Probably most of us are familiar with the “pin drop” at the Salt Lake Tabernacle: the acoustics in the building are so good that a straight pin dropped onto a hard surface near the pulpit can be heard at the back of the auditorium without the aid of a microphone. At least, that’s true when everybody in the room is silent. Tabernacle guides have demonstrated that property for generations of tourists.
The pin drop may be a gimmick, but the building’s superior acoustics had the practical effect in the 19th century of allowing a speaker to be heard by his audience with less strain on his voice during a long talk. The acoustics weren’t as good when the building was completed in 1867 as they are today — the addition of the balcony helped, and the Saints experimented with hanging various materials from the ceiling to improve the sound in the Tabernacle’s earliest days.
In 1867, during one of the early meetings with a congregation, Brigham Young wanted to test the acoustics to see how well his voice carried. If you were in that position, what do you suppose you’d say? “Testing … one … two … three”?
He stood before the audience, and his voice rang out:
You’d scarce expect one of my age
To speak in public on a stage.
And if perchance I fall below
Demosthenes or Cicero,
Don’t view me with a critic’s eye,
But pass my imperfections by.
I haven’t yet found the author of these lines, but have found them published in children’s readers as early as 1791. I have to wonder whether Brigham learned it because his own children were reading and reciting the piece, or whether he remembered it from his own childhood.