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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir made their public debut on August 22, 1847, just 29 days after Brigham Young and his 147 followers first settled in the Salt Lake Valley. John Parry was named the choir's first official conductor in 1849, and two years later, construction was completed on the first Tabernacle church, followed in 1867 by the dome-roofed Tabernacle facility which still exists. The 150-member choir assembled for the facility's October 6th opening was at that time the largest in the U.S., their voices accompanied by a mammoth organ featuring some 2000 pipes. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir made its first official recordings for Columbia on September 1, 1910; their weekly radio broadcast, Music and the Word, premiered on CBS affiliate KSL on September 15, 1932, and continues to air, enjoying the longest uninterrupted network run in American history. In 1959, the choir's recording of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" earned a Grammy, followed over the years by a number of gold and platinum records; the latter-day Mormon Tabernacle Choir counts 300 members and continues to record and tour on a regular basis.
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."Latter-day Saints Prepare for Worldwide Conference". www.mormonnewsroom.org.au. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Larson, Jennifer (2008-03-28). "Mack Wilberg is officially named Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director". deseretnews.com. Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
Called "America's Choir" by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 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 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. 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.Avant, Gerry (January 27, 2001). "Mormon Tabernacle Choir on parade". Retrieved 3 May 2011. Mikita, Carole (2006-04-30). "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Marks 4,000 Broadcast". KSL. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
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.
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. The Tabernacle itself was finished in 1867 and the choir held its first concert there on July 4, 1873. The Tabernacle also houses an 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. 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", as their first ever recording. 300 of the then-600 members showed up for the recording.
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."Official Website". Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2014-03-16. Carma Wadley (2010-06-13). "Mormon Tabernacle Choir celebrates 100 years of memorable recordings". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "Buy Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs and DVDs - Official Shop". Mormontabernaclechoir.org. 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2014-03-16. Turley, Richard E., Jr. (September 2010), The First Mormon Tabernacle Choir Recordings, 1910, Ensign
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 World’s 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. 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).
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)Canada and Eastern United States (2011)Western United States (2012)Midwest United States (2013)Eastern United States (2015)
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 Downey2001: Actress Angela Lansbury2002: Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite2003: Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and baritone Bryn Terfel2004: Actress Audra McDonald and actor Peter Graves2005: Soprano Renee Fleming and actress Claire Bloom2006: Soprano Sissel2007: London-based a cappella group the King's Singers2008: Broadway singer Brian Stokes Mitchell and actor Edward Herrmann2009: Jazz singer Natalie Cole and author and historian David McCullough4010: Pop singer David Archuleta and actor Michael York2011: Operatic baritone Nathan Gunn and actress Jane Seymour2012: Tenor Alfie Boe and former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw The event also featured Col. Gail "Hal" Halvorsen.2013: Soprano Deborah Voigt and actor John Rhys-Davies2014: Broadway singer Santino Fontana and The Sesame Street Muppets "Official Website". Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2014-03-16. Dumont, Jane (April 1989), "Tabernacle Choir and Other Church Members Participate in U.S. Presidential Inauguration", News of the Church, Ensign: 76 "Tabernacle Choir Performs in Brazil", News of the Church, Ensign, May 1981: 106–107 "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Announces 2011 Tour to the Eastern United States and Canada", Newsroom, LDS.org (LDS Church), 14 January 2011 "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tickets, Tour Dates and Schedule at StubPass!". Stubpass.com. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Releases 2013 Midwest Tour Schedule". Lds.org. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tour Information". Mormontabernaclechoir.org. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Michael De Groote (2010-12-20). "Looking at Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmases". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-03-16. Edward Reichel (2008-12-07). "Singer praises Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Wilberg". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "Photo: Natalie Cole performs with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir". Deseret News. 2009-12-11. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "David Archuleta to sing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir". KSL.com. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2014-03-18. Means, Sean P. (2011-10-06). "Nathan Gunn, Jane Seymour joining Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas". The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT: MediaNews Group). ISSN 0746-3502. Retrieved 2014-03-17. Burger, David (2012-12-07). "Alfie Boe and Tom Brokaw bring star power to Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert". The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT: MediaNews Group). ISSN 0746-3502. Retrieved 2014-03-17. "Christmas from Heaven: The Candy Bomber Story (Narrated by Tom Brokaw)". YouTube. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Eagar, Emilee (October 8, 2013), Soprano, British actor to join Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas concerts, Deseret News "2014 Christmas Guests Are Brought to You by the Letters F-U-N!!!". Mormontabernaclechoir.org. Retrieved 21 October 2014. R. Scott Lloyd (16 October 2014). "Sesame Street Muppets, Santino Fontana to join Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas concert". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
ContentsLeadership1.1 Music directors1.2 Organists1.3 Music and the Spoken Word announcers
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.
