One hundred years in the making, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's latest CD has reached another milestone. "100: Celebrating a Century of Recording History" hit No.1 on Billboard's Classical Overall chart this week.
Released in mid-June, the three-disc set features some of the choir's "greatest hits" — most-requested songs such as "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Climb Every Mountain," "Consider the Lilies," "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," "Come, Come Ye Saints," and more. There are also four new recordings, including the first-ever CD recording of Mack Wilberg's arrangement of "Danny Boy" and "Betelhemu," a Nigerian folk song that always brings the house down on tour.
Included is a bonus CD/DVD disc with six vintage audio selections, including the first recording made by the choir in 1910; and 11 historic videos, including the choir singing at Mount Rushmore in 1962, at the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and in Jerusalem in 1992.
Since it formed it own record label in 2003, Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs have consistently placed high on the record charts, but to hit the top and do it so quickly says a lot both about the choir and its many, many fans, says choir president Mac Christensen. "We're thrilled. Just think — we've been on the cutting edge for 100 years, right from the beginning. And so many times they thought it couldn't be done, and it's been done."
The choir's first recording was made Sept. 1, 1910, under the direction of a recording engineer from the Columbia Phonographic Co. It was something the company had little hope of working but wanted to try in the very competitive atmosphere of early musical recording.
The process worked better than anyone hoped, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was on to a century-long recording career — the longest for anyone in the country. Worldwide, only the Vienna Boys Choir has been recording longer. In all, there have been some 175 recordings and releases; 33 since the new label was created. There have also been five gold records, two platinum records and one Grammy, in 1959, for the "Lord's Prayer" album, which contained the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." In addition, this year's Pioneer Day Commemoration Concert on Friday, July 16, will honor the century of recording.
At a press conference to introduce the new "100: Celebrating a Century of Excellence" album, Wilberg paid tribute to all those who have made this century of recording possible. "We salute those who have come before us," he said. "There have been hundreds, even thousands who have come before. Our hope is to continue this long chain, to build on their legacy."
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