Thursday, March 6, 2008

Craig Jessop--Why this way?


I maybe shouldn't care as much as I do, but it's really, really killing me that nobody has been able to get Craig Jessop to tell more of the story. I really am such a huge MOTAB fan, and I have been in awe at all Craig and Mac Wilberg have done. I can understand spending more time with family. But what I can't understand is why someone so high caliber like him would part ways with the choir so abruptly--the shocking way that he did. What's the rest of the story? Speak Craig, speak! Hopefully answers will come out in time. But that's the problem, I'm not that patient!

As I step back and think about it, I can't imagine not having him there. Is this a bad dream? Some sort of practical joke? I keep thinking that it can't be true mostly because it is so, well, not what you'd have expected, especially from Craig Jessop. On a side note, he came to speak at a Tuesday devotional while I was at BYU. I remember being so impressed with him--his energy and the spirit with which he spoke. That same spirit and energy has been evident week in and week out, year in and year out; whether in person at a broadcast or concert while we lived in Utah, or enjoying them via satellite or frequently on CD/DVD. Maybe that's why I'm so bugged--because I really know how great he was. And I can't help but wonder what brought this on right now and in this way.

Mac Wilberg is amazing in and of himself. I sang under his direction during his last year at BYU, when he announced that he was accepting the position with the Tabernacle Choir. I sang in the Men's Chorus my freshman year. He was already a legend then. But he doesn't have the people skills of a Craig Jessop. His choral arrangements are known worldwide. They're wonderful. I have no doubt that he'll be able to carry on without Craig, but the two of them together made such a team. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Please share!

***Update (6/20/09):

Due to the continuous Google searches for "Craig Jessop" coming to this blog post, I thought I'd share an update with some recent thoughts from a close friend of mine who has personally and professionally interacted with Craig Jessop several times in the last year:

"Craig Jessop's work with singers is magical. When he came to [our area] for [a music convention] to conduct the All-State choir, the work he did with those kids was so detailed and so exacting. It showed in the exquisite performance of [a challenging piece] and other very difficult and breathtaking repertoire. You could tell after wards that in just those 3 days he had won the hearts of those 500 kids who had never met him before but were all over him to talk with him and thank him. He has this spirituality, this kindness and graciousness, while at the same time showing you way after way to quickly make very detailed changes that make the difference between excellent and unbelievably beautiful.

"The work he did with our children's choir at their clinic at Utah State University was the same way. As he listened to and worked with excerpts from the Brahms Requiem, Handel, Rutter, and Bach, he not only stopped them by recognizing details and changes that would make such a big difference, but he immediately crafted games and exercises that caused them to be able to understand and make the changes almost in real time. He was as demanding as anyone could possibly be, but his work with them was so exciting that they were eating out of his hand and anxious for more.

"I have never seen anyone who could combine the most exacting demand for change and details, and at the same time do it in such a way that singers felt immediate accomplishment and confidence. After this one session in the morning, the children of the choir sang a concert that evening that was unparalleled in quality their entire preceding 8 years.

"He works to bring concepts from the "intuitive" to the "conscious". He makes it possible for the singers for the first time to feel as if they have control in a conscious way to insure the high quality of pitch is there, breathing, diction, and phrasing.

"I am so glad he made the switch to teaching when he did. He had been anxious to do so. It was hard for everyone to lose him so suddenly, but had they waited to consider a replacement with search committees, etc, he would have continued another 2 years - something he just could not do. Through the understanding of leadership and those who were close to him, I know he must have felt he could make the transition sooner than later.

"The music program at Utah State has already kicked off with a meteoric mushrooming of quality, programs, and performances in every instrumental and choral area. We are all fortunate to have benefited from his longstanding work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and his profound ongoing work at Utah State. The young children in my children's choir who have a specific interest in pursuing music have already asked about whether they could go to school there. The will certainly benefit from his legacy there - present and future."

82 comments:

Clean Cut said...

"Unanswered questions about LDS Choir director's surprise departure" http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8472437

By Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune

JAMIE COOK~ said...

I get all my news from you---somehow , you tend to know what I don't...so i am glad I read your blog. I need you to tell me more and how you found out about it, and what I am missing!

Clean Cut said...

I was shocked, really shocked, when I found out early Wednesday morning. The first thing I checked when I turned on my computer after arriving early at work was the Deseret News. They had broke the news just a few hours before. There were already a whole bunch of people who had commented on the article. I'm sure there have been many more sense then. But nobody really has been given the "whole" truth yet. All we know is what he read at the Tabernacle Choir rehearsal Tuesday at 9pm--saying he was wanting to spend more time with his family, and perhaps do some teaching. The Choir members were absolutely shocked. Last night I went back to watch "Music and the Spoken Word" that I had DVR'd, and sure enough it was only Mac Wilberg directing. So it makes you wonder how long he has been contemplating this decision and what factors went into this decision, and why it was done in this way. Compare it with the long announced recent retirement of Organist John Longhurst and the big send off he received. Very interesting huh?

Anonymous said...

With Jessop's integrity as a person and as a musician there is NO WAY he would leave his good colleague and friend Mack Wilberg high and dry in the middle of a major upcoming concert and General Conference right around the corner. The preparations are frantic and critical right now. This announcement comes with no notice and no plans to stay on until a replacement can be found. This would not be happening unless this was a forced leave. Think about it. It is too abrupt. Isn't anyone else questioning this? I believe there is a much bigger "story behind the story" that the church and possibly the Deseret News is trying to cover up.

Kelli W. said...

I knew you'd be upset about this Spence! I think you are his biggest fan and with good reason. He is amazingly talented.
I hope people will just support him and allow him to resign for the reasons he stated and not try to create a "bigger story" out of it. I don't like all the gossip created over situations like these and I know it's human nature to wonder why and want the "truth". But I get so bugged when people start saying the church is trying to cover something up, like something dark and sinister is going on. That's not what the church is about, nor the mission on the MTChoir. I hope to enjoy his musical talents in the future and wish him the very best.

Stephanie said...

Anti-Mormons are having a heyday with this - attacking Craig Jessop, attacking the church. Let's give him and his family the privacy and respect they deserve (even if it means patience on our part).

Sally said...

Wow. I had no idea. Obviously, this is not the ideal way to leave.

I've got my ideas, I'm sure you have yours. We'll talk.

Clean Cut said...

Apparently this is a topic that has a lot of people curious because in less than 24 hours since I posted this, over 330 hits have come been registered on my blog for this topic (according to statcounter). I didn't realize it but it's the first thing that comes up on a "Google Blogsearch" for "Craig Jessop", and also one of the first things to come up under a regular Google search for "Craig Jessop". It was also highlighted on http://www.ldsblogs.org. That was the biggest spike I've ever had for a blog post. People are interested in this. I wish more of those visitors would leave a comment, but I bet they're also in the dark looking for more of an explanation.

I posted this out of a feeling of personal loss because of all that I've gained and for all that I've been influenced by Craig Jessop, and I've never even personally met the man. However, I've gained a sense of his greatness. No doubt about that. I will personally miss him. I'm one of countless numbers who I'm sure feel the same way. My heart goes out to him no matter what. He needs our prayers, no matter what. My point is not to gossip. I genuinely like to know and understand the facts. In order to do so, I ask questions--hopefully with tact--and people can decide whether or not to answer questions. For whatever reason Brother Jessop seems to feel like maybe he can't or ought not to elaborate more than he already has. I can respect that. But unless he specifically asks that to be the case, I see nothing wrong with asking questions out of concern about what led to this decision and the way it was announced.

Anonymous said...

Here is one possible explanation. President Hinkley has always been a huge supporter of Jessop and the way he has extended the reach and scope of the Choir, including the varied repertoire. President Packard, who has a very strong hand in the running of the church has long let it be known that if it were up to him, the Choir would only sing hymns.

Word is that without President Hinkley's support, President Packard feels it is time to reign in the Choir and bring it more in line with his view of what the Choir should be. This obviously would not sit well with Jessop, leading him to pursue other options.

Anonymous said...

It's President Packer. Not Packard. Interesting theory.

Anonymous said...