Mack Wilberg is the current director, with assistant director Ryan Murphy.Main article: List of Mormon Tabernacle Choir music directors
OrganistsMain 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 announcersMain 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), a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus (1960), and Emmy Awards (1987, 2013, 2014).
In 1960 the choir won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus 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 song came from the album The Lord's Prayer which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1963. The largest act to chart on the Billboard 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.
In 2012, the choir was the year-end top charting Traditional Classical Albums Artist according to Billboard Magazine.
Several award winning popular artists have reflected on the beauty of the choir's music publically including: Gladys Knight (of Gladys Knight and the Pips), Ric Ocasek (of The Cars), The Osmonds, Sting (of The Police), and James Taylor.
1944Peabody Award — Music and the Spoken Word for Outstanding Entertainment in Music
1961Peabody Award — Music and the Spoken Word — "Let Freedom Ring"
1981Freedoms Foundation's George Washington Award — Music and the Spoken Word — Fourth of July Broadcast
1987Emmy Award — Christmas Sampler, a musical special with Shirley Verrett
1988Freedoms Foundation's George Washington Award
2003National Medal of ArtsInternational Radio and Television Society Foundation's Special Recognition AwardChorus America's Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence
2004Library of Congress' National Recording Registry — Handel's Messiah (1959)National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame — Choir and Music and the Spoken Word
2006Mother Teresa Award
2010National Radio Hall of Fame — Music and the Spoken Word
2013Emmy Award — The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Presents the Joy of Song, a musical special featuring Katherine Jenkins
2014Emmy Award — The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Presents an Evening with James Taylor "National Medal of Arts Recipients for 2003". The White House. 2002-11-12. Retrieved 14 January 2009. "Frequently Asked Questions About the Mormon Tabernacle Choir". Mormontabernaclechoir.org. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "BYU Broadcasting, Tabernacle Choir Awarded Emmys - Church News and Events". Lds.org. 2013-11-23. Retrieved 2013-11-30. http://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/articles/press-release/2014-emmy?lang=eng "The Lord's Prayer - Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "Battle Hymn of the Republic and John Brown Song". americanmusicpreservation.com. PineTree Multimedia Productions. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-03-17. "Billboard Magazine Names Mormon Tabernacle Choir the #1 Selling Classical Artist of 2012". LDS Living. 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "A conversation with Mormon convert and 7-time Grammy Award-winner Gladys Knight". DeseretNews.com. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "Rivers Cuomo Is Trying to Be All Right". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "Osmonds, Mormon Tabernacle Choir excited for 'milestone' marking Pioneer Day concerts". DeseretNews.com. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Scott D. Pierce (25 September 2004). "Scott Pierce: PBS special salutes choir". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved 10 October 2014. "James Taylor: Singing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir 'worth the wait'". DeseretNews.com. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Wakley, Ralph (1987-02-12). "Morman Tabernacle Choir Plans 3000th Broadcast". The Schenectady Gazette 93 (116) (Schenectady, NY: Daily Gazette Co). UPI. p. 6. ISSN 1050-0340. OCLC 20836106. Retrieved 2014-03-17. Williams, Danna (2013-07-12). "George Foster Peabody Award Winners". peabodyawards.com. Athens, GA: George Foster Peabody Awards. p. 23. Retrieved 2014-03-17. "Choir honored for love of God, country", Church News, 1988-11-26. "News | NEA". Nea.gov. Retrieved 2014-03-16. "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Honored with Mother Teresa Award", Newsroom, LDS.org (LDS Church), 20 November 2006 . Retrieved 2008-04-04. http://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/articles/press-release/2014-emmy?lang=eng
RecordingsMain 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. The choir's own record label was formed in 2003.