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Inside the World of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

From | You can hear music coming from this building in the center of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the Salt Lake Tabernacle, also called the Mormon Tabernacle. This is the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Scott Barrick is general manager of the choir. SCOTT BARRICK: "The choir traces its roots back to 1847, when the first Mormon pioneers came into the Salt Lake Valley. There was a conference of the church three weeks after that first band arrived. And there was a choir. And they sang at that meeting. And ever since, there has been a standing choir at the church headquarters here in Salt Lake City." The choir has 360 members. Every one of them belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each one is also a volunteer. Michelle Scott tells how she became a choir member. MICHELLE SCOTT: "You create a CD and you send that in, and if they like what they hear, then you take a test on theory and ear training. And it's about a three-hour test. It's quite involved, quite intense. And then, if you pass that test, then there is an in-person audition with both of the directors." Ron Gunnell is an assistant to the choir's president. DONALD GUNNELL: "It is a rigorous commitment. And it, for example, last year I think we were at the Tabernacle or Conference Center probably about 178 days out of the year for choir recordings, concerts, rehearsals. A lot of people travel nearly a hundred miles each way to be here." The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sometimes invite other artists to perform. Jazz singer Natalie Cole, Italian singer Andrea Bocelli and composer John Williams have all performed with the choir. The Tabernacle is also home to one of the largest organs in the world. Richard Elliott is the main organist for the choir. RICHARD ELLIOTT: "There are pipes in this organ in the Tabernacle that date back all the way to the 1860s, around 1867, including the large gold pipes that you see in the case. It has 11,623 pipes, making it the 12th largest pipe organ in the world. But what makes it truly great is this building itself. It has a wonderful acoustic, and shows the organ in its best light." The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs on a weekly, 30-minute program called "Music and the Spoken Word." The program was first broadcast in 1929. It can now be heard on more than 2,000 radio and television stations around the world. Trent Walker is the main audio engineer. TRENT WALKER: "The show is a wonderful show to do, because we try to make it as high quality as we can for a live production. A show in the Tabernacle will be in excess of probably 74 microphones on the stage at once. We multi-track record all of those shows so we can then produce the best sound quality that we can, for the listening audience." Over the years, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has won many awards for its performances in the United States and overseas. Mack Wilberg is its music director. MACK WILBERG: "Not everyone likes everything. And so we try to do a balance of not only the great music of the master composers, but also hymns -- a staple of the repertoire of the choir. Sometimes we'll put in folk music, African-American spirituals, sometimes a little bit of inspirational show tunes, from Broadway or a movie of some kind." For years, the choir has performed for millions of people of all religions. It is likely to do so for years to come. I'm Christopher Cruise.
Length: 05:12


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