The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Lloyd Newell’s 30 Years of Service to The Tabernacle Choir

On March 31, 1991, on weekly broadcast #3215, 34-year-old Lloyd Newell gave his first message as the official announcer for Music & the Spoken Word. That was 30 years ago and his engaging manner has made him a welcome guest and friend on Sunday mornings in homes across states and nations. He continues to help build the reputation and influence of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

To put this into perspective, when he stepped up to the microphone 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall had recently come down and the two Germanys had just reunited months earlier, Iraq was invading Kuwait, and “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid won an Oscar. The first web pages were in their infancy, YouTube wouldn’t be invented for another 14 years, and a gallon of gas cost $1.34. Times have changed but the Choir’s program has remained a constant. On the air since 1929, the broadcast has known only three announcers: Richard L. Evans, Spence Kinard, and Newell. Lloyd has been the voice for nearly one-third of all the 4,777 broadcasts. 

Previously a news anchor for CNN and a TV station in Pennsylvania, Newell holds a master’s in communications and a PhD in marriage, family, and human development from BYU

Back in 1990 Newell had returned to Utah to care for aging parents. He took a chance trying out for the voice of the longest running weekly broadcast in history lining up in the Tabernacle with four other hopefuls. Gordon B. Hinckley, then counselor to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Ezra Taft Benson, called Newell to serve in the assignment and indicated, “This call will change your life.”

The first big change came a year later when he married Karmel Howell. When he announced his engagement and introduced his fiancée to the Choir, conductor Jerold Ottley led the ensemble in singing, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” She has been his trusted support, travel companion, sounding board, and even editor for his scores of messages. His four children have rarely had a chance to sit with him in church, lending him to his service with the Choir and his work at BYU where he currently is a professor of Church history and doctrine and an associated faculty member in the School of Family Life.

He is a volunteer like all members of the Choir. In his three decades with the Choir, he has traveled the world, given more firesides than he can count, met heads of state, stood in the Oval Office with Choir leaders to receive the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush, and spent Sunday mornings on the broadcast dressed in a suit and a tie. He has presented his message from a chair when he broke his ankle, done programs from foreign countries with little equipment, worn several styles of glasses, and been the voice for special concerts, programs, and many Church devotionals. 

“I encouraged him to speak not to the thousands watching and listening,” says former Music & the Spoken Word broadcast producer Ed Payne who worked closely with Newell for those 30 years. “I told him to talk to the one and his manner over the years has become like a fireside chat, friend to friend.” He has a “dignity on and off camera that fits with his messages. He has integrity, compassion, and a pure desire to lift and encourage people.” It’s no surprise that over the years he has received thousands of thank you letters for his messages of peace, hope, inspiration, strength, and guidance.

When Newell talks about Music & the Spoken Word, he describes it as a “trusted friend.” President Hinckley gave Newell direction when he first began to prepare every message as an “inspirational gem.” He has done just that. The messages are planned many weeks in advance when Newell meets with Choir music director Mack Wilberg to discuss the music, themes, and what the world needs to hear in upcoming broadcasts.

Newell writes most of the messages which means he is always reading, looking for ideas, stories, and new ways to express time-honored values. The “Spoken Word” portion of the broadcast is published weekly in The Church News and on The Tabernacle Choir web site. He also has published several compilations of the Spoken Word messages over the years. Does he have a favorite message? He will say that is like asking which of his children he loves most. His best answer is: “the one I am working with right now.”

He has worked with Choir directors Jerold Ottley, Craig Jessop, and Mack Wilberg and with Choir presidents Wendell Smoot, Mac Christensen, and Ron Jarrett. He counts each one a close friend.

“The broadcast isn’t about preaching a message from a particular church,” he explains, “but is simply a gift from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to people everywhere.” His work supports the work of the Choir to help people feel God’s love for all of His children. And so, it is fitting that Newell concludes the 30-minute broadcast each week with those familiar words, the hallmark of Music & the Spoken Word, “May peace be with you this day and always.”