Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Music and the Spoken Word Starting 90th Year!

On Sunday, July 15, 2018, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began its ninth decade—nearly the entire lifetime of radio itself—broadcasting Music and the Spoken Word, the world’s longest-running continuous weekly network program, with music and messages of hope and inspiration.

Music and the Spoken Word began broadcasting on Monday afternoon, July 15, 1929, on Salt Lake City radio station 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 Choir 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.

In 1930, less than a year after the first broadcast, 24-year-old Richard L. Evans received the permanent responsibility to be the Choir’s announcer—a job he held 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 timely messages of hope and encouragement that became the “spoken word.”

“The broadcast is a representation of America’s own image,” explained J. Spencer Kinard, who assumed the narration responsibility following Evans’s passing. “It is a reflection of national moods, needs and aspirations. To many listeners, the weekly Music and the Spoken Word is like coming home.”

Lloyd Newell—the current announcer, who began his weekly service in 1991 — says the program “serves to inspire and motivate and yet not make you feel discouraged.” As current Choir member Donald Love reflected, “The weekly messages encourage everyone to look outward toward others and inward at themselves.”

The first broadcast reached just 30 stations. Today, with changes in technology and delivery, the weekly Music and 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 live streamed at 9:30 a.m. (mountain time) each Sunday morning.

Music and the Spoken Word has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame. The 30-minute broadcast continues to touch the hearts of listeners everywhere — just as it has for going on 90 years now.