under the direction of Careless, the first large choir was assembled by adding smaller choral groups to the main Salt Lake Choir. This larger choir, just over 300, sang at the October 1873 General Conference. It was at this point that the Choir caught the vision of matching the size of the spacious Tabernacle it called home.

Later directors brought more solid vocal training and worked to raise the standards of the Choir. The Choir also began improving as an ensemble and increased its repertoire from around one hundred songs to nearly a thousand. In July of 1929, the Choir performed its first radio broadcast, known as Music and the Spoken Word. Since the beginning, 2-3 minute nondenominational messages or sermonettes of comfort, joy, love, and inspiration intertwine with the musical themes presented. Throughout the years there have been three regular program narrators: Richard L. Evans (1930–1971) J. Spencer Kinard (1972–1990) and Lloyd Newell (1990–present).

By 1950 the Tabernacle Choir performed numerous concerts each year and had released its first long-playing recording. During the 1950s, the Choir made its first tour of Europe and earned a Grammy for its recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Later directors of the Choir continued to hone and refine the Choir's sound.

Name Change

In October 2018, the Tabernacle Choir announced that their name would be changed from Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, thus honoring the direction of Church president Russell M. Nelson to drop the nickname "Mormon."[5] The new name of the Choir better reflects the name of its partner, the Orchestra at Temple Square. The Choir also is working with its many partners on the change, including PBS, Deseret Book, BYUtv and BonCom. The classic name won't disappear immediately or completely; the Choir also will maintain some licensing arrangements under the classic name to retain ownership of it.

The choir has had multiple names in its 171-year history, historians say. It began three weeks after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and soon established itself in a bowery on Temple Square. It became the Tabernacle Choir in 1867, when the Salt Lake Tabernacle was completed. No other designator was necessary.
"The church was very parochial then," [Choir president Ron] Jarrett said. "It was just right here in Salt Lake City."
As the church grew and spread and new tabernacles were built in other Utah cities like Provo and Brigham City, the name necessarily became the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir by 1869.
"Mormon was added at some point," Jarrett said, "and it was the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir," to help identify it for audiences outside Utah. "Then Salt Lake dropped off and it became the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," a term more consistently used beginning in 1929 with the launch of the choir's weekly radio program "Music and the Spoken Word."[6]

Choir Milestones

Since its establishment more than 150 years ago, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has performed and recorded extensively, not only in the United States but around the world. During that time, the Choir has received much praise and recognition. The following are some of its milestones as well as interesting facts:

