For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me (D&C 25:12).
People all over the world recognize the sound of the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ. Its large pipes are a familiar backdrop for general conference speakers. The beautiful organ was built by Joseph Ridges and was first played in the October conference of 1867.
The sound the organ makes is achieved by air going through its pipes. Different kinds of sounds, such as trumpet, string, flute, are made by pulling round knobs, or stops, that make certain sets of pipes play. Many combinations of sounds are possible.
There are foot pedals on a keyboard above the floor that control the lowest tones. The organist can use both feet and alternate toe and heel to play the notes needed. There are other pedals that make the organ loud or soft. The number of stops pulled out also determines how loudly the organ will play. Five different keyboards, or manuals, can be played. The organist can play both hands on one keyboard or use two keyboards with one hand on each. It takes a great deal of practice to coordinate reading the music, playing with two feet and two hands, and setting and changing stops and manuals—and do it all as the conductor directs! Recently the organ console was updated so that it is now possible to preset many stops.
Many early Church musicians were from the British Isles. Joseph Daynes, an organist-composer, and Evan Stephens, a conductor-composer, are examples of two musicians from the British Isles who made great contributions to the Church.
When Joseph J. Daynes was sixteen-years-old, he was appointed Tabernacle organist. He was small for his age, and he worried because he couldn’t quite reach the foot pedals of the new organ. He decided to add pieces of cork to the soles of his shoes so that he could reach the foot pedals and play the necessary notes.
Joseph’s family had immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley from England when he was eleven. He had walked most of the way across the plains, carrying a small organ strapped across his shoulders. He had shown great talent when only four, and he eventually composed many hymns and marches for the Church. Two of his songs for children are “Let the Little Children Come” (Sing with Me, B-14) and “Children of the Saints of Zion” (Sing with Me, B-84).
Evan Stephen’s family came to Utah from Wales. When he was twelve years old, he was asked to join the choir. Evan borrowed music books and taught himself to read, play, and write music. In 1890 he was asked to direct the Tabernacle Choir. A conductor and composer, Evan Stephens has many hymns in our hymnbook and five children’s songs in Sing with Me. “O Bright Smiling Morning” (Sing with Me, G-9) and “Let’s Be Kind to One Another” (Sing with Me, B-68) are still sung by children today.
Cut out organist, organ bench, conductor, podium, organ console, and pipes.
Put bench over foot pedals. Seat organist on bench, with his hands on two keyboards of console.
Conductor stands on podium and uses baton so that singers will see his directions better.
Listen to conference sessions and find out names of conductors and organist.
Sing songs, or have someone sing songs written by Joseph Daynes and Evan Stephens.
Plan organ demonstration in your chapel. Invite your ward organist or someone else who can explain the organ to children and demonstrate its parts.
For older children, plan composer-search using Hymns or Sing with Me. Classes could be given composer’s name and asked to find all songs he composed.