Frequently Asked Questions:


What is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been called many things: an American icon, a symbol of freedom, a holiday tradition, the greatest choir in the world. Why is the Choir universally recognized and lauded? Of course, it makes great music, but perhaps more central to its success is the ability of the 360 members of the Choir to lift the spirits of people of diverse cultures, ages and religions all over the world.

One of the oldest and largest choirs in the world, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed before presidents, sold millions of records, won scores of awards and enthralled audiences in more than 28 different countries.

The Choir is composed of 360 volunteer singers ages 25-60—all exceptionally talented musicians. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Choir is composed of faithful members of the Church. They practice and perform weekly and are accompanied frequently by the Orchestra at Temple Square.
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When was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir formed?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir originated in the mid-19th century in Salt Lake City. As the Latter-day Saints moved west, Church President Brigham Young included musicians among members of the advance parties. Consequently, a small choir first sang for a conference of the Church in the Salt Lake Valley on August 22, 1847, just 29 days after the first group arrived. The origins of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir may be found in the desire and commitment of early converts to include appropriate music in both sacred and secular events. In fact, there always has been a standing choir at the Church headquarters—from early Church locations in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, to current headquarters in Salt Lake City.
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Have I heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir before?

Odds are that you have. The Choir is best known for its weekly radio and TV program, Music and the Spoken Word. First aired in 1929, Music and the Spoken Word is a weekly 30-minute broadcast of choral music and inspirational words. The program has since become the world's longest-running continuous network broadcast. It is broadcast over 2,000 radio and TV stations and cable systems. Lloyd Newell has served as the voice of Music and the Spoken Word since 1990. You also may have heard the Choir's music in patriotic selections and holiday songs for which they are also well known.
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What are The Orchestra at Temple Square and The Temple Square Chorale?

These organizations are two distinct groups that complement the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and also perform on their own. The Orchestra at Temple Square is made up of 110 outstanding volunteer musicians, many of whom also have professional music careers. Although only founded in 1999, it has already become one of the best volunteer orchestras in the nation. The Orchestra has its own concert schedule and performs frequently with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sundays for Music and the Spoken Word.

The Temple Square Chorale, which was organized in 1999 and replaced the Mormon Youth Chorus, has become the training choir for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. New members of the Choir initially become members of the Temple Square Chorale as part of their training for choir membership. Additionally, many longtime Choir members rotate in and out of the Temple Square Chorale to hone their musical skills. The Chorale is directed by Ryan Murphy.
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What is the Tabernacle?

Just west of the temple in Salt Lake City stands the historic Mormon Tabernacle, completed in 1867 after 4 years of construction. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir got its name from the structure, which has been home to the Choir since its earliest years. It is said that Brigham Young suggested the Tabernacle's unusual design after contemplating a hollowed-out eggshell cracked length- wise. Brigham Young wanted the Tabernacle roof to be self- supporting, without pillars or posts to obstruct audience views. (The balcony with its supporting pillars was added later.) Because of its extraordinary acoustics and historical significance, the Tabernacle has been designated both a national historic landmark and a national civil engineering landmark. The Tabernacle's design also accounts for its extraordinary acoustics—another reason the Grammy Award-winning Mormon Tabernacle Choir calls the Tabernacle home. The Tabernacle is so acoustically sensitive that a pin dropped at the pulpit can be clearly heard at the back of the hall—170 feet away. Accompanying the Choir in the great auditorium is the 11,623-pipe Tabernacle organ, featuring prominent golden pipes made of round wood staves, hand-carved from Utah timber.
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How important is the organ for the choir performances?

The organ's unique sound has become synonymous with the Choir's music. Located in the Tabernacle building in Salt Lake City, the organ is a massive, yet intricate instrument with more than 11,000 pipes. Together with the Tabernacle itself, the organ is in no small way responsible for the "signature sound" of this world- renowned choral ensemble. The Choir often tours with a special digital organ which helps recreate the Choir's signature sound of voices accompanied by the organ.

The first organ installed in the old adobe Tabernacle was shipped by boat from Australia to California by its builder, Joseph Ridges, in the 1800s. Twelve mules then pulled the organ across the brutal terrain from San Bernardino to Salt Lake City. When the present Tabernacle was constructed in 1867, Joseph Ridges built a new organ for the new hall. Since 1867, the Tabernacle organ has been enlarged or renovated five times and has grown from its original 2,000-pipe frame to its present size of 11,623 pipes. One hundred thirty-two pipes are still functioning from the 1867 Joseph Ridges organ. Today the Tabernacle organ is one of the largest and most elaborate organs in the world.

Currently the Choir has five organists: Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen, Andrew Unsworth, Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts. The organists perform weekly with the Choir and play daily organ recitals in the Tabernacle—a year- round tradition since 1915.
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When are the Choir's public rehearsals?

Many of the Choir's rehearsals are free and open to the public. Weekly public rehearsals are held on Thursday evenings (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and Sunday mornings (8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) The Sunday rehearsals culminate with the broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word. The rehearsals are regularly held in the Tabernacle except for several occasions during the year when the Choir is either on tour or performing across the street in the Conference Center of the Church. (Please check at either of the visitors' centers on Temple Square for information on the Choir's weekly performances.)
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Why is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sometimes called "America's Choir"?

Ronald Reagan dubbed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "America's Choir" in 1981 when the Choir sang at his inauguration. The name has remained because it truly embodies the purpose of the Choir. The Choir began in the mid-1800s on the American plains as the Mormon Pioneers trekked across the country to reach Salt Lake City and has been part of American tradition ever since. One hundred and fifty years later, the songs and sounds of the Choir continue to delight people in the United States and all over the world. It is interesting to note that this American choir's focus—ever since its early days in the dusty desert of Utah—has been to reach out to the entire world. The music of the Choir is universal to people of every faith and culture. Indeed, the music of "America's Choir" resonates throughout the world.
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What was the Choir's role in the 2002 Winter Olympics?

