Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sometimes colloquially referred to as the MoTab, is a Grammy and Emmy Award winning, 360-member, all-volunteer choir. The choir is part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). However, the choir is completely self-funded, traveling and producing albums to support the organization. The choir's current music director is Mack Wilberg.[1]


Called "America's Choir" by U.S. President Ronald Reagan,[2] the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is made up of 360 men and women; all are members of the LDS Church in good standing. Although many choir members live within close proximity of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah, some members commute long distances for practice and the choir's weekly television and radio broadcast. Choir members are not paid for their participation, travel expenses or performances. There are many husbandwife combinations and some families have participated in the choir for generations.

The choir was founded in August 1847, one month after the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Since July 15, 1929, the choir has performed a weekly radio broadcast called Music and the Spoken Word, which is one of the longest-running continuous radio network broadcasts in the world.[3] At the end of the choir's 4165th live broadcast on July 12, 2009, the show's host, Lloyd D. Newell, announced another milestone that the show had hit: the completion of its 80th year in existence. The show has been televised since the early 1960s and is now broadcast worldwide through some 1,500 radio and television stations.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's sound is often said to be world-famous, and instantly recognizable. When recording, the choir is usually accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square, the Tabernacle's pipe organ, or both. With the completion of the Conference Center, a larger auditorium directly adjacent to Temple Square, the choir now has two halls available for performance.

The minimum age for participation in the choir has recently been reduced from 30 to 25. Choir members are currently limited to twenty years of participation, or until the member reaches the age of 60, allowing new members to join the choir on a regular basis. There is also a limitation of the distance a member may live from downtown Salt Lake City, in part to help ensure safety for the travel that would be required for weekly rehearsals and other performances. New choir members participate in the Temple Square Chorale training choir, a combination music theory/performance school.


The LDS Church has considered music a vital part of worship from the beginning of its history. Early headquarters of the church in Kirtland, Ohio and in Nauvoo, Illinois both had standing choirs. It was no surprise that a choir was formed and ready for the first general conference held in the Salt Lake Valley less than a month after the Latter-day Saint pioneers arrived.[4]

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (sometimes affectionately referred to as "the MoTab" by church members) is named after the Salt Lake Tabernacle, where it has performed for over a hundred years.[5] The Tabernacle itself was finished in 1867 and the choir held its first concert there on July 4, 1873.[4] The Tabernacle also houses an organ consisting of 11,623 pipes, making it one of the largest and most elaborate organs in the world.[4] The organ has long been associated with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "signature sound," though the choir does sing a capella or to orchestral accompaniment as well.

The choir started out fairly small and rather undisciplined. But in 1869, George Careless was appointed as the choir's conductor and the Tabernacle Choir began to musically improve. Under 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 church's October 1873 general conference. It was at this point that the choir began to match the size of the spacious Tabernacle. On September 1, 1910, the choir sang the song, "Let the Mountains shout for Joy",[6] as their first ever recording. 300 of the then-600 members showed up for the recording.[7]

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 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 the "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:

  • Visited 28 countries outside the United States.
  • Performed at 13 Worlds Fairs and Expositions.
  • Released more than 130 musical compilations and several films and videotapes.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed for ten presidents of the United States beginning with President William Howard Taft.[8] 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).[9]

Other notable events the choir has performed at include the following:

  • Performed over 20 times at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, including at the Opening Ceremonies, where they sang the national anthem and the Olympic Hymn under the direction of John Williams.
  • The American Bicentennial in Washington, D.C. (July 4, 1976)
  • The Constitution's bicentennial celebration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1987)

It has also participated in several significant events, including:

  • National broadcasts honoring the passing of U.S. Presidents:
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt (April 12, 1945)
    • John F. Kennedy (November 24, 1963)


From its first national tour in 1893, under the direction of Evan Stephens, to the Chicago World's Fair, the choir has performed in locations around the world, including:

  • Western Europe (1955, 1973, 1998)
  • Scandinavia (1982)
  • Central Europe and the former Soviet Union (1991)
  • Israel (1993)
  • Japan/Korea (1979, 1982)
  • Australia/New Zealand (1988)
  • Central America (1968, 1972)
  • Brazil (1981)[10]
  • Canada and Eastern United States (2011)[11]
  • Western United States (2012)[12]