Anon said on March 10,
"Word is that without President Hinkley's support, President Packard [sic] feels it is time to reign in the Choir and bring it more in line with his view of what the Choir should be. This obviously would not sit well with Jessop, leading him to pursue other options."
This would not be the first time I've heard of this happening. I was part of an LDS choir in AZ and one day somebody thought something was wrong about it. They complained to their General Authority friend and OVER NIGHT the choir was shut down. No explanation given. 20 years of good hard work, serving many times in missionary capacities and giving service to the community wiped out with the stroke of pen of someone who had a friend who didn't like something. I'd say that's unrighteous dominion.
I loved Craig too and will miss him, although I must say I've not enjoyed every CD he produced. There's one where I have to sit back and ask "what happened to the other 300 voices in the choir??" the group sounded so small.
But overall he did outstanding work and the choir has never sounded better.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there was much controversy involved. It had been too much for too long and he stepped down. He loves the choir and I'm sure he always will. I think it had been overwhelming for a long time, but he never would have left while President Hinckley was still alive (just a theory). President Hinckley was the advisor to the choir and became president of the church the same year that brother Jessop became the associate director. They worked closely together for many years. It was time for him to step down and he decided it would be best to do it swiftly. Although I will miss him working with the choir, I think it was a classy way to leave - shrouded in a little mystery.

As far as the music world is concerned, I don't think we have seen the last of Craig Jessop.

Anonymous said...

I realize none of you know me, but I thought I could clarify some things for you.

1. Yes, it does seem odd that Craig should resign so close to some major events. But I can assure you that the Choir's schedule is so jam-packed year round that ANY time of the year would have seemed like a difficult time to resign. And while General Conference looms large in the Church membership's consciousness, it is not a big deal for the Choir. It doesn't even start rehearsing for General Conference until a couple of days before, so it wasn't really on the Choir's radar at the time Craig resigned. And Mack Wilberg has conducted "The Redeemer" so many times that it didn't really leave the Choir in the lurch over the Easter concert. The timing of Craig's resignation was, in fact, perfect. There could not have been a smoother transition.

2. Contrary to many of the rumors circulating, Craig was most definitely not asked by the First Presidency to provide them with a list of gays, dissidents, Democrats, Coke drinkers, FHE non-observers, or any other kind of person. Craig Jessop and Mack Wilberg have almost no one-on-one interaction with most members of the Choir and Orchestra, and they would be the last people in the entire organization to know those kinds of personal details. And does anyone really think that a brand new First Presidency has as the top item on their agenda a purge of radicals from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Puh...lease. They have far more important things to worry about (such as, for example, the spiritual health of the other 12 million members of the Church, and the other 6 billion people in the world).

3. One part of the story that the press releases and news stories did not report is that Craig's letter of resignation began with the observation that every goal he had set for himself and for the Choir when he joined thirteen years ago had now been met. It was obvious that he had simply taken the Choir as far as he could, and to stay with the Choir any longer would actually stagnate the Choir's progress. He needed to stand aside so that he could take on new challenges, and so the Choir could continue to grow and progress under someone else's direction.

4. He has not left the Church (he attended his own ward last Sunday, for probably the first time in thirteen years!). He is not secretly gay. He has not had an affair... etc., etc. These were also rumors spread on discussion boards by people using "reliable sources." It might just be hard to accept his resignation at face value: he wants to spend more time with his family, and he's looking for new musical challenges. I think you'll find him continuing to work with high school choirs around the country, as he did the day after he resigned -- he flew to NYC to conduct a combined HS choir in Brahms's German Requiem at Carnegie Hall. He loves doing that kind of thing.

5. Craig's wife, Ranae, was scheduled for hip surgery the week following his resignation. Wouldn't it be nice if he could be with his wife during her recuperation rather than being gone 60 hours a week?

6. People should remember that this was a job, not a calling, and it is not the "Holy Grail" for LDS choral directors to direct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is very hard work, with long hours, and no vacations. We should not be at all surprised that a 58-year-old might not want to do such grueling work any more.

7. Knowing what I do about Craig, I am not surprised AT ALL that he would do ANYTHING to avoid a big send-off. The Choir was never about him -- he made sure people understood that. But if there had been any whiff of a hint among the Choir that he was about to resign, there would have been all manner of lavish send-offs and expressions of love and appreciation and parties and gift baskets, yada yada yada, that would have detracted from the real business of the Choir. The best way to avoid that is to walk in, resign, and walk away.

8. To suggest that President Packer was exerting pressure on the Choir to move in a different direction is frankly ludicrous. I think it's signficant that President Monson attended the "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast on February 24 -- the last Sunday Craig conducted the broadcast -- and after the broadcast was over President Monson spent some time with the Choir. He reiterated his support for the Choir's tremendous work, and praised Craig and Mack for their work with the Choir. Now te Prophet just doesn't show up to a Sunday morning broadcast for no reason. My theory is that Craig knew that it was going to be his last broadcast (and what a brilliant broadcast it was, too), President Monson also knew it, and wanted to pay tribute to Craig without spilling the beans on what was still a very confidential matter at the time.

Quayle said...

I totally agree with the last comment posted.

If you take time to do the math and think it over, the work load must have been a killer. It is a very sensitive person that knows when to move on, for himself and for the art.

Oaks did it at BYU. When he left he said that he had given all he had to give, and it would only hurt the University for him to stay on.

Besides, if Jessop was prepared and at hand to move the choir forward as he did, don't you think someone else is also?

Anonymous said...

From another anonymous:

While I agree with the earlier poster's conviction that web rumors have gotten completely out of hand and there was nothing "sinister" involved, Craig Jessop's sudden departure cannot have been planned in advance.

At his last Thursday rehearsal he was clearly planning to conduct a group of volunteers for a concert two nights later honoring John Longhurst. He had also expressed how much he was looking forward to conducting the Easter performances of "The Redeemer."

Something serious has to have happened in his personal life between Thursday evening and the concert Saturday night. He skipped the broadcast the next morning and resigned the following Tuesday.

Obviously it is something deeply personal or he would have shared more. It may well have to do with how hard he had been pushing himself. We can only trust that he has a very good reason and pray for him and his family.

Clean Cut said...

I appreciate all the commenter's to this post, especially some of the recent ones. I wish some of you weren't "anonymous"--you certainly seem worth getting to know. It's always nice to hear some informed opinions. Thanks again. And good luck to Craig in all that you do in the future--I can't wait. And to you Tabernacle Choir insiders--keep up the amazing work. You bless so many lives. Keep "running on".

Anonymous said...

Having been a member of the Choir and know Craig and his integrity I will be shocked if there is any transgression involved. It just isn't Craig. Until he decides to tell all we who know him accept it as it is.
Mac is a genius and the Choir will go on and make great progress. Contrary to one comment Mac is a people person too. He's also the greatest choral arranger in the world.
Craig praised Mac continually and had the greatest of respect for him. Being the great man that he is he is also a private person and shy when it comes to accolades and ceremony in his behalf. He will also tell you that he worked his head off to attain his position in life. We are too quick to think that gifted people get things the easy way. He lives by the spirit and realizes that the Choir is quided by inspiration.
So whatever the reason it was Craigs prerogative to move on quickly, so let it go.
Think of it this way,even being a member the Choir runs your life. Being the conductor it would dominate your very being. Instead of having a big affair for him after only a few years as conductor (most have stayed until ask to retire) he didn't feel like he wanted all that attention. Some people would make a big deal of that too if he were to get a big send off party after only serving a few years comparatively. He also knew he stood on the shoulders of those who went before and expressed that often as we all should.
And on a further note please don't call the Choir the MOTAB choir. It deserves a better acronym. I listen to motown on occasion but the Choir is in a different class.
I am not a google blogger with a password so I will check anonymous.
.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I didn't realize that "MOTAB" wasn't an acceptable acronym. I thought it was quite endearing. I wonder if this view is shared by others in the choir. Also, I wanted to clarify what was meant when I said that Mac doesn't have the people skills of a Craig Jessop. I didn't mean to say he isn't a nice person or that he doesn't have people skills. That's obviously false. I agree that he's a wonderful person and arguably the greatest choral arranger in the world. He's also very approachable. I was simply comparing him, who humbly shys away from the spotlight, to Craig who was always the first contact with people and with invited guests. I get the sense that Mac is more comfortable "behind the scenes" than Craig Jessop, who was the very public face of the choir. Mac Wilberg is a genius--I could dedicate another post just to him and my appreciation for all he's done. So I apologize if any offense was given. I would take a choir with the exclusive arranging abilities of Mac Wilberg over any other director in the world--that's the kind of choir that I want to listen to over and over again! He's going to take the choir even further. He did it at BYU and I know that he has what it takes to do it on Temple Square or anywhere for that matter.

desert rat said...

