Farewell to Our Remarkable Leader and Friend: Mac Christensen
When Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called businessman Mac Christensen to be president of The Tabernacle Choir in 2000, Mac looked at him askance and said, “President, I’m a monotone!” President Hinckley chuckled in his inimitable way and said, “We aren’t calling you to sing, Mac.”
President Christensen passed away October 11, 2019, at the age of 85. He served with intense dedication, rarely taking more than a few days off for nearly 12 years, from 2000 to 2012. As a Choir organization, we like to think he is now overseeing the singing of angels.
Mac stepped into his role at The Tabernacle Choir at a critical juncture for the Choir. The year before Mac became president, the Choir organization had expanded to include the Orchestra at Temple Square, new music directors had been called, and the Temple Square Chorale and the Choir Training School had been inaugurated. He would guide these new efforts and later add the Bells on Temple Square to the Temple Square musical organizations.
President Mac established new administrative positions on the Choir staff and revamped the Choir’s approach to touring. During his tenure, the Choir conducted seven major tours across the United States and Canada; multiple regional tours were also undertaken. Highlights included singing at the George W. Bush inauguration, the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. He oversaw the move of the Choir to permanent offices in the retrofitted Tabernacle, where new space included expanded library and wardrobe facilities, rehearsal rooms, and sound booths. Christensen championed the Choir’s practice of hosting renowned guest artists for its Christmas concert and was instrumental in establishing the tradition of the Choir’s annual broadcasts on PBS television.
The Choir organization will miss its remarkable leader, friend, and organizational genius. Founder of the successful Mr. Mac clothing chain, he introduced himself to the Choir at their first meeting with the quip “I don’t know your names, but I know your suit sizes.” He was deeply spiritual, generous, a financial wizard, and a wise counselor to his flock of more than 600. His wit and humor were disarming. His penchant for marketing brought the Choir increased exposure as he helped create the Choir’s own label for recordings, launched a website, and increased distribution of the weekly Music & the Spoken Word broadcast. He had favorite words for which he became known: “Unbelievable.” “Brilliant.” “Take care of yourself.” “Thank you.”
“I was privileged to serve as an assistant to President Mac during three of his twelve years of untiring service,” current Choir president Ron Jarrett said when he learned of Mac’s death. “He left an enduring legacy of excellence for The Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells on Temple Square." During President Christensen's tenure, the Choir received the prestigious National Medal of Arts and two Grammy nominations, and Music & the Spoken Wordwas inducted into the National Association Broadcasting Hall of Fame. His favorite song was "God Be with You Till We Meet Again," because it meant that another broadcast, concert, or tour had come to a meaningful end. Those words have never rung truer than today as we mourn the loss of our dear friend and colleague. May these beautiful lyrics be our prayer of comfort for the Christensen family at this tender time.