Person 2 Person: Richard Elliott

R Elliott Tabernacle console full.jpg
Person 2 Person: Richard Elliott (Photo provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

(KUTV) Richard Elliott is a composer and the principal organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Elliott has played various instruments throughout his life, but eventually the organ "won out" for him.

"It's almost like having an orchestra at your fingertips," he said. "You have so many sounds there and of course, the power is intoxicating."

He didn't start out wanting to be an organist, because he wanted to be a studio musician and play all different kinds of music.

"The choir's repertoire maybe isn't quite that varied," Elliott smiled. "I mean, we haven't played any Rolling Stones yet."

But the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has sung music from Billy Joel, Broadway, and more.

Elliott played in a rock band as a young man.

"We were especially known for our fire shows," he said. "We would almost literally set the place on fire."

They had instruments that shot flames and smoke--including flaming tambourines!

At the time, Elliott wasn't a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He ended up joining the church at 23 years old.

"That changed everything, really. It changed my perspective," he said. "I already felt before that I didn't really think I wanted to go into rock music because I saw what it did to the people who did it full time. It was a hard, hard lifestyle."

Elliott served an LDS mission to Argentina, got his doctorate, then taught music for three years at Brigham Young University before joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as an organist.

In 2008, he sustained a severe injury to his arm that required surgery--and time away from his livelihood.

"It required at least three months of just not touching a keyboard," he said. "That was the scariest thing that happened to me up to that point."

Elliott decided to make the most of his time and study everything he could on pedal technique and practice with his feet.

He ended up coming up with an incredible song while sitting in the practice room one day.

"I started playing 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' with my right foot taking the melody and my left foot taking the bass line," Elliott recalled.

He ended up playing that piece for a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert, and it became a hit on YouTube.

During the time of his arm injury, Elliott had an especially memorable moment while playing in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

"I remember going in right after that--and my left arm was in a sling--and going into the Tabernacle after hours when nobody was there and playing 'Come, Come Ye Saints,'" he said. "The tears just came rolling down my face."

"Those are the things that you never forget, that really build your testimony, but also build your internal strength and your commitment to what you're doing there."

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