  • On average, the Choir performs 75 times per year.
  • The Choir practices a minimum of 5 hours each week.
  • There are 27 husband-wife combinations who sing in the Choir.
  • The Choir has visited 28 countries outside the United States.
  • The Choir has performed at 13 World’s Fairs and Expositions.
  • The Choir has performed at the Kirtland Temple.
  • The Choir has performed twice at the RLDS Auditorium in Independence, Missouri.
  • The Choir has released more than 130 musical compilations and several films and videotapes.
  • The Tabernacle Choir has received many notable awards, and is a two-time recipient of the Freedom Foundation Award.
  • Two of the Choir's recordings have achieved "platinum record" status (in 1991 and 1992).
  • Five of the Choir's recordings have achieved "gold record" status (two in 1963, one in 1980, and two in 1985). The most popular has been a 1959 release of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The Choir received a Grammy Award for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in 1959.
  • The Choir won an Emmy Award in 1987 for "Christmas Sampler," a musical special with Shirley Verrett.
  • The Tabernacle Choir has sung for every president of the United States beginning with President William Howard Taft. The choir has also performed at the inaugurations of United States Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson (1965), Richard M. Nixon (1969), Ronald Reagan (1981), George Bush (1989), George W. Bush (2001) and Donald Trump (2017).
  • The Choir performed over 20 times at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, including the Opening Ceremonies.
  • On June 10, 2010, with 100 straight years of recording, the Choir is now the longest recording artist in U.S. history. [7]
  • In June 2010, the Tabernacle Choir’s new album, 100: Celebrating a Century of Recording History, reached No.1 on Billboard’s Classical Overall chart.
  • With over 4,000 continuous broadcasts and counting, Music and the Spoken Word is the longest continuous broadcast in the world.
  • In 2004, Music and the Spoken Word was inducted into the National Association of Broadcaster Radio Hall of Fame.
  • In August, 2010, Music and the Spoken Word was named to the Radio Broadcast Hall of Fame. [8] [9]
  • In May 2017, the Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square's "Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Friends" album took the no. 1 spot on Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart—their 12th album to earn this top honor. The album also took the no. 2 spot on the Classical Overall chart.
  • In March 2020, the Choir ceased meeting together due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadcasts of "Music & the Spoken Word" and general conference performances were taken from previous recordings. The Choir also postponed its 2020 Heritage Tour to 2022.
  • In November 2020, BBC Music Magazine named the Tabernacle Choir amongst the "Best 10 Choirs in the World."
  • In June 2021, the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square announced dates and venues for their rescheduled Heritage Tour. From June 18, 2022 through July 6, 2022, they will perform in seven cities across four Nordic countries and Scotland, and Wales. Some of the earliest members of the Choir had roots in Wales and other areas of Europe.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic halted all Choir-related events on Temple Square in March 2020. On July 9, 2021, the Tabernacle Choir organization announced that rehearsals would begin at the end of August 2021; however that was postponed. On Tuesday, September— for the first time in 555 days—the choir gathered for rehearsal. Live broadcasts of "Music and the Spoken Word" returned and the Choir sang at three sessions of general conference in October 2021.
  • The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square celebrated two decades of Christmas broadcasts with a two-hour anniversary retrospective program in December 2021. The Choir leaders also gave a $100,000 donation to The Actors Fund, which represents many of the acclaimed performers who have helped make the Christmas tradition possible.
  • In 2022, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square redefined its mission to broaden the reach of its music and influence. This will include foreign-language versions of “Music and the Spoken Word,” shorter and more frequent travel and recruitment of qualified Latter-day Saint singers from Mexico, Central America, South America, West Africa, the Philippines, and Asia to join the Choir at the April 2023 general conference.[10][11] The goal is for the Choir to be more visible globally and reach as many people as possible with its music.
  • The Choir announced that its first stop on a four-year world tour will be in Mexico City June 13–19, 2023, where it will perform two concerts at the National Auditorium on June 17 and 18. The Choir last performed at the National Auditorium in 1972.[12] For the first time in the Choir’s history, one of the concerts was streamed live on YouTube. Thousands from Central and South America tuned in.

Joining the Choir

The Choir is made up of some of the best singers in the Church, and the arduous audition process makes sure of that. Those who want to join the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square must first sing in the Tabernacle Square Chorale (a sort of training choir which forms every six months). Applicants must also be between 25 and 55 years of age, live in the Salt Lake Valley area, be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good standing, and be willing to commit to the rigorous practice and performance schedule. The audition process begins with the applicant submitting a recording of the applicant singing without accompaniment. The second part of the audition is a written musical skills test, and those who wish to be in the Choir must score at least eighty percent. Finally there is an in-person audition where the singer demonstrates his or her ability to read music, vocal range, and ability to blend with the Choir. This entire process takes roughly six months. Once in the Choir, members serve for a maximum of 20 years (or until age 60).

Choir Concerts and Broadcasts

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square practices and performs on a weekly basis, frequently accompanied by either the Tabernacle or Conference Center organ or the Orchestra at Temple Square (a volunteer orchestra organized primarily to assist the Choir in their performances and recordings). Since 1929, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has broadcast the radio and television program Music and the Spoken Word. The program features the Choir, with the spoken word provided by Lloyd Newell. The program can be seen live from Temple Square every Sunday at 9:30 am.

The Choir presents numerous performances throughout the year including concerts for Christmas (often featuring notable guests and guest artists) and Pioneer Day (commemorating the day the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847). The Choir also sings for most of the sessions of the Mormon Church's biannual General Conferences. Additionally, the Choir has performed at celebrations honoring the 90th and 95th birthdays of the Church's former president, Gordon B. Hinckley.

The Choir also tours frequently, both across the country and around the world, including performances in Russia, much of Europe and Eastern Europe, Brazil, Japan, Israel, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.

During the 2002 Winter Olympics held Salt Lake City, the Choir, then known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, performed at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, in four concerts featuring guest artists such as Sting and John Williams, and in the Church's multimedia musical Light of the World.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has become synonymous with Christmas. "The Christmas concert presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is the No. 1-rated entertainment program on PBS during the holidays, with more than 4 million Americans tuning in to watch it each year," PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said. "This program showcases some of what PBS does best, to use the magic of television to showcase music, dance and the spoken word in order to inspire and entertain our audiences." [13]

The 2011 performance went into post-production and then aired on PBS TV the following year, December 2012. The Christmas special was filmed December 15-17, 2011, in downtown Salt Lake City at the Conference Center, and featured American baritone Nathan Gunn and British actress Jane Seymour. The 2012's "Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" surpassed 2011's edition. The 2010 concert, which featured David Archuleta as soloist, aired six times during prime time during December 2011.

