Evan Stephens Directed the Choir for 26 Years and Contributed to 18 Hymns in the Current Hymnbook
The continued success of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a result of more than a century of talented, hard-working men and women. One key contributor to the Choir early success was Evan Stephens. Stephens’s innovative mind and tireless work ethic took the Choir to new heights as he utilized new technology to spread the Choir’s message.
Stephens was just 36 years-old when he was called as the Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a position he held for 26 years. Under his leadership, the Choir grew from roughly 125 voices to over 300. To accommodate the increased size, the Choir’s seating arrangement was redesigned to create the semicircular, tiered seating we all know today. Additionally, it would become the first large performing group to have its music successfully recorded.
Stephens also made an enormous contribution to the hymnbook. Eighteen hymns in the current LDS Hymnbook were composed or written by Stephens. Among them “We Ever Pray for Thee” and “True to the Faith”. “We Ever Pray for Thee” was written for President Woodruff’s 90th birthday. “True to the Faith” was written after Stephens walked alone up City Creek Canyon to ponder a talk by Joseph F. Smith.
Additionally, Stephens found himself composing a once-in-a-lifetime piece: a state song to celebrate the admission of Utah as an official member of the United States. “Utah, We Love Thee” was formally adopted as the state song in 1937, and changed to the “state hymn” on 5 May, 2003, when a more modern piece, written for Utah’s Centennial Celebration, took its place beside it.
Listen to “Let Us All Press On” in the YouTube video below. For more on the life of Evan Stephens, listen to Episode 34 of the Mormon Channel’s History of Hymns series.