Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Why Are Quilts and Blankets Placed on Tabernacle Benches During Recording?

Microphones? Check. Headphones? Check. Audio Engineers? Check. Blankets and Quilts? Umm…can you run that by me again? As strange as it may sound, quilts and blankets are used to cover the benches in the Salt Lake Tabernacle to maximize the sound by preventing too much echo and reverberation.

"The quilts are like an audience — but with no coughing and talking. . . . The engineers didn't like what they call a 'swimmy' sound, so we put the quilts out to absorb some of the sound, and the quality becomes crisper, cleaner,” said the Choir general manager, Scott Barrick. He added humorously, “And probably only with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could we send out an e-mail in the morning and have every member show up with a quilt that night."

The Salt Lake Tabernacle is famous for its superior acoustics. Since it was built during a time with no amplifiers or electronics, it was designed so that all attendees could hear the speaker’s voice from wherever they sat in the Tabernacle. When the Tabernacle was remodeled in 2007, New York Times article stated the following:

The tabernacle’s famed acoustics, which legend has it enabled a listener to a hear a pin drop from 250 feet away, were measured before the renovation began, modeled on computers and then assessed again recently, said Roger P. Jackson, the project’s lead architect. Mr. Jackson said he expected the building’s enveloping sound would be preserved. “Acoustics is a science and an art,” he said, “but it’s also guesswork. Anything you do has an impact.”

So there you have it—since a pin drop can be heard from 250 feet away, quilts and blankets play an integral part in the recording process in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Without them, the sound would bounce around the hard wood surfaces and sound less than enjoyable to the listener. Who knew Granny Smith’s patchwork quilt would serve such a great purpose? 

Hear the beautiful acoustic sound of the Tabernacle featured in many of the Choir's albums on our shop page. The Choir's latest recording of Handel's Messiah will be released in the spring of 2016. 

Purchase the Choir's 2016 Messiah album here.