Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
File:Mormon Tabernacle Choir logo
Background information
Origin Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Genres Worship, classical, gospel
Years active 1847 (1847)–present
Labels Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Associated acts Music and the Spoken Word
Orchestra at Temple Square
Temple Square Chorale
Bells on Temple Square
Salt Lake Tabernacle organ

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sometimes colloquially referred to as 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 (the 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 famous 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 husband-wife 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 just 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 famous 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. New choir members participate in The Temple Square Chorale training choir, a combination music theory/performance school.

History of the Choir

The Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performing on December 3, 2005, in the LDS Conference Center under the direction of Craig Jessop

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 then that a choir was formed and ready for the first conference held in the Salt Lake Valley less than a month after the Latter-day Saint pioneers' arrival.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (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. 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 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 October 1873 General Conference. It was at this point that the Choir began to match the size of the spacious Tabernacle.

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 "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Later directors of the Choir continued to hone and refine the Choir's sound.

Choir Milestones

Logo from 2004 for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's celebrations of 75 years of Music and the Spoken Word

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 Orchestra, receiving a Grammy Award
  • 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).[4]

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

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:

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 show 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 audience members. Tickets to the concert are free, but are distributed randomly through an internet drawing.

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:

Leadership of the Choir

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.


Richard Elliott, Andrew Unsworth, and Clay Christiansen are the current organists.

Music and the Spoken Word announcers

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.


The choir has a list of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Arts (2003).[9] Its radio broadcast Music and the Spoken Word has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters hall of fame. It has also received two Peabody Awards for service to American Broadcasting (1944, 1962) and it was awarded the Freedom Foundation's "George Washington Award" (1981, 1988).

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 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 number thirteen in 1959 (SOURCE:

In 2006 the choir was honored as a Laureate of the Mother Teresa Award.[10]

In late 2007 Spirit of the Season by the Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square, and featuring Norwegian-born soprano Sissel, was nominated for two Grammy Awards: "Best Classical Crossover Album" and "Best Engineered Album, Classical."

Recent recordings

Since its first recording in 1910, the choir has earned five gold albums and two platinum albums. 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:

  • Consider the Lilies (2003)
    • The music in this first album on the choir's new label represents a broad range of musical feeling—from the joyful "Rejoice, the Lord is King!" and "Morning Has Broken" to the contemplative "O Holy Jesus" and "Pilgrims' Hymn" to the fervent affirmations in "I Believe in Christ" and "This Is the Christ."[11]
  • Peace Like a River (2004)
  • America's Choir: Favorite Songs, Hymns, & Anthems (2004)
    • The selections in this recording bring together favorite songs, hymns, and anthems from the Choir’s repertoire. Other songs and anthems in this collection speak of the many facets of life: “Cindy” is a rousing folk song; “O Home Beloved,” a plaintive remembrance; “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a stirring tribute to the grace of God, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” the reach for dreams yet unrealized, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” the anthem that made the Choir famous.[12]
  • Spirit of America (2003)
  • Sing, Choirs of Angels! (2004)
  • Choose Something Like a Star (2005)
  • Love is Spoken Here (2005)
  • Then Sings My Soul (2006)
  • Now Let Us Rejoice: Organ Hymns for the Sabbath (2006)
  • The Wonder of Christmas (2006)
  • Showtime! Music of Broadway and Hollywood (2007)
  • Spirit of the Season featuring Sissel (2007) (Nominated for two Grammy awards)
  • Mack Wilberg: Requiem and Other Choral Works (2008)
  • Called to Serve (2008)
  • Rejoice and Be Merry! featuring The King's Singers (2008)
  • Praise to the Man (2009)
  • "Born Free" (featured in the film Madagascar)
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (2009)
  • Ring Christmas Bells (2009) featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell
  • Heavensong (2010)
  • 100 Years: Celebrating a Century of Recording Excellence (2010)
  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2010)
  • The Men of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (2010)
  • This Is the Christ (2011)
  • 9/11: Rising Above (2011) (Special digital-only album)

The choir performed "O Come All Ye Faithful" with crossover singer Josh Groban, in his 2007 album, Noël, the best selling Holiday albums of 2007 and 2008, and "The Lord's Prayer" with Andrea Bocelli for his 2009 album, My Christmas, the best selling Holiday albums of 2009.


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square tour every other year. In the summer of 2009 they performed in Cincinnati, Ohio;[13] St. Louis, Missouri;[14] Des Moines, Iowa;[15] Omaha, Nebraska;[16] Kansas City;[17] Norman, Oklahoma[18] and Denver, Colorado.[19]

See also

Christus statue temple square salt lake city.jpg Latter-day Saints portal


  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 3 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Mikita, Carole (2006-04-30). "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Marks 4,000 Broadcast". KSL. Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  4. ^ "Tabernacle Choir and Other Church Members Participate in U.S. Presidential Inauguration". Ensign. April 1989. p. 76. 
  5. ^ Ensign, May 1981, p. 106-107
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "David Archuleta to sing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir" 10-07-10, retrieved Oct. 7, 2010
  9. ^ "National Medal of Arts Recipients for 2003". The White House. 2002-11-12. Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  10. ^ Mormon Tabernacle Choir Honored with Mother Teresa Award, LDS Church press release, 20 November 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  11. ^ Consider the Lilies description from
  12. ^ America's Choir description from
  13. ^ Article about the Choir's Cincinnati, Ohio visit from Choir's official website
  14. ^ St. Louis: Tour Gateway for Choir and Orchestra article from Choir's official website
  15. ^ Des Moines: Service through Singing article from Choir's official website
  16. ^ Omaha, Nebraska: Home, Home on the Plains article from Choir's official website
  17. ^ “If it’s Thursday, we must be in Kansas City” article from Choir's official website
  18. ^ Oklahoma! article from Choir's official website
  19. ^ Almost Home: Denver Concert at Red Rocks Concludes Tour article from Choir's official website

External links

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