Musical Pioneers: In 1910 the Choir Was the First Large Performing Group to Have Its Music Successfully Recorded
On September 2, 1910, an article in the Deseret Evening News chronicled a milestone in the history of recorded music. For the first time ever, the music of a large performing group was successfully recorded. Many soloists and small ensembles had been recording their music for years, but the task was much more difficult for large groups like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
In those days, recordings used large flare horns instead of microphones. Although the microphone had been invented by this time, it hadn’t yet progressed to the level of quality necessary for music recording.
Commenting on the momentous occasion, the newspaper noted:
“The achievement is the more remarkable from the fact that for the last four years or more, the three great phonograph companies have been endeavoring to secure acceptable records of large bodies of singers. Fortunes have been expended in all kinds of experiments with mechanisms and horns, principally the latter, but to no purpose.”
It took two hours to find the best location inside the Tabernacle to position the recording horns. After much experimentation, the recording devices were, as the Deseret Evening Newsdescribed, “suspended from a rope stretched across from gallery to gallery, the flaring bells of the two horns covering—the one the sopranos and altos, the other the tenors and basses, the small ends connecting directly with the machine where the choir leader stands at the east of the organ console.”
The Choir recorded various songs that evening, including “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy!” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Since that first recording session, the Choir has gone on to make hundreds of recordings, earn countless awards, and inspire millions throughout the years.