Summarized by Rosemary Pollock
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in transition
Deseret News 1Aug99 L2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News staff writer
With Jerold Ottley stepping down as the director of the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir in December, Craig Jessop will step up and accept the
baton as the new director. Ottley's belief that, "the sum of the
choir's parts is greater than the individual parts," and that a "good
choir is not a combination of solo voices," will usher in the new Temple
Square Chorale and Training School, which some call an MTC for singers.
The choir is currently rejuvenating itself. "Now, everyone who comes
into the choir will have sung in the chorale," Jessop said. "The
chorale becomes the gate to the choir and a training tool. President
Hinckley on three separate occasions has praised the choir and called it
the finest in the world, but then he'll turn around and say, 'and they
must get better.'"
Current choir members will rotate through the chorale's school until
all have had the experience. "Instead of dealing with 320 voices, we'll
have 60 voices, and the conductor can hear every individual voice,"
Jessop said. Jessop compares the progress of the choir to that made in
LDS missionary work. "Thirty years ago, missionaries had one week at
the little old mission home on the corner. Thirty years before that,
there was nothing. Today, we have the MTC (missionary training center).
The brethren have made certain that these missionaries are as prepared
as possible. This is what we're trying to do. In a sense, this chorale
is an MTC for singers. It's a revolutionary step."
The current application process is "a three-tier audition," Jessop
said. Half of the chorale will be current members of the Tabernacle
Choir and the other half will be new singers who aspire to join the
Choir. The age span in which singers may be considered for the choir
have been broadened from 30-55 to 25-55. Sixty is the imposed age of
retirement from the choir. "It's just very difficult when you're dealing
with something as personal as the human voice to tell someone to hit the
road. It's better to give everyone the same treatment, whether their
voices are diminishing or not."
James Fairbanks, a 26 year-old music major at the University of Utah
has been invited into the chorale. "I'm really enjoying the
experience. One of the reasons I majored in music is to one day get
into the Tabernacle Choir." To meet the challenges of the Choir, LDS
Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, and Ottley and Jessop decided to
try to empower members through an academic setting in order to develop
better skills. Jessop paraphrases a familiar phrase by saying, "Give a
man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats for a
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices at 7:30 every Sunday morning,
prior to their 9:30 live broadcast. Jessop says, "No singer should ever
be required to sing before noon. It's really a transformation from 7:30
when they can barely croak. I'll tell you, miracles happen every Sunday
morning." Ottley remembers Enrico Caruso, who once said, "A singer
shouldn't even spit before noon - let alone SING!"