The Salt Lake Tabernacle

Come with us this month for a look at an important place on Temple Square.

The Salt Lake Tabernacle

For an extreme music lover like Matthew N., it’s a very exciting day.

Matthew plays violin and piano and sings in a children’s choir. When he isn’t making music, he’s often thinking about it. A few weeks ago, Matthew discovered a new passion—the organ. So imagine how excited he was to hear the Tabernacle organ, one of the most famous organs in the world!

There’s an organ recital every day on Temple Square. Today Brother Richard Elliott played the Tabernacle organ.

Behind the Pipes

Visit to join Matthew for a behind-the-scenes look at the Tabernacle organ and to hear a pin drop in the Tabernacle.

Tabernacle Organ Facts

  • It was first played in 1867. Back then, the organ was only 1/3 the size it is now.

  • It has 11,623 pipes!

  • The biggest pipes are made of pine wood, covered with very thin sheets of gold.

  • The organist can push a button to make the lights behind the organ blue, pink, purple, orange, or green to match the mood of the song he or she is playing.

  • The biggest pipes make the lowest sounds. One sounds like a helicopter!

  • The first Tabernacle organist was a 16-year-old pioneer boy. Now there are five Tabernacle organists—three men and two women.

  • The people who tune the organ’s pipes wear earplugs so the sound won’t damage their hearing.

  • An outline of the Tabernacle organ pipes is on the cover of our hymnbook.

Are You Interested in Learning to Play the Organ?

The organ isn’t just for older people. You could ask your ward or branch organist to show you how the organ in your chapel works. If you already play the piano, he or she might be willing to give you a few organ lessons.

After the recital, Matthew got an up-close look at the organ. The organ is made of two parts—the console (where the organist plays) and the pipes (where the sound comes out).

Brother Elliott showed Matthew how everything works. The organ has six keyboards, including one for feet.

Matthew saw the pipe chamber behind the pipes. A big pump blows air into the pipes. The biggest pipes are over 32 feet tall.

“Music can lift your spirit,” Matthew says. Today his spirit was soaring to the sky!

There’s a set of knobs, called “stops,” for each keyboard. Each stop gives the notes on the keyboard a different sound. The organ can sound like a harp, a trumpet, a flute, and dozens of other musical instruments. With all the stops pulled out, the organ has a huge, magnificent sound. That’s Matthew’s favorite.

Photographs by Christina Smith and John Luke