4000 and counting
Every Sunday, whenever I can, I watch or listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's weekly broadcast, "Music and the Spoken Word." (I have always loved the Choir, and have attended several of its broadcasts in person, the first of them during a weekend visit to Salt Lake City in August, 1971.) I watched today's broadcast three times on the BYU Channel, which is twice more than usual on a given Sunday; but then, this was no ordinary broadcast, either. The weekly Choir broadcast began on Sunday, July 15, 1929, and has not missed a beat in the nearly 77 years since. Thus, today's broadcast was the 4000th in this well-established weekly tradition.
Today's commemorative broadcast featured guest appearances by several dignitaries, each of whom introduced the next number to be performed. The guests included TV and radio host Charles Osgood; President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church; former Choir director Dr. Jerrold Ottley; and President George W. Bush. The numbers included two of my favorite hymns, "How Firm a Foundation" and "Come, Come Ye Saints." (The latter hymn, incidentally, was announced by President Bush and was the last one performed during the half-hour program. It was an inspiring, triumphant arrangement of this beloved pioneer anthem, in which the final verse -- which speaks of dying before the journey's through -- is all too often played and sung as if it were a dirge. There was certainly no hint of the dirge in today's version of it!)
As I watched the broadcast, I reflected back on another Sunday back in 1986, when I skipped church. That is something I almost never do, but on that particular Sunday I felt I had good reason, and I have never regretted the decision I made that day. That was during the last year I was single, and at the time I was living in a basement apartment in the Federal Heights area in Salt Lake City. I walked from where I lived to the Salt Lake Tabernacle, a distance of perhaps 3 miles, and attended the Choir's 3000th broadcast in person. That one was great, but I think today's may have been better.
Meanwhile, speaking for myself, I look forward to hearing many more broadcasts "from within the shadows of the everlasting hills," as the narrator always says at the end of each week's program. If I am still around for the 5000th broadcast, I will be in my 70s then.
(Update: A Deseret Morning News story about the landmark 4000th broadcast may be found here.)