Mormon Tabernacle Choir announces YouTube channel
Music • Will the choir garner as many hits as Justin Bieber?
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The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a new YouTube channel.

If you thought the choir already was on YouTube, you aren't alone. Searching the site for "mormon tabernacle choir" brings up about 16,000 results, most of them unauthorized.

"This is kind of a big deal because the choir purchases licenses so the world can enjoy this music [legally]," said digital-media producer Steve von Niederhausern, who noted that those licensing fees come from the choir's budget and not from tithing funds contributed by members of The Church of Jesus Christt of Latter-day Saints.

There are 30 music videos on the channel now, with more to follow; this year's Pioneer Day concert and a birthday celebration for church President Thomas S. Monson also are online. Von Niederhausern said a soft launch about a month ago attracted 85 subscribers, a number that ballooned by 250 within 15 minutes of Tuesday's announcement. They're well on their way to fulfilling Alex Boyé's prediction of "more hits than Justin Bieber."

Most important to music director Mack Wilberg, the choir's weekly broadcasts of "Music and the Spoken Word" will be available on the channel. How soon each weekly broadcasts will appear online depends on the licensing; currently, von Niederhausern said, it will take about a month, but "we hope to cut that to two weeks or shorter." Wilberg noted that at least one episode will be uploaded each week, with some coming from the archives.

Choir president Ron Jarrett virtually bounced onto the stage to share three videos from the new channel: choir member Boyé singing the spiritual "I Want Jesus to Walk With Me" with the choir, with footage of Boyé at a former slave port in Ghana smoothly intercut with footage of the singers in the Tabernacle; the choir performing one of its signature hymns, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," with the Orchestra at Temple Square; and a high-spirited performance of the Nigerian carol "Betelehemu" by the choir and orchestra.

Through a videotaped greeting, Monson himself broke the news of the channel; congratulatory messages from Marie and Donny Osmond, Brian Stokes Mitchell and other luminaries followed. The announcement in the church's downtown Salt Lake City Conference Center Theater aired simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

The live audience included a couple of hundred high-school singers, journalists, choir members and at least two Brigham Young University-Idaho students who made the 3 1/2-hour drive from Rexburg for the 10 a.m. news conference after learning of the event via Facebook.

Robert Arnett and Jackson Hern said they had been speculating wildly — Would it be the long-rumored publication of a new LDS hymnal, perhaps including "Come, Thou Fount" (absent since 1985)? Would the choir travel to China? — but weren't disappointed by the announcement. "I've never found anything more spiritually uplifting than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Hern said.

creese@sltrib.com —

The choir on YouTube

See the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's new YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/MormonTabChoir.