Tabernacle Choir Celebrates 60 Years of Weekly Broadcasts
September 1989

“Tabernacle Choir Celebrates 60 Years of Weekly Broadcasts,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 80

Tabernacle Choir Celebrates 60 Years of Weekly Broadcasts

The broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word” on Sunday, July 16, included tributes by United States President George Bush and other dignitaries as the Tabernacle Choir celebrated the completion of sixty years in radio broadcasting.

During a special tribute broadcast in Utah after the choir’s regular weekly radio and television show, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, was among those who looked back at some of the choir’s accomplishments since its organization in the 1800s.

The choir’s weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” is the longest-running network program in the history of American radio.

Some four hundred former members of the Tabernacle Choir were present to be honored at the celebration. They included fifteen who sang in the first broadcast in July 1929 and three others who had joined the choir earlier but were on maternity leave in 1929.

The traditional broadcast of the “Spoken Word” was replaced on July 16 by brief messages from President Bush; his predecessor, Ronald Reagan; celebrated operatic soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa; ITT Corporation Chairman Rand V. Araskog; stage and screen star Hal Linden; and CBS Radio president Nancy Widmann.

In his remarks during the network broadcast, President Bush told the choir, “I’ll never forget your glorious music at the end of the inaugural parade. Millions worldwide have been inspired by the joy of your music. You are one of America’s greatest treasures.”

Ms. Widmann observed that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir emanates “a fervent faith and magnificent music on behalf of every human being. [It] represents the finest of inspirational programming today, as it has for these past six decades.”

Immediately following the choir’s network show, KSL radio and television broadcast a live commemorative tribute in the Salt Lake City area. President Hinckley spoke during this half hour, recounting some of the Tabernacle Choir’s accomplishments from its pioneer inception down to the present. “May God continue to bless this wonderful body of musicians and all who assist them,” he said. Composer Natalie Sleeth and arranger Arthur Harris, both of whom have long been associated with the choir, also spoke.

Included in the two broadcasts were selections that have come to be favorites with millions of listeners worldwide. These ranged from stirring arrangements of hymns and anthems to great classics, interspersed with familiar tunes from popular musicals.

“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” a fifteenth-century hymn, opened the weekly CBS broadcast, and a twentieth-century arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” closed it.