The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Watch Richard Elliott’s Feet “Dance” on This Christmas Organ Solo

It has been said that the annual Christmas concert of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square would be incomplete without a show-stopping solo from principal organist, Richard Elliott—and they would be correct!

This year’s 2021 Christmas gift from the Choir, the PBS and BYUtv special program and DVD 20 Years of Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir has a new organ solo audiences that will love: Richard Elliott’s arrangement of “Trepak” from Nutcracker Suite, a 20-minute orchestra piece derived from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, The Nutcracker. While not everyone will recognize the title “Trepak,” all will recognize the familiar music as the famous “dance of the Nutcracker” which Tchaikovsky based on a traditional Russian and Ukrainian folk dance.

Because this year’s organ solo was filmed with COVID protocols in place—and without a live audience—new camera angles were able to be used in the process.

“To be able to do routine service on a pipe organ, the keyboards are able to be moved apart,” remarked organist Richard Elliott. “We used this to our advantage this year. The pedalboard was pulled out for filming part of the organ solo so that the audience could enjoy something which we couldn’t have done in a live concert. . . .  At one point in the music, I need to play two notes at the same time with my feet. The easiest way to do that as an organist is to play the left note with your left foot and the right note with your right foot. I decided to switch the feet back and forth to tie it into what audiences would see with dancers at The Nutcracker ballet. It always amazes people what organists can do on the pedals with their feet.”

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For the past twenty years, the Christmas concerts in the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have all showcased the organ in unique ways. From the classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with the Count von Count from Sesame Street®  to the “Carol of the Bells” with the Bells at Temple Square with a cameo by Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth to “I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)” with an Orchestra at Temple Square percussion ensemble—the audience is always on their feet at the end of the organ solo! You can enjoy these videos and others from past Christmas concerts on the Choir’s YouTube playlist "Epic Christmas Concert Organ Numbers—Richard Elliott."

“I’m always just thrilled that people enjoy it,“ commented Richard Elliott. “I try to have elements in each organ solo that will appeal to people at every level so that there is something for everybody. Each of the Tabernacle and Temple Square organists on the staff feel a responsibility to make sure that the organ receives the respect and the enjoyment that it deserves. We are all building on the great work that our predecessors did with the Choir and work to make sure that the organ continues to have as large an audience as it can have.”