25 Answers About The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
1. Did the musician Sting ever sing with the Choir?
During the opening ceremony at the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Choir joined 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting, who was the lead singer and bassist of The Police prior to embarking on a career as a solo musician, along with Yo-Yo Ma for a performance of the song “Fragile” in Rice-Eccles Stadium on February 8, 2002.
2. Why is the Choir called “America’s Choir?”
It was President Reagan who first referred to the Choir as “America’s Choir.” He would go on to say, “At my first inauguration as president of the United States, I wanted very much to reignite the fires of liberty and re-inspire the American spirit. And no one sings the anthems of America quite like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
3. Were nails used in building the Salt Lake Tabernacle?
Contrary to popular belief, nails were used to build the Salt Lake Tabernacle, which is the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In fact, tens of thousands of nails were used in the construction, as documented in Gathering as One: The History of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
4. Why is 60 the age limit for Choir members?
It all started in 1974, when Jerold Ottley was asked to be the director of the Choir. At the time, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Spencer W. Kimball, counseled him to “take a close look at everything that the organization stands for—all of its traditions, all of its habits, all of its dreams and hopes for the future, and try to massage them so they will fit the world in which we are now living.”
After some time and thought, Ottley proposed the new retirement policy of 60 years of age or 20 years of service, whichever came first. The change was very hard for some at the beginning, but they stuck to the policy so everyone knew when it was coming.
5. Why aren’t Christmas concerts broadcast live on television or online?
This is a great question that we hear quite often. We are thrilled at the amazing response to the Christmas concert and blessed that we have the Conference Center, where nearly 85,000 people can attend.
We don’t broadcast the concert live or post it immediately. Instead we produce a PBS TV special, a DVD with fascinating bonus footage, and a CD, all available starting in September of the next year.
6. How is Choir seating determined?
It has a lot to do with height. Since 2006, Choir members have been assigned seats according to height as often as possible. This makes it easier for them to see the conductor and creates a more uniform appearance for the cameras.
7. Why does the conductor face the audience and sing during “God Be with You Till We Meet Again”?
In 1974, the Choir’s 11th conductor, Richard P. Condie, was set to retire. On his last broadcast, he came up with a plan to avoid all the sad good-byes and unwittingly started a new tradition for the beloved concluding song. Here is an excerpt from the book America’s Choir: A Commemorative Portrait of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
“Condie gave the Choir the downbeat, and then, with no fanfare, simply set down his baton, stepped down from the podium, and walked out of the Tabernacle. Since that day in 1974, the conductor, at the conclusion of each performance, has put down his baton, turned to the audience, and joined the Choir in singing those poignant words, ‘God be with you till we meet again.’”
8. Was Janice Kapp Perry ever a member of the Choir?
Yes. Watch our exclusive interviews with Janice Kapp Perry about what inspired her to write songs, her personal testimony, and rare footage of Perry performing “A Child’s Prayer” as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the 1990s.
9. Did the Choir sing the University of Utah fight song on ESPN’s College GameDay?
Yes, they did. To be fair, three weeks earlier, the Choir appeared on GameDay singing “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah as part of a story on BYU’s quarterback Tanner Mangum.
10. Can I search and download past general conference hymns?
If you are looking for a specific song from general conference, you are in luck. Check out our playlists on YouTube.
11. Is Alex Boyé still a member of the Choir?
Alex Boyé was a member of the Choir from 2007 to 2014. Boyé continues to return for specific concerts and tours as a guest soloist.
12. Did John Williams (composer of Star Wars, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Home Alone, and Harry Potter ) perform with the Choir?
“Call of the Champions” is a soaring five-minute piece in which the Latin words “citius, altius, fortius,” meaning “faster, higher, stronger,” kick off an inspirational musical feat. For the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Williams recruited the 360-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir to distinguish the piece from his previous compositions. The song was performed at concerts during the Olympics with John Williams conducting.
13. When was the first concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle?
The first concert was held July 4, 1873. The construction of the Tabernacle was completed in 1867, and it was first used for general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the same year.
14. When was the Choir formed?
When Latter-day Saints moved to the Salt Lake Valley in the American West under the direction of Church President Brigham Young, a small choir was formed which first sang at a conference of the Church on August 22, 1847, just 29 days after the first pioneers arrived.
15. Did the Choir sing in Yankee Stadium?
Yes. Watch this spine-tingling rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which took place on the Choir’s Atlantic Coast Tour in 2015.
16. Has the Choir ever won a Grammy Award?
The Choir won its first and only Grammy Award in 1959 for “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
17. Did the Choir do the “wave” in the Conference Center?
After two weeks of touring the East Coast, the Choir returned to Salt Lake City, and before they had time to unpack their suitcases, they were off to extra rehearsals and two more concerts. After the final performance, the Choir waited in the loft to be released. As the minutes ticked by, the Choir may have realized that they could relax after an emotional three weeks—so they did.
18. Do I need a music degree to audition for the Choir?
Absolutely not. Members of the Choir come from all walks of life, including homemakers, music teachers, computer technicians, therapists, professors, doctors, retirees, and the list goes on. In the audition process there is a musical skills test. There is a lot of music to be learned in the Choir, so it is important to be able to pick it up fast; however, the Choir leadership decides who joins the Choir based on many factors, with music theory being just one of them. If you have a good voice, by all means audition.
19. Was Lindsey Stirling a guest of the Choir?
In 2013, Lindsey Stirling was a guest artist with the Choir for the annual Pioneer Day concerts. She performed her song “Elements,” along with “Poor Little Lambs” and “Scotland the Brave/Simple Gifts.”
20. When can I watch a public rehearsal of the Choir (and is it free)?
Many of the Choir’s rehearsals are free and open to the public. Weekly public rehearsals are held on Thursday evenings (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and Sunday mornings (8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.). Sunday rehearsals culminate with the broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word. The rehearsals are regularly held in the Tabernacle except for several occasions during the year when the Choir is either on tour or performing across the street in the Conference Center of the Church.
21. Do Choir and Orchestra members get paid for their service?
No. All 360 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and all 110 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square are unpaid volunteers who practice and perform weekly. Choir members rehearse and perform about five hours in an average week—Thursday nights for two hours and Sunday mornings for more than three hours. This does not include touring, for which members often take time off from work, sometimes foregoing personal vacations. All members must attend a minimum of 80 percent of rehearsals and performances.
22. How can I watch or listen to the Choir if I don’t live in Utah?
Every Sunday on motab.org we broadcast Music & the Spoken Word live. We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
23. Does the Choir accept unsolicited musical works for consideration?
Due to the amount of music we would receive, we do not accept musical works. You can, however, submit music through official Church channels such as the annual LDS Music Submission.
24. How can I find out about upcoming events?
Here are just a few ways to get started: read our newsletter and subscribe on our Connect page, see our event calendar, and follow us on social media (see below).
25. Where can I find the Choir on social media?
We are represented on all major social media sites. Simply click on the links below to follow us on the channels of your choice.