- Speaking Freely - 20071002 - Craig Jessup

Craig Jessup of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Craig Jessop,
Music Director, Mormon Tabernacle Choir

When Jessop became music director of the Choir in October 1999, he stepped into a position tailor-made for him. Not only had he served as the Choir's associate director from 1995 to 1999, he had also been a member of the Choir for four years during college. Growing up, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was his musical inspiration.

Under his leadership, the Choir has continued to live up to its tradition of excellence and has explored new territory in the musical and performance realms. As the music director of not only the Choir, but also the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale,

Jessop draws on the strengths of these three entities and combines them as appropriate to enhance the level of musical excellence in performance.

His vision is to bring the music of the Choir to everyone. He states: "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."
Jessop's love of music has been with him his entire life. From the time of his youth when he sang in church and in school, to his university studies at Utah State and BYU and his doctorate in musical arts at Stanford, singing and music were everything to him. When he completed his doctoral studies in conducting, he was recruited by the United States Air Force music programs to conduct their highly acclaimed professional vocal ensemble, The U.S. Singing Sergeants. He served as commander and conductor of the Band of the United States Air Forces in Europe and the Air Combat Heartland of America Band. Touring, recording and performing around the world and in all 50 states for presidents, kings, and heads of state prepared him well for his present job.

Singing with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers, which included performing with its composer-conductor in concerts throughout Europe and at Carnegie Hall, was an extraordinary experience and a tremendous honor for Jessop. He recalls: "One of my biggest musical inspirations has been Robert Shaw. I learned a great deal about choral music and life from him."

In 1999, when Shaw died unexpectedly weeks before a scheduled performance and recording with the Choir, Jessop used that inspiration to complete the recording of Shaw's English adaptation of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony.
For Jessop, leading the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is also a great honor. He feels that the Choir has an incredible history and that every era has made its own contribution, constantly improving and polishing the Choir's reputation. His charge to lead the Choir to new artistic heights comes from Church President Gordon B. Hinckley who said, "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir must be the highest exponent of the choral art in the land, but it must always sing to the people." It is this counsel that has led the Choir to perform in a broad range of venues from Royal Albert Hall in London to a Utah Jazz basketball game in Salt Lake City's Delta Center to a memorial service for the victims of the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001—all while preserving the classic elegance that has made the Choir famous.

Craig and his wife, RaNae, have four children and four grandchildren.