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One of the most famous singing groups in the world is changing its name. So long, Mormon Tabernacle Choir

One of the most famous singing groups in the world is changing its name. So long, Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs recently in Salt Lake City. The well-known choir was renamed Friday to strip out the word "Mormon." (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

For generations, it was known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

But the tune changed Friday.

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it was formally switching the name of the world-famous choir to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, as part of a rebranding effort by the Utah-based church to eliminate the name “Mormon” as a general reference and to instead only call the faith by its formal name.

“A new name for the Tabernacle Choir will represent a change after so many years,” said Ron Jarrett, president of the choir. “The name may change, but everything that people know and love about the choir will not only be the same but will get better and better.”

It’s one of the most high-profile name changes since the church’s president, Russell M. Nelson, announced in August that only the full name — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — be used.

Nelson said in a talk in Montreal days after the August announcement that the “name of the church is not negotiable” and that it being called the Mormon Church was “an error that crept in over the ages.”

“We know it’s going to be a challenge to undo tradition of more than 100 years,” Nelson said. “The Lord has told us what his church shall be called.”

The new name for the choir references the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle at its location on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

According to the church, Mormon was one of the prophets who compiled the historical and religious records of the faith that were eventually translated by founder Joseph Smith and became the foundational text for the Book of Mormon.

Irene Caso, spokeswoman for the church, said the Mormon term was a “nickname” that has been used as shorthand for decades. She said the new directive was a way to “reinforce” the name Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The rollout has been ongoing and Caso said “it is a big undertaking.” She said she wouldn’t be surprised if the topic was discussed among members at the chorus General Conference this weekend.

The choir consists of about 360 members and has performed at many high-profile events including the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and at presidential inaugurations ranging from President Reagan’s to the 2016 inauguration of President Trump.

It also has a large recording catalog, including dozens of best-selling Christmas-themed albums, and ones based on show tunes and music performed in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001. It continues to have its music carried on over 2,000 radio and television stations — more than 4,500 episodes in all — since it began broadcasting “Music and the Spoken Word” in 1929.

Andrea Thomas, a marketing professor at the University of Utah, said the choir’s name change might seem dramatic to some, but noted that only one word was dropped in the new name and that the choir would still be found on the same broadcasts and would provide the same listening experience.

She said the church’s name, however, was about brand discipline.

“The members of the church are part of your communications channel,” Thomas said. “They are starting with the membership and they are hoping it catches on and others start talking about it using the full name.”

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Thomas, who worked for more than 20 years in corporate branding for Pepsico and Walmart, said branding could take anywhere from six months to seven years to put into place. She said rebranding — whether it is Kentucky Fried Chicken changing to KFC or Walmart eliminating the star in its name — is often “a large undertaking.”

She said there would be affiliated groups that might have to adjust their branding based on the new directive coming from the 16-million-member church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The Los Angeles Times is monitoring the rebranding, but its stylebook still allows for the use of the word “Mormon.” The Associated Press also reported its stylebook would remain unchanged and the term “Mormon” was still acceptable as a reference — though the news-gathering organization is also monitoring the rebranding effort.

Some members of the faith seemed relatively nonplussed by the changes.

Natalie Gordon, a 46-year-old from Salt Lake City, said although she might feel a little nostalgic about the name, it didn’t appear to change what it meant to her.

“I’m not bothered by the name change. I think, in general, the move away from ‘Mormon’ helps members focus more on Christ, so it makes sense to change the name of the choir,” Gordon said. “We didn’t need the word Mormon to distinguish the Tab Choir from all the other tabernacle choirs. And I love making Temple Square more inviting.”

The name change also generated a lot of conversation on Twitter, with some having fun with it.

“MoTab is no longer MoTab. It is the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. But I will call them the Artists Formerly Known as The Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” tweeted a user identified as Ryan Hannah.

Caso said the branding change was an ongoing effort but couldn’t say what other announcements might be forthcoming.

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