Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Concert Spotlights Tabernacle Organ, Organists, Orchestra, and Choir

On Tuesday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Tabernacle, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square will present a special concert for the American Guild of Organists (AGO) as a signature event for its West Region convention in Salt Lake City. The concert’s first half features a symphony for organ and orchestra by Alexandre Guilmant to be performed by Richard Elliott and the Orchestra at Temple Square. Organists Clay Christiansen and Andrew Unsworth will be featured in the concert’s second half with music by the Choir and Orchestra. (Read the full concert program.)The public is invited to the free concert; no tickets are required.

With the AGO convention and the recent opening of a new Church History Museum exhibit, the Tabernacle organ is the center of attention. Tabernacle organists Richard Elliott and Andrew Unsworth shared some thoughts on this iconic instrument.

“The Tabernacle organ is one of the most refined and lovely organs I have ever played,” Elliott responded when asked about the organ. “The acoustics are the ideal blend of warmth, bloom, and clarity. It is without question the best maintained pipe organ on the planet.”

Unsworth added, “We Tabernacle organists sometimes refer to the Tabernacle organ as having a ‘signature sound.’ There are certain colors of the Tabernacle organ—such as the sounds we use for ‘As the Dew from Heaven Distilling’ at the end of the Choir’s weekly broadcast, the lush string choruses of the instrument, and the noble reed choruses—that are quintessentially the Tabernacle organ. When I hear them, I know right away what instrument I’m listening to.”

“The Tabernacle organ’s influence in the community, on Temple Square, and in the world has been profound,” continued Elliott. “On Temple Square, it is something that visitors consistently mention as a highlight of their visit. Outside of Utah, the Tabernacle organ has not only inspired millions and millions of listeners through its majestic and refined sound but has also been responsible for launching literally hundreds of musical careers. I have lost count of how many professional organists and church musicians have told me over the years that their interest in playing the organ was sparked by a broadcast or recording of the Tabernacle organ. It transcends all boundaries of creed, age, nationality, and socioeconomic status. Very few musical instruments have that kind of a following.”

“The Tabernacle organ is not just an icon or symbol for the Church,” mentioned Unsworth, “it is an icon for the organ instrument. As an organ nerd, people often give me mugs, tote bags, and other paraphernalia with the word organ emblazoned on it, accompanied by a picture of the Tabernacle organ. For many people, when they think of the organ, it’s the Tabernacle organ they think of first.”

“The Tabernacle organ, like all great musical instruments, seems to have a soul and personality all its own, which inspires all who play it,” Elliott said. “My spirit is fed and nourished every time I sit down on the bench. When you add to that the fact that, during the waning hours of the day, from the organ console one can see the luminous Christus statue in the North Visitors’ Center through the beautiful glass windows on the north side of the Tabernacle, you have a recipe for a truly heavenly experience.”

Enjoy Upcoming Events Featuring the Organs on Temple Square!

  • Saturday, June 10, 2017: Clay Christiansen, Tabernacle organist, special performance for the American Guild of Organists in the Salt Tabernacle at 8 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets are required. Attendance is open to everyone eight years of age and older.
  • Tuesday, June 13, 2017: Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Concert for the American Guild of Organists Conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle at 7:30 p.m. No tickets are required. Attendance is open to everyone eight years of age and older.
  • Wednesday, June 14, 2017: Steven Tharp, internationally acclaimed organist, special performance for the American Guild of Organists, in the Conference Center, at 8 p.m. No tickets are required. Attendance is open to everyone eight years of age and older.
  • Daily Organ Recitals in both the Tabernacle and Conference Center on Temple Square through Labor Day. Click link for program details, times, and locations.
  • Church History Museum’s Tabernacle Organ Exhibit open until April 17, 2018.