During the past 60 years, many radio favorites have come and gone, but the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "continues to sing into the hearts of the people of America."
The 320 members of the choir were honored July 14 at a banquet in Salt Lake's Marriott Hotel, commemorating the 60th anniversary broadcast two days later of "Music and the Spoken Word." (See separate story of the anniversary broadcast on this page.)Broadcasts of the choir - for the first three years on NBC and then for the next 57 years on CBS - represent the longest continuous run of any network broadcast in America.
"There were other important radio offerings back in those early days," remarked President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency, keynote speaker at the banquet, which was attended by 744 persons.
He enumerated several - Amos and Andy, Ozzie and Harriet, Myrt and Marge, Texaco Star Theater, NBC Master Theater and NBC Concert Orchestra. "These and many others, once listened to by millions," President Hinckley continued, "have all faded and been largely forgotten.
"But this remarkable choir has continued to sing through these 60 years into the hearts of the people of America. No one can question its musical excellence. Through all of these years it has been honed and refined, polished and improved until it is recognized in this and many other nations as a preeminent choral group."
Fourteen General Authorities and their wives, including President Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency, attended the banquet. Others attending were Elders Boyd K. Packer, Marvin J. Ashton, L. Tom Perry, David B. Haight, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve; Elders Marion D. Hanks, Hugh W. Pinnock, James M. Paramore and J. Richard Clarke of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales. President Monson and Elder Packer offered the invocation and benediction, respectively.
Bonneville International Corporation, which has had "a wonderful and enduring marriage" with the choir, and the J. Willard Marriott Foundation sponsored the banquet.
Before President Hinckley spoke, representatives of the choir and Bonneville International praised and presented gifts to each other.
Choir Pres. Wendell M. Smoot presented framed color portraits of the choir to Rodney H. Brady, president of Bonneville; to President Hinckley in behalf of the First Presidency; and to Jerold D. Ottley, choir director, who received a standing ovation during his presentation.
Brady then presented a plaque to Smoot in behalf of the choir, and individual gifts were given by Bonneville to Smoot, Ottley, choir announcer J. Spencer Kinard, and President Hinckley, who is also chairman of the board of Bonneville International.
During the commemorative program, Tabernacle Choir soloist Jo Ann Ottley sang an aria from "Lucia di Lammemoor" and a song, "The Bird."
In his address, President Hinckley reported when the Tabernacle Choir began the broadcasts in 1929, "it had already attained high stature and wide acclaim." He said the choir started as a modest, little singing group which provided music in the old bowery on Temple Square.
The breadth of the choir in its repertoire "is truly amazing," President Hinckley declared. "These singers are at ease with the classics, with folk songs, with popular melodies, with ballads, with the great stirring songs that have voiced the very heartbeat of this remarkable nation."
President Hinckley said that beyond these qualities the choir has "a thing of the spirit."
"In the heart of every member is a religious conviction," he emphasized. "There is faith unwavering in God our Eternal Father and in His Beloved Son, the Savior of the world. They sing anthems to the Almighty with a conviction of His reality as the Father of all mankind. They sing praises to His Begotten Son with love and certain knowledge of Him as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind."
After President Hinckley's address, members of the choir stood at their places in the banquet hall and sang "An American Tribute," a series of five American folk patriotic songs.