Mormons in the National Jukebox

From NPR:

[Yesterday] the Library of Congress and Sony Music Entertainment announced the launch of what’s being billed as “the largest collection of historical recordings ever made publicly available online.”

The new website provides access to more than 10-thousand historical recordings for free on a streaming-only basis – no downloads. It covers the first quarter of the twentieth century and includes music, poetry, political speeches and other spoken word recordings. Right now, it only includes recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company, which Sony controls.

I first started in on the negro spirituals, but decided to give “mormon” a try. It takes us to a song by Evan Stephens called “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy.” It was recorded Sept. 17, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey. The recording is not the Tabernacle Choir, however, it is a mixed quarter including Elsie Baker. The notes from the Library of Congress listing say:

Evan Stephens was the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Disc label notes: “Words from the scripture — Evan Stephens. Favorite Latter-Day Saints anthem as sung in Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Authorized version.”

This is interesting, it seems there was a recording made of this same song featuring the entire choir in early September 1920 in Salt Lake. This recording was made in September 1923 in Jersey on a different label, which explains why it is in the collection and the former recordings are not.

The other song is “O My Father.” The disc label says “Favorite Latter-Day Saints anthem as sung in Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Authorized version.” The lead vocal is a baritone.


Check out Ardis’s post on Stephens for some additional information on these recordings.

5 Replies to “Mormons in the National Jukebox”

  1. I wouldn’t call it “outsourcing,” B. Stephens had his own career — his need to earn a living — entirely outside of his unpaid leadership of the Choir. Simultaneously with directing the Choir, he taught music classes in the LDS university, taught mobs of children to sing as a chorus, organized and performed operettas and other musical events on a for-profit basis.

    His trip to the East and his having these records made was an individual for-profit venture in the same vein, especially since they were made after he no longer was directing the Choir — certainly he peddled the records that way, as his own productions of songs he himself had written, and not as a church venture. I think it could be viewed in the light of Harry Anderson only if the Church had been behind the recordings or they had been made as a missionary venture, neither of which was the case.

  2. Great perspective, Ardis, good point. I was thinking more in line with him looking outside for potentially better quality, but the names he attracted could have been as important if not moreso than the quality of the voices.

  3. The choir has made over 300 recordings and continues to produce albums. For some live performances and albums the choir has collaborated with large orchestras such as the the the of the and the newly formed ..Since the foundation of the choirs own record label it has produced many recordings including .

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