More than a century ago – in fact, 110 years ago – on 1 September 1910 – The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (then known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) completed its first recording in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Since then, the Church News reports that the Choir “has been on a century-plus-long roll, logging dozens of recordings delivering inspiring music and peace to its worldwide audience during good times and tough times, alike.”
The central purpose of the Choir is “to share inspiring music with the power to draw listeners to the Divine and celebrate God’s love for His children.” Each recording and broadcast serves that purpose. Choir President Ron Jarrett commented,”No one perceived at that time, because of all the advancements that have come, that we would now have over 200 recordings that have showcased the choir’s work, from those early years to the present day.”
On Thursday, 10 September 2020, a news conference highlighting the 110th anniversary of the Tabernacle Choir’s first recording was held at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. Present at the news conference were Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, Daniel Woodruff, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ron Jarrett, choir president, and former Church historian, Richard Turley. During the news conference, Turley cued up a 1910 recording of Tabernacle organist John J. McClellan playing a familiar piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.
But the 110th anniversary celebration was as much about looking forward as it was about looking back and remembering the days of yesteryear. On Thursday, 10 September 2020, the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square also debuted their latest music video – a stirring arrangement of “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra and Bell Choir have cancelled all remaining rehearsals and performances for the year, including their annual Christmas concert. In December, a rebroadcast of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir featuring Kelli O’Hara and Richard Thomas will be shown on PBS Television and BYUtv. In November, a CD and DVD from the 2019 Christmas concert, Christmas Day in the Morning, will be released. And, a companion book will be released in conjunction with the annual Christmas TV special featuring an adaption of the Pearl S. Buck story that was read by Richard Thomas.
Here are a few historical facts of interest about The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square:
- The first recording was done capturing sound using two large horns in the Tabernacle on Sept. 1, 1910.
- Recordings of the choir were used in Harvey Fletcher’s first demonstration of stereo sound at Carnegie Hall in 1940.
- The choir’s first long-playing record was released in October 1949.
- The first radio broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” was on July 15, 1929, with television to follow in 1962.
- The choir was featured on the first intercontinental satellite broadcast from Mount Rushmore in 1962.
- The choir’s first CD was released in 1981.
- Just over 20 years ago, in May 1999, the Orchestra at Temple Square was added as a companion ensemble, greatly enhancing recordings since that time.
- In 2003, the choir launched its own recording label, which has released nearly 100 products, including 48 CDs and 28 DVDs and VHS tapes.
- The choir is active on all social media platforms, with over 247 million video views on the choir’s YouTube channel.
Despite the many COVID-19 challenges, the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are growing their global fan base and influence. Choir President Ron Jarrett commented, “The choir and orchestra has been viewed more consistently and has [become] a part of people’ lives as they worship from home. Many people are finding peace and comfort through this great music throughout the world.”
**Lead picture photo credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.