Radio Playlet, Sunday, September 18, 1933
Directed by Elder George D. Pyper and The Church Music Committee
The brief period allotted to us this evening and for a number of Sunday evenings to follow will be devoted to a consideration of the spiritual hymns of the Latter-day Saints.
Music has always occupied an important place in the religion of the Mormon people. Within a few months after the church was organized a revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma Smith, commissioned her to make a selection of sacred hymns for the edification of the Church. “For,” said the revelation, “the soul delighteth in the song of the heart. Yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me and shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” Under this injunction Emma Smith compiled a book of hymns. It was necessarily composed of those already in use, for converts to the now religion were mostly from the Protestant churches. Nevertheless, there were a number of talented Mormon hymnologists in the Church at that time and Emma Smith’s compilation contained many of their contributions. These expounded the truths of the newly revealed gospel, and gave the songs of the Church their peculiar and distinctive characteristics.
A revised hymn book in general use for many years was published in Liverpool in 1840, under the direction of Brigham Young; 25 editions of this little volume were printed and translated into many languages. The Church has since produced a number of talented musicians, some of whom have gained national and even international recognition, and their compositions now find a place in our hymn books. As evidence of the widespread interest in music the Church has more than a thousand well trained volunteer stake and ward choirs in addition to the famous Salt Lake Tabernacle choir, which won second place at an international eisteddfod in Chicago in 1893, and which is now giving nation-wide broadcasts over the Columbia system emanating from this KSL station each Sunday morning.
The hymns of the Latter-day Saints stand out in striking contrast to those of some of the other churches. Expressions of fear, sorrow, depression, hopelessness of sinners are avoided. The Mormon songs are “Carry On” themes, expressive of hope, joy, happiness, forgiveness of sin. They emphasize more the glorious salvation wrought out by our Redeemer, than his sufferings.
No exclusive inspiration is claimed by us, however, in music and song; we are devoted to many of the contributions of Watts, Wesley, Montgomery and others. The oratorios of Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn, too, satisfy our musical souls. As an instance, Isaac Watts gave us that inspirational hymn “Sweet Is the Work, My God, My King,” but it was our late-lamented organist, John J. McClellan, who set it to “Mormonistic” harmonies.
Again, we join the hymn of Wesley to the music of Rossini and have a thrilling combination.
(One verse of “Captain of Israel’s Host.”)
Many of our own favorite hymns were written under distressing and sometimes tragic circumstances, and in the series to follow it will be our pleasure to give you some insight into their origin as well as to demonstrate their beauty and heart appeal. The one to be considered tonight is the first one appearing in the authorized edition of the Latter-day Saint hymns, “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee.”
Now turn the calendar back to 1864. Imagine yourself in mid-ocean on the good ship “Hudson,” sailing from London to New York City. As the scene opens, the roar of thunder is heard and the wind of a threatening storm is lashing the sea. Captain Isaiah Pratt is getting his ship ready to ride the storm.
Captain Pratt: “All hands on deck. Man the top sails.” (A long pause as the winds and the sound effects of rain and thunder continue.) (Pause.) “Reef the mizzen sail.” (Pause.) “Hoist up the jib-boom. (Pause.) “Lash the wheel.” (Pause.)
Ship-mate: “The ship is ready, sir.”
Captain: “Then we’ll let her blow.”
(Pause with sound effects continuing.)
A Passenger (approaches): “Captain, I must protest against that band of crazy singers in the quarters next to mine who sing, sing all the time, storm or sunshine. I tell you, I’ll go mad if this keeps up.”
Captain Pratt: “We can move you to another cabin, sir.”
Passenger: “Move me? Indeed! Move them, sir. Why must I move?”
Captain Pratt: “”Perhaps I can move them. They’re a peaceable lot and if they knew they distressed you, I’m sure they would stop singing or go elsewhere on the ship.”
Passenger: “Move them, then, so I can get some rest.”
