1 of 33
Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Various awards given to the Tabernacle Choir are on display in the choir offices in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — The 171-year-old Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a new name.

The nickname "Mormon" is out and the place name "Temple Square" is in for one of the most revered brands in all of music.

The award-winning Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be renamed "The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square," according to a news release issued Friday morning by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The new name is the most tangible and significant change made yet to comply with President Russell M. Nelson's August announcement that the church will drop the nicknames "Mormon" and "LDS" in most uses and employ either the full name of the church or the phrases "the Church of Jesus Christ," "restored Church of Jesus Christ or "Latter-day Saints."

"If the prophet is asking me to make a change, I can make a change," choir president Ron Jarrett said.

The choir's name now will mirror that of its partner, the Orchestra at Temple Square.

That will make it natural for many church members to adopt, said Dave Newbold, a partner and executive creative director at Richter 7, a Salt Lake City advertising, marketing and public relations firm, which had no role in the name.

"My guess is church members will quickly adapt to calling it the choir or 'the Tabernacle Choir,'" he said. "It will take people outside the church longer to stop using 'Mormon Tabernacle Choir.'"

Jarrett agreed.

"I think people in the church will say, 'Oh, that makes all the sense in the world,'" he said.

Rebranding the choir with people outside the church will be more difficult and could take years.

And the classic name won't disappear immediately or completely.

"Any time you go through a name change, it's a messy process," Newbold said.

One example is the Christmas special the choir taped last December. The performers will still be billed as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when the special airs this Christmas on PBS and BYUtv. The same goes for the companion book, CD and DVD published and distributed by the Deseret Book label Shadow Mountain.

The choir also will maintain some licensing arrangements under the classic name to retain ownership of it.

A name change for the choir was among a host of rumors circulating about announcements the church might make this weekend at its 188th Semiannual General Conference.

The Deseret News noted after President Nelson's August announcement that the church's new style guide for its name dropped the old style guide's use of Mormon Tabernacle Choir as an appropriate example of using the nickname as an adjective.

The choir has had multiple names in its 171-year history, historians say. It began three weeks after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and soon established itself in a bowery on Temple Square. It became the Tabernacle Choir in 1867, when the Salt Lake Tabernacle was completed. No other designator was necessary.

"The church was very parochial then," Jarrett said. "It was just right here in Salt Lake City."

As the church grew and spread and new tabernacles were built in other Utah cities like Provo and Brigham City, the name necessarily became the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir by 1869.

"Mormon was added at some point," Jarrett said, "and it was the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir," to help identify it for audiences outside Utah. "Then Salt Lake dropped off and it became the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," a term more consistently used beginning in 1929 with the launch of the choir's weekly radio program "Music and the Spoken Word."

For decades, the choir and its name has been one of the crown jewels of the church, said Sheri Dew, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation and CEO of Deseret Book.

"It's a marvelous moment in time for them to assess their many strengths and consider ways they can be even better emissaries for the church," she said. "The Tabernacle Choir is one of the crown jewels of the church. It can have an impact in many ways."

The choir has more than 2,000 television, cable and radio broadcast partners worldwide for its weekly program "Music and the Spoken Word," which has been on the air for 90 years, Jarrett said. Recent listener surveys revealed the audience is younger than choir officials thought and mostly male, with particularly strong audiences in the American south, the Philippines and South America.

While the name is changing, the bottom line won't.

"What doesn't change is our music," Jarrett said. "The name may change, but everything that people know and love about the choir will not only be the same but will get better and better."

Typically, organizations rebrand due to a market shift or competition, but rebranding to "The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square" is due to what President Nelson said in August was divine revelation.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Tabernacle Choir president Ron Jarret is reflected in a commemorative gold record for the "The Joy of Christmas" album in the choir offices in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.

"The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is probably the most famous choir in the United States, a very 'Mormon church' entity that has won all kinds of awards and gold records and it's the premiere choir in the country," Newbold said. "This whole process of rebranding the church is going to be difficult and it will take years to do it. A good brand has to be consistent to embed itself in people's minds. The great brands usually have a pretty clear, concise position and people know what it stands for easily and recognize it for that."

He said the choir's name change may be an exception to many stumbling blocks faced in other rebranding efforts.

"That's probably the best option," he said. "At least you've got 'the Tabernacle Choir.' You've skipped 'Mormon,' and you're banking on the fact people won't be too surprised. Most of them will still recite 'Mormon' in their brain even if they don't say it out loud."

Outside the church, he said, "People say, 'It reminds me of the 'Mormon church' every time I see it. If they think positively about the choir, they think positively about the church.

"Changing a name is even more difficult than changing a logo," he added. "It will take a great investment of time, effort and maybe even money to re-embed a new name in people's minds outside of the church."

Jarrett said the choir's brand is simple among church members.

"Most people in the church just recognize it as the church's choir," he said.

Outside the church, he added, its brand stands for "extremely well-executed, -performed, -rehearsed music. People grew up with it. It means unity, growth, happiness, joy, peace."

Jarrett said the choir hasn't hired an outside firm to help with the rebranding, but has consulted with church leaders, other church departments and outside sources. Teams from around the church have helped with updating all the choir's social media platforms and web pages.

"There will be some things we'll be studying over the next few months to see if there's anything we want to add," he said.

That could be a subtitle, for example. The choir also may stand pat and let its music do the branding.

The choir also is working with its many partners on the change, including PBS, Deseret Book, BYUtv and BonCom.

Jarrett said he received a private initial briefing that the name would need to be changed. At first, he was taken aback, he said, but immediately became comfortable when briefed by the choir's advisor, Bishop Gérald Caussé, the presiding bishop of the church.

Choir leaders created lists of name ideas, considered longer names, shorter names and outside-the-box names. After church leaders provided additional focus, Jarrett said, the list narrowed.

Music and the Spoken Word has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.

57 comments on this story

"Among the many reasons Music and the Spoken Word continues to be relevant worldwide is it conveys hope, joy and comfort through inspirational music and messages," choir director Mack Wilberg said in a statement. "Each broadcast, the choir and orchestra stand on the shoulders of the many who came before them to bring audiences the highest quality of music and inspiration."

The choir's digital platforms have new addresses as follows:

• Website thetabernaclechoir.org

• Facebook facebook.com/thetabernaclechoir

• Twitter twitter.com/@thetabernaclechoir

• YouTube youtube.com/thetabernaclechoir

• Instagram instagram.com/thetabernaclechoir

• Pinterest pinterest.com/thetabernaclechoir

• Google+ plus.google.com/+thetabernaclechoir