The choir has performed with a number of award-winning popular artists including: James Taylor,[13] Sting,[13] Katherine Jenkins,[14] Lindsey Stirling,[15] Sissel,[13] and The Osmonds.[16]

Christmas concerts

The choir holds a yearly Christmas concert in the Conference Center auditorium in Salt Lake City during the month of December. Typically, the concert consists of four shows: a Thursday dress rehearsal, Friday and Saturday shows and a Sunday abbreviated concert after the morning Music and the Spoken Word program. The combined audience for the four days of concerts is approximately 84,000. Tickets to the concert are free, but are distributed randomly through an internet drawing. A live album (CD/DVD) is typically released, along with the concert being aired on PBS, during the latter part of the following year.

Guest artists participate and sing with the choir most years. A guest narrator is also invited most years to read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. Past guest artists include:

  • 2000: R&B singer Gladys Knight and actress Roma Downey[17]
  • 2001: Actress Angela Lansbury
  • 2002: Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite
  • 2003: Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and baritone Bryn Terfel
  • 2004: Actress and singer Audra McDonald and actor Peter Graves
  • 2005: Soprano Renee Fleming and actress Claire Bloom
  • 2006: Soprano Sissel
  • 2007: London-based a cappella group the King's Singers
  • 2008: Broadway singer Brian Stokes Mitchell and actor Edward Herrmann[18]
  • 2009: Jazz singer Natalie Cole and author and historian David McCullough[19]
  • 2010: Pop singer David Archuleta and actor Michael York[20]
  • 2011: Operatic baritone Nathan Gunn and actress Jane Seymour[21]
  • 2012: Tenor Alfie Boe and former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw[22]
  • 2013: Soprano Deborah Voigt and actor John Rhys-Davies[23]


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has about 15 staff members including: the president, directors, organists, Music and the Spoken Word announcer, and two business related staff members.

Music directors

Mack Wilberg is the current director, with assistant director Ryan Murphy.

Main article: List of Mormon Tabernacle Choir music directors


Main article: Salt Lake Tabernacle organ

Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen, Andrew Unsworth, Bonnie Goodliffe, and Linda Margetts are the current organists.

Music and the Spoken Word announcers

Main article: Music and the Spoken Word

Since its inception in 1929, the "spoken word" segment of the program has been voiced by four separate individuals. The original writer, producer, and announcer of the spoken portion of the broadcast was Edward (Ted) Kimball, who would stand at the top of a tall ladder and announce the name of each performance piece into the microphone suspended from the Tabernacle ceiling. Kimball remained at the post for only 11 months, when he was replaced by Richard L. Evans, who continued in that capacity until his death in 1971. J. Spencer Kinard took over as announcer in 1972 until he stepped down in 1990. Lloyd D. Newell has been the announcer since then.

Awards and inductions

The choir has a list of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Arts (2003).[24]

In 1960 the choir won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus at that year's awards ceremony with a recording of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that replaced the line "let us die to make men free" with "let us live to make men free." The album the song came from was entitled Lord's Prayer. It was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1963. The album was released by Columbia Records.

The largest act to chart on the Hot 100 is the 320-person Mormon Tabernacle Choir, whose version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" reached No. 13 according to the The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits in 1959.[25]

In 2012, the choir was the year-end top charting Traditional Classical Albums Artist according to Billboard Magazine.[26]

Grammy Awards

Year Nominated work Award Result
1960 "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from the album Lord's Prayer Best Pop Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus Won
1967 "Bless This House" from the album Bless This House Best Classical Choral Performance Nominated
2007 Spirit of the Season (feat. Sissel) Best Classical Crossover Album Nominated
Best Engineered Album, Classical Nominated
2009 Noel (with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, track 13) Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Nominated

Other awards


  • Peabody Award Music and the Spoken Word for Outstanding Entertainment in Music


  • Peabody Award Music and the Spoken Word "Let Freedom Ring"[27][28]


  • Freedoms Foundation's George Washington Award Music and the Spoken Word Fourth of July Broadcast



  • Freedoms Foundation's George Washington Award[29]