I appreciate the posts about why Craig resigned. As a long time Church employee, I was, and continue to be surprised at the way he did it.

As President Packer expressed in his October, 2007 conference address, the Church has its ways of doing things (some of which seem quite Byzantine), and one who wishes to remain in the good graces of the leadership does not violate them.

If Craig notified President Monson of his intention to resign, and pursuaded the Prophet to allow him to do it the way he did, he was in compliance. If his resignation was a surprise to the First Presidency, he went way outside the bounds. For his sake, I hope there was prior notification.

Given all the energy he invested in his work, I can understand why he may hve felt the well was dry and he had nothing more to give.

He did a wonderful job and I hope we all wish him well.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I need to remain anonymous; I've loved reading your site and you've pointed me to some great posts on others.

Regarding your use of MoTab, I think Motab is to Mormon Tabernacle Choir as Mormon is to Church of Jesus Christ: some people are sensitive about it while to others it's no big deal. To me it's the latter.

Regarding Mack Wilberg, also no offense taken. I know exactly what you mean and I'm sure he'd agree as well. Craig was a master diplomat; he was so great with audiences. To say that Mack is not that way is no disrespect; it's just acknowledging that Craig was greatly gifted in this area.

Mack has other strengths, though and I have no doubt he'll continue the trend with the Choir -- ever upwards!

Anonymous said...

One small item of possible interest is the Choir has just missed out on getting a Grammy. Craig has always longed for his own grammy. he didn't mention that as one of the goals he hasn't accomplished but it has always been a big deal...always in the background. They has always encouraged MTC members to join the Acadamy.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys!
So I googled "Craig Jessop" because I was wondering the same things... and I found YOUR blog! It was one of the top listed - how funny! Had no idea it would be yours when I clicked it. It is fun to see your still seeking and sharing information! And very fun to see your family! Tell your wife hi! Provo and Dixon surely miss you! I'm sure San Antonio is great though!
Take care,
C. Shapiro :)

Boston Terry said...

The comments on this blog have been wonderful, but too accepting that this was a considered transistion by Brother Jessop for reasons given such as more time with the family, exhaustion, the well ran dry. His actions speak of a completely different motivation. I am nearly 60 and the only time I have seen professionals behave this way is when something has rattled them to the core. From the conversations I've read about Brother Jessop he was meticulous and predictable, a consummate professional. The week he gave his notice he was the opposite. He missed scheduled appointments and rehersals without canceling or explanation, then bolted for the door after giving his notice at the beginning of a rehersal rather than at the end when members can better process the information. In my experience trusted professionals only behave this way when an unexpected event in life confounds them. Sometimes it's positive, such as an unexpected financial gain such as inheritance/lottery, a new love for the young, or it's negative such as cancer, divorce, or a professional betrayal. The fact that I saw him in fine form at the NYC concert a day or so after his resignation, tells me what ever it is had something to do specifically with the choir/church management of the choir.

Clean Cut said...

Valid point. It brings me back to my original question: Why this way? I'm not questioning that he should or shouldn't resign, but the manner in which he left so abruptly. Very curious indeed. Why did he leave the way that he did? Thousands of people have googled this post probably looking for answers to this very question. Only a handful have left a comment. I'm still waiting for Craig himself to give us some answers. I'm issuing an invitation for him to tell us first here on this blog! :)

Anonymous said...

Boston Terry has a couple of misconceptions:

a. The resignation was at the end of the rehearsal, not the beginning.

b. Brother Jessop did not "bolt for the door." After he completed his statement there was a standing ovation by the Choir (encouraged by the choir president), which, however inadequate, was an expression of their love and respect. He was then excused by the president and left with Brother Wilberg.

One comment about the "church/choir management theory:"

Jessop and Wilberg are extremely close. A major disagreement with "management" likely would have resulted in Wilberg's resignation as well.

Some kind of personal crisis seems the most likely explanation. But as you say, unless Br. Jessop chooses to say more, we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

FYI,
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.

Hart Dad said...

I am amused by the comments that Mack Wilberg is somehow not a "people person"

I can relate a personal experience. A few years ago I was looking for a piece for a men's chorus for our Stake Conference. I'd heard Wilberg's arrangement of "Praise to the Man" for male chorus and decided that's what I wanted to do. Turns out there is no commercially available edition. I wrote a letter to him at the MT choir asking about availability.

A couple of days later, very early in the morning the phone rings. It's Mack Wilberg. He was happy to offer his score and also provided me with some his thoughts on rehearsal and performance.

How utterly decent and kind to take the time to help me, someone a thousand miles away and unknown to him.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jessop was offered and accepted the above-mentioned job at Utah State University. He graduated from that school, and perhaps some time working at his alma mater was something he wanted to do before too much more time went by.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir shall be fine without him. The choir has gotten along just fine since 1847. I am sure, and the present conference has proven, that changes within the choir are transparent.

Let's allow Mr. Jessop his privacy and as he transitions to "a normal life." He does not need the Britney Spears treatment as he departs the public arena.

Mr. Jessop shall be fine; the choir shall be fine; we shall all be fine with this change. Surely, in these heady days of war, recession and sky-high gas prices, we can find something else to bemoan without bringing further scrutiny to a good man who is trying to exit public life and scrutiny.

Don Brown
West Jordan, Utah

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown, it's all very well to chide those who continue to work through their feelings by discussing Brother Jessop's resignation. I'm sure it would indeed be a relief to him and his family if they would just button it up and let them move on. But let me remind you that the original question at the top of this page was "Why this way?" and that is precisely why this page has drawn so much attention.

No one would have had any trouble letting Brother Jessop move on had he not left at least 360 shocked, stunned and hurt people behind.

You are correct that the choir is going to be fine. "This, too, shall pass." However, that does not change the fact that this has been a painful and traumatic ordeal. There have been many sleepless nights and many tears shed. It has been akin to mourning the loss of a loved one who was suddenly taken by a tragic accident. One day he is there; the next he is gone. There is no chance to say goodbye and express one's love. A sense of loss, confusion, and sometimes even anger is to be expected under such a circumstance.

For whatever reason, Brother Jessop has found it necessary to leave in this way. Perhaps it was his choice, perhaps it was imposed upon him. But if anyone thought this way would be easiest for the choir, they are woefully mistaken.

If the others feel like me they are happy that he has found a wonderful new home. He certainly deserves the Lord's blessings and he has our everlasting gratitude and love for all he has been and all he has done.

We will eventually heal, and to some extent we have already, but it will take time. And while speculations probably don't help, in the absence of hard fact they are inevitible as people try to find a way to deal with an event that seemed inconceivable just one short month ago.

Anonymous said...

I am personally acquainted with Brother Jessop - he has been professionally associated with a member of my immediate family these many years, and was a personal acquaintance of a member of my wife's immediate family when he served in the USAF. I mention these things not to sound important, or whatever, but rather to explain my reasoning for choosing to remaining anonymous.

I've been following this closely, and unfortunately, can't contribute any substantial insight (NOBODY in and around the choir staff will talk about this), but have come to the conclusion that this can only be a conflict with "management."

As others have said, Jessop is man of unquestionable integrity, and any suggestion that he acted inappropriately in some way is ridiculous.

The fact that there has been NO mention of Jessop, his accomplishments, etc since his retirement is odd - it's almost like the man never existed. Contrast this with the multiple warm send-offs afforded every other "emeri-tab" and it's quite clear that the departure was not amicable. Even Bro. Kinnard who had personal issues that caused him to step down now does the weekly introductions before the weekly Choir broadcast. But Jessop is completely cut off.