During the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City—February 8-24, 2002—the Choir performed at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, in four concerts featuring guest artists of international acclaim and in Light of the World, the Church's multimedia musical presentation. In addition, the Choir performed in concerts free to the public following its traditional weekly broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word from the Tabernacle.
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What is the significance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in church history?

Dancing, singing and celebrating have always been a part of sacred life. After the Book of Mormon, the next official publication of the Church was the Church hymnbook.

From the early pioneers of the mid-1800s to the present day, music has been an important part of religious life for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In every wagon company that crossed the United States to Utah, there was a cooper to fix wagon wheels and a musician to lift the spirits of each pioneer. The Choir has profoundly affected music throughout the Church. Its consistently high artistic standard, frequent use of hymns and hymn arrangements and exemplary service through music continue to inspire, instruct and encourage Church musicians and the members they serve.
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What are some notable achievements of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

Since it was established more than 150 years ago, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed and recorded extensively in the United States and around the world. In that time, the Choir has had many noteworthy performances and achievements. Some of those milestones include the following:
  • The Choir has released more than 130 musical compilations and several films and videotapes.
  • Two of the Choir's recordings have achieved "platinum record" status (in 1991 and 1992).
  • Five of the Choir's recordings have achieved "gold record" status (two in 1963, one in 1980, and two in 1985). The most popular has been a 1959 release of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The Choir also received a Grammy Award for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in 1959.
  • The Choir won an Emmy Award in 1987 for "Christmas Sampler," a musical special with Shirley Verrett.
  • The Choir has appeared at 13 World's Fairs and Expositions.
  • The Choir has sung for 10 presidents of the United States beginning with President William Howard Taft.
  • The Choir revised on a few hours' notice a planned September 11, 2001 concert for a business convention to commemorate the victims of the terrorist tragedies.
  • The Choir performed over 20 times at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, including the Opening Ceremonies, four concerts of the Cultural Olympiad featuring guest artists of international acclaim and at Light of the World, the multimedia musical production sponsored by the Church as one of its gifts to the Olympic community.
  • Most recently, Music and the Spoken Word--the longest running radio broadcast in the word--was voted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

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Who are the leaders of the Choir?

Dr. Mack Wilberg is Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Ryan Murphy is Associate Music Director. Igor Gruppman is Conductor of the Orchestra at Temple Square. LeAnna Willmore is Conductor of the Bells on Temple Square. Ron Jarrett has served as President of the Choir since August 2012.
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Do choir and orchestra members get paid for their service?

No. All 360 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and all 110 members of the Orchestra at Temple Square are unpaid volunteers who practice and perform weekly. Choir members rehearse and perform about five hours in an average week—Thursday nights for two hours and Sunday mornings for more than three hours. This does not include touring, for which members often take time off from work, sometimes foregoing personal vacations. All members must attend a minimum of 75 percent of rehearsals and performances.
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How does one join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Choir accepts applications for new singers during the first week of January and July every year. Before members join the Choir, they undergo a rigorous audition process consisting of three phases, which take place over approximately six months. Prospective Choir members also must be active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, be recommended by their bishops and live within 100 miles of Temple Square. Applicants must be between 25 and 55 years of age. Tenure in the Choir is 20 years or until age 60.

In the first step of the audition process, applicants submit an unaccompanied recording of a song selected by the Music Director. The second stage of the audition, a musical skills test, measures musical ability and aptitude. Applicants with an acceptable test score are then scheduled for an audition before the Director and Associate Director. In the third stage, individuals perform a hymn of their choice, sight-read a piece of music and test their vocal range.

Even after selections of new singers are made, the evaluation process is not quite complete. The selected singers are brought into the Temple Square Chorale for a three-month period during which they attend musical training classes and sing with the Chorale. If they successfully complete the training program, they become members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
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Where has the Mormon Tabernacle Choir toured?

The Choir has performed in concerts around the world and throughout the United States. They have traveled to places such as Russia, many nations in Europe, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2003 the Choir kicked off the celebration of its 75th year of broadcasting with a tour of major musical festivals in the northeastern United States. Performance venues included Chautauqua, Wolftrap, Tanglewood, the Lincoln Center, and Boston's Esplanade on July 4th with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
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Where can I find the Choir on the radio?

Many local radio stations carry the broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word. For information about stations in your area, call Bonneville Communications at 800-247-6655 (or 801-237-2449 in Utah)or go to www.musicandthespokenword.com.
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Where can I purchase recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Choir has formed its own recording label, Mormon Tabernacle Choir™. Prior to this new label, the Choir recorded for Telarc, Sony Classical, CBS Masterworks, and many other labels. The Choir's recordings are available at deseretbook.com and wherever fine music is sold.
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How can I reach the choir staff?

Please call the Choir office at 801-240-4150 or Public Affairs at 801-240-6360.
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Does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir accept unsolicited musical works?

Each year the Mormon Tabernacle Choir office receives a vast number of unsolicited musical works. Although the efforts and interests of the composers are very much appreciated, we find that our schedule no longer allows the time to properly review each piece. Also, given the specific needs and limitations of our programming, few, if any, of these works are usable for the Choir’s purposes even though the music may be appropriate in other church or performance settings. For these reasons, it has been determined that, effective immediately, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir office will no longer accept unsolicited music. This is by no means a judgment of the worthiness of the music received, but is simply a reality of our time constraints and particular needs.
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What languages are available for tours/questions on Temple Square?

Click here for the current list.

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