What Exactly Is Choir School?
As each new year begins, hopeful singers continue a journey that actually began six months before, in the warmth of summer, when they submitted an application to join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
In the fall, once applicants complete the lengthy audition process—which consists of a written application and voice recording, musical skills assessment, and in-person audition—they are accepted as members of the Choir School and Temple Square Chorale. The next step in the process begins in January, when the potential new Choir members start the 16-week training, which is like a graduate course in choral singing but is sometimes thought of as a choral “boot camp.” This year’s Choir School membership includes 49 singers (21 women, 28 men).
Choir School Basics
Each Thursday night, the Choir School instructors train participants in sight-reading, music theory, rehearsal techniques, vocal blending, listening skills, Choir policies, and more. The Choir School prepares candidates for a rigorous schedule of Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts, special concerts, LDS general conference, and other Church and community events. In 2017, the Choir performed for the U.S. presidential inauguration, the Utah governor’s inauguration, the Easter concert (2 performances), the Pioneer Day concert (2 performances), the Christmas concert (3 performances and a taping session), two weeks of recording sessions for a new CD, six sessions of general conference, and 53 Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts, plus local events including the Days of ’47 Rodeo arena dedication, American Guild of Organists concert, the Huntsman Cancer Institute new building dedication, and RootsTech. In addition to their choral training, new Choir School members receive orientations and administrative instruction. In this video, last year’s Choir School women get their first tour of the Tabernacle.
Temple Square Chorale
In addition to the Thursday Choir School classes, Choir associate music director Ryan Murphy leads the singers as conductor of the Temple Square Chorale, which meets each Tuesday. The Chorale consists of not only potential Choir members but also those members who were new to the Choir the previous year, and other current Choir members. The Chorale was formed in 1999 as an extension of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir organization.
The Choir School staff includes director Cherilyn Worthen, vocal coach Rebecca Wilberg, and Tabernacle organists Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts—each with advanced degrees in music and extensive experience to share with Choir School members.
Final Concert and Exam
In the spring, as the singers prepare to graduate into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, those in the Temple Square Chorale perform a spring concert with the Orchestra at Temple Square under the direction of Ryan Murphy, and take a final exam in Choir School. This year’s spring concert will take place on April 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The repertoire for the 2018 concert will be Requiem by Brahms. Following successful completion of the concert and passing the final exam, Choir School participants at last become members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.