The information provided by the other anonymous poster re: the position at USU was quite helpful, but at the same time also leads one to believe that the reason for Jessop's standing down is not related to any sort of family emergency. Running choirs at USU is also very demanding - you have all the regular routine around your day job which is teaching, and then your evenings and weekends are spent performing. I'll grant that teaching at USU is LESS demanding than running the Tab Choir, but it still places many demands on your family that would preclude you from addressing any emergencies such as health issues, etc.

So, if you accept the premise that it was not any misdeed on Jessop's part, and not a personal family matter, than disagreement with management is the only remaining thing that makes sense.

What is completely unclear is whether he was unhappy with management, management was unhappy with him, or some combination of the two.

I can offer nothing concrete here. But one can infer from the previous forward-looking comments that something transpired rather suddenly that caused one of the parties to reconsider the relationship.

As someone else mentioned, Jessop is a consummate professional and would NOT have left the choir in the lurch right before conference, regardless of the circumstances. Contrary to what someone else wrote, Conference is a VERY stressful time for the choir staff, because they have to program at least two (often three) additional performances into the same weekend as the normal weekly broadcast. Jessop would not have "dumped" all this on someone else, regardless of how unhappy he was.

Which leads me to believe that he was "invited" to leave. I can't imagine why, and I think guessing would be counter-productive, but it saddens me deeply to see this remarkable man forced out over something that probably boils down to a matter of opinion.

Anonymous said...

The above poster is no friend of the Jessop family. Please leave him alone. Clean Cut, if you cared for him and his family you would remove this from you site and move on to other topics.

Anonymous said...

It is so very sad to see a nice "mormon" boy's blog be riddled with melitious gossip. Aren't you supporting what your religion opposes. Craig Jessop is a good, decent man. He gave his reasons in his statement. That you don't agree with them is your problem, and your problem alone. President Monson himself was at Craig Jessop's final broadcast, and all who attended saw the warm reception that Craig Jessop received. Why are you allowing rumors, gossip and nastiness on your blog site? Why don't you uphold the values that your site claims to represent. Are you aware that Craig Jessop is a Husband, son, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend.... The list could go on and on. By allowing people to use your site as a site for speculation and gossip how many people do you think you're hurting? Leave Craig Jessop and all of those who are truly surrounding him alone. Remove this Horrible string of gossip. Again, he gave his reasons. If President Monson himself accepted them, why can't you? If you've chosen to not believe a man who has never hurt those around him before that is YOUR lack of judgment, and not his.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. The gossip and speculation has gotten out of hand. It sounds as if he has done exactly as he said he would - spending more time with his family and returning to education. I admire his integrity for doing so. It must have been very difficult for him to leave as he did, although I don't blame him. Given both the quality and quantity of work the choir has produced over the past few years, he deserves a break.

Sally said...

Wow. What's with all the snarkiness of the last couple comments? What's wrong with some healthy conversation? People have to have some outlet to process their feelings, and this is a good forum. No one is attacking Jessop, just wondering why he did what he did.

If you and your "anonymous" self can't handle that, then don't go looking to be hurt by googling "craig jessop". To question Clean Cut's worthiness and sincerity for simply allowing a discussion to take place is hitting below the belt.

Anonymous said...

Interesting posts. To me the real mystery was hit on by one poster: Why no public thanks and recognition to a man who has done so much for the choir and by extension, for the church? It's just such bad form! I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But sometimes the church, little c, gets it wrong. If I had to do a best guess here, it would be that Someone Important said to Craig that they wanted the choir to go in a different direction, very possibly to stick with only hymns. We will have to see what changes do surface in the choir to know about this. Rather than do what he did not feel good about he made a sudden decision to leave. The "church," meaning somebody pretty high up but I'm not gonna guess, is now punishing him for his sudden departure by acting as if he doesn't exist. The church news article about Mack Wilberg just came out and there is no mention of Craig Jessop. It's so weird. Like there is no such man. President Hinckley was always so gracious. This never would have happened on his watch.
Really, this is so unChristian. Didn't Jesus say 'turn the other cheek.' This man deserves at least the public thanks of the church for all he has contributed and AT LEAST a MENTION in the Church News. Really really bad form guys. Somebody is being a petulant thin-skinned baby. It cast a pall over an otherwise wonderful conference for me. I would love to sign this post but too many know me and there are lots of people whose testimony is based on The Church rather than The Rock and they will mistakenly assume that this is an anti-church post. It is not. All big organizations are still big organizations, even if they are the true church. "We have learned by sad experience, that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose," etc. Craig: We all love you and know just what amazing things you accomplished for and with the choir and what a great contribution you made to the church. The Lord knows it too. He is smiling on you.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Sally. Those expressing such vehement objection are being oversensitive. There is nothing here that seeks to defame Brother Jessop's character.

There is recent development that nas not been noted. In the Deseret News article about Brother Jessop's appointment at Utah State he said that his choice to leave the choir "has been a long and careful, and prayerful, decision. While it may have seemed abrupt to many, it was not abrupt in our lives."

This suggests his decision came over weeks or even months and points away from the "disagreement with management" theory. While a matter of principle could still have been involved, this surely makes it highly unlikely that it had to do with a suddenly-imposed change in musical direction for the choir by a new Church leadership.

Perhaps, after all, it is simply that the job became too much and he needed a slower pace. He has never sought fame and adulation and is the kind of person who well may put his foot down and say, "I've had enough. I want to leave quietly and I don't want any fuss made." And while he obviously loves the choir and every member in it, saying goodbye to each individual may have simply been more than he could bear.

JAMIE Probert COOK~ said...

I don't know where to start. I think there is nothing wrong with inquiring about someone we all respect and love.

There are so many posts...where to start? Spence, I love this post and I have been keeping track of the comments growing. I love it.

Something isn't right, and we may never get to the bottom of it, but that is ok.


YOu don't quit the motab and then be head of the music department at USU...that does not constitute "needing to spend time with family, and taking time off..." on the contrary, that is going to be insane!

There is absolutley no way we could know the entire truth for sure...
If Mr. Jessop did truly want to be left alone he would not have accepted another job right away. Yes he may in fact have been thinking about this for a long time and it may be a really hard decision, but isn't it respectful to the choir to let them say goodbye as well?

I do not think anyone who has posted disrespects the man or doesn't appreciate all his efforts with the choir. I just think that everyone is baffled as to the abruptness, whether it was a long time in the making or not it was abrupt---no one can deny that.

I too had the privelage to sing under direction of Mac wilberg and know the choir is in excellent hands...

I truly lost interest about the whole ordeal until I heard about him accepting another job elsewhere...just leaves more to speculate about....very interesting indeed.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, you're right that the job at Utah State won't be a cakewalk but it'll still be much less hectic than Temple Square. And you may not be aware that Brother Jessop's widowed mother lives in Cache Valley.

So it does indeed make it possible for him to spend more time with family and she is surely a major part of what he was talking about in indicating he needed more family time.

Anonymous said...

Just one point: Brother Jessop never said his reason for leaving the choir was to spend more time with his family. He said he "looked forward" to spending time with them, but he never indicated that was his reason for leaving.

As for the church not even recognizing his existence, I agree that it is in very poor taste. It certainly caused some awkwardness in what would have been an otherwise wonderful and historic conference.

A simple "thanks, brother Jessop, we wish you well," would seem appropriate. Perhaps I am wrong. If he has caused some hard feelings within the ranks by leaving so abruptly, maybe it is perfectly reasonable to shove it back in his face.

Anonymous said...

