A sumptuous banquet of LDS heritage is to be expected from any visit to the Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City, but on Nov. 13, that meal was served up with a musical flavor.
"Music for an Autumn Evening," part of the "Evenings at the Museum" series, featured former Metropolitan Opera soprano Ariel Bybee; harpist Tamara Oswald and flutist Jeannine Goeckeritz performing together; and Mormon Tabernacle Choir announcer Lloyd D. Newell providing some "spoken word."
Sister Bybee introduced her performance by referring to Emma Smith's selection of sacred hymns in fulfillment of the Lord's commandment (see Doctrine and Covenants 25:11).
"In 1835, Frederick G. Williams and W. W. Phelps published that first hymn book of the restored Church," Sister Bybee noted. "This tiny bound volume, about 2 by 4 inches, a copy of which I have in my hand, contained 90 hymns, but just the words."
She said early Church members, like many other Christians of the day, knew many hymn tunes by heart, each tune having a name. "Someone in the congregation often would choose a hymn and call out a tune to sing it to."
She selected one hymn, "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah," from Emma's original selection that is still sung by Church congregations today, but sang it for the audience to a hymn tune that Latter-day Saints might have used in 1836, the year the Kirtland Temple was completed.
Later, Sister Bybee invited the congregation to join her in singing "How Pleased and Blest Was I," a hymn that was sung at the temple dedication in Kirtland. She distributed sheet music so attendees could sing in four-part harmony.
Sister Oswald and Sister Goeckeritz, musicians with the Orchestra at Temple Square, performed "O My Father," written in 1845 by Eliza R. Snow, and "Secret Prayer," written by Hans Henry Petersen, a Danish convert to the Church.
They then performed a selection written expressly for their CD album by Mormon composer Sam Cardon called "Crossing the Sweetwater," which commemorates the heroism of rescuers who helped save the imperiled pioneers of the Willie and Martin handcart companies.
Brother Newell, who for nearly 20 years has provided the narration and inspirational messages for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast "Music and the Spoken Word," said, "It has become such a part of my life that my life would not be the same without it, and I feel honored and blessed to be part of it."
He said that when President Gordon B. Hinckley called him to the position, he told Brother Newell he was to serve "until further notice."
"And so, I'll just keep doing it until further notice," he said. "It is a Church calling; I'm not paid for it. ... just like the Tabernacle Choir; they're not paid."
Brother Newell spoke about the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Noting that President Hinckley expressed the belief that buildings have a personality, Brother Newell said, "I can tell you the Tabernacle has that, because of what has transpired there. In large measure, it's because prophets have spoken within those walls. But it's also because it has been the home of the choir since 1867. Those walls just ring with the sounds of this marvelous choir."