There's the choir's first electrical recording on 1927, "Worthy is the Lamb"; and video of the choir at Mount Rushmore, singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" in the first formal trans-Atlantic satellite television broadcast. There's video of the choir singing for President Ronald Reagan in the inaugural parade in 1981; and scenes from Jerusalem, where the choir sang in 1992.
It is quite literally a project 100 years in the making.
The choir has a long and exceptional history, says current choir director Mack Wilberg.
"To be able to make the claim to be the first large ensemble ever recorded in this country is really saying something," he said. The fact that the choir is still being recorded says even more. Only the Vienna Boys' Choir can claim an equal achievement.
Over the past century the choir has recorded with Columbia, Sony, Telarc and others. In 2003, to gain more artistic control and increased possibilities, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir formed its own label. In all, there have been more than 175 albums, with five gold and two platinum records and a Grammy.
The choir's sound has remained authentic through the century, as technology has improved, Wilberg says, "and you can see how the performance style has evolved over the years, as well."
What has not changed is "the very core of the choir. The commitment, the sacrifice, the dedication of the choir members has always been strong. It may be even more so, today. Choir members come from farther away; and there's so much else going on that it is still a huge sacrifice."
But from the very first, "the tradition of the choir has been to be the very best it could be. We are still very much a part of that tradition," he said.
"At the same time, we can't do just what the choir did in the '40s and the '50s. We are a vibrant and living organization, and we have to move forward with the times."
The 1999 addition of the Orchestra at Temple Square has added many new sound possibilities. They love the organ, Wilberg says, "but to have our own orchestra is quite unheard of in the choral world. We are lucky and blessed."
Also important are the state-of-the-art facilities in the remodeled Tabernacle, which enables it to act as broadcast facility for weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" programs and as a recording studio for other projects.
"It is second to none," said choir president Mac Christensen.
But then, Christensen says, everything about the choir is unique.
"There's nothing else like it in the world. What's happening now and what's happened before is unbelievable. It's built around so many great people, from the music director to the organists to the choir members, to the orchestra and now the Bells at Temple Square."
That adds up to 612 volunteers, who combine with a paid staff of 11 members to create a remarkable organization. The great strength of it, Christensen believes, is that there are so many volunteers.
"They are here because they want to be here. And it shows in everything they do. They sing with their hearts and their souls — always upbeat, always smiling. There's not a prima donna among them; in fact, we have to be careful what we ask them to do, because whatever it is, they will do it."
It has been that way from the beginning.
Sometimes, when Wilberg needs serenity and inspiration, he will wander around the Salt Lake Cemetery. On a recent visit, "just by accident, I came across the grave of Evan Stephens. I couldn't help but think that he would be dumbstruck, but very pleased, by what is going on with his choir now. It is a thrill to be part of such a great tradition. We each have our little time period, but we are only part of a long, long chain. We are always looking for ways to live up to the many shoulders that we stand on."
The new collection, and the tremendous legacy it represents, is one of those ways.
- 5 underrated Disney movies
- What accounts for the cinematic generation gap?
- 'Unicorns are everywhere': Cartoonist Dana...
- Move over 'Phantom,' Coldplay getting air...
- Book review: 'Failsafe' is a page-turning...
- The 34 greatest Disneyland rides
- Book review: 'Whatever You Choose to Be' by...
- Doug's Take: 'Insurgent' is a compelling...