History of the Choir
The Mormon Church 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 suprise 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 Mormon Tabernacle Choir (casually abbreviated as MoTab) 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 Mormon 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. By 1950 the Mormon 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.
Since its establishment more than 150 years ago, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 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 Mormon 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) and George W. Bush (2001).
- The Choir performed over 20 times at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, including the Opening Ceremonies.
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 Mormon Tabernacle Choir 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 Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices and performs on a weekly basis, frequently accompanied by either the Tabernacle or Conference Center organ or the Orchestra at Temple Square (a 110-member volunteer orchestra organized primarily to assist the Choir in their performances and recordings). Since 1929, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 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 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.
Current Choir Leadership
- Mac Christensen: Choir President
- Mack Wilberg: Director
- Ryan Murphy: Associate Director
- Igor Gruppman: Conductor, Orchestra at Temple Square
- Lloyd D. Newell: Announcer for Music and the Spoken Word
- John Longhurst: Organist
- Clay Christiansen: Organist
- Richard Elliott: Organist
- Bonnie Goodliffe: Organist
- Linda Margetts: Organist
Over the years, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has released over 130 musical compilations. In 2003, the Choir launched its own record label, Mormon Tabernacle Choir™. Under their new label, the Choir has already released a number of albums. For a more complete list visit the Discography section of the Choir's Website. All albums are available through Deseret Book
- 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
Recent Guests and Guest Artists
- Angela Lansbury
- Audra McDonald
- Bryn Terfel
- Charles Osgood
- Frederica von Stade
- Peter Graves
- Walter Cronkite
- John Williams
- The Canadian Brass
- The Singing Sergeants
- The U.S. Air Force Band
- Vocal Majority
The King's Singers Perform with the Choir
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"
For More Information Visit:
- The Official Mormon Tabernacle Choir website
- The Official Music and the Spoken Word website
- Lightplanet's Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Website:
- Frequently Asked Questions, Choir Facts, Recordings
LDS Newsroom: Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square
- Choir Facts, By the Numbers, Timelineru:Мормонский Табернакальный хор