Captain Pratt: “I think you’ll get no rest even if they move. It’s the storm that disturbs you. Don’t you wish there was something you could do to help you forget the storm?”
Passenger: “That I do, but what it could be I don’t know.”
Captain Pratt: “Come with me. I think I can find something.” (They approach the place in which the singers are gathered. The sound of singing grows louder and more distinct. The choir is singing, “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee,” to the Creation tune.)
The voice of Prof. George Careless (as the singing ends): “So much for the ‘Creation’ tune, brethren and sisters. It is beautiful, but the words, I feel, need some other musical setting. But let us try the ‘Duke Street Tune.’ it may be that after we sing it you will see more clearly what I mean. (The choir sings one or two verses of the Duke Street Tune.)
As the song is finished, Prof. George Careless says: “That, too, is a fine old tune but a new harmony for these exalted words has been ringing in my head for a long time. Let us take a recess while I write it. Will you gather here by the time of the next ship’s bell? By then I shall have a few copies made, if you will help me Brother William, and we shall try the new tune.
(The singers separate and the sounds of the storm gradually subside.)
Captain Pratt: “Ah, the storm is passing. We shall have a fair night after all. They are interesting folk, sir, and orderly they are.”
Passenger: “Just who are they, Captain? How many are there?”
Captain Pratt: ‘Latter-day Saints they call themselves, that is, they’re Mormons,” sir. Hundreds of them have been shipping out of Britain for many years.”
Passenger: “Mormons, you say, and how many are there on board ship now?”
Captain Pratt: “Some eight hundred odd, sir, English, Scotch, Dutch, Swiss, French and Danish, if you please.”
Passenger: “And they’re going to the States to stay?”
Captain Pratt: “Yes, they’re bound far out to the west – across the great plains. In fact, right to the very edge of the great American desert. That they’ll stay long I very much doubt.”
Passenger: “What keeps them together, Captain? They do seem orderly and so united.”
Captain Pratt: ‘Oh, they have their own leader and well organized they are. They are in charge of the rather stout man in the choir, with the good voice who stood over to the right.”
Passenger: “Oh, the man, Kay, I’ve heard them call him that.”
Captain Pratt: “Yes, John Kay, he’s the man. And that little choir master is a big help, sir. He keeps the singers busy and the singers keep the others happy.”
Passenger: “Do you know who is the little musician? He seems a right brilliant young man.”
Captain Pratt: “Careless is his name, sir. Professor George Careless. A London choir master. Aye, here’s Kay now, he’ll tell us more. Your pardon, sir, this gentleman was asking me about you people. just a friendly curiosity, sir, but who is this choir master you have?”
John Kay: “Professor Careless? Well, sir, he’s England’s best, I’d say. I love the man so and a real musician, natural musician from childhood. Well trained, he’s been, too. He was a student in the Royal Academy of Musicians in London.”
Captain: “So? And what practical work has he done?”
Kay: “Oh, he’s smart, sir. He knows vocal music and instrumental and a composer he is, too. Yes, he has performed in the best places, Drury Lane, Exeter and Crystal Palace theaters; in concerts, operas, oratories.”
Captain Pratt: “Aye, and I like the little fellow. He is as precise as a good sea captain.”
Kay: “Yes, and he has a musical scholarship, gentlemen. he’s writing new music to the song we’ve been singing. Mark my word, what he produces will be stirring and beautiful, I’ll tell you.”
Passenger: “What’s there about the words to your song that needs another tune? I should think either of the two you have been singing would suit?”
Captain: “Nay, those folk are hard to please. Now here they be a leaving good old England and other good countries of Europe to find homes in the barren wilderness of America.”
Kay: “But neither good old England nor any part of Europe has the right idea of religion. In fact that’s what the words of the song tell about. May I explain gentlemen?”
Captain and passenger: “Yes.” “Yes.”
Kay: “The words go this way:
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo! Zion’s standard is unfurled.
