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March 5, 2008

Craig Jessop resigns from Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Deseret News (UT):

Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director Craig Jessop resigned Tuesday night during a meeting with members of the choir, leaving the group stunned and emotional, according to one source. He made the announcement to choir members following a regular rehearsal. Associate music director Mack Wilberg will serve as interim choir director.

Jessop apparently read a letter to choir members announcing his resignation. At first, one source said, the group wasn't sure who the letter was from. Then it began to dawn on them.

A press release issued late Tuesday night by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quoted Jessop as saying, "I now find myself at a major crossroads of life. With long and prayerful consideration I have decided to resign as director of the choir.

"I look forward to new challenges and opportunities and I intend to keep active in the musical world including teaching — the career that I originally began my musical journey." Jessop said he and his wife, RaNae, and their family "are looking forward to spending more time together with our children and grandsons."

Choir president Mac Christensen told choir members that Jessop had taken the choir to great heights with each concert, tour and performance, according to the release. "Now the choir, with Mack Wilberg as interim director, will move forward building on the foundation that both Craig and Mack and their predecessors have helped to lay," Christensen said. "Along with the First Presidency, we extend our love and appreciation to both Craig and to his family."

One choir member who didn't want to be identified said members of the group were "simply stunned" when Jessop read his letter of resignation during their practice session Tuesday night. "We cried. We stood up spontaneously and started to applaud. But that doesn't even begin to say how we feel. We were just stunned. There are no other words for it. We never saw it coming."

She said Jessop's departure will leave a large hole in the organization, "but as long as he is OK, the most important thing is him and his family. We love him and if this is what's best for him, it's what he needs to do. "I have to have faith that if Craig feels this is the right thing for him and his family then the Lord will provide. I don't know how. I love the gospel and have faith that it will be OK, but I sure don't know how."

Jessop was appointed music director and conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in December 1999, after having served as the choir's associate director since 1995. During his tenure, the choir performed with world-renowned artists and performers at Christmas concerts in the LDS Conference Center that became so popular, more than 1 million tickets were requested for the 2007 performances.

The release said Jessop's vision was to bring the music of the choir to everyone. "My passion has always been music and the power of music — helping other people in lifting their spirits. And whenever we're on tour I see the emotion that the choir can generate from the audience. It's a wonderful experience."

During his tenure, the choir and orchestra at Temple Square launched a private record label in March 2003 and subsequently releasing over 10 albums, several of which hit No. 1 on Billboard's Classical Music chart. They performed 20 times during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, including the opening ceremonies.

Under his baton, the group received the Special Recognition Award from the International Radio and Television Society Foundation and the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. In April 2004 the choir and its Music and the Spoken Word broadcast were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Jessop is scheduled to present workshops this summer at the prestigious Berkshire Choral Festival.

Posted by acapnews at March 5, 2008 12:17 AM


Mr. Jessop will be deeply missed. I would not be surprised to see Mack Wilburg named to fill the vacancy.

Posted by: Mark at March 6, 2008 1:27 PM

Dear Friends,
I am so shocked at the news of the resignation of choir director Dr.Craig Jessop.
Craig has taken the choir to unsurpassable heights of musical and artistic excellence that could only have been dreamed of a number of years ago.
The choir has never sounded better in all it's history than it does now. The outstanding work of Craig and the almost unbelievable talent and musical genius of Mack Wilberg will go down in choir history as possibly the greatest era the choir has ever known for many years to come.

Under Craig's directorship the choir even sounds different than in earlier days.Together with Mack's stunning arrangements the choir now sounds fresh,modern and inspiring no matter what they are performing. The message that the music conveys is unmistakable and let's not forget that the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square do not perform just for the art,superb though they are. The message is simple and that is to let the whole world know of the love of Jesus Christ and of our Heavenly Father.
Craig will be sadly missed by the choir organization but I would say this to him - thank you Craig for all you have done,your work will be built upon by your successor but if there is one truly remarkable thing that you and Mack have achieved together it is that above all,your music has given me some of the most emotionally and spiritually uplifting and compelling experiences of my life,you have got the message across.
I wish Craig much happiness with his family and the new challenges that the good Lord will place before him.
Thank you Craig - message understood,over and out.

