Who Are the Singers in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, mormon tabernacle choir performance, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2016

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs in the Conference Center at the start of the 186th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on April 2, 2016. (Getty)

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform as Donald Trump is sworn in as the president of the United States on January 20th. Who are these singers? How many people make up the choir, and how does one become a member?

The choir, which was founded in 1847, consists of 360 singers. As the group explains on its website, those who are interested in joining must submit an application, and these applications are only accepted from July 1st through August 15th every year; you have to call up the choir’s office during this period in order to request an application. You obviously have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to join, but you also have to be “Temple-worthy.” This means, as a member of the choir puts it on his website, “a commitment to support Church leaders and follow the commandments of the Savior, such as the Ten Commandments, the Word of Wisdom (abstention from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee) and the Law of the Tithe (contribution of 10% of one’s income to the Church).” 

If you get through the application process, you are then allowed to send over an audition tape; you don’t even get to select what song you’ll audition with, as the choir director picks that for you. The choir’s staff will then review the tape and decide whether to invite the applicant in. Once you’ve gotten through the audition, you have to go through what’s called the Musical Skills Inventory, a series of tests administered at the church’s office building, such as being able to follow along with sheet music and identify whenever a wrong note is played.

That’s still not the last step. If the person’s audition is good, they’ll then be brought into the Temple Square Corale and spend four months singing with them. If that four months goes well, the person can finally become a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

All members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are volunteers, and they spend roughly five hours a week rehearsing. Two hours of rehearsals take place every Thursday, and another three take place on Sundays. When the group goes on tour, members often take time off of work, with some using their vacation days in order to travel with the group.

As you might imagine, some members of the choir did not wish to attend the inauguration of Donald Trump because of their personal opposition to the incoming president. They can choose to sit out the performance, as participation is completely voluntary and only a small number of choir members will actually be going to Washington, D.C.

However, one choir member, Jan Chamberlin, was so disturbed by the group’s decision to partake in the inauguration that she decided to quit the group altogether.

“I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.”

To put her decision to quit in some perspective, tenure in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is 20 years, or until age 60, whichever comes first.

The music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is Dr. Mack Wilberg, the associate music director is Ryan Murphy, and the president of the choir is Ron Jarrett. You can see a complete roster of members, both past and present, on the choir’s website.