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Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Updated on August 31, 2016
Outside of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah
Outside of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Choir inside the Tabernacle
The Choir inside the Tabernacle

The year 2010 marks one century since the Mormon Tabernacle Choir made their first acoustic recording.

I have personally sat in the tabernacle in Salt Lake City, and listened to the Choir as they were rehearsing for a broadcast. The acoustics in the tabernacle are truly amazing, and I love to see and hear the large organ and the pipes that are mounted on the wall behind the choir. It is overwhelming when so many men and women join together in singing inspired hymns and classical music.

The MOTAB as they have been nicknamed have risen from obscurity to fame. They did not become well known until they made a trip to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 where they won 2nd place in a choral competition.

Recording Milestones of the MOTAB

1910: First recordings (acoustic)

1925: First electrical recordings

1949-50: First albums released

1959: The Battle Hymn of the Republic recorded

1963: Gold Record Status in the United States with The Lord's Prayer album

1979: The Joy of Christmas received gold record status in the U.S.

1981: The Power and the Glory: First digital recording

1985: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sings Christmas Carols and Joy to the World albums reached gold record status in the U.S.

1987: Christmas Sample with Shirley Verrett, received Emmy Award.

1991: Carols of Christmas reached platinum record status in the U.S.

1993: Celebrate Christmas! reached platinum record status in the U.S.

2003: The Tabernacle Choir founded its own recording label

2007: Spirit of the Season with Sissel reached number one on the Billboard Classical Charts

Walter Cronkite calls MOTAB America's Choir

The Mormon church's second, President Brigham Young passed away in 1877, which is the same year that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. In time, three major recording companies dominated the recording industry: Edison, Victor and Columbia. They each hurried to add the best musicians to their list.

In those early days, sound recording was not very refined. Artists had to stand directly in front of a large flared horn focusing their sound into an acoustic recording device. It was pretty adequate for soloists, but not adequate for choirs.

Columia took the lead in inventing a machine that could capture the music of large groups. By 1909 the technology had progressed sufficiently to record the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and their organ. The first recording machine weighed 500 pounds and Columbia had created one a fifth the size so it was much easier to transport.

The first recording included around 300 choir members. The recording engineer was Alexander Hausmann, Evan Stephens, the Tabernacle Choir conductor and J.J. McClellan the organist. One of the first recording was Wagner's Tannhauser overture.

The biggest challenge was getting the recording machine in the best place to record the choir and organ. It was moved to several locations before one was decided on. It ended up being suspended on a rope stretched across from one gallery to another with two horns. One faced the sopranos and altos and another for the tenors and basses. Another horn was put in front of the large organ.

The organist, McClellan had to play the accompaniment double forte (very loud) so it could be heard. Members of the choir had to cluster close together facing the horns. Soloists had to stand close to the horn bells. Well, you can see that things have changed quite a bit since then.

Newspapers reported that the choir performed with vim and vigor which could carry the listeners almost off their feet. The recordings were taken back to New York City for more work in the factory.

After the recording hit the radio waves, it did not take too long before Columbia Records announced that the Tabernacle Choir had a Pop Hit! The song that had become so popular was "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" which was recorded together with the Philadelphia Orchestra.They had mad a 12 song album in 1959 called The Lord's Prayer . Radio disc jockeys played the pop hit across the United States and it stayed on Billboard's Top 40 chars for 11 weeks.

The Choir appeared n the Ed Sullivan show in 1958 celebrating its international recognition.

The Choir received a Grammy Award for "Best Performance by a Chorus in October 1959. They performed the song on the very first Grammy televised broadcast which featured other recording artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic is considered to be one of the MOTAB choir's signature numbers.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been showcased in more than 175 albums. The most important honor for the choir is the impact of the coir's music upon its listeners. They truly have been good will ambassadors for the LDS Church (Mormons). This is a tribute to them. This information was extracted from an article in the September 2010 issue of the Ensign .


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  • tlkool36 profile image

    tlkool36 6 years ago from Dawson

    Awsome Article , Well structured .

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    That's great Dave that you sing with your church choirs. Would love to hear your choir too. I do sing on occasion, but in small choirs. Thanks.

  • Dave Mathews profile image

    Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

    Elayne001: The music test would not worry me one bit, as I already sing with two church choirs, as well as occassionally with a concert choir, just not as big as the MTC. The only thing that would exclude me is the fact that I'm not Mormon, but Christian Catholic.


  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Hello, hello, Glad you found it interesting. Not too many people know how they got started.

    So do I Dave. I understand they have quite a difficult music test to get in. They have to be able to read music well and also sing well. So, not sure I could get in. Thanks for commenting.

  • Dave Mathews profile image

    Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

    One of the most cherished choirs as far as I'm concerned. I wish I could sing with them.

    Brother Dave.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Very interesting information and a great tribute to this famous choir.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks LianaK. Glad to hear from you again. I love to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir too.

  • LianaK profile image

    LianaK 7 years ago

    Love listening to the choir. Heard their music on national TV during the fireworks show in New York over the 4th of July. They are truly inspiring. Wonderful hub.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Mentalist acer. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    When my memory searches for a well-known choir the Mormon Tabernacle is first to come to mind...interesting historical read Elayne;)

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks masmasika. Glad you liked it and hope your former teacher was good to you.

    @dahoglund - yes, both have changed quite a bit over the years - the choir and the recording industry, I mean.

    @drbj - I guess they have been around almost as long as the Mormon church - it started in 1830. Not quite.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

    Excellent tribute to the MOTAB, Elayne. Did not realize they had been around for so long. Mahalo.

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    Excellent summary of the choirs history and also some insight into the recording industry.

  • profile image

    masmasika 7 years ago

    Great hub and info. Actually my former co-teacher is a mormon.