Battle Hymn of the Republic - Best of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
rec. 1958-62, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA?
ALTO ALN1954 [75:18]

In the summer of 1847, Brigham Young led a group of two children, three women and 143 men travelling by horse and wagon along the California trail to the Salt Lake Valley in present day Utah. Their trip took over three months. It took only 29 more days for these pioneers to form their first choir. At the time this singing group had no name and no conductor. From these humble beginnings, that early choir has developed into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of the world’s best known and most popular choirs. In 1867 the construction of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City was completed, and it became the choir’s home. One of the choir’s first great successes was a second place finish at the Eisteddfod choral competition performed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Their first recordings date back to 1910, with the help of Columbia Records; however, the first cylinder recording of the choir appears to date from as early as 1900. Since those early recordings, the Mormon Tabernacle has released more than 150 albums and has grown to a choir of 360 members. The full, rich, exorbitant sound of these voices singing in unison, whether in worship or in concert, is known and recognized world-wide.

This CD is a fairly even mix of traditional Civil War tunes and standard church hymns. All of the songs were originally recorded between 1958 and 1962, when the choir was directed by Richard P. Condie, their conductor during the years 1957 to 1974. Tracks 1-11 are Civil War tunes. The majority of these were recorded in 1961 and appeared on the album “Songs of the North & South: 1861-1865”, released by Columbia Masterworks. The majestic version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic appearing on this CD was recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and won a Grammy award in 1959 for “Best Performance by a Chorus”, the choir’s only Grammy to-date. A snappy version of Dixie features an accompaniment by the massive Tabernacle pipe organ, a snare drum and a piccolo, recreating a Civil War march. The rest of the Civil War tunes are accompanied by organ alone. One of my favourites is the simple Sweet Evelina, a beautiful melody with lyrics that take you back to another time - “my love for thee will never, never die”. The choir makes it interesting with an arrangement incorporating four key changes. Tracks 12-26 are classic hymns of praise, most of which were recorded in 1960 and appeared on the album “A Mighty Fortress” also released by Columbia Masterworks.
One of my favourite hymns - Nearer My God To Thee - on Track 20 is typical of the rest; the performance is bold yet sensitive, straightforward, full of purpose, beautiful harmonies and a light yet firm touch on the organ which beautifully complements the choir and seldom distracts from it.

This CD will be enjoyed by fans of Civil War tunes, traditional hymns, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or anyone who relishes the experience of listening to a massive choir. This CD was produced by Tony Watts, and the final master was done by Paul Arden-Taylor. An informative 8-page booklet is included with comments by Peter Avis.

Bruce McCollum

Track listing
1. Battle Hymn Of The Republic [3:16]
2. Lorena [4:00]
3. Sweet Evelina [3:04]
4. When Johnny Comes Marching Home [2:52]
5. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child [3:41]
6. Dixie [1:45]
7. Aura Lee [3:36]
8. The Battle Cry Of Freedom [3:19]
9. He’s gone Away [3:28]
10. Tramp, Tramp, Tramp [3:22]
11. Tenting On The Old Camp Ground [5:14]
12. Sheep May Safely Graze [4:46]
13. Onward Christian Soldiers [1:53]
14. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God [2:03]
15. O God Our Help In Ages Past [1:58]
16. I Know That My Redeemer Lives [2:25]
17. David’s Lamentation [1:39]
18. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need [2:41]
19. Come, Come, Ye Saints [2:19]
20. Nearer My God To Thee [2:25]
21. Rock Of Ages [1:33]
22. Lead Kindly Light [1:51]
23. All Creatures Of Our God And King [2:21]
24. The Lord’s Prayer [3:12]
25. Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah [2:07]
26. Abide With Me [2:07]

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