"Instead of choosing the more secular songs like 'Frosty the Snowman' or 'Winter Wonderland,' " what brings the true meaning of Christmas is singing those songs about the Savior and the circumstances surrounding his birth."

In May 2022, the Choir announced a new evening concert series called the Tabernacle Organ Virtuoso Performance Series held in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle Choir organists and guest organists have established a tradition of performing daily, 30-minute organ recitals during the noon hour.

"With short recitals and limited attendance at the noon recitals, the Tabernacle Choir envisioned a new organ series with performances in the evenings and the ability to invite guest organists from around the world to come and play, said Andrew Unsworth, one of the Tabernacle organists."[14]

Current Choir Leadership

In April 2022, the leadership of the Tabernacle Choir announced the creation of a new position of managing director. Alan D. Johnson was the first to fill the position after the application process culminated on May 12. The managing director will help the choir work with leaders in other Church departments to implement the initiatives. "Most importantly, the main focus of the managing director of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will be to manage the Choir organization in its mission to act as an emissary for the Church and emulate the love of God by testifying of Jesus Christ through uplifting music and inspiring messages,” Leavitt said. [15]

Recent Releases

Over the years, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has released over 130 musical compilations. In 2003, the Choir launched its own record label, Mormon Tabernacle Choir™. Under their label, the Choir has released a number of albums.

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Choir released a new Christmas album in 2022, O Holy Night: Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir.

For a more complete list visit Deseret Book and the Church's online store section of the Choir's Website.

A few of their titles:

  • Then Sings My Soul
  • Love is Spoken Here
  • Choose Something Like a Star
  • Peace Like a River
  • Sing, Choir of Angels!
  • America's Choir: Favorite Songs, Hymns, & Anthems
  • Consider the Lilies
  • Spirit of America
  • This Is the Christ
  • He Is Risen
  • Heavensong: Music of Contemplation and Light
  • Men of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Notable Guests and Guest Artists

David Archuleta · Claire Bloom · Alfie Boe · Hugh Bonneville · Tom Brokaw · The Canadian Brass · Kristin Chenoweth · Natalie Cole · Walter Cronkite · Roma Downey · Renée Fleming · Santino Fontana · Sutton Foster · Amy Grant · Peter Graves · Nathan Gunn · Edward Herrmann · Megan Hilty · Martin Jarvis · The King's Singers · Gladys Knight · Angela Lansbury · Michael Maliakel · David McCullough · Audra McDonald · Neal McDonough · Lesley Nicol · Kelli O'Hara · Charles Osgood · Laura Osnes · John Rhys-Davies · Lea Salonga · Sesame Street Muppets · Jane Seymour · The Singing Sergeants · Sissel · Brian Stokes Mitchell · Sir David Suchet · James Taylor · Bryn Terfel · Richard Thomas · The U.S. Air Force Band · Frederica von Stade · Vocal Majority · Rolando Villazón · Deborah Voigt · John Williams · Michael York

The Tabernacle Choir Online

In addition to the YouTube page of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, the Choir hosts a website that features information about the Choir, and the latest news.

The Choir can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, and RSS.

On April 23, 2020, the Choir leadership announced changes to the logo as well as the strategic direction of the Tabernacle Choir. The logo includes the name of the choir and seven gold-colored organ pipes representing the famed organ in the Tabernacle, the choir’s home for 153 years.

Courtesy The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

Since 2018 when the choir name was changed, the choir has undergone a year-long comprehensive review to determine how it could better support the work of its sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as increase the choir’s relevance and ability to evolve in a changing media environment.

Consistent with the new strategy, the choir’s updated visual identity is being rolled out digitally first, with changes to the choir’s website and social media channels taking place shortly. Changes to the choir’s weekly broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” will take place when the choir and orchestra begin live broadcasts again following the end of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The first choir product to use the new logo will be the choir’s latest CD, which was released in May 2020.

The King's Singers Perform with the Choir

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Sings "Circle of Life" with Alex Boye

The YouTube page of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has started publishing Christmas videos!


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