The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Choir Competes in Chicago

On August 29, 1893 250 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir plus 100 friends and relatives boarded a ten-car train and headed to Chicago. This would be the Choir’s first trip outside of Utah. While the Choir would perform at various stops along the way, the main purpose for the trip was to compete in a choral competition at Chicago’s World Fair.

The choral competition was made up of four choirs. The Western Reserve (Ohio) Choral Union, the Scranton Pennsylvania Choral Union, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Cymrodorion Society from Scranton, Pennsylvania. After each had performed, the head judge announced, “Taking all things together, the two choirs which sang with the fewest faults and the most excellencies were, first, the Choral Union from Scranton and the Tabernacle Choir from Salt Lake City.”

Then, as Charles Jeffrey Calman wrote in his book The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “Pandemonium broke loose. The Pennsylvanians yelled and the Salt Lake City people cheered. Finally one of the Scranton folks called out, 'Three cheers for the Mormons!' and the shouts resounded even louder.”

The Choir took home the $1,000 prize for second place. At the end of the competition, the Choir joined the other three choirs and performed the “Hallelujah Chorus”. The Choir’s Music Director, Evan Stephens, was invited to conduct the grand finale.

Joseph F. Smith, who at the time was a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote of the impact of Choir’s presence in Chicago:

“It has done more good than five thousand sermons would have done in an ordinary or even in an extraordinary way.”

In the years that followed, the Choir would tour the country and eventually the globe giving voice to the hopes, joys, trials, and triumphs of people around the world.