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Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square listed among ‘Best 10 Choirs in the World’

The Tabernacle Choir performs during a press conference in 2010.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs in 2010.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Over the years, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has received an abundance of national honors. But recognition for the choir on a global scale has been rare.

That’s why the choir’s music director, Mack Wilberg, was so thrilled when England’s Classical-Music.com, internationally known as BBC Music Magazine, listed the 360-member choir among its “Best 10 Choirs in the World” in late October.

One of the choir’s goals is to share its music with the world, so this shows international progress, Wilberg said.

Mack Wilberg, music director of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, with members of the media about Saturday’s 90th anniversary celebratory broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” during a press conference at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 17, 2020.
Mack Wilberg, music director of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, speaks with members of the media about Saturday’s 90th anniversary celebratory broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” during a press conference at Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 17, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“It’s a completely unexpected and enormous honor to be named to this prestigious list. I say that for two reasons,” Wilberg said. “The BBC Music Magazine and their accompanying website is one of the most highly regarded periodicals on classical music, certainly in the English-speaking world. So that, in and of itself, is significant. Then also the stellar reputation of the other nine choral ensembles that are listed, including some choirs I’ve been listening to for my entire life. Let’s just say that we are in stellar company.”

These distinguished choirs are not ranked but listed alphabetically. They other nine include:

BBC Music Magazine said of The Tabernacle Choir:

“Choirs come in all shapes and sizes, and at around 360-strong The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is one of the largest. It is also one of the most famous. Formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it was founded in Salt Lake City in 1847 and has become a cornerstone of U.S. choral tradition, performing at several U.S. presidential inaugurations including those of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.”

Wilberg said the honor speaks “highly of the abilities and talents of our singers, who are volunteers who perform 300-400 pieces a year with not a lot of rehearsal time.”

The international acclaim comes at a time when the choir is not performing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The choir has not met together since March but keeps in contact through a weekly newsletter.

Wilberg is grateful for advances in technology that make it possible for the choir’s music to be distributed worldwide at a time when it’s not possible to gather for performances.

The Tabernacle Choir recently surpassed 500,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel.

“Suffice it to say I think that we’re all missing not only being together but also making music,” said Wilberg, who has been involved with the choir for more than 20 years now. “We know we will be back together again, it’s just a matter of when.”

Mack Wilberg conducts The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square as they perform George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” for an Easter concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on April 18, 2014.
Mack Wilberg conducts The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square as they perform George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” for an Easter concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on April 18, 2014.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News