The 11,623-pipe organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle is one of the world's most famous organs and an integral part of the signature sound of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Here are some interesting facts about this amazing instrument:
It was French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac who stated, “The organ is the grandest, the most daring, the most magnificent of all instruments invented by human genius.”
This will be one of those rare “Aha!” moments in life where you’ll think, “Oh, I get it—that makes so much sense.”
The pipe organs of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City are two of the most recognized instruments in the world today. These organs are seen and heard on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly television, radio, and Internet live-streamed broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word, annual public television Christmas specials, daily Temple Square recitals, along with numerous recordings, concerts, and conferences.
The King’s Men, an a cappella ensemble comprised of 15 choral scholars from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, England, plus two organ scholars, also from King’s College, will present a special program on Thursday, March 30, 2017, at 12:00 noon in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square. The King’s Men are members of the Chapel Choir at King’s College, which is currently touring in North America. The King’s Men function separately from the main choir, and the smaller ensemble is run entirely by the members of the group itself. They perform regularly around Britain and have performed in Australia, Hong Kong, and North America. The two organ scholars, Richard Gowers and Henry Websdale, who play for the services at King’s College, will each perform a solo number on the noon program.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ. The then-newly constructed pipe organ made its debut in October 1867 during the first general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. In the 150 years that have followed, the Tabernacle organ has served as the iconic backdrop for meetings and events broadcast throughout the world. The image of the Tabernacle organ itself has become widely known as a symbol of the Church and of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
In a recent video by the Family History Guide, a young girl named Claribel discusses her ancestry and how she got her name. She even had the unique opportunity to play the organ with principal Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott.
Richard Elliott has been an organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir since 1991 and has been wowing audiences with his skills ever since. Elliott performs for Music and the Spoken broadcasts, recordings, and tours but is perhaps most well-known for his incredible organ solos from the annual Christmas concerts on Temple Square.
Since 1929, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been performing a weekly broadcast, Music & the Spoken Word, which has become the longest-running continuing broadcast in the world. Week after week, the Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square fill the airwaves with glorious music—for 27 minutes and 56 seconds to be exact.
Don’t miss your chance to see internationally acclaimed organ virtuoso Thomas Heywood performing in the Tabernacle on October 10, 2017, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Heywood will be performing favorite classical pieces by Rossini, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, and others transcribed for organ.
Watch a behind-the-scenes bonus feature from The Redeemer DVD, which includes the composer’s thoughts on The Redeemer:
The Salt Lake Tabernacle organ on historic Temple Square is one of the most notable musical instruments in America, not only because of its size but also because of the warmth and richness of its sound. It is the renowned Tabernacle organists who are responsible for bringing the sound of this iconic instrument to life for tens of thousands of fans throughout the world.
Special Contributor, Gernot Hesselbarth, Nuremberg
For the second stop on the 2016 European Tour, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed at Meistersingerhalle in Nuremburg, Germany, which was the birthplace of former Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner.
On June 21, 2016, Richard Elliott, principal organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, will be one of the featured solo performers at the 2016 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Houston, Texas. The American Guild of Organists was founded in 1896 to “advance the cause of organ and choral music” and “to promote their understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment” through education and service. Tickets for performances at the convention are available online.
On January 7, 2016 the Mormon Tabernacle Choir lost a wonderful friend, organist, and composer. Robert (Bob) Cundick passed away January 7, 2016, at the age of 89. He served as Tabernacle organist for nearly 27 years where from 1965 through 1991 he accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, played solos during Music & the Spoken Word, and performed hundreds of organ recitals and concerts.
Former Tabernacle organist Robert (Bob) Cundick passed away January 7, 2016, at the age of 89. He served as Tabernacle organist for 27 years where from 1965 to 1991 he accompanied the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, played solos during Music & the Spoken Word, performed hundreds of organ recitals and concerts.
Richard Elliott, principal Tabernacle organist, has a following, and rightly so. His organ solos are the stuff of legend, whether it's a frontier-flavored fantasia of "Deck the Halls," an ingenious "Good King Wenceslas" and "Nutcracker Suite,” or a jaw-dropping display of pedal dexterity on "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Elliott's organ solos earn thunderous applause.
Mozart called the pipe organ the "king of instruments." Little wonder then that for more than 30 years Minnesota Public Radio has broadcast an entire program, “Pipedreams,” focused on pipe organs and organ music.
How many people does it take to put an electronic organ together? What does it look like? For the Choir’s 2015 tour, a custom electronic organ was purchased so the organists can have a transportable instrument that emulates the sounds of some of the world’s most popular organs. The sounds are chosen by touchscreen computers that act as the stops on a traditional pipe organ do. Having this custom organ will allow the organists to have a uniform sound in each location. The volume will be controlled by the same soundboard that controls the microphones in order to create optimal blending with the 300-plus Choir singers and 68 Orchestra members.
