Mastering the 11,623-pipe Tabernacle organ is a task as enormous as the instrument itself, but through his many years of musical training and performing, Clay Christiansen and his Tabernacle organist colleagues have achieved this feat. From his seat at the organ, where he has played since 1982, Christiansen’s music breathes a unique sound that blends perfectly with the voices of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
As one of the Tabernacle organists, Christiansen performs and tours with the Choir, plays for the weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts and the daily organ recitals. He works with the Choir’s musical staff to ensure that the organ adds the perfect musical color to the singers’ voices and the Orchestra at Temple Square. Together, this produces the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s exquisite sound.
Playing an instrument as difficult as the Tabernacle organ requires enormous talent and experience. Christiansen completed a doctorate in composition at the University of Utah. His doctoral dissertation is a cantata for chorus, orchestra, and soprano and tenor soloists titled Isaiah, the Prophet.
Before taking his post at the Tabernacle, Christiansen served for 10 years as organist and choirmaster at Utah’s oldest non-Mormon church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. There he became well known for his weekly radio broadcasts and popular New Year’s Eve Bach recitals. His solo performances have taken him across the United States, Canada and England. He has toured as the featured artist for groups such as the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants and has performed for conventions of the American Institute of Organbuilders and the American Guild of Organists.
Born in 1949, Christiansen is married to Diane Francom. They have 13 children and 43 grandchildren.