Martin Eccles, Blackburn, Lancashire.UK.

Posted by: Martin Eccles at March 6, 2008 3:38 PM

Yesterday Dr. Craig Jessop interviewed to be the new Music Department Head at Utah State University. I am a music major in the program, and have been notified that he has been offered the position. Jessop has his roots here in Logan and in a meeting with the students in the department yesterday, he said he would love to come back and be an Aggie again. Very exciting for the USU music program and the University itself. He will hopefully bring us better visibility as a program.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 3, 2008 6:46 AM

I believe that Mac Wilburg deserves accolades for his wonderful musical arrangements but I, as a music major myself, feel that Craig Jessop was the musical genius for his interpretations of the Choir's repertoire. He made the music become personal for all those listening in his coloring of each sentence and bringing emphasis to those words that brings emotional understanding.

Posted by: Brenda Crockett at April 6, 2008 12:00 PM

Dr. Jessop is a phenomenal director! I had the privilege to be directed by Dr. Jessop when he directed the 2008 Texas All-State Mixed Choir. It was the most amazing experience in my life. I will never forget the sounds and harmonies that that talented man got out of the selected group of magnificent musicians. He is truly a blessing to all who gets to meet him.

Posted by: Nicholas Garza at April 10, 2008 3:24 PM

I was shocked to find that Dr. Jessop had resigned as director of the MOTAB Choir! I was given the honor of singing under the director of Dr. Jessop at the 2006 Mars Hill College Choral Festival in Mars Hill, NC. This man was very kind, humorous, and personable...I enjoyed talking with him about Mack Wilberg's arrangement of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (SATB + Organ). Every time I sing this song, tears fill my eyes, as I think back to the time whenever 500+ singers sang praises to God Almighty in the auditorium of Mars Hill College! Dr. Jessop will truely be missed and he is constantly in my prayers! God Bless him and his ministry!

Posted by: Joshua Starnes at October 21, 2008 9:22 PM

But why I spoke to you and you told me I could sing in the choir some day, but now you are gone, Has God told you to leave, I was was a great singer I sang in church, I sang with the Jerneyman Qt. and made Records, I am in my 60 now and am getting to go in the Hospital for cancer surgery, my one regeret in life is not singing for God my full life, I am at peace now but am sorry for some of my choises i hope you made the wright one tell me you still serving God with you music. With Love Bill

Posted by: Bill Breig at October 25, 2008 11:48 AM

I have all ways loved Craig Jessop's wonderful energy.

Posted by: Allen Blodgett at January 5, 2009 3:39 PM

He did a wonderful job. I remember when they did a performance at West Ridge Academy. That was an awesome performance as usual.

Posted by: Jenni B. at September 5, 2010 2:16 PM

Nearly 50 years ago it was my privilege to know Craige Jessop when he served in England in The North British Mission as a fine missionary.
A year or two ago ,as a member of the Irvine West Park Ward in California it was a joy to see him once again take the choirs from many local religious groups and in a short while weld them into a single body of glorious vocal praise.
It was a joy to see him after that performance and to say that " I have this day truly witnessed a son of God fulfill his Holy calling"

Posted by: Christopher W.Walker at October 3, 2010 1:29 PM

Music and the Spoken Word has long been a 'must see'in our home. Broadcast at 6am on Sunday morning has meant recording and viewing later in the day.We have seen new faces come, other faces disappear over the years within the Choir, some members seem to become favourites, to look for each week. Some we have given nicknames, for instance, if one reminds us of another person we call them by that other name. Another one may be known to us as "the good looking one" or "the young one". One female member reminded us of the Duchess of Bedford and so she was referred to as the Duchess. The face and personality that meant so much to us was Craig Jessop, each week, when he conducted, it seemed that we could rely on a wonderful selection of music. Though not members of the Mormon faith, we appreciated the bridging of denominational faiths by this talented man as he directed this phenomenal group of singers. We regret his loss but wish him God speed in his new choice of occupation as he continues to bless the musical world with his talent and commitment May God bless you and your family Dr Jessop..

Posted by: Tony Watson at July 2, 2011 11:01 PM

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