Thank You, Wolf Zeisler!
Wolfgang Zeisler stood before The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square on a Thursday evening rehearsal just days before his retirement from full-time employment with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The applause for him was fitting an acclaimed guest artist. Yet he has never taken a bow on stage and his face has never been caught by the cameras as they pan the Choir in performance.
Wolf–for those who know him and Wolfgang if they don’t—has always been behind the scenes. For decades he has run the teleprompter system scrolling the text for Music & the Spoken Word messages, for narrations by guest artists, and for the lyrics of the Choir’s songs. It might look easy but anyone who has watched and worked with Wolf understands that it isn’t.
“He is rock steady and low key,” Ed Payne, producer of the Choir’s weekly Sunday morning broadcast, says. “He knows what he is doing and because of his experience he is able to make good decisions in crisis mode.” The two—Ed and Wolf—have worked side-by-side for years.
Once Wolf receives the script, he formats it for the teleprompter system and then makes adjustments in rehearsals. In the case of the broadcast, “Wolf knows the Spoken Word is a message to be heard, not read. He helps with emphasis on certain words, he suggests how to make a point come through to the audience, and he makes a difference for those out in front of the camera,” Payne explains.
Wolf also operates the large prompter screens at the back of the Conference Center that display words for guest artists. Using the screen, guests can make eye contact with the audience as they perform and are able to deal with the large amount of memorized music they have to perform.
Wolf has operated the teleprompter system at the Church for 30 years. He has handled the advance technical preparations for Choir tours and has traveled with the Choir internationally as well as within the United States.
He works expertly with the guest artists that perform with the Choir. He adapts easily to the cadence of the speaker, recognizing quickly when to go forward and when to slow down as they present their narrations. When an artist goes off script—as they sometimes do—he knows how to wait or find the place where they come back in. It’s an art.
He also has worked closely with the General Authorities of the Church as they practice and present their messages at general conference and in other settings. He has handled the prompters for temple dedications around the world and large gatherings featuring President Russell M. Nelson, his counselors, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other Church officers.
Though his work is technical, and he operates far from stage, he is a remarkable “people person,” Payne says. “Wolf is kind, patient, approachable, generous with his time, and really good at what he does.” He wears the traditional black of the crew—so he won’t detract from what is being presented on stage. But his hand is adept at keeping things on track, and his heart has always been in his work. Wolf will be missed. Truly, “God be with you till we meet again.”