Organ culture of the late nineteenth century played an important role in the development of cities on the American Western Frontier. By 1869, the transcontinental railroad connected cities across the United States, enabling coast-to-coast travel and spawning a new tourist industry. Rail travelers stopping in Utah frequently visited the Tabernacle and were impressed by the organ, requesting to hear it played. The Salt Lake Tabernacle free daily organ recital program was initiated to meet that demand. This came at a critical time in the growth of the city as it sought to develop a positive image of itself. These organ recitals became a highlight of travelers’ journeys across the United States, shaping the image of Utah as a place of culture and refinement. Although free daily organ recital programs sprang up across the country during the early twentieth century, very few persisted for more than a decade. Today, the only two remaining continuous free daily organ recital series are given on the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ and on the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia. Location, promotion, purpose, and programming were key factors vital to the early and continued success of the program. At a time when attendance is in decline for organ recitals, and indeed for all classical art music, the elements of this uniquely successful program may suggest new approaches for sharing organ music.
- How the West Was Won: The Impact of Railroad Tourism on the Development of Pipe Organ Recitals at the Salt Lake Tabernacle