A few things I find interesting...
Why anyone who wasn't involved personally and therefore know nothing of the details of Brother Jessops leaving the Tabernacle Choir feel it appropriate to speculate. Not all, but a lot of the speculation is in a negative manner...conspiracy, bent egos, or deceit of some kind. Why invent something that you don't know anything about? I also find interesting the comments left by people saying "the bretheren" somehow want to get back at him for leaving and therefore do not acknowledge him as if he never existed. These people I assume are disguising themselves as faithful Latter Day Saints with a darker agenda at hand. Did you actually just watch General Conference? Can you really try to portray our Prophet and Apostles as power hungry egotistical men? The leaders of this Church in my opinion are the most Christ centered, humble, loving men and because of who they are and their commitment to serving Christ, they have been called to lead and teach us all. It is them who hold the keys to run the Church and they are the ones privy to inspriation for and behalf of the Church as a whole. So people, speculate if you must but please don't assume there must be a negative spin somewhere in this "story". Things you feel should be public just do not need to be. Can't you imagine everyone involved actually showing kindness and concern for each other and respecting the wishes of the one everyone here is so eager to know the details of his personal life?
I sincerely believe the poster of this blog really just loves and admires Brother Jessop and is simply just curious about the seemingly to us abrupt way he left his possition with the Choir. No harm in questioning. He has no control over what we leave in his comment box, but I do hope that the extremely negative and unChristlike attacks on either Craig Jessop himself, or the leaders of this Church won't go by unchallenged.

Clean Cut said...

"I do hope that the extremely negative and unChristlike attacks on either Craig Jessop himself, or the leaders of this Church won't go by unchallenged". I couldn't agree more. Thank you for saying this because this forum was never meant to be for gossip, but especially not for ridiculous attacks on Church leaders. The claim that one of the "Brethren" had something to do with it really is crossing the line. People can believe what they want, but I'll draw the line at something I find so totally wrong and absurd--that any one of the Twelve had something to do with this. I'm not saying the Brethren are perfect or never make mistakes, but these men are really are wonderful people who are striving to build the kingdom and follow the Savior. I really feel no need to speculate about what happened, but only wished that Craig Jessop himself will explain. Perhaps the silence on the part of the Church is really only out of respect for Craig Jessop. He's the only one who has the responsibility to speak up, not the Church. So no, I don't buy into some Church "cover up". I think everyone here wants the best for Craig. But even he has a right to stay silent and return to private life. I will respect that. And I will miss him.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You make a good point, but I think it is more likely the other way around. I think Dr. Jessop's silence is out of respect for the church. From what I hear, working for the church can be a strange environtment.

Whatever the reason, we know that it was his choice to leave and that both parties seem to have mutually agreed not to discuss it further.

Anonymous said...

I, too, googled "Craig Jessop" to see if there was any information about the abrupt change. I just want to add that one possible scenario, if you want to speculate, is that maybe Brother Jessop had been contemplating this change for a long time, just as he says, and maybe President Hinckley asked him to hang in there because everything was going so great. Between President Hinckley's passing and April Conference would be the time to make future arrangements and pass the baton, especially with his wife's surgery, new schedules to meet, etc. This kind of speculation is as good as any to put forth. I also sincerely doubt that a "hymns only" policy would appeal to Brother Wilberg any more than it would to Brother Jessop. Just another thought if one is speculating. Also, I appreciate this blog opening up a dialog. That's the nature of the Net, one unknown site can become big overnight--and then disappear again. But if I were Brother Jessop, I wouldn't feel compelled to answer anyone here, if I even knew it existed.

Anonymous said...

I completely appreciate the comment left above. If I were to speculate, that was what I'd think. And as for the brethren not saying "Thanks, job well done," to Craig. Well, how do we know they haven't? My guess is that they have, but knowing him well (as they must, they've been in close contact with him for 13 years) they respected his love of privacy and paid their thanks in private. Maybe we should all think about ways to thank a man who did so much for his church and it's choir as well.

Jeremy said...

Craig Jessop was my Young Men's president when I was in High School and I graduated with his son from Papillion LaVista High School in Papillion, Nebraska in 1995.

Craig is hands down the greatest youth leader anyone could ask for...one of the main reasons I stayed "true to the faith" and did not go astray. He is a pure man with nothing to hide and the greatest person that I have known personally. His son Aaron came back to Nebraska to medical school for a few years (he has since moved to his residency at Yale). When I was talking to him I jokingly said that I saw his Dad last week...in general conference. He said that I probably see him as much as he does, but he didn't seem to be joking about it. No doubt in my mind that his family has sacrificed a lot these past 13 years and it is not surprising that he felt it was time for him to return and spend more time with them.

Craig loves his wife Renae and his 4 children and they mean the world to him. When you walked into their home when they lived here in Nebraska, there was always a special spirit there.

I am so happy that he is the new music director at Utah State. This will give him the satisfaction of continuing to teach music and also spend more time with his family.

Anybody who says anything less than stellar about Craig Jessop or his family is flat out wrong without question or exception.

Jeremy Pryor

Clean Cut said...

Jeremy, thanks so much for sharing what you did. I appreciate that you took the time to inform and give a glimpse into the life of a wonderful and much beloved man.

Clean Cut said...

I've noticed that many people continue to search out what happened to Craig Jessop. After he accepted the position in his home town of Logan at USU, the Deseret News ran an article in which he said that the career change "has been a long and careful, and prayerful decision. While it may have seemed abrupt to many, it was not abrupt in our lives," Jessop said. "My wife just had (hip replacement) surgery and I have been able to care for her. We're looking forward to having some more time with one another and with our family," he said. "The opportunity of going to Utah State is just right. The perfect way for us to go into this next chapter of life."

When Jessop decided to leave the choir position, he said, "I had no idea at the time exactly where I might go, though at the time I thought I might go back into education." The USU opportunity "was providential. It is amazing how it all turned out, and how it happened."

Rob said...

Hi Clean Cut, I'm a bit hesitant to post this since you say you really want to know more about why Craig resigned, yet you clearly state that anyone inferring that one of the twelve/first presidency could have been remotely involved in his leaving in any way, shape, or form has crossed the line. This seems a bit contradictory, don't you think?

I am a member of the church living in Salt Lake. I regularly attend musical events on temple square and know a few of the folks who are definitely in the loop. While they wouldn't directly comment on what happened, I presented my theory, and they let me know that I was pretty much on target.

I was told that President Hinckley was a big supporter of the choir, allowing them to be liberal in their repertoire and musical presentation. I was also told that things had changed with President Monson. Elder Packer's views on church music are anything but a secret. I am certainly not bad-mouthing our church leaders; just because not everyone appreciates music in the same way that many of us do does not make them vile sinners.

The tabernacle choir is composed of world class singers, organists, and directors. My theory is that after Craig had expanded the scope of these world class musicians, that scope was reigned in under new leadership. He probably felt that the new direction was no longer for him.

People need to understand that "politics" are just a part of life, not even church HQ is immune.

Clean Cut said...

Rob, the only problem with that "theory" is that it is wrong. :) I have continued to watch the Tabernacle Choir since Mac Wilberg has been named the director. He hasn't made any real changes to their repertoire on the Sunday morning broadcasts. They've continued to sing all kinds of music with all kinds of arrangements. So I'm just not seeing any proof to back up that claim. I'm not saying that there couldn't be other kinds of "political" issues involved with the Church. It seems that they exist in all large organizations, and certainly the Church isn't exempt. (See for example "David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism".) But as an outside observer I just haven't noticed any perceptible changes musically. Mac Wilberg is still Mac Wilberg--and he's amazing. He's still going to do what he's always done and what he's always been appreciated for.

As for Jessop personally, I already sensed some resolve with Jessop's interview in the Deseret News as to his motive. He said it wasn't an abrupt for him and his wife, but rather a long prayerful decision. Could other factors which he didn't mention have influenced his decision? Perhaps. But my original question wasn't "why did he resign?", but rather why did he resign in the way that he did--which came across to most of us as very abrupt. Perhaps, although he knows he personally made the right decision, he may feel some regret for the way his surprising announcement left the rest of us in such shock. But nobody is perfect so no one ought to hold it against him. I take him at his word. But musically, I'm not seeing that it has changed the choir all that much, if at all.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that the people Rob thinks are "definitely in the loop" are definitely NOT in the loop on this one. There have been absolutely no changes in the direction of the choir since Mack Wilberg took over.

None. Nada. Zero. Rob's theory is completely off base. And I daresay I am in the loop enough to know.

Anonymous said...

The choir broadcasts are programmed well in advance. If we see any changes, they will be gradual - probably over the next couple of years. Since much of their repertoir comes from Wilberg, I don't think he will be very motivated to change it a great deal...

