President Ron Jarrett: A Friend to His Choir Family
When Ronald B. Jarrett joined The Tabernacle Choir as a tenor in 1999, he had no idea his love for choral music would lead him from singing to serving as president of the world-renowned chorus. Serving from 2012 to 2021, he was the seventh Choir president and the first to move from a seat in the loft to the president’s chair.
His nine years of leadership have been marked by bold innovations and favorite traditions. He will be best be remembered for his love for the Choir organization members themselves—singers, instrumentalists, bell ringers, and other volunteers and professional staff as well—for watching over, caring for, encouraging them, and treating them like family. He has been their advocate and their friend.
When first called, he stated one of his initial goals was to reach out to younger audiences. Today millions across the globe—including many younger viewers and listeners—have access to Choir performances and its vast archive of recorded music because of the Choir’s growing presence with digital streaming, social media channels including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, websites of the Choir and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYUtv, KSL TV and Deseret Book. “President Jarrett has led out in expanding the Choir’s reach and making its music so accessible,” says Mack Wilberg, music director of the Choir.
In addition, when Jarrett began, he set out to give added exposure to the Choir internationally. Weekly episodes of Music & the Spoken Word now are easily accessible on the internet and are translated into more than a dozen languages. A Spotify stream of the Choir’s single track “Duel of the Fates” on May 1, 2021, timed to support the May 4th “Stars Wars Day” celebrations, was in the top ten streams in Istanbul, Turkey; Taipei, Taiwan; Sydney, Australia; Madrid, Spain; and Paris, France.
During his tenure, the Choir conducted a major tour of Europe in 2016 and planned another for 2020 which was postponed to 2022 due to Covid. The Choir also toured the Midwest in 2013, the East Coast in 2015, and the West Coast in 2018. “There is nothing like listening to the Choir in person,” Jarrett says. “The experience of listening to the Choir live is impossible to capture in any other way.”
Other milestones and major initiatives are plentiful in Jarrett’s service. With President Russell M. Nelson’s renewed emphasis on honoring the Savior and the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Choir changed its name to The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. The Orchestra at Temple Square retained its designation, and the Bells at Temple Square was adjusted slightly. The new name preserved the heritage of the Choir’s home in the Tabernacle and its location on Temple Square. Jarrett said in making the announcement, “The name may change but everything that people know and love about the Choir will not only be the same but will get better and better.”
The Choir’s landmark performances and recordings of Handel’s Messiah at Easter have established a new tradition for the Choir with live performances, videos, streaming, and recordings. The full oratorio and highlights versions of Messiah were #1 and #2 on Billboard®’s Traditional Classical chart when released in 2016. “Messiah,” said Jarrett, “is a wonderful way to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ with believers all over the world.”
The Choir also adopted a new visual identity that conveys the shape and feel of the iconic Salt Lake Tabernacle organ pipes, relying on verticals lines to represent the feeling of uplift and the rhythm of the music while still resting on a clear and firm foundation.
The pandemic required the Choir organization to rethink and reshape how to perform and present its music. Consistent with the direction from the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to postpone large public gatherings, the Choir and its affiliate organizations halted all rehearsals and performances beginning March 2020 and lasting 18 months.
“This has been disappointing for all of us, but we have found a silver lining in these unique times by discovering innovative ways to share our vast repository of music with more people globally than ever before through the blessing of modern technology,” explained President Jarrett. Music & the Spoken Word continued without interruption drawing from its archive of past performances. Recordings of the Choir were shown at General Conference. Noon organ recitals were canceled but the organists developed a new weekly broadcast called Piping Up! Organ Concerts at Temple Square. The new organ episodes have garnered fans across the globe as they fill a need for encouragement, beauty, and peace.
Jarrett managed the administration of the Choir organization and working with the 700 plus volunteers who perform in the various ensembles. Of his experience with them, Jarrett said in parting, “I am thankful for my opportunity to serve and will miss my association with the extraordinary men and women in the Choir organization. Please know I will be watching and singing along with them from my living room each Sunday morning!”