The Mormon Tabernacle Choir represents The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the Mormon Church. The Choir is based in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, and was established almost as soon as the wagons stopped rolling in the Salt Lake Valley. When the Choir was first started in 1847, it consisted of only a few voices; now, the Choir numbers 360 Latter-day Saint voices.
History of the Choir
Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ, directed a small choir to be formed soon after the Latter-day Saints arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. This choir performed for the Church’s first general conference, or church-wide worship meeting, in the Salt Lake Valley. Since then, the Choir has continued to grow and perform for the Church and the world.
In 1929, the Choir had its first radio broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, originating in the iconic Tabernacle on Temple Square. Music and the Spoken Word, a weekly broadcast now carried on over 2,000 radio and television stations, provides uplifting hymns and spiritual thoughts and stories. Music and the Spoken Word has been continuously broadcasting since 1929, and is the longest continuous network broadcast in the United States.
The Choir has been nominated for many music awards, and has recorded over fifty albums, both alone and with other artists, including Jane Seymour, David Archuleta, Natalie Cole, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Called to Sing
The Church of Jesus Christ is run largely by a lay leadership, meaning that Latter-day Saints have regular vocations in addition to their church assignments as a Sunday School teacher, youth leader, or bishop (similar to a pastor). Latter-day Saints refer to these church positions as “callings.” A Latter-day Saint may have many diverse callings in his or her lifetime; the former bishop (leader of a congregation) may be called as a primary (children’s) teacher. With the exception of the prophet and apostles, callings typically last for a few years before a member is “released” and given the chance to serve in a different capacity.
When a member is accepted to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, singing in the Choir becomes his or her major calling in the Church. Being a Choir member requires at least 10 hours of rehearsal and performance each week, and as many Choir members also have full-time jobs, singing in the Choir becomes their main Church calling and responsibility.
Callings are more than attending meetings or, in this case, rehearsals. Latter-day Saints believe that each calling is important and has a compelling spiritual aspect. Most members pray about their callings, and receive guidance from the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, about how best to fulfill their calling. Choir members are directed to “sing for the people,” and as many of their pieces are hymns, they need to have the proper spirit to convey the message of the music.
Does the Choir Preach?
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s purpose is to “sing for the people,” wherever the people may be. As one of the Choir’s major assignments is to sing in The Church of Jesus Christ’s semi-annual general conference, their repertoire includes many hymns, some Latter-day Saint specific, some not. Their repertoire also includes many American folk songs, Broadway tunes, and classical pieces. However, the purpose of their music is to uplift, not necessarily preach. If the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has helped its listeners to feel uplifted, more patriotic, or inspired, then they have succeeded in their mandate.
Want to Join the Choir?
Becoming a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is considered a great achievement, as the Choir accepts only the best, and has a very rigorous audition process. To be eligible to join the Choir, a person must be between the ages of 25 and 55, live within a 100-mile radius of Temple Square, and be a member in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ. Choir hopefuls must complete a written application and a recorded audition before being considered. Applicants are then invited to take a musical assessment, focusing mainly on music theory. Applicants who pass the assessment are invited for an in-person audition; then, successful applicants serve for 4 months with the Temple Square Chorale before they join the Tabernacle Choir.
Megan is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and recently married member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is a writer and avid reader, and loves music, hiking, and her family.