The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Choir Broadcast Begins 89th Year!

On July 16, 2017, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began the 89th year of the weekly Music & the Spoken Word broadcast—the longest continuously running network broadcast in the history of radio.

The first broadcast was from the Salt Lake Tabernacle on July 15, 1929, in the early years of commercial radio. On that summer day, a local radio crew ran a wire from their control room to an amplifier in the Tabernacle nearly a block away. Nineteen-year-old Ted Kimball—son of the Tabernacle organist and designated announcer—perched on a ladder for the full 30 minutes holding a KSL Radio’s only microphone to pick up the organ, the entire choir, and his announcements.

Since the program’s unique beginning and through years of remarkable changes in broadcasting, the Choir has held its place providing music and inspiration for everyday living. Special programs each year commemorate holidays like Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July—and singular events such as the September 11 anniversary. Through the years the Choir has been privileged to provide other special broadcasts such as one done recently for Canada's 150th anniversary (July 1, 2017).

While many other music programs today originate from a studio built for that purpose, Music & the Spoken Word goes out to the world from the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The building, completed in 1867, has become a recording studio with a stellar reputation for sound quality. In busy summer months, tourist attendance requires the program to be broadcast from the much larger Conference Center across the street. Both buildings are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Since the beginning, the Choir has opened the weekly program with what has become a hallmark, the 1835 hymn “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain.”

What began as just a show coming through the family radio made the jump to television in 1962, and cable and satellite broadcasts soon followed. Today Music & the Spoken Word is viewed around the world with increasing frequency through live Internet streams and posts to social media channels such as YouTube.

The Choir is known and loved by millions around the world because of the Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts. They have become a favorite personal or family tradition for many. Take, for example, David Foster, legendary performer, composer, and Grammy Award–winning music producer.

Foster was introduced to the Choir as a young man with his father as they listened and watched the Choir on the weekly broadcasts. During an interview about his track on the Choir’s recently-released Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Friends CD, he said: “My father and I shared the common love of music, so he thankfully turned me on to great things like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. … And that’s what happened to me. And it happened to me on the radio. My father and I definitely connected through the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. … It was something he really instilled in me—part of his legacy.”

For more information about Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts, check the Choir’s website for links to current or past broadcast videos, music repertoire, and spoken word messages, as well as special broadcasts.