  • National Medal of Arts[30]
  • International Radio and Television Society Foundation's Special Recognition Award
  • Chorus America's Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence


  • Library of Congress' National Recording Registry Handel's Messiah (1959)
  • National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame Choir and Music and the Spoken Word


  • Mother Teresa Award[31]


  • National Radio Hall of Fame Music and the Spoken Word


  • Emmy Award The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Presents the Joy of Song, a musical special featuring Katherine Jenkins[32]


Main article: Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas discography

Since its first recording in 1910, the choir has earned five gold albums (two in 1963-The Lord's Prayer and Handel's Messiah, one in 1979- The Joy of Christmas, and two in 1985- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Christmas Carols and Joy to the World) and two platinum albums (in 1991- Hallmark Christmas: Carols of Christmas and 1992- Hallmark Christmas: Celebrate Christmas!). The choir has made over 300 recordings and continues to produce albums. For some live performances and albums, the choir has collaborated with large orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the newly formed Orchestra at Temple Square.

Since the foundation of the choir's own record label, it has produced many recordings including chart topping albums:

  • Glad Christmas Tidings (2011) Billboard Classical Catalog No. 1
  • This Is the Christ (2011) Billboard Christian No. 1, Billboard Classical No. 1
  • Men of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (2010) Billboard Classical No. 1
  • 100 Years: Celebrating a Century of Recording Excellence (2010) Billboard Classical No. 1
  • Heavensong (2010) Billboard Classical No. 1
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: American Folk Hymns & Spirituals (2009) Billboard Classical No. 1
  • Spirit of the Season (2007) Billboard Classical No. 1

See also

  • List of Mormon Tabernacle Choir Music Directors
  • Salt Lake Tabernacle organ


  1. Mack Wilberg is officially named Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director from Deseret News
  2. Avant, Gerry (January 27, 2001). Mormon Tabernacle Choir on parade. Retrieved on 3 May 2011.
  3. Mikita, Carole (2006-04-30). Mormon Tabernacle Choir Marks 4,000 Broadcast. KSL. Retrieved on 14 January 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Watch and Listen to Performances Online
  5. Mormon Tabernacle Choir celebrates 100 years of memorable recordings | Deseret News
  6. Buy Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs and DVDs - Official Shop
  7. Turley, Richard E., Jr. (2010), "The First Mormon Tabernacle Choir Recordings, 1910", Ensign
  9. Dumont, Jane (1989), Tabernacle Choir and Other Church Members Participate in U.S. Presidential Inauguration, "News of the Church", Ensign: 76
  10. 1981, Tabernacle Choir Performs in Brazil, "News of the Church", Ensign: 106107
  11. 14 January 2011, "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Announces 2011 Tour to the Eastern United States and Canada", Newsroom, LDS Church
  12. Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tickets, Tour Dates and Schedule at StubPass!
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Entertainment News, Celebrity and Pop Culture - ABC News
  14. Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune
  15. Lindsey Stirling performs with Mormon Tabernacle Choir | The Salt Lake Tribune
  16. Osmonds, Tabernacle Choir unite in song | Deseret News
  17. Looking at Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmases | Deseret News
  18. Singer praises Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Wilberg | Deseret News
  19. Photo: Natalie Cole performs with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir | Deseret News
  20. "David Archuleta to sing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir" 10-07-10, retrieved Oct. 7, 2010
  21. Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune
  22. Utah Local News - Salt Lake City News, Sports, Archive - The Salt Lake Tribune
  23. Eagar, Emilee (October 8, 2013), "Soprano, British actor to join Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas concerts", Deseret News
  24. National Medal of Arts Recipients for 2003. The White House (2002-11-12). Retrieved on 14 January 2009.
  25. * Battle Hymn of the Republic and Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  26. LDS Living - Billboard Magazine Names Mormon Tabernacle Choir the No. 1 Selling Classical Artist of 2012
  27. Schenectady Gazette - Google News Archive Search
  29. LDS Church News - Choir honored for love of God, country
  30. News | NEA
  31. 20 November 2006, "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Honored with Mother Teresa Award", Newsroom, LDS Church. Retrieved 2008-04-04.

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This page was last modified 09.11.2013 07:29:01

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