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When the Tabernacle Choir has performed for U.S. presidents

From the Tabernacle in downtown Salt Lake City to the White House in Washington, D.C., The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has performed for U.S. presidents in a variety of settings spanning more than a century

President John F. Kennedy addresses a large gathering in the Tabernacle on September 27, 1963. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the music. Deseret News Archives Credit: Deseret News Archives
President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford joke with the Tabernacle Choir after a performance at the Kennedy Center in September 1974. Deseret News Archives
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Chandeliers emphasis the beauty of the Center Deseret News Archives Credit: Deseret News Archives
U. S. President Jimmy Carter and President Spencer W. Kimball of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoy the program in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2, 1978. They were in the tabernacle for National Family Week. Deseret News Archives
John F. Kennedy speaks at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Sept. 1960. Photo - Deseret News Archives Credit: Deseret News Archives
President John F. Kennedy talks to Cal Rollins, with President David O. McKay at right, after speaking in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, 1960. Photo - Deseret News Archives Credit: Deseret News Archives
From right to left J. Willard Marriott, President Gerald R. Ford, Mrs. Betty Ford, Camilla and President Spencer W. Kimball before attending a Tabernacle Choir concert at the Kennedy Center in Sept. 1974. Deseret News Archives
20161222 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at the presidential inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson on Jan. 20, 1965. It was the first of five appearances by the choir at inauguration ceremonies for U.S. presidents. The choir will sing at the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017, the choir and the inaugural committee announced on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. Credit: Deseret News archives
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings under the attentive gaze of the nation’s political leaders. Inauguration of Richard Nixon on January 20, 1969, Washington D.C.. This is one of the 5 presidential Inaugurations that the Choir’s has preformed at. Deseret News Archives Credit: Deseret News Archives
20090808 President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He requested the choir to take part in his first inauguration as president of the United States in 1981. Tad Walch Intellectual Reserve, Inc. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
20071027 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's last inauguration appearance was in 2001 for President George W. Bush. Tad Walch Intellectual Reserve, Inc. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Ronald Reagan requested the choir to take part in his first inauguration as president of the United States in 1981. Deseret News archives
20170117 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's last inauguration appearance was in 2001 for President George W. Bush. Gerry Avant, Church News
President George Bush speaks with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir behind him at the Capitol Friday, Feb. 8, 2002. Paul Fraghton
President George W. Bush, left, and first lady Laura Bush listening to the Tabernacle Choir sing at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City Friday, Feb. 8, 2002, the opening day of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Provided by Ronald Fox
President George W. Bush, left, and first lady Laura Bush listen to the Tabernacle Choir at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 8, 2002, the opening day of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Provided by Ronald Fox
20170120 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs a sound check outside the U.S. Capitol prior to the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. Intellectual Reserve, Inc. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
20170120 Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sit in the rain waiting for the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States to begin during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Associated Press
20170120 Jason Goodman of the Presidential Inauguration Committee said the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is part of America's history. Intellectual Reserve, Inc. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was one of the songs the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sang when President John F. Kennedy visited Salt Lake City on Sept. 26, 1963, and spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  

It’s one of several times the Tabernacle Choir has sung for the president of the United States in a variety of settings, from Salt Lake City to the White House, according to the choir’s website. 

Presidents Day is on the third Monday in February, in the United States, and here’s a look back at when the choir’s audience has included the country’s president.

President John F. Kennedy talks to Cal Rollins, with President David O. McKay at right, after speaking in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, 1960. | Deseret News Archives

Kennedy’s visit was one of five he made to the state. He stayed at the then-Hotel Utah. During his speech in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 8,000 people were in the building, 2,500 in the Assembly Hall and 5,000 more on the grounds, according to the Deseret News archives. Later that year, the choir participated in the national broadcast honoring Kennedy after his death, according to the choir.  

U. S. President Jimmy Carter and President Spencer W. Kimball
U.S. President Jimmy Carter and President Spencer W. Kimball of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoy the program in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2, 1978. They were in the Tabernacle for National Family Week. | Deseret News archives

The choir also performed at the Salt Lake Tabernacle when President Jimmy Carter visited  in 1978. Carter’s visit was during National Family Week, and he was presented the Family Unity Award, a statuette titled “Love at Home,” from President Spencer W. Kimball, according to the American Presidency Project. (Carter also toured Temple Square in 1990 while on a layover en route home to Georgia, according to the Church News archives.)  

Tabernacle Chor in Washington, D.C.

In addition to singing in the Salt Lake Tabernacle when U.S. presidents came to Salt Lake City, the choir has performed seven times at inaugurations of six U.S. presidents and also for three other presidents in Washington, D.C.  

In 1911, the choir toured the U.S. with a stop to perform at the White House, at the request of President William Howard Taft, according to the Deseret News archives. The tour also included a performance in the historic New York City Hippodrome Theater, which was billed as the world’s largest theater at the time. 

In October 1958, the choir performed a musicale at the White House for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Cabinet and staff, according to information from the Eisenhower Library

President Gerald R. Ford and first lady Betty Ford visit with the Tabernacle Choir after a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in September 1974.
President Gerald R. Ford and first lady Betty Ford visit with the Tabernacle Choir after a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in September 1974. | Deseret News Archives

On Sept. 14, 1974, President Gerald Ford attended the choir’s performance at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Photos show him and first lady Betty Ford mingling with choir members after the performance.

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The inaugurations the choir has participated in include the swearing-in ceremony for President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 where it sang “This Is My Country,” according to the choir’s website. 

The choir also sang “This Is My Country” at the swearing-in ceremony for President Richard Nixon in 1969 along with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” accompanied by the United States Marine Band. In 1973, 30 members of the choir performed at a devotional in the White House for Nixon’s second inauguration.  

President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He requested the choir to take part in his first inauguration as president of the United States in 1981. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In January 1981, the choir was back in Washington, in an inauguration parade for President Ronald Reagan. It was during this parade that Reagan called it “America’s Choir.” 

The choir performed at a variety of events for the inauguration of President George H.W. Bush in 1989, including the prelude music for the official swearing in, a parade later in the day and at a gala the day before. For President George W. Bush in 2001, the choir was part of the inaugural parade.  

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs at the 2001 inauguration for President George W. Bush. | Gerry Avant, Church News

In 2017, the choir performed “America the Beautiful” at the official swearing-in ceremony for President Donald Trump.  

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings at the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

2002 Winter Olympics

In 2002 when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics, the Tabernacle Choir performed at the opening ceremony where President George W. Bush officially opened the Games. Earlier in the day, he spoke at the the state Capitol, and the choir also performed, singing “Climb Every Mountain” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” according to the Church News archives.

President George Bush speaks with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square behind him at the Utah Capitol Friday, Feb. 8, 2002.
President George Bush speaks with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square behind him at the Utah Capitol on Friday, Feb. 8, 2002. | Paul Fraghton

Editor’s note: This was originally published on Feb. 15, 2021, and was updated on Feb. 16, 2022, with the 2002 performances.

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