Also, if there was pressure from above for the choir to change, it has probably slackened a little. The last thing they want to do is chase off another world class musician who could step away and go anywhere he wants for 2-3 times the salary. (At that point, nobody else who is worth their salt would want the job!) Despite varying tastes in music, I think they are smart enough to realize it would not be wise to let the choir dwindle back to its former state. (Which was not BAD, but nothing compared to what it is now).

Anonymous said...

Actually, the choir broadcasts are not "programmed well in advance." The choir used to receive a list of music for the upcoming month. But in recent years, the music isn't set far enough ahead to even receive a monthly list.

And guess who was recently announced as the first major guest performers since the change of conductors? The Osmond Family! (They will be guests for the Pioneer Day concerts.) That is hardly evidence that someone above has exercised a reign on the choir's musical options.

The latest rumor going around is that the choir president is now reporting to Elder Packer. Not at all true! Since President Hinckley's passing, the president has reported to President Monson and will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Annonymous Tues, April 8. It seems very odd that Craig Jessop is treated as though he never existed, has received no accolades from the church leadership. I appreciate the tremendous advances in quality the tab choir made during Dr. Jessop's and Mack Wilberg's leadership. Personally, I would have liked more hymn singing but came to appreciate Hayden, Handel and Beethoven to such a greater degee than ever before. I vote that Dr. Jessop could not submit to every directive regarding his music choices and left because of that. I am most appreciative of his excellent work in which he incorporated wonderful ochestral and guest musicians into his repertoire. Annonymous

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this means anything, but recently (2 weeks ago), I was selected as one of 300 members of the church to participate in a church conducted survey. A bunch of the questions were directed to whether or not I listened to the MoTab broadcasts on Sunday, and why or why not.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there were some political reasons as mentioned by a few of the people already. If he left b/c he wanted to have more than just hymns, then kudos to him for following his heart!

www.graceforgrace.com

Fire guy said...

With today's announcement about the creation of the American Festival Chorus in the Chache Valley under Dr. Jessop's leadership, it would seem pretty clear that his departure from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir reflected his recognition that the Church leadership probably wanted to explore some other directions for the Choir that were not compatible with his thoughts. I am not surprised that a good and decent person like Dr. Jessop would remain silent on this matter. I sense that he loves the Church very much and respects its leadership. Good people can have divergent views and sometimes it is just time to move on. I will cherish deeply my memories of his work with the Tabernacle Choir and look forward to exciting things happening with the newly created group in the Cache Valley.

Michael said...

I have been involved in music in one fashion or another for most of my life. I love to play the piano and organ, but enjoy singing as well. I live in Utah, up in Cache Valley, where Logan is home to Utah State University.

I too was very surprised when Craig Jessop announced his resignation as Music Director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; he has been the driving force (as most conductors are) behind the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the past 13 years. And with the amazing talents and inspiration of composer and arranger, Mack Wilberg, has produced endless orchestrations of sacred music. Consider the nine year combination of Craig Jessop and Mack Wilberg, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has produced some amazing music! Of course, the musical talents of those who make up the choir members should not be understated.

As to why Craig Jessop chose to resign, a lot of people have seemed to try to create a conspiracy out of the situation. While it is certainly possible that the LDS Church has wanted to move in some directions that Craig Jessop didn't agree with, I find it much more plausible that his simple answer of wanting to spend more time with his wife, children, and grandchildren is completely valid.

Consider the sheer amount of time and energy that working as Music Director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir must require. The choir he directed for over a decade happens to be one of the largest and most renowned choir's in the world. Besides the amount of music required twice a year for General Conference, he was also involved every week with the music for Sunday's broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word." That also doesn't include the volumes of time involved with practicing for their tours all around the United States and the world.

So it is no surprise to me that Craig Jessop might have felt it was time to retire from the position of Music Director. Doing so would definitely free up a lot of time for family activities. He might even want to be able to attend his own LDS ward. :-)

There is one other major piece of information that might explain his decision to resign as music director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: a new choir, here in Cache Valley, and a position as Department chairman for Utah State University. I don't know for certain whether this new position of his was in the works before leaving the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The previous choir, the "Northern Utah Choral Society," was in existence for many years. As music department head of Utah State University, that choir has been dissolved, and a new, larger choir has been reorganized from it: "The American Festival Chorus."

Auditions ran through most weeks in August, and now the choir is complete, at nearly 200 members. I am one of the fortunate members of that choir, excited to be a part of such an amazing group. After only one practice so far, it is clear that this is going to be one of the greatest experiences in my lifetime! It is a glorious choir to be a part of, and Craig Jessop breadth of musical knowledge is absolutely amazing! I have learned more about singing in those 2½ hours than from anyone else in my life.

As with many artists and professionals, one wants a rich amount of experiences to pull from... not just one. It could be that Craig Jessop merely felt that his time with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had been well spent, and sufficient, and that it was now time to move onto something new. Few people, especially those with the energy and genius of Jessop, like to plateau or stagnate in their growth.

Beyond that, all I can say is that I am very grateful and excited to be part of this new choir; I would never have dreamed it possible to be able to learn and perform under the instruction and baton of Craig Jessop! I do not have the voice to be a part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but this will certainly be just as exciting!

Choir Website: www.americanfestivalchorus.org

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for weighing in Michael. From what I hear, you're in for quite an experience singing under the direction of Craig Jessop. My sister-in-law had nothing but praises as she was able to sing in a high school choir this summer with Craig as guest conductor. He's stayed plenty busy since leaving the Tabernacle Choir, but certainly, he must enjoy having a less relenting practice schedule and a little more time with family.

I understand all of that. I'm sure that is the case. But I still have my original question lingering in the back of my head: Why this way? Why did he do it in such a surprise fashion? He said it wasn't a quick decision on his part, but why make it appear that way and shock the whole MOTAB community? Even someone who just didn't want a lot of personal attention or recognition could understand that eyebrows would be raised.

Good luck with the choir, rubbing shoulders with Craig, and feel free to update us!

Michael said...
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Michael said...

Thank You for responding to my response. Tonight was our second practice as a choir, and it is definitely going to be a great honour and learning opportunity to sing under the direction of Craig Jessop. He has such unbelievable experience. As we are singing in up to a full 12 parts (3 parts each for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass) he’ll pick up on any notes that are missed by any of the sections. If our singing is weak, or if we are singing a bit flat, he’ll hear it immediately. Craig Jessop has unrelenting discipline when our rhythm falters, or our pitch varies… which is quite often! ;-) Even the two pianists cannot evade his ears. It’s especially amazing that he can pick up on all of these errors and nuances when you stop and consider all of the auditory data that his mind is processing every second. It’s incredible.

As far as Craig Jessop announcing his resignation earlier this year, I agree with you that it may indeed seem odd that he chose to resign as Music Director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir so abruptly, and at such an unexpected time. But is it really so strange? As someone previously stated in their response to this blog post, there would hardly be a “convenient” time to for Mr. Jessop to leave. I find it very hard to believe that some kind of misunderstanding or offense taken by anyone. Conspiracy theories and gossip tend to propagate such vicious untruth. They create ugliness out that which does not exist at all. Conspiracy theories and rumors are the last thing Craig Jessop needs! It's not really our business to speculate, either, but to be glad to have been privileged to have Craig work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for as long as he did.

It may seem like the timing of such a change would certainly have been better chosen if it were announced immediately following General Conference, rather than preceding it so closely. It may have been that he had been planning on resigning for a while; it may have been family needs that necessitated the exact timing of his departure. Life generally doesn't bring convenience into play when events occur, a constant that famous or well known people are not immune to.

One thing I can say with certainty... Craig Jessop is an incredible person, and you can feel his warmth and his love radiate as he works with us to improve our singing, our rhythm and pitch, and most of all... our unity as a choir. And as we practice singing, especially the unbelievably challenging Requiem by Mozart, we have already learned to keep our eyes on Craig at much as on our music, since you never know which direction the inspiration that he draws from will lead us. It is a remarkable experience to sing under Mr. Jessop’s direction and choral leadership, and this is only the second practice! :-)

Thomas said...

In reading this entire blog, I have had a lot of reactions and I want to write each of them. Prepare for a long post!

