The choir's numerous
citations and awards have included the Peabody Award for service to
American Broadcasting (1944, 1962) and the Freedom Foundation's "George
Washington Award" (1981, 1988). "Music and the Spoken Word" was voted
America's favorite classical and religious program for 1958-59. Over
100 record albums include a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
"Grammy" award (1959) for Wilhousky's arrangement of the "Battle Hymn
of the Republic" and Grammy nominations in 1967 and 1987. Five "gold"
and two "platinum" records have been awarded to the choir.
singing was an integral part of LDS worship in the early Mormon communities
in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, the real history of the Mormon Tabernacle
Choir coincides with the establishment and progress of the Mormon settlements
in the Great Basin region beginning in 1847. Singing was a part of the
first general conference of the church in the Salt Lake Valley on 22
August 1847, less than one month after the arrival of the pioneer company.
The quality of such singing was significantly enhanced by the arrival
of a group of 85 Welsh converts in 1849. Brigham Young invited their
leader, John Parry, to organize a choir for the next general conference,
and this choir formed the nucleus around which the church's choral tradition
grew. The first, or "Old," Tabernacle was completed in 1851, and a small
organ handcrafted in Australia and brought to Utah by Joseph Ridges
was installed in 1857. In 1867 the present dome-roofed Tabernacle was
completed, including a new and larger organ built by Ridges and Niels
Johnson. This organ was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged by the Kimball
Company (1901) and by the Austin Company (1914-15) before being almost
entirely replaced by the present Aeolian-Skinner organ in 1948.