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Organ power: Tabernacle musician Richard Elliott is performing with Utah Symphony

Published: Saturday, April 30 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

Elliott, who serves as the Principal Tabernacle Organist, is one of five who regularly perform on "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcasts, as well as at daily 30-minute organ recitals in the Tabernacle. He loves the instrument and what it can do. "But I was a late bloomer," he admits. "I grew up hearing and enjoying the organ, but I didn't feel it calling until I was well into my 20s."

He planned on becoming a studio musician and looked on the organ "as a way to find a paying church job until I could break into the studio. But then I joined the LDS Church — the very same week as I got my B.A. degree from the Curtis Institute — and that changed everything."

Even though at 23 he was older than most missionaries, he wanted to serve a mission. "I felt like I needed to go, and even my parents, who were not members, rallied behind me."

In addition to everything else, the mission changed his musical preferences, "and when I got home, I decided to give the organ my best shot."

He continued his studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. People told him he should go be an organist at the Tabernacle, "but I knew I couldn't bank on that. There are so few openings." But he did get a job teaching organ at BYU, and two years later he did get a call. "They said Robert Cundick was retiring and would I like to be considered. I really had to think about it, because I loved teaching. I loved the academic challenges."

On the other hand, "this is the organist's dream job. Despite the fact that you sometimes feel like you're on a speeding train — between the broadcasts and the recitals there's never any down time — it's an opportunity to reach so many people, many of whom have never set foot in classical music."

Elliott loves the versatility of the organ. "There are no drums, but you can create just about every other musical instrument: woods, brass, strings. What I like best is not the power and the volume, but that you can draw out so many colors, perform so many styles of music."

Above that, he loves the fact that "you are able to use music to do positive and uplifting things, to reach people, to build them up in ways you can't with any other means."

It's true in the Tabernacle — and in the symphony hall.

If you go …

What: Utah Symphony with Richard Elliott

Utah Symphony,Richard Elliott

When: Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7, 8 p.m.Where: Abravanel HallHow much: $15 to $85Phone: 801-355-2787Web: www.usuo.org

Email: carma@desnews.com

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