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Tabernacle Organ Exhibit Opens At LDS Museum

A new exhibit opened on Friday at The Church History Museum operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ.

The first Tabernacle organ debuted during the 1867 LDS General Conference after Brigham Young commissioned its construction. The new exhibit showcases a keyboard from the 1901 Tabernacle organ. There are hand tools used by craftsman in the 1800s to build the first organ for the church, and even shoes organ players wore when playing the organ.

There’s also a small model organ, about the size of a gas pump. Clay Christiansen is one of the five current Tabernacle organists for the Church. First he shows me the hand operated bellows.

"There’s the lungs. That is the air supply, the wind chest and there has to be a way of generating that wind pressure. Here it’s done by hand as it was originally in the tabernacle organ," Christiansen says. 

Next, he points out the long wooden pipes that the air blows through.

"Each pipe has to have its hole, has to have a valve underneath it that will open and close to allow the air to blow the pipe. See an organ is a collection of whistles," he says. 

Last, he shows me the shutters on this model organ that allow a player to create dynamics.

"When the organist moves with his foot it allows the pipes to have crescendos and diminuendos. It’s like standing out in the hall and having someone open and close the band room door," Christiansen says. 

Christiansen and the four other Tabernacle organists can be heard performing daily on the full church organ. The new exhibit opened Friday and runs through next year.

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