The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Continuing the Musical Tradition of Music & the Spoken Word: Over 90 Years!

Did you know that Music & the Spoken Word is celebrating nine decades of broadcasting—nearly the entire lifetime of radio—and is the longest continuously broadcast weekly program in radio history? If you did, congratulations!

What continues to bring audiences to Music & the Spoken Word today—over ninety years since it began? “Music & the Spoken Word continues to be relevant worldwide, because it conveys hope, joy, and comfort through inspirational music and messages,” commented Mack Wilberg, music director of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. “The members of the Choir and Orchestra stand on the shoulders of the many musicians who came before them, bringing audiences the highest quality of music and inspiration.”

The program is now broadcast each week to audiences around the world via radio, television, cable television, and now the internet. What is it that generates such national and international appeal?

Bishop Gerald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and advisor to The Tabernacle Choir organization, explains: “Music is an international language—sacred music in particular. When the Choir sings, there is no language anymore. There are no borders. Music is a way for the Church to reach out to all the world, all people, and communicate with them from the heart.”

The Choir, Orchestra, and the acclaimed Tabernacle organists plan to continue this renowned, 30-minute program to touch the hearts of listeners everywhere—just as they and their predecessors have done over the past 90 years.  

Music & the Spoken Word: A Brief History

Music & the Spoken Word began broadcasting on Monday afternoon, July 15, 1929, on Salt Lake City radio station KZL (which would become KSL). The broadcast began with a telegraphed message from the National Broadcasting Company in New York City. The message was relayed within seconds to the basement of the Tabernacle on Temple Square. A hand signal forwarded the message upstairs to the program director and then on to Ted Kimball, 19-year-old son of Tabernacle organist Edward P. Kimball. Ted stood atop a 15-foot ladder to reach the one and only microphone, which had been brought to the Tabernacle from KSL radio, and then the show began. Three years later, the program moved to a Sunday morning broadcast on CBS, where it continues to this day.

The first radio broadcast reached just 30 stations. Today, with changes in technology and delivery the weekly Music & the Spoken Word program now reaches over 2,000 radio, television, and cable stations in the United States. The program is viewed with increasing frequency throughout the world on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and the Choir’s website, where it is livestreamed at 9:30 a.m. (mountain standard time) each Sunday morning.

Music & the Spoken Word has received two Peabody awards and has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.