Orchestra at Temple Square History
The Orchestra stepped on stage with the Choir in 1999 when then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of a symphonic orchestra to serve as a companion ensemble to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The move added a new and significant dimension in sound and repertoire to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, concerts and special performances. Orchestra members participate as volunteers as do Choir members.
Prior to the organization of the Orchestra, the Tabernacle Choir performed and recorded with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, to name but a few. None of those collaborations were presented on the Choir’s most well-known and signature musical presentation—Music and the Spoken Word. The Orchestra accompanies the Choir at the majority of the world-wide broadcasts today.
Mack Wilberg, music director of the Tabernacle Choir since 2008, oversees all the Choir organizations including the Orchestra, Bells on Temple Square and Temple Square Chorale. Barlow Bradford, the orchestra’s first conductor, served from 1999 to 2003, and established a concert series of orchestral masterworks. In 2003 world-renowned conductor and violinist Igor Gruppman succeeded Bradford and under his baton the orchestra has expanded that tradition with a varied symphonic and concerto repertoire. At many of its twice-a-year concerts, the Orchestra performs with Tabernacle organists and noted guest artists like 19 year-old piano prodigy George Li in 2014.
The Orchestra plays a significant role in Choir recordings. In 2000 and 2001 the Orchestra and Choir collaborated on their first recordings for Telarc records. In 2003 the Choir founded its own recording label—Mormon Tabernacle Choir—and since that time the orchestra has played on every Choir recording, more than 36 albums in 15 years. In 2016 the Choir and Orchestra released a monumental recording of Handel’s Messiah.
The roster of the Orchestra at Temple Square consists of nearly 200 musicians. About 85 of those participate in weekly performances. Many of the players are professional musicians; others are students, music teachers, doctors, accountants, and those pursuing other vocations while still maintaining their instrumental skills at a high level. All of them, like all Tabernacle Choir members, give of their time and talents generously without receiving any financial compensation.
The advent of the Orchestra at Temple Square has added a new and significant dimension in sound and repertoire in support of the Choir’s mission as ambassadors of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Orchestra continues to manifest itself as an outstanding symphony orchestra with great promise for the future.