The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Tabernacle Organ Virtuoso Performance Series Features Internationally Recognized Conductor, Organist, and Teacher

The 2023 Tabernacle Organ Virtuoso Performance Series presents James O’Donnell, the Professor in the Practice of Organ at Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, as the featured performer on May 19, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The series, inaugurated last year, was created to showcase the Tabernacle organ and organists at the top of their field.

Few organs anywhere have such a storied history as the Tabernacle organ on historic Temple Square. This world-renowned pipe organ with five manuals (keyboards) and 206 ranks of organ pipes is among the world’s largest instruments—and one of the most heralded. Its famous golden pipes, made of wood staves fashioned from Utah timber, still add to the sound of the famous instrument even today.

Principal tabernacle organist Richard Elliott said: “We are honored and delighted to have the extraordinarily accomplished and talented James O’Donnell perform on the historic Tabernacle organ as part of this series. Throughout his illustrious career at Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, and now at Yale University, he has demonstrated excellence in all aspects of his work while bringing beauty and peace to millions. His program on the Tabernacle organ will bring listeners closer to the divine through great and timeless musical masterpieces.”

photo: Clare Clifford

O’Donnell’s performance at the Tabernacle will include selected works by Johann Sebastian Bach, César Franck, Olivier Messiaen, and Charles-Marie Widor.

Internationally recognized as a conductor, an organist, and a teacher, James O’Donnell has performed all over the world. Following a distinguished 23-year tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey, Mr. O’Donnell now holds the post of Professor in the Practice of Organ at Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in New Haven, Connecticut, where he succeeds Thomas Murray as professor to graduate organ majors and other students in sacred music. In addition, he will direct a newly formed professional liturgical vocal ensemble at Yale University, which will serve as a model and a vehicle for study for students preparing for careers in church music and liturgy.

In his tenure at Westminster Abbey, Mr. O’Donnell was responsible for all musical aspects of the Abbey’s work, training and conducting the Abbey Choir in its daily choral services, recordings, concerts, and broadcasts and at the great national occasions for which the Abbey is known, including directing the music for the September 2022 State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which was broadcast live throughout the world to an estimated audience of over 4 billion people. He has toured extensively with the Choir of Westminster Abbey to the United States, the Far East, Australia, and Europe. Prior to his appointment at Westminster Abbey, Mr. O’Donnell served for 12 years as Master of Music at Westminster (Roman Catholic) Cathedral, where under his direction the renowned Cathedral Choir made many recordings and won the coveted Gramophone Record of the Year award, unprecedented for such a choir.

Admission to the Virtuoso Performance Series is free and is open to everyone eight years and older. No tickets are required. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and patrons should plan to be in their seats by 7:15 p.m. Entry to the Tabernacle is accessed through the gates on West Temple Street. Due to construction on Temple Square, please review current access on the map here.

This special concert will also be live streamed on the Choir’s YouTube channel at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 19, 2023. After the performance ends, the video will be available on demand as well.