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world.
“You see, that’s poetry, gentlemen, but in common language it means that the world until recently has been in spiritual darkness. But since the Lord has spoken to the Prophet Joseph Smith and restored the Gospel to the earth again. “The morning breaks the shadows flee.” Zion has been established again upon the earth. And, therefore, ‘The dawning of a brighter day, majestic rises on the world.’”
Passenger: “Of course, Mr. Kay, you don’t expect us to believe that about the Lord’s restoring the Gospel to Joseph Smith, do you?”
Kay: “You may believe it or not as you please. I’m just telling you about the poem and hoping that your faith will be of the kind to tell you what to believe.”
Captain: “There’s no poetry in me, sir, but these words do make a powerful picture in the mind, sir.”
Passenger: “So they do. They have high poetic value.”
Kay: “True and the more you know about the poet and his works, the more right you’ll see you are. But I’ll tell you about him later. The second verse goes:
The clouds of error disappear
Before the rays of truth divine;
The glory, bursting from afar
Wide o’er the nations soon will shine.
“Now, making allowance for what you don’t choose to believe, this verse prophesies that the truth revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith will dispel the error and false notions of the world; and it is doing just that. The glory bursting from far off America ‘wide o’er the nations soon will shine.’ Now mind you, this poem was written twenty-four years ago. Published in 1840 in the Millennial Star, our Gospel magazine, printed in Liverpool. As Captain Pratt knows, for more than twenty years good English ships have been carrying hundreds of Europeans over to America and most of them have accepted the testimony of the Prophet who died a martyr twenty years ago.”
Captain Pratt: “That’s true. Our ships have been carrying over thousands, I should say. And right good tradesmen, too; mechanics, glaziers, smiths, carpenters, weavers, potters, aye, and first class craftsmen of many kinds, indeed.”
Kay: “Yes, Captain, you may not know it, but you have been a witness to the fulfilment of the prophecy of this song. In fact, listen to the third verse.
The Gentile fulness now comes in,
And Israel’s blessings are at hand;
Lo! Judah’s remnant, cleansed from sin,
Shall in their promised Canaan stand.
“And the fourth verse,
Jehovah speaks! let earth give ear,
And Gentile nations turn and live;
His Mighty arm is making bare,
His covenant people to receive.
“Gentlemen, this explains the gathering of the blood of Israel out of many nations to the land where religious freedom is a fact. Don’t you see, now, a mighty arm at work gathering in his covenant people?”
Captain Pratt: “Say, sir. That makes this migrating mighty mysterious.”
Kay: “Now, you see, friends, what a power religion has to make these thousands of good people leave good work, opportunity, comfort and friends behind and go into a raw unknown land and trust their lives and good fortune to God?”
Passenger: “I begin to see it. It is something very profound, I’d say!”
Kay: “The last verse, how beautiful it is:
Angels from heaven, and truth from earth
Have met, and both have record borne;
Thus Zion’s light is bursting forth,
To bring her ransomed children home.
Passenger: “I begin to see now, why the professor wanted new music for it. It’s your rallying song. The other music, however beautiful, does not express adequately your own emotions and faith.”
Kay: “That’s it, I suppose. It’s quite illy defined in my own mind, but in the soul of the professor there’s been much unrest because the music was not expressly written for the words. It will be interesting to hear what new tune he composes for it.”
Passenger: “That it will. Now, Mr. Kay, you were going to tell us about the poet.”
Kay: “Oh, yes, his name was Parley Parker Pratt. Now, that’s an odd coincidence, Pratt? Pratt? Could it be that he was related to you, Captain?”
Captain: “I don’t know, sir. Was he an Englishman?”
McKay: “No, he was born in Burlington, New York, April 12, 1807.”
Captain: “I don’t know that he’d be one of us.”