First, I'd like to address the hymns/reperatoire theory. While Mack Wilberg has been an amazing arranger of hymns, they are hardly the only things he has arranged. If the Church chose to go a "hymns only" route, they would have done so immediately. Further, I suspect that both Craig Jessop and Mack Wilberg would have resigned!

The well-documented attendance of President Monson at Craig Jessop's final performance seems to disprove this "change of direction notice." Alternatively, however, I would like to suggest that perhaps Craig Jessop was the one who wanted to move in a new direction and the Church didn't want to.

Which segues quite nicely into my next point: How many of you have heard of the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony? Probably not very many . . . almost all trace of its existence disappeared shortly after the creation of the Orchestra on Temple Square. I think this to be a much larger "unsolved mystery" than Craig Jessop's resignation. I cannot account for why all the MYCS recordings suddenly disappeared from Covenant Communications (their main distributor) within just a few months of its disbandment.

I highly doubt the Brethren were trying to cover the existence of MYCS. If anything, it was someone in a bureaucratic position (not a Prieshood position!) attempting to draw attention to the 'new' Mormon Tabernacle Choir (which was completely reorganized that same year). And I'm not trying to point at anyone specifically by that comment! When Elder Ballard visited my mission the second time, he made it clear that the Brethren are not always aware of every little detail that goes on. For example, he was not aware of every little insurance rule that we missionaries had to follow.

Concerning the director of MYCS, I would like to say a few things. Dr. Robert Bowden spent nearly his entire time as director of MYCS trying to expand its role. When he joined it was only a youth orchestra with a few singers. They were not given permission to record or to tour. They performed four times a year.

By 1980, they were a semi-professional group employing a young adult orchestra and chorus that not only published albums and went on tours but even put out a Christmas video of their own--A Christmas World. Everyone has heard of Mr. Krueger's Christmas, but hardly no one knows about "A Christmas World" despite the fact that it earned an award.

My point with all that is that it is possible to convince the Brethren to go a different direction if it makes sense to them--Dr. Bowden did it. Ernest L. Wilkinson also convinced the Brethren not to sell BYU when they were on the brink of it (although that is another matter).

I also mention Dr. Bowden because the Church has not maintained a biography of him, nor have they maintained a biography of Jerold Ottley, whom the Brethren were most certainly pleased with! Jerold Ottley rarely had the Tabernacle Choir do anything that wasn't a hymn. In neither case was the Church displeased with them--the Church simply doesn't maintain biographies of past choir directors. It is somewhat difficult to find official biographies of past Tabernacle Organists also.

Now, Elder Packer's opinions regarding music are quite well-known. However, the fact that it was he who had "Called to Serve" added to the 1985 hymnal after the submission deadline seems rather at odds with his usual opinions. At least, it does to me. I think people judge his views too harshly and without enough understanding. I'm sure that he was quite pleased with Jerald Ottley's work, but he has not said anything to indicate he was less pleased with Craig Jessop's work or with Mack Wilberg's arrangements--and, quite frankly, I would expect him to be more vocal about the latter than the former.

I saw more than one mention of John Longhurst's "send-off" concert. I was there myself wondering why it was in the Conference Center when the audience was so small! (Not really--I actually like the Conference Center organ a lot.) That audience wouldn't have filled the main floor of the Tabernacle, even with its reduced seating capacity. The concert was not publicized, and the only way I knew about it was because I was an organ major at BYU. In addition, it was organized by the Salt Lake City chapter of the American Guild of Organists, not the Church.

Finally, I would like to say that I have a hard time believing that the USU position simply happened for Craig Jessop. One does not simply walk into the head chair of a university department. I never read the Deseret News article quoted above. It does sound like the position miraculouly opened for him. But unless the previous department head suddenly resigned himself, Craig Jessop must have had some idea that it might become available to him. And, if he did, I suspect he resigned in late March in order to be free for any auditions he would have had to give for the position.

I do recognize that the above paragraph is conjectural, but much of what I have said is factual. I have given it in hopes that it will give some incite into the question "Why this way?" More importantly, however, I hope to curb some of the various conspiracy theories that have been posted here.

Inicidentally, I wanted to ask that if any of you know more about MYCS that you let others know. The wikipedia article on it, for example, is woefully incomplete, and I don't want to see it disappear from memory.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand why Craig Jessop's departure has anything to do with the Mormon Youth Chorus.

thomas said...

I am referring to the fact that Craig Jessop has disappeared from all official Church websites. So has John Longhurst, Jerold Ottley, and both the Mormon Symphony and the Mormon Youth Chorus, along with all associated recordings.

If you're looking for Tabernacle Choir recordings, the only one you are going to find on the market older than 2003 when the new Tabernacle label was introduced is the Sound of Glory. You might maybe, if you are really lucky, find Jerold Ottley's Disney recording, and maybe Hymns of Faith. That's it.

You won't find any of John Longhurst's Tabernacle organ recordings---only Clay Christiansen and Richard Elliot. And you won't find anything from the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony. Anything!!!

My point: Craig Jessop's "disappearance from Church history" is commonplace!

Clean Cut said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I know exactly why Craig left, and it's not for any of the reasons he stated. I heard it directly from Craig years before he resigned, in a private conversation. Very interesting. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not say why.

Anonymous said...

What then makes you think that he resigned because of President Monson?

Thomas said...

While I respect people's desire to remain anonymous, I wish they would make up a name or something to avoid confusion. I'm assuming that the two Anonymous posts above are by different people. I rather suspect, actually, that the most recent anonymous person thought that the prior anonymous person was the same as an earlier anonymous person, when they were not.

For that matter, I just did a Ctrl+F for "Monson" and didn't find anyone directly stating that Craig Jessop resigned because of President Monson. I am quite intriged by the first January 22nd comment above. I have actually spoken with someone who said much the same thing. I don't know if they are the same person. However, I think we can now all agree from the number of people who have said things like this that Craig Jessop's reasons for leaving had nothing to do with misconduct. It is sad that the manner in which he resigned left him wide open for such accusations in the media and other circles.

In any case, the January 22nd comment raises the question: "Why did he resign at that specific time rather than years earlier or later." I would renew my earlier theory about the USU position were it not for the insistence of many I have spoken to who know Bro. Jessop that he did not know that position would become available when he resigned. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit undoubtedly knew.

So I am proposing a new thought: We are now witnessing probably the second worst economic crash in history. I think it is difficult to refute that the Brethren had some idea that this was coming, and likely through multiple sources. Thus, they probably cut back on the Choir's budget months before the crisis hit. Criag Jessop would have been among those who knew about the budget cut but had little say in the matter, a situation which nearly prompted Robert C. Bowden to retire early from MYCS.

Picture this: You are a choir director who has just been told that you need to do the same amount of work with 50% less money when the inflation rate is rising. Your job is already difficult and stressful, and you have already been thinking about leaving it. However, you have stayed on because you know your presence in the organization is beneficial to it--or, rather, was. I'm certain that Craig Jessop's resignation had a positive financial impact on the Choir. Perhaps he chose that moment to resign to ensure that the Choir's budget remained in balance.

I haven't seen any evidence in a shift in direction in the Choir. The main difference I have heard commented on is that the Orchestra is used less for Music and the Spoken Word. The person I heard it from thought that reflected Mack Wilberg's preferences, but I disagree. I think the reasons are wholly economical. It is cheaper to use the two orchestral organs for accompaniment--the organists of which are paid whether they are used or not--to the volunteer Orchestra which only costs when it is used.

With that, I close my thought. I am not going to speculate further on Bro. Jessop's reasons for leaving, for it has been made clear to me by many who know him that they are private. I suspect they are similar to the reasons Bro. Bowden nearly left MYSC only 10 years after joining it (though he stayed on for 20 more years), but that is just a guess. Those reasons included differences in the scope of the musical mission of the Church among other things--all professional concerns.

All I wish to express by this is a thought concerning the timing of Craig Jessop's decision. I was once told by a professional musician that Bro. Jessop "probably chose the best time to leave," but could never understand how that could be. Now, I think I do. By leaving right before a Conference, he ensured that a full month would go by before an interm assistant director could be chosen, handing the Choir a full month of his salary in the process. If I am right, then his decision to quit right before Conference was actually a noble one.

outsideusa said...

