The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Singing with the Choir Again at Age 102! 

Former Choir member Erma Rosenhan recently celebrated her 102nd birthday by singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its Thursday night rehearsal in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. It had been 82 years since she joined the Choir in 1935 as a soprano. Erma’s mother Ida Rosenhan, who sang alto in the Choir for 10 years, was serving when Erma joined. During her time in the Choir, Erma traveled with the Choir on its first European tour in 1955. After singing for more than 20 years, Erma retired from the Choir in 1958.

At a rehearsal in early March, Erma smiled and waved her cane as she was introduced to the members of the Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square by music conductor Mack Wilberg. They welcomed her with a standing ovation. She was proudly wearing the black skirt that had been part of her Mormon Tabernacle Choir uniform during her time in the Choir. It was obvious to all how much she was enjoying the experience of being with the Choir again.

Erma was born in 1915 in Salt Lake City to German-born parents Ida and Willy Rosenhan. As a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called to serve in Germany in 1938, Erma was delighted to go to the country of her ancestors to preach and to gather family history records. As World War II began in the fall of 1939, Erma was one of the American missionaries who received a telegram from the First Presidency to leave Germany immediately to be out of harm’s way. Only a few hours later, she reluctantly bid her German friends goodbye. Following previous instructions received from her mission president, she obediently began making her way out of the country as Germany turned to war. When she arrived in the Netherlands—alone, without any money—she learned she was one of the first missionaries to make it safely there before the borders closed. Only days later, Hitler’s military forces invaded Poland, signaling the beginning of war. Erma was reassigned to the Southern States Mission in the United States, where she safely finished her mission.

Following her mission Erma returned to Salt Lake City and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She resumed her employment at Church headquarters, where she worked for over 41 years, eventually becoming the supervisor of Accounts Payable in the Church Finance Department. Building on the family history information she gathered during her time as a German missionary, she continued to do research to find information on her family in Germany. After retiring, Erma continued her family history work by riding the bus downtown to the Family History Library two or three days a week—continuing that pattern of research for many years. According to the tribute read into the United States Congressional Record on February 23, 2015, by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in honor of her 100th birthday, Erma was recognized for her devotion to family history research and for submitting over 400,000 names—many of them German—to the Family History Department. 

At her 102nd birthday celebration at the Church History Library, Erma Rosenhan was recognized by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, as “an example for us to stay positive and joyful and hopeful at any time in our lives and at any age.” He added, “If I am privileged to live as long as she has, I want to be like her.”

The Choir and Orchestra members would all agree. We would all like to be like her.