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Former Tabernacle Choir director passes away

Jerold Ottley - 2013.JPG
Posted at 10:37 PM, Feb 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-21 00:45:21-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Jerold Ottley, who directed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' famous Tabernacle Choir for more than 20 years, has passed away.

Ottley died Friday in Salt Lake City at the age of 86.

He directed the choir — known then as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — from 1974-1999. He oversaw 1,300 Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts, 30 commercial recordings, more than 20 tours, and thousands of rehearsals and performances, according to an announcement from the church.

“Jerold Ottley was not only a wonderful musician but a great person who, like those before him, laid a foundation for today’s Choir," current director Mack Wilberg said. "His legacy is a gold thread in the tapestry of the Choir’s past, present, and future.”

Ottley was the choir's director when President Ronald Reagan dubbed it “America’s Choir” after their performance at his 1981 inauguration. The name stuck.

Before becoming the full-time director of the choir, Ottley was a faculty member and assistant chair at the University of Utah Music Department.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later, the announcement said.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Ottley died of complications from COVID-19.