The Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ: Celebrating 150 Years
Origin and Evolution of the Tabernacle Organ
Brigham Young asked 35-year-old Joseph Harris Ridges to build the organ for the Tabernacle. Prior to the industrial revolution, organs were considered one of the most complicated man-made creations. Ridges only ever built two organs—the first in Sydney, Australia, and the second in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
—Joseph H. Ridges
The Tabernacle organ has undergone several changes over the years. The most visual change occurred in 1915, when the casing was expanded 15 feet on each side to accommodate additional pipes. Today the organ has 11,623 pipes, 147 stops, and 206 ranks.
“I am waiting patiently for the [Tabernacle] organ to be finished; then we can sing the gospel into the hearts of the people.”
The organ itself is made of interconnected pieces of wood and metal; a trained musician brings it to life. More than 20 people have held the title of organist or assistant organist for the Tabernacle organ. Listed by their dates of service, these organists include Joseph J. Daynes (1867–1900), Esther R. Bacon (1886), Katherine Romney Stewart (circa 1893–circa 1902), John J. McClellan (1900–1925), Henry E. Giles (1901–1908), Edward P. Kimball (1905–1937), Walter J. Poulton (1907–1908), Tracy Young Cannon (1909–1930), Moroni Gillespie (1911), Alexander Schreiner (1924–1977), Frank W. Asper (1924–1965), Wade Naisbitt Stephens (1933–1944), Roy M. Darley (1947–1984), Robert Cundick (1965–1991), John Longhurst (1977–2007), Bonnie Goodliffe (1979–present), Clay Christiansen (1982–present), Linda Margetts (1984–present), Richard Elliott (1991–present), and Andrew Unsworth (2007–present).