Church News

From ‘Playing’ the Couch to the Tabernacle Organ, Andrew Unsworth Is Living His Dream

Organ concerts from Temple Square are livestreaming weekly at noon MDT

Andrew Unsworth Tabernacle Organ
Tabernacle organist Andrew Unsworth poses for a photo at the keyboards of the Tabernacle organ in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 Unsworth and the other Tabernacle and Temple Square organists are recording music for concerts that will be streamed online this summer. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.All rights reserved.

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By Eliza Smith-Driggs, Church News

As a four-year-old boy, Andrew Unsworth viewed the couch as his organ. While his mother played organ music, he sported his little black boots as organ shoes and “played the couch.”

Unsworth found the sound of the organ to be “beguiling and powerful.” While his mom had to nag him to practice the piano, “when I started taking organ lessons, I would get in trouble for staying too long at the church to practice.”

Now one of the five organists for The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Unsworth calls playing the iconic Tabernacle organ with the famous choir a “dream come true.”

“I remember very well the first time I played the Tabernacle organ,” he said. “I was so excited; it was a Christmas morning kind of excitement.” The Tabernacle organ is one of the most notable instruments in America due to its size and tonal design, according to the Choir’s website.

Unsworth was only 17 years old when he first sat on that organ bench; “I was sold after that.”

A Tabernacle Choir organist since 2007, Unsworth has grown accustomed to the rhythm of frequent recitals, broadcasts and performances. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, “that rhythm all got thrown out the window.”

Andrew Unsworth Organ Concert Tabernacle
Organist Andrew Unsworth talks about a new concert series that will be streamed three times a week while sitting at the keyboard of the organ in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.All rights reserved.

The century-long tradition of daily organ recitals at Temple Square took a brief hiatus when COVID-19 hit, but Unsworth and his four fellow organists recently came up with the idea to livestream recitals online.

“It’s really wonderful that we have the technology to do this sort of thing,” he said. The first 45-minute concert, “Piping Up: Tabernacle Organists in Concert,” aired on June 17.

Regular recitals continue to be streamed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at noon MDT on the choir’s YouTube channel, the choir’s website and the Church’s live watch page.

Unsworth said he spends the majority of his time as a Tabernacle organist practicing and perfecting his craft. But when everything was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, he took the opportunity to learn new music, write music and work on projects that have been on the back burner.

“At first it was great, and then it got to be a little weird,” he said, adding that performances focus his practice, so to not have any performances for a while was unusual.

Grateful that recitals are starting up again, Unsworth said he is looking forward to “communicating my love for what’s beautiful in music to other people.”

Copyright 2020 Deseret News Publishing Company

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