Fifty years ago, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir wowed audiences at the New York World’s Fair with a full concert of traditional hymns to old-time classics. The Choir was part of the Mormon Pavilion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the much-acclaimed World’s Fair. The intent of the pavilion, with its replica of the Salt Lake Temple, murals depicting the history of the Church, and the film “Man’s Search for Happiness,” was to introduce what many then considered an obscure religion to a national audience. Familiar with the popular Music & the Spoken Word, which had been on the air since 1929 and had an immense following, the Fair leadership pressed for the Choir to perform. On Sunday, July 26, the Choir performed in the Texas Pavilion Music Hall, filling nearly all 2,400 seats. The strong attendance numbers revealed the undeniable popularity of the Choir’s live performances, largely because they were so rare. They also performed the following day to record numbers.
The Fair was the Choir’s first stop on a 1964 nationwide tour that included the White House in Washington, D.C., Rochester, Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Houston. The Choir’s Fair program was repeated in the other tour cities and included traditional hymns and choral pieces by composers such as Handel and Bach. The Choir’s wildly popular rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which won a Grammy Award in 1959, was performed as the encore. That patriotic number and the stirring full program helped integrate the Choir into mainstream American entertainment and craft a new image of the contemporary Mormons-that of wholesome Americans.
The Choir had a long history of performing at World’s Fairs, beginning at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893-94 in Chicago. The then 250-voice choir made the journey to Chicago with the First Presidency of the Church in eleven Pullman cars and came home with second place in the competition for the best choir. The Choir went on to sing in the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, the California-Pacific International Exposition in San Diego in 1935, and the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.
Christmas Concert Guest Artist Announcement on 10/16! The guest artist announcement for the 2014 Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square will be made on KSL Radio’s The Doug Wright Show on Thursday, October 16, during the third hour. Sign up for random selection for Christmas concert tickets between Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 27, 2014.