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Organ Articles

FAQ Tabernacle Organ

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:

The Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ: Celebrating 150 Years!

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.

Searching for New Tabernacle Organists

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.

King’s Men, Organists Perform in the Tabernacle!

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.

Check out our updated Temple Square Organ webpages!

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.

Richard Elliott to Perform for Organists Convention on June 21, 2016!

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.

The Choir Loses a Friend: Former Tabernacle Organist Robert Cundick

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 Cundick Passes Away

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 Performs Three Concerts in Germany

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.

Electronic Organ Time-lapse Video—Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tour

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.

The Story Behind "Trumpet Tune in Seven" (Organ Solo)

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.”

Richard Elliott Discusses the Wanamaker Organ

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.

Making of the Conference Center Organ

John Longhurst spent 30 years as a Tabernacle Organist. In addition to performing on Temple Square and on tour with The 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:

Conference Center Organ a Jewel of Its Own

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–Clay Christiansen

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.

Tabernacle Organist: Linda Margetts

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.

Richard Elliott: Tabernacle Organist

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. 

Tabernacle Organist Clay Christiansen [VIDEO]

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: The First Organist of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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.