Tabernacle Organist Premieres “Rhapsody” at National Organist Conference

Contributed By Linda Talbot, Church News contributor

  • HOUSTON, TEXAS

Richard Elliott prepares for the premiere performance of a newly commissioned organ piece, “Rhapsody,” at the First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, for the American Guild of Organists Annual Conference.  Photo by Kelly Foss.

Article Highlights

  • Brother Elliott was chosen out of 20,000 members of the American Guild of Organists to perform the piece.

“I’m connecting between people of different faiths, of different national backgrounds. Music breaks down all kinds of barriers that need to be broken down." —Richard Elliott, principal organist at the Tabernacle

The standing ovation said it all. Richard Elliott, principal organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was in Houston June 21 at the request of the American Guild of Organists to perform one of several concerts during its biannual national convention. He was chosen to premiere the newly commissioned piece “Rhapsody for Brass Quintet and Organ” by world-renowned composer Eric Ewazen. Brother Elliott was joined by members of the brass quintet from the Houston Symphony.

“It was a thrill hearing Richard play my music,” said Mr. Ewazen. “I had listened to recordings of his playing, so I had a good sense of how musical he was. And hearing his performance live is a spectacular experience and an honor for me that a musician as great as that should be playing my music,” he added. The organist and the composer each received degrees from the highly esteemed Eastman School of Music.

Brother Elliott continued the concert with four organ solos rounding out a program highlighting the life of Christ. “I wanted to paint a musical portrait of His life starting with prophecy, birth, Atonement and crucifixion, and, finally, the Resurrection,” he said.

“The American Guild of Organists is the premier organization for organists for training, for professional certification. It has membership of over 20,000, so this is a great honor to do this,” Brother Elliott explained. ‘I’m representing many different entities and representing great music and the composer that wrote it, hoping to bring beauty into this world. I’m connecting between people of different faiths, of different national backgrounds. Music breaks down all kinds of barriers that need to be broken down,” he said.

This is his third time to perform in Houston. “Every time I have performed here the people have been wonderful to me,” he said.

Richard Elliott practices on the “sister” organ to the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ at the First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Richard Elliott recounts the story of how he suffered an arm injury, which allowed him to develop great proficiency in his foot pedal work. Photo by Kelly Foss.

The First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Richard Elliott at the First Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, for the American Guild of Organists Annual Conference. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Richard Elliott at the “sister” organ to the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ at the First Presbyterian Church in Houston Texas. Photo by Kelly Foss.

Richard Elliott discusses how the Spirit of the Lord can be felt through both playing and listening to sacred music. Photo by Kelly Foss.