Kay: “Well, anyway, he was a great man. In 1835 he became an apostle of the Church. He was a great missionary and a popular writer of church hymns. He was in England on a mission and editor of the Millennial Star at Liverpool in 1840, when the poem was written. He was assassinated just seven years ago. Heaven bless his memory! So many of the men have been persecuted and have suffered death for their faith.”
Passenger (thoughtfully): “What you say gives me quite another idea about your people. Certain it is, that these thousands who have left and are leaving the old country and the many who have suffered hardships and even death would not do it all for nothing. The whole story intrigues my interest. May I talk with you again, sir?”
Kay: “Yes, indeed, it will be a pleasure. But before you go, come and meet Professor Careless and let us see what progress he is making.”
Passenger: “That will be interesting. Will you join us, Captain?”
Captain: “That I will. I must say I like the little fellow’s ways.”
(They knock, the music of an organ upon which a new tune is being played is heard.)
Professor Careless: “Come in.”
Kay; “Brother George, the Captain and a friend to see you.”
Professor Careless: “Welcome, gentlemen.”
Kay: “How goes the new tune?”
Professor Careless: “That was it I was playing when you came in. Brother William here has copied off enough to place in the hands of the singers.”
(The ship’s bell sounds.)
Professor Careless: “There are the bells. Our singers will be returning soon and then we shall sing it for you.”
(The group is heard gathering.)
Passenger: “Friendly people these, captain.”
Captain: “I find them so.”
Professor Careless: “Brother William, please pass out the new music.” (Pause. The sound of shuffling and moving into place is heard.) “You all know the words by heart. I shall play the music through once, listen closely.” (He plays the Hudson tune through once and he says:) “Now hum a verse” (and the chorus hums a verse; then he says:) “And sing.” (They begin and sing the song to the Hudson tune, as many verses as time will permit. At the close of the singing:)
The Captain: “It is beautiful! Almost thou persuadest me to be a Mormon.” (Facetiously said.)
Professor Careless: “That may be quite too much to expect, Captain, but we are happy that the song pleases you. May I say, sir, that we so much appreciate your kindness to us and your excellent seamanship which is taking us so safely to America and to our beloved Zion that I have decided to call this new composition by the name of this good ship ‘Hudson.’ When we sing it in Zion we shall remember this voyage and the worthy gentleman, our ship’s captain. I have the honor, sir, to present you with a copy.”
Captain: “Thank you! thank you!” But —“ (there is an uncomfortable pause, then he continues by saying:) “But, now I’m sorry, sir, I have an unpleasant duty. Complaint has been made to me, ladies and gentlemen, by a passenger who is not of your number that your much singing disturbs him and he asks that you assemble for your singing practice in another quarter of the ship.”
Passenger: “No, no, sir, I – I gladly withdraw my protest, sir. I must say I enjoy it, sir. I discover that the better one knows his neighbors the easier it is to get along with them. Sing another verse.”
(The scene closes with the humming of “The Morning Breaks.”)
Announcer: The playlet you have just heard was constructed around the true story of one of the favorite hymns of the “Mormon” Church written by Parley P. Pratt, an apostle of the “Mormon Church in 1840, and the music of which was composed by Prof. George Careless, an English convert, and first sung by immigrating Latter-day Saints on board the sailing vessel “Hudson” bound from London to New York, in 1864.
The presentation has been under the direction of George D. Pyper, representing the Church Music committee. The playlet was written by A. Hamer Reiser. The players were: Captain Pratt, Lynn S. Richards; Professor Careless, Dougins Wood; John M. Kay, J. Percy Goddard; Passenger, Gordon Owen.
The music was rendered by the Tenth ward Salt Lake City choir directed by Norman Martin. Mrs. Mary Salt at the organ.
Next Sunday evening at the same hour we shall present some of the beloved songs of the “Mormon” people which were sung at the dedication of their first temple, erected at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. The broadcast will come by remote control from Ogden with the Ogden Tabernacle choir rendering the music.