Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Proving that Music "Runs in the Family"

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed the inspirational songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein on February 9, 2017, in the Conference Center at Temple Square for the opening event of the RootsTech 2017 Conference: “Music—It Runs in the Family.” The Choir was joined by Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II, and singer Dallyn Vail Bayles to showcase the amazing talent and legacy of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songwriting team. The annual RootsTech conference has become the largest global family history conference in the world.

For over 40 years, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been singing and recording the renowned songs from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. “The songbook of Rodgers and Hammerstein, I believe, stands the test of time, and it speaks to everyone,” stated choir director Mack Wilberg.

“Without the Hammerstein family, there would be no Broadway musical as we know it,” declared Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of Family Search International, as he introduced the program of the concert. While the Choir and Orchestra performed songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals State Fair, Carousel, Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music, Andy Hammerstein recounted stories from his family history with video showing how music had influenced his family for the past five generations. Soloist Dallyn Vail Bayles sang selections from South Pacific and The King and I while joining the Choir on several numbers.

A brief video presentation showed how music runs through the families of several Mormon Tabernacle Choir members.

“Music really does run in my family,” explained Choir alto Pamela Fetzer Hawker. “It was a huge part of my family. It is just a part of what we do. We all sing. We all played two instruments.” When she joined the Choir, she became part of an organization where her aunt, sister, and cousins had been before her. Pamela’s niece, Janene Holmberg, is currently the principal violist for the Orchestra at Temple Square.

Scott Miller, a tenor in the Choir who has soloed on several occasions, commented that “It’s been a fun thing to think that my great-grandmother sang solos in the Tabernacle and my mother sang solos in the same place that I have.”

A choir member in her first year, Mary Wells Chaffin, said, “My grandfather worked a second job so that my mother could have piano lessons. And she’s an amazing pianist, and that’s why I sing. It just makes me so proud of my grandfather because he worked two jobs so that music could be part of my mother’s life. Because my grandfather left that legacy of it being so important, it was important to us. Now, my kids are going to see that it’s important to me. ... It’s the constant. When things go sideways in life, you will always have your music.”

Near the end of the program, Mr. Hammerstein said, “You see how music runs through five generations of my family. But let’s see how music runs through generations of families in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir...” He then asked the Choir and Orchestra members to stand if they presently had a family member in the Choir or Orchestra or if any of their ancestors or relatives had been former members of the Choir organization. The vast majority of the Choir and Orchestra members stood.

Watch the Choir’s February 12, 2017 Music and the Spoken Word broadcast featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein with Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein as the special presenter of the Spoken Word.