Despite all the on-the-surface compelling "reasons" about Craig Jessop resigning, the bottom line is this:
If there weren't "something rotten in the state of Denmark" (as in Hamlet), Pres. Monson would have been gracious and expressed gratitude for Craig's amazing service.

Only rancor would cause Pres. Monson to "totally diss" Craig in Conference and not respectfully recognize him. By not living the gospel of gratitude, Pres. Monson demonstrates that he doesn't have a fraction of his predecessors' class, but you'd think Pres. Monson would at the very least show a modicum of kindness.

It's scary how Pres. Monson's true colors may be showing instead. How long can his "folksy" demeanor hold up his image? A prophet, yes; human, yes. A nice guy? Certainly not in this case.

Clean Cut said...

"It's scary how Pres. Monson's true colors may be showing instead. How long can his "folksy" demeanor hold up his image? A prophet, yes; human, yes. A nice guy? Certainly not in this case."

Can't say that I agree. The people who know President Monson best have all come away recognizing how much love he has and how much attention he gives to "the one". How much recognition Craig Jessop received publicly or privately is hardly a way to judge President Monson's character. Perhaps the most charitable way to approach what to us is the equivalent of "seeing through a glass darkly" is to judge it against everything else President Monson has done throughout his ministry.

Clean Cut said...

...as well as the One he represents.

Thomas said...

To outsideusa:

As someone else mentioned in this same blog, John Longhurst was not publicly thanked in Conference.

As I have added twice now, neither were Jerold Ottley or Robert C. Bowden, at least that I remember.

The point: The Church is not in the regular habit of thanking its former musicians publicly in General Conference sessions; only its current ones.

I suppose you can still claim that this reflects poorly on its leaders (I do not think so), but I feel it is unreasonable to use it as a basis to compare President Monson and President Hinckley.

Clean Cut said...

UPDATE 6/20/09:

Due to the continuous Google searches for "Craig Jessop" coming to this blog post, I thought I'd share an update with some recent thoughts from a close friend of mine who has personally and professionally interacted with Craig Jessop several times in the last year:

"Craig Jessop's work with singers is magical. When he came to [our area] for [a music convention] to conduct the All-State choir, the work he did with those kids was so detailed and so exacting. It showed in the exquisite performance of [a challenging piece] and other very difficult and breathtaking repertoire. You could tell after wards that in just those 3 days he had won the hearts of those 500 kids who had never met him before but were all over him to talk with him and thank him. He has this spirituality, this kindness and graciousness, while at the same time showing you way after way to quickly make very detailed changes that make the difference between excellent and unbelievably beautiful.

"The work he did with our children's choir at their clinic at Utah State University was the same way. As he listened to and worked with excerpts from the Brahms Requiem, Handel, Rutter, and Bach, he not only stopped them by recognizing details and changes that would make such a big difference, but he immediately crafted games and exercises that caused them to be able to understand and make the changes almost in real time. He was as demanding as anyone could possibly be, but his work with them was so exciting that they were eating out of his hand and anxious for more.

"I have never seen anyone who could combine the most exacting demand for change and details, and at the same time do it in such a way that singers felt immediate accomplishment and confidence. After this one session in the morning, the children of the choir sang a concert that evening that was unparalleled in quality their entire preceding 8 years.

"He works to bring concepts from the "intuitive" to the "conscious". He makes it possible for the singers for the first time to feel as if they have control in a conscious way to insure the high quality of pitch is there, breathing, diction, and phrasing.

"I am so glad he made the switch to teaching when he did. He had been anxious to do so. It was hard for everyone to lose him so suddenly, but had they waited to consider a replacement with search committees, etc, he would have continued another 2 years - something he just could not do. Through the understanding of leadership and those who were close to him, I know he must have felt he could make the transition sooner than later.

"The music program at Utah State has already kicked off with a meteoric mushrooming of quality, programs, and performances in every instrumental and choral area. We are all fortunate to have benefited from his longstanding work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and his profound ongoing work at Utah State. The young children in my children's choir who have a specific interest in pursuing music have already asked about whether they could go to school there. The will certainly benefit from his legacy there - present and future."

Anonymous said...

OK, we just have to realize that none of us have or will really get over the Craig Jessop "resignation".. especially for those of us who were honored to really know the quality of man and musician he was as we sang under his direction in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

First of all it WAS NOT a RESIGNATION! He was given no choice. He was GIVEN a document, TOLD to sign it, ESCORTED to a choir rehearsal near the end, TOLD to read the "resignation," then ESCORTED out to his car. No farewell, no good-byes, no party, no thank-yous, NOTHING.

Be very clear..CRAIG JESSOP DID NOT RESIGN. HE WAS FORCED OUT BY SOMEONE IN THE "NEW ADMINISTRATION."

The world, not the Choir, is a better place, and Craig Jessop is, as always, a wonderful, gracious, faithful giant of a man!

He has moved on. Maybe we should.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine what may have happened, just like everyone else not in the loop. I just remember my time in the Choir. I felt extremely pressured under Craig, and I would come home from rehearsal completely exhausted. If I was that way, what about Craig? Most of you have no idea of the physical strain of being in the Choir. That is one of the reasons I resigned. The other was because of the increase in the number of rehearsals. We were told that, when Jerry Ottley retired, that they were creating the Choir School and Temple Square Chorale so there wouldn't have to be an increase in the number of "meetings" to make the Choir better, as Pres. Hinckley put it. Well, the number of rehearsals increased anyway, and I could not handle it physically. I really don't know if the Brethren realize how much sacrifice is going on with the members of the Choir. On another note, I take exception to a post from about a year ago regarding the quality of the Choir, that it was better with Craig than the ones under Ottley. I served under both directors, and by far, and I really mean by far, the best Choir I sang in was the one that went to Israel. The men's section now sounds like a BYU choir, I'm sorry to say. The power seems to be lacking, and that's what the Choir used to be known for. The real focus is in musicianship, not vocal talent. Just my 2 or 3 cents, from someone who spent more than 10 years in the Choir.

Anonymous said...

I haven't checked this site in quite some time but was shocked to read some of the latest content. First of all, Craig Jessop was absolutely not forced to resign. Whoever wrote the comment about him being forced to sign a document is completely false. This was entirely his choice. I am a member of his extended family, and I know. And it was a choice made after sincere prayer, fasting, and temple attendence. It was also a divine choice and is allowing him freedom to teach the coming generation of choral directors - to hand choose them, even. Also, President Monson did thank Craig Jessop. Very sincerely, in person and many times in fact. I have seen this happen, myself. Craig is an incredibly private person. That his praise and thanks were given in private makes sense. Craig is a member of Elder Uchtdorf's ward and is also seen talking in a very friendly manner with him quite regularly. I am really saddened that so long after his choice to move on people are still slandering him or President Monson. I've seen them embrace many times since.

Anonymous said...

One other comment, Craig still speaks with the President of the choir as well as Mack Wilberg at least once a week and acts as a consultant quite regularly. Also - I read the letter of resignation, and it is quite definitely written through Craig's voice. They seem to all be fine with the arrangement. Why don't we support everyone in their choices? I was sad to see him leave, but I know that Heavenly Father has been guiding him in his new venture. What he has done in such a short period of time at USU is remarkable. That the hand of the Lord is guiding him is quite evident.

RFS said...

Too many of the above posts assume that Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is the end-all be-all of choral conducting, and that there just isn't anywhere to go from there. There most certainly is! MoTab is ONE TYPE of choir, but its large size and world-wide name recognition don't necessarily give it a superlative position in the choral world. There are many other choirs who—because of smaller, more manageable numbers, more disciplined training and more rehearsal time per piece—often do a far better job than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

RFS said...

I love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, by the way. It is my favorite choir, but only in the sense that Asparagus is my favorite vegetable. I wouldn't want to eat it every day.

Anonymous said...

I think this is "much ado about nothing."

Rob H said...

Six years later, I still miss him with the choir, and I'm still looking up reasons or details regarding his departure. I appreciate all the comments here-- some more speculative than others, but somehow it helped reading them. Wherever Craig is now, he is obviously blessing people's lives.