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9 Fun Facts About the Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ You Should Know

by | May 19, 2017

Mormon Life

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Tabernacle Organ and the new exhibit at the Church History Museum honoring the organ's history, we've put together nine fun facts you may not know about this historical treasure.

1. The Tabernacle organ has more than 11,000 pipes

The Tabernacle organ today 11,623 pipes, but it wasn't always that way. It's estimated that the organ had only 700 pipes in 1867, with more pipes added to the organ throughout the past 150 years. 

2. There are four stops on the organ that are 150 years old

The organ has undergone five major changes in the past 150 years, but four original stops from the 1867 instrument remain as part of the organ today. 

3. The first Tabernacle organist was only 16 years old

Joseph Dynes, the first Tabernacle organist, was only 16 years old when he played the organ, which was still unfinished, in its debut at the October 1867 general conference. 

4. Organists need special shoes to play the Tabernacle organ

To keep their feet from sticking to the pedals and to increase their range to reach pedals, organists wear special shoes with leather soles and a distinct heel. In fact, the tabernacle organ exhibit at the Church History Museum has two pairs of past tabernacle organists' shoes on display.

5. The tallest pipe is nearly six times the height of the average man

The tallest pipe on the organ today is more than 30 feet tall, nearly six times the height of the average man. The smallest pipe, however, is only several inches tall. 

6. The creator of the organ grew up by an organ factory 

Joseph Harris Ridges grew up near an organ factory in England. He had already built one organ in Sydney, Australia, when Brigham Young asked him to build another for the Salt Lake City Tabernacle. Ridges modeled the casing for the Tabernacle organ after visiting the Boston Music Hall organ while purchasing supplies in 1863.

7. There have been more than 20 Tabernacle organists

Throughout its 150 years, the Tabernacle organ has had more than 20 organists. Currently, there are five tabernacle organists: three full-time organists and two part-time organists. 

8. The Tabernacle organ's first recording was in 1910

The first recording of the Tabernacle organ was in 1910 by the Columbia Phonograph Company. The first broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word aired about 19 years later in 1929. 

9. The Tabernacle Organ has been recognized for its historical significance

In 1994, the Organ Historical Society recognized the Tabernacle organ for its historical significance. Though the members of the early Church were pioneers struggling to make a new life in Utah, they managed to make one of the most complicated man-made creations at the time—an organ. Today, the legacy of the Tabernacle organ continues to inspire members and nonmembers alike. 

Lead image from mormontabernaclechoir.org
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