Additional Resource

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir - 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 and kings, 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.

When was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir formed?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir origin-ated 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 22 August 1847, just 29 days after the first pioneers 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.  

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 messages.

The program has since become the world’s longest continuously running network broadcast. It is broadcast over 2,000 radio and TV stations and cable systems. You also may have heard the Choir’s music at the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, or in patriotic selections and holiday songs for which they are also well known. Following the Olympics and in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the weekly radio and television broadcast Music and the Spoken Word , the Public Broadcasting System aired the special America’s Choir: The Story of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a historic portrait of the Choir, produced together with a companion book called America’s Choir: A Commemorative Portrait.

Every year at Christmas time, the Public Broadcasting System airs the Choir’s Christmas Specials which have become an audience favorite.

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 Symphony and 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 the associate music director and vocal coaching is provided by Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts, both Temple Square organists with advanced degrees in music theory and composition who serve as directors of the Choir Training School. 

What is the Tabernacle?

Just west of the temple in Salt Lake City stands the historic Mormon Tabernacle, completed in 1867 after four years of con-struction. 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. Ten pipes from the original organ, built in 1867, are still functioning today. Recently, the Tabernacle was closed for a two years in order to bring the structure into compliance with modern building and seismic codes. During the construction period, the Choir rehearsed and performed in the Conference Center across the street.

How important is the organ for 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 11,623 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 first organ 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. 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 of11,623 pipes. Today it is one of thelargest and most elaborate organs in the world. 

The organ in the Conference Center across the street from the Tabernacle is a truly remarkable instrument in its own right with 7,708 pipes.  It is used to accompany the Choir during General Conferences and for big events such as the annual Christmas concerts.

Currently there are five organists who serve on Temple Square: Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen, , Andrew Unsworth, Bonnie Goodliffe and Linda Margetts. The organists perform weekly with the Choir and play the daily organ recitals.

When are the Choir's public rehearsals?

Most of the Choir’s rehearsals are free and open to the public. Weekly public rehearsals are held on most Thursday evenings (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and Sunday mornings (8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) The Sunday rehearsals are followed by the broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Rehearsals are held in the Tabernacle, except when the Choir is either on tour or performing in the new Conference Center of the Church. (Please check at either of the visitors’ centers on Temple Square for information on the Choir’s rehearsals and weekly performances, or visit

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 asthe 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.

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 Ceremony, in four concerts featuring guest artists of international acclaim and in Light of the World, the Church’s multimedia musical presentation.

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 to the present day, music has been an important part of religious life for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints. In every wagoncompany 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.

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 150 musical compilations and several films and videotapes.
  • In 2003, the Choir formed its own recording label, Mormon Tabernacle Choir®.
  • 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 well known has been a 1959 release of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The Choir 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 sung for 10 presidents of the United States beginning with President William Howard Taft.
  • The Choir revised on a few hours’ notice a planned 11 September 2001 concert for a business convention to remember the victims of the terrorist tragedies.
  • The Choir performed over 20 times during the 2002 Olympics Winter Games in Salt Lake City, including the Opening Ceremony.
  • The Choir received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in November of 2003.
  • The Choir was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in April of 2004.
  • In November 2004, Sing, Choirs of Angels! became the first Choir CD to appear on Billboard Magazines Top 25 Christian Albums since that chart began in 1983.
  • In 2007, Spirit of the Season was at #1 on Billboard’s Classical chart for eight consecutive weeks.

Who leads the Choir?

In March 2008 Mack Wilberg became the music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir after serving as an associate director since 1999. Assisting him is  the associate director ofthe Choir and conductorofthe Temple Square Chorale. Igor Gruppman, a Grammy Award-winning violinist and concertmaster of the Rotterdam Symphony, is the conductor of the Orchestra at Temple Square.  Mac Christensen, founder and retired owner of a successful retail clothing chain, has served as president of the Choir since November 2000.

Are Choir and Orchestra members 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.

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 Russia, many nations in Europe, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. In 2001 the Choir toured eight cities in the southern United States. In 2003, The choir performed at some of the most prestigious music halls in the Northeastern United States including Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony, Lincoln Center, Wolf Trap, on Boston’s Esplanade with the Boston Pops, Interlochen and Chautauqua.  In summer 2007 the Choir toured the central United States, and performed in Toronto, Canada; Chautauqua, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; and Memphis, Tennessee.

In summer 2009, the choir will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Norman, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado.

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

Where can I Buy recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Choir currently records on the independently owned Mormon Tabernacle Choir® label.  A complete listing of Choir label recordings may be purchased online at and at music stores and leading retailers everywhere.

How can I Contact the Choir?

Please call the Choir office at 801-240-4150 or for media inquiries Public Affairs at 801-240-2205. Contact information can also be found at

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