Music & the Spoken Word: Interesting Facts
Music & the Spoken Word has been broadcasting every week since 1929. The message and purpose behind this venerable program haven’t changed since that first broadcast on July 15, 1929—even though the world has changed drastically. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s weekly broadcast has been responding with music to what is happening in the world for over nine decades, giving hope and comfort to audiences around the world.
“Regardless of the place and time, our mission is to spread goodwill, to lift spirits,” reflected Choir announcer Lloyd Newell, “The music is the star of the program and that’s what it’s about, but the message is an inspirational message that can reach anybody, anywhere, of any background of any faith or no faith.”
Although the message and purpose haven’t changed, there have been many interesting changes through the years. See how many of these Music & the Spoken Word fun facts you know!
- Was it always called Music & the Spoken Word?
No. It wasn’t until 1943 that the broadcast became known as Music & the Spoken Word. When it first debuted in 1929, the program was known as the NBC Tabernacle Organ and Choir Broadcast. The weekly broadcast has also been called The Sabbath Hour (1933-1935) and Sunday Morning on Temple Square (1935-1943).
- Was there always a “spoken word” message?
No. Initially the musical selections were just announced. In 1930, not quite a year after the first broadcast, 24-year-old Richard L. Evans received the responsibility to be the Choir’s announcer—a job he held for the next 41 years until his death in 1971. At first, Evans would simply announce the hymns or musical selections, but within a few years he began to add a weekly commentary to accompany the musical themes. The commentary expanded to include a timely message of hope and encouragement each week that became the “spoken word.”
- Was the program always broadcast on Sundays?
No. The first broadcast on July 15th was actually on a Monday. It wasn’t until Sunday, September 4, 1932 that Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts shifted to being on Sundays. Prior to 1932, the broadcast had been done on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and even Saturdays. Choir members would have to arrange their work and family schedules to be available for these weekday broadcasts.
- Has the broadcast always been 30 minutes long?
No. Over the 90 years, the length of the broadcasts has varied from 15 minutes to 25 minutes to 30 minutes, and even to 1 hour. Today, Music & the Spoken Wordis broadcast each week for 30 minutes.
- Has 9:30 a.m. always been the starting time?
No. The first broadcast was presented at 3:00 p.m. Since January 1971, Music & the Spoken Wordhas been broadcast every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (mountain time). However, start times varied over the previous decades: 8:30 a.m., 8:35 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 9:35 a.m., 10:00 a.m.; 10:30 a.m.; 10:45 a.m.; 12:45 p.m.; 3:00 p.m.; 4:00 p.m.; and 4:15 p.m.
- The broadcast started small. What is its reach today?
Music & the Spoken Word broadcast is carried over 2000 radio, television stations, and cable networks and streamed live on the Internet around the world each week. The Choir’s first radio broadcast was received by just 30 radio stations who were part of the new NBC Radio Network, formed in 1926, which was the earliest network of radio stations organized. Today with the reach of the internet, a vast network of global viewers around the world tunes in to the program each week with millions of views archived on the Choir’s YouTube channel.
Like a trusted friend, Music & the Spoken Word has been there week in and week out and will continue to be there. It’s next big milestone? The 5,000th broadcast scheduled for June 2025!
Special thanks to Christine Marin and the staff of Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for this interesting collection of information about Music & the Spoken Word.