In his book, A Century of Singing, J. Spencer Cornwall, former music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, details many events in the history of the Choir. One important event discussed is the very first concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The following is an excerpt from the book:
The long series of concerts given by the Tabernacle Choir since its organization over a century ago is imposing. The first concert of record was given in the new Tabernacle July 4, 1873. This performance was to mark the beginning of a concert era which at the present writing has no visible ending.
Cornwall then quoted a local newspaper from 1873 that detailed the events and provided information on the performance and soloist:
Today is set apart throughout the United States as commemorative anniversary of our National Independence. Salt Lake City has an opportunity unsurpassed by any other great city in the United States to do justice to the great event.The Tabernacle will be thrown open to the public, and a rare and rich musical treat has been provided under the auspices of the world-renowned cantatrice, Madam Anna Bishop and troupe, assisted by the regular Tabernacle Choir. Mr. Frank Gilder will preside at the organ and Professor George Careless will act as conductor.
The pieces selected for the program are compositions from the most eminent masters, and cannot fail of being satisfactory to all. The prices of admission are within the reach of everybody—twenty-five and fifty cents. The concert commences at four o’clock in the afternoon.
Cornwall also noted that “the concert had to be held in the afternoon since there were no lights in the building.”
Anna Bishop, the soloist for the performance, was an Englishwoman who built a reputation as one of the finest operatic sopranos of her day. During her career she gave countless performances across the globe, from Australia to China and all over Europe and the Americas.