“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2017, the choir performed “America the Beautiful” at the official swearing-in ceremony for President Donald Trump.
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.
Editor’s note: This was originally published on Feb. 15, 2021, and was updated on Feb. 16, 2022, with the 2002 performances.