The Tabernacle Choir Blog

85th Year of Choir Broadcast Feted on 8/11; Organ Fest Coming 8/16

Former Conductors to Join in Special Music & the Spoken Word Broadcast

The live Music & the Spoken Word broadcast of Sunday, August 11 will highlight the 85th year of continuous broadcasting for this remarkable program.  Every week since a summer day in 1929 the Choir has sent forth a broadcast from Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  To help mark the beginning of this 85th year of broadcasting, music director Mack Wilberg has invited two past conductors of the Choir, Jerold Ottley and Craig Jessop, to join him and associate conductor Ryan Murphy in conducting this week’s broadcast. 

Ottley conducted the Choir from 1974 to 1999 and Jessop from 1999 to 2008.  Together with current conductor Wilberg, they account for nearly half of the broadcast’s 85 years!  Watch the special program on KSL-TV, KSL Radio,, BYUtv at the local equivalent of 9:30 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time.  Check KSL BYUtv and for reairings later in the date and look for the program on the Choir’s YouTube channel ( in a a few weeks.

Tabernacle Organists to Play at Cathedral of the Madeleine Organ Fest

Tabernacle organists have what Principal Organist Richard Elliott calls “the dream job.” Once asked by a music teacher what he hoped to accomplish playing the organ, he responded that he wanted to make the organ sing and dance and make people who think they don’t like organ music – like organ music. 

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elliott explains “playing the sacred organs in sacred halls is a spiritual experience unlike any other.”  While many professional organists play in church services and at funerals, the five Tabernacle organists perform in concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra; they play on the weekly broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word, tour with the Choir taking their own organ, present recitals every day—twice a day in the summer—and participate in General Conference and other Church meetings including funerals, and have occasions to perform in concert by invitation in some of the grand cathedrals and concert settings around the world as well as close to home.

For the most part, they perform with their backs to the audience, never seeing the eyes focused upon them. They play everything from the great classics to Broadway and are “highly trained and phenomenally versatile.”  In broadcasts they are often called upon to improvise to fit timing.  For as much as 30 seconds, Elliott explains, you are improvising to fit music leading into or behind the message of the Spoken Word, in the middle or at the end of a broadcast. 

 On August 16, the five of them—Elliott, Clay Christiansen, Andrew Unsworth, Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts—will be featured guest artists at the “Organ Fest VI” in The Cathedral of the Madeleine at 8 p.m. The free concert is sponsored by KBYU’s Classical 89 radio station.