Louis Claude-Daquin was born in Paris, France, in 1694 and was an organ and harpsichord prodigy. By age six, he performed in the court of King Louis XIV and became the organist at Saint-Chapelle by age twelve.
In this video, Tabernacle organist Andrew Unsworth plays an organ solo titled “Trumpet Tune in Seven.” The tune was originally written as a choral piece titled “Break Forth in Concert,” which the composer, Jim Kasen, wasn’t quite satisfied with. He explained: “I decided to rework the entire thing as an organ solo and dedicate it to Andy (Andrew Unsworth). I’ve long had a profound sense of admiration for him and felt the dancing meter was representative of his light-heartedness and goodness. It turned out to be a very good fit.”
The Wanamaker Organ is located in Philadelphia and is the largest operational pipe organ in the world. Richard Elliott, the principal Tabernacle organist, played the Wanamaker Organ for 4 years while he was a student. In this video, Elliott talks about what it's like to play such a large and unique organ.
For more than 50 years Alexander Schreiner played the organ at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He performed daily recitals, supported the Choir during broadcasts, and toured the world showcasing his talent. Below are nine facts about his marvelous career:
Fans of the organ and Temple Square visitors will be interested in two upcoming events. Details below:
Tabernacle Organist Richard Elliott and the Orchestra at Temple Square perform "Hot Pipes" (Movement no. 4 - Jazz Concerto for Organ and Orchestra) from the 2014 Pioneer Day concert featuring Santino Fontana.
Caring For the 8 Pipe Organs, 2 Harpsichords, 4 Electronic Organs, and 70 Pianos On and Around Temple Square
In 2011, an article from the Ensign magazine profiled Robert Poll and Lamont Anderson, two men responsible for the care and maintenance of many instruments on Temple Square. An excerpt is below:
John Longhurst spent 30 years as a Tabernacle Organist. In addition to performing on Temple Square and on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Longhurst was part of the group that decided what type of organ would be built in the Conference Center. He discussed the details in a Deseret News article. An excerpt is below:
The Tabernacle organ has undergone many renovations. During a renovation that took place in 1915, the organ was expanded, and its width grew from 30 feet to 60 feet.
The Choir’s second home is across the street from the Tabernacle at the Conference Center, a one-of-a-kind 21,000 seat facility with its own pipe organ. In the summer, with scores of tourists visiting Temple Square, the Conference Center easily accommodates everyone attending the broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word. Special organ recitals are also performed there in the summer.
Latter-Day Profiles is a BYUtv series that spotlights members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tabernacle organist Clay Christiansen was interviewed in one recent episode of Latter-Day Profiles.
Since 1984, Linda Margetts has been an organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in organ performance from Brigham Young University and her PhD in music composition from the University of Utah. She is also an organ professor at the University of Utah School of Music.
Born in San Francisco, California, in 1943, Bonnie Goodliffe is one of the Salt Lake Tabernacle organists. She has been an organist on Temple Square since 1979 and has a considerable background in music theory, composition, and organ performance.
Richard Elliott became a Tabernacle organist in 1991. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Elliott studied at the Peabody Conservatory and the Catholic University of America. Additionally, he earned a bachelor of music degree from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and master’s and doctoral degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Appointed a Tabernacle organist in 2007, Andrew Unsworth was raised in Potsdam, NY. He earned a bachelor of music degree in organ performance and pedagogy from Brigham Young University. Later, Unsworth went on to receive master’s and doctoral degrees in performance practice from Duke University.
At the young age of eleven Clay Christiansen was an organist for the congregation of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By age thirteen he was taking lessons from J. J. Keeler, the talented and passionate musician who helped establish the organ program at Brigham Young University. Years later, Christiansen would graduate with a bachelors degree from BYU and masters and Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Utah.
Joseph Daynes arrived in the Salt Lake Valley at age eleven. Upon his arrival in the valley, Brigham Young observed the boy playing a small organ called a harmomium and declared, “there is our organist for the great Tabernacle organ.” Although the Tabernacle would not be completed for several years, Brigham’s statement would eventually prove to be prophetic.
Frank W. Asper Performed Approximately 5,000 Organ Recitals for Temple Square Visitors During His 40-Year Career
Frank W. Asper was a Tabernacle organist for more than 40 years. During his impressive career, Asper performed approximately 5,000 organ recitals for Temple Square visitors and played for more than 1,000 network Choir broadcasts, plus he had his own weekly organ broadcast. Additionally, he published many volumes of organ compositions and, for more than 30 years, conducted the McCune Symphony Orchestra, which he founded.
In 1901, a group of Californians, including an editor of the Los Angeles Times, were making their way to Buffalo, New York, to participate in the Pan-American Exposition. The group’s travels took them through Salt Lake City, where they were able to hear a performance at the Tabernacle.
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