“Orchestra Celebrates 10 Years on Temple Square,” Liahona, Oct. 2009, N3–N4
The nationally recognized Orchestra on Temple Square, officially organized on October 16, 1999, marked its 10th anniversary year in late March with two spring concerts.
The orchestra, originally envisioned by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), comprises more than 100 musicians of diverse ages and backgrounds. Church leaders created the orchestra to enhance the musical organizations within the Church.
Mac Christensen, president of the Tabernacle Choir, said: “I call it President Hinckley’s orchestra. He had the vision; he brought it together; he knew what it could be. … The big thing that makes the orchestra absolutely great is the fact that they’re all set apart as missionaries. They’re not paid. It’s volunteer. I think it is the finest volunteer orchestra in the world.”
While some orchestra members make their living with music outside of the orchestra, other volunteers are employed as university faculty, engineers, dentists, attorneys, physicians, and in many other professions. There are also “lots of moms,” explained Kathy Anderson, violist, who plays in the orchestra with her cardiologist husband, Jeff.
The orchestra performs frequently in both concerts and recordings with the Tabernacle Choir, including during the weekly television and radio broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word.
The orchestra played for the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration and Emma Smith: My Story soundtracks, the Nauvoo Temple open house, and the Kirtland Visitors’ Center opening. It also accompanies the Temple Square Chorale and performs on its own as a concert orchestra.
On November 12, 2003, the orchestra and the Tabernacle Choir received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. The orchestra and choir were also nominated for Grammy Awards in 2008.
Meredith Campbell, concertmaster, estimated that each member has played his or her instrument for at least 10 years, practicing often two to three hours a day, for a total of some 800 hours a year.
“It is a wonderful group of people,” said Barry Anderson, administrative director and manager of the Orchestra on Temple Square and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Playing for the choir is a lifelong dream for Sister Anderson. “I always hoped I could do something like this, and to play with Igor is another highlight,” she said.
Igor Gruppman, the Ukrainian-born conductor of the orchestra, has been involved with the orchestra since he and his wife, Vesna, were appointed as co-concertmasters at its inception in 1999. He was named orchestra conductor in August 2003.
“Part of the excitement I feel in coming here is working with the incredible talent and dedication of everyone in the orchestra,” Brother Gruppman said. “Because they are all volunteers, they really have to be very passionate about music, and they all share a deepened understanding and grasp of the spiritual mission that music carries when we perform for our audiences.”
The spring concerts honored global victims of genocide.
“It [was] a very demanding program,” said Brother Gruppman. “It’s challenging for the orchestra and challenging to the audience to stretch around the experience. Feelings of sadness, guilt, and loss occur and then transition to passages of brightness, even the ecstasy of hope and very powerful spiritual connections.”