The secularization of the repertoire of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 1949-1992 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Porcaro, Mark David
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • In 1997 in the New Yorker, Sidney Harris published a cartoon depicting the "Ethel Mormon Tabernacle Choir" singing "There's NO business like SHOW business..." Besides the obvious play on the names of Ethel Merman and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the cartoon, in an odd way, is a true-to-life commentary on the image of the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MTC) in the mid-1990s; at this time the Choir was seen as an entertainment ensemble, not just a church choir. This leads us to the central question of this dissertation, what changes took place in the latter part of the twentieth century to secularize the repertoire of the primary choir for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)? In the 1860s, when the MTC began, its sole purpose was to perform for various church meetings, in particular for General Conference of the LDS church which was held in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. From the beginning of the twentieth century and escalating during the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the Choir's role changed from an in-house choir for the LDS church to a choir that also fulfilled a cultural and entertainment function, not only for the LDS church but also for the American public at large. The primary demarcation for this change is seen through the Choir's repertoire. Several major periods represent the change: (1) J. Spencer Cornwall's tenure (1935-1957) in which there was a creation of a core repertoire of mostly sacred works, (2) The increasing secularization of the Choir's repertoire during Columbia Records' recording contract with Richard P. Condie (1957-1974), and (3) The period under Jerold Ottley's direction (1974- 1999) in which there was a struggle to control the recording repertoire-which eventually led to the separation of the repertoire by Jerold Ottley into secular albums dictated by Columbia and sacred albums of Ottley's choice-which lasted until the end of the relationship between Columbia and the MTC.
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  • Warburton, Thomas
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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