“America's Choir” to Grace U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Contributed By Casey Adams, Church News contributor

  • 19 January 2017

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at the 1989 inauguration for President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Article Highlights

  • The choir has participated in five previous presidential inaugurations.
  • The First Presidency assigned Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson to represent the Church.

“[The inauguration ceremony] is a time to reaffirm collectively the enduring principles that have sustained this country for over 200 years, including the peaceful transfer of power.” —Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

For the sixth time, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has received an invitation to participate in a U.S. presidential inauguration, the latest being for the president-elect taking the oath of office in becoming the nation’s 45th president on January 20.

The choir accepted an invitation to perform during the 58th swearing-in ceremony for Donald J. Trump held on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. In a tradition going back more than a century, the First Presidency assigned Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to represent the Church at this year's inaugural events.

Elder Christofferson remarked that the tradition the ceremony exhibits surpasses the person being inaugurated.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings under the gaze of the nation’s political leaders at the inauguration of Richard Nixon on January 20, 1969, in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy Deseret News Archives.

Craig Jessop directs the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as its float makes its way along the parade route for the inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2001. Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News.

“It is a time to reaffirm collectively the enduring principles that have sustained this country for over 200 years, including the peaceful transfer of power, which remains a remarkable event even in this modern world.”

“It is an act of state, not of politics,” Elder Christofferson said of the inauguration ceremony in a January 13 news release. “Its primary purpose is for the president-elect to take the constitutionally required oath of office, and for the people by witnessing it to bind him to that oath.

The choir first participated in a presidential inauguration when Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office in 1965, and then returned in 1969 for the swearing-in ceremony for Richard M. Nixon.

President David O. McKay said of the initial 1965 invitation, “This is the greatest single honor that has ever come to the Tabernacle Choir.”

Another honor dubbed the music institution “America’s Choir” in 1981 when Ronald Reagan invited the choir to perform at his presidential inauguration, referencing the choir’s patriotic spirit in presenting the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” choral arrangement.

The choir subsequently performed during the inauguration of George H.W. Bush in 1989, which consisted of two appearances—one at the swearing-in ceremony and a second in the inauguration parade. The choir performed in the inaugural parade when George W. Bush took the oath of office in 2001.

Local historian and long-time Utah resident Ronald Fox said the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has, indeed, become an American institution. Brother Fox served as representative of the White House advance office under five U.S. president administrations, and has attended three presidential inaugurations.

“It is a magnificent opportunity for us to showcase what we have built starting back in the 1840s with John Parry and the creation of the choir and how it has become known worldwide,” he said of the choir’s participation in the event.

President George W. Bush called the choir “a national treasure.” Ron Jarrett, choir president, said the January 20 performance continues a great tradition of the choir participating in presidential inaugurations.

“Singing the music of America is one of the things we do best,” Brother Jarrett said in a January 12 news release. “We are honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration of our next president.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at the presidential inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson on January 20, 1965. It was the first of five appearances by the choir at inauguration ceremonies for U.S. presidents. Deseret News file photo.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings at the opening ceremony of Ronald Reagan's first presidential inauguration in 1981. Deseret News file photo.

 

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's last inauguration appearance was in 2001 for President George W. Bush.

Mack Wilberg, then associate director, and Craig Jessop, director, stand on the float transporting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in front of the United States Capitol Building during the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush. Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News.