Tower of power: the tabernacle’s 11,623-pipe organ
After a two-year renovation, the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City reopened this spring, filling again with the sounds of its world-renowned pipe organ and the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The structure, which Mormon builders completed in 1867, is a marvel of human dedication. Short of supplies, the isolated frontiersmen constructed the tabernacle with recycled lumber, nails forged from worn oxen shoes, and plaster strengthened with animal hair. It opened its doors as the world’s largest auditorium.
"All the natural pioneer work is still there," says choir music director Craig Jessop. "It’s just beautiful." While closed, the egg-shaped auditorium underwent seismic retrofitting. At the same time, restorers replaced its original pine pews—painted to look like oak—with pews made of the real deal. They installed state-of-the-art lighting and broadcasting equipment and reapplied gold leaf to the organ’s largest pipes.
"The acoustics are better than ever," Jessop says.
Visitors can also hear the choir during Thursday night rehearsals, and anyone can tune in the live Sunday radio shows or Webcasts. (801) 240-4150, www.mormontabernaclechoir.org.
Photography by Scot Zimmerman
This article was first published in May 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.