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The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Saying Goodbye to Bonnie Goodliffe Will Definitely Not Be Easy!

This month Bonnie Goodliffe retires from her position as a Temple Square Organist. “This has been an extraordinary experience,” remarked Bonnie. “Playing the organ in the Tabernacle is more than the glorious sound of the organ; it’s also the spirit of the building and the heritage of the pioneers that I always feel there.”

“Bonnie has been performing regularly on Temple Square for the past 40 years,” said Richard Elliott. “While we will greatly miss her musical and personal gifts (including her wonderful sense of humor), we take consolation in the fact that she will continue to play recitals on the Temple Square organs on a regular basis as an organist emeritus.”

Since October 21, 1979, when she performed her first organ recital in the Tabernacle, Bonnie Goodlife has performed with The Tabernacle Choir, Temple Square Chorale, and Bells on Temple Square. She has joined with her fellow organists—the full-time organists Richard Elliott, Andrew Unsworth, and Brian Mathias; the part-time organists Linda Margetts and Joseph Peeples; and a host of other illustrious predecessors—in presenting daily 30-minute organ recitals in the Tabernacle, and since the year 2000, in the Conference Center. In addition, Bonnie has taught music theory for the new entrants into The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square since the very early years of the Choir School.

As a “California girl” born in San Francisco, Bonnie never grew up expecting to play the famed Tabernacle organ. Through her years of education, she acquired an extensive background in organ performance, music theory, and composition. She studied piano and organ at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. She lived in Utah briefly while a student attending Brigham Young University, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. It wasn’t until 1977 that Bonnie and her husband, Glade, moved back to Utah to live with their growing family of seven children. 

When Robert Cundick, the former principal Tabernacle organist, called Bonnie in 1979 to ask her to come to the Tabernacle for an organ audition, she was surprised because she hadn’t submitted an application. That audition resulted in Bonnie’s first assignment to perform the afternoon organ recital in the Tabernacle on alternating Sundays for six months. From those first recitals, more assignments came and her responsibilities and opportunities increased

On January 24, 1988, Bonnie Goodliffe became the first female organist to perform in the history of the Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts. When asked about a memorable experience while at the organ, Bonnie recounted the story of the rehearsal for that broadcast. Jerry Ottley, then music director of The Tabernacle Choir, introduced her at the Thursday rehearsal and explained that she would be the organist on the coming Sunday morning broadcast—and the first woman to do so. The women of the Choir stood and applauded. Then the women in the audience stood and joined the applause. Soon everyone was on their feet. Bonnie said of this response, “I, more than anyone else there, knew that they were not applauding for me personally. They were applauding that it was happening.”

In April 1992, Bonnie and Linda Margetts, who were by then known as Temple Square Organists, became the first women organists to play in the Church-wide general conference meetings. After the first conference session, Elder Marion D. Hanks (1921–2011), then a Church General Authority Seventy, approached with three little girls in hand so they could personally meet the organists at this historic event. Elder Hanks said thoughtfully,  “I thank the Lord that I have lived to see this day.”  

Through her years on the organ, Bonnie continued to learn and develop her musical expertise. She was certified as a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and has held key positions in that organization, including regional education coordinator and member of the National Certification Committee. She has presented workshops at AGO conventions and has written several articles published in the Guild’s official magazine, The American Organist. She is a published composer and arranger and previously served on the general music committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

“Rarely do you find a talented person that is so willing to do anything and everything asked of them,” commented Choir president Ron Jarrett. “Bonnie has faithfully given many years of service to the Choir and to the Church. She is that rare talent. We will miss her as one of the Temple Square organists but are pleased she will continue to perform organ recitals on Temple Square.”