Richard P. Condie: The Singing Conductor Who Led the Choir to the GRAMMY Awards
In 1957, Richard P. Condie was named the conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Under his direction, he brought the Choir into the mainstream, while still performing sacred and classical music. In 1959, the first GRAMMY Awards was broadcast, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and won a GRAMMY for the song, which was included on the album, “The Lord’s Prayer. The book, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, says “The doors in an elaborate set parted, framing the nearly 300 singers clad in blue as Richard P. Condie led them in the words “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord….”
Condie was born in 1898 in Springville, Utah. As a tenor, he won a scholarship to study voice in France, in 1927. He later joined a traveling Italian opera company making his debut in the role of Pinkerton, in Madama Butterfly. After touring he was offered a role in a Broadway play The New Moon, for $600 a week. Condie made the difficult decision to turn the offer down and return to Utah.
Following the death of J. Spencer Cornwall, Condie was asked to be the Choir conductor by President David. O. McKay. Although he was 59 at the time, he held the position for the next 17 years. Growing up hearing the voices of Italian immigrants singing older romantic songs, Condie wanted the Choir to have a warm, emotional quality and tone. He would often tell the Choir, “Don’t try and imitate anybody. Feel the music, speak through it.”
After Condie retired, his assistant conductor, Dr. Jay E. Welch, wrote an article in the Choir’s newspaper, The Tab, which detailed the achievements of all of the previous conductors. At the conclusion of his article, he marveled, “And Richard Condie taught them how to sing.”