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It's not the first time the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed at a presidential inauguration, but it is likely the most controversial.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that the world-renowned volunteer choir had accepted an invitation to sing at the swearing-in of President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Not all 360 members will attend. The choir is asking for 215 volunteers.
"The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a great tradition of performing at the inaugurals of U.S. presidents," said Ron Jarrett, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, noting the group has performed at five previous presidential inaugurations.
The choir sang at the swearing-in ceremonies for George H. W. Bush (1989), Richard Nixon (1969) and Lyndon Johnson (1965). It also performed in inaugural parades for George W. Bush (2001), George H. W. Bush (1989) and Ronald Reagan (1981).
"Singing the music of America is one of the things we do best," Jarrett said. "We are honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration of our next president."
Randall Thacker, the former president of Affirmation, a gay Mormon group, created an online petition opposing the performance that had more than 4,000 signatures Thursday. It says: "The church's participation will harm this spectacularly talented and beloved choir's image, misrepresent the diversity of Mormons worldwide, and sends the wrong message to LDS children as they will perceive the church's participation as endorsement of a president whose words and actions do not align with our values."
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins acknowledged some controversy over the choir's planned performance at the inauguration.
"Response to the announcement has been mixed, with people expressing both opposition and support," Hawkins said in a prepared statement.
He noted the choir's long tradition of performing for presidents of both parties, noting that it "is not an implied support of party affiliations or politics. It is a demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power."
Trump wasn't nearly as popular with Mormon voters as most Republican nominees have been. An exit poll shows he claimed 61 percent of the vote among LDS adherents nationally, a drop of nearly 20 percentage points from the past two presidential elections. In Utah, Trump received 45.5 percent of the vote, while Democrat Hillary Clinton got 27.5 percent and independent conservative Evan McMullin received 21.5 percent.
McMullin, a Provo-born Mormon, emerged as the conservative alternative to Trump in Utah and received more support here than any third-party candidate received in any other state. McMullin on Thursday declined to comment on the planned choir performance at the inauguration.
According to the Utah Colleges Exit Poll, which surveyed thousands of voters in the Beehive State, Trump managed to win support from fewer than 45 percent of Mormon voters barely half of Mitt Romney's performance with the voting bloc and 30 points lower than John McCain received in 2008.
Several high-profile Utah politicians withheld support from Trump during the campaign, including Romney, Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee (who voted for McMullin) and Rep. Mia Love.
While Trump was viewed skeptically by many Utah voters, Pence was seen far more favorably. The Indiana governor visited the state a few times and enjoys good relationships with Herbert and members of the congressional delegation. He also has ties to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, serving as a guest conductor when the group visited Indiana in 2013.
Many famous artists have turned down the chance to perform at Trump's inaugural after rumors tied them to the event. The list includes Celine Dion, Elton John, Garth Brooks and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
The only other performer confirmed at this time is 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho, who will sing the national anthem. Evancho, like Trump, has roots in reality television, making the finals of "America's Got Talent" in 2010. Evancho came in second.
Also on Thursday, Boris Epshteyn, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said on CNN that the Rockettes, the high-kicking dancers from New York's Radio City Music Hall, would be part of the inauguration events.
Tribune reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this story