The late Robert Shaw's first experience in conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was in 1997, when he traveled to Salt Lake City to lead the ensemble, along with the Utah Symphony, in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. While he was there, the Choir's Associate Director, Craig Jessop, a longtime friend and associate of Mr. Shaw, arranged for Shaw to conduct the choir for its weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast, as well as to deliver the spoken word. It was the only time in the show's history that a non-Mormon had been chosen to deliver the message.
It was likewise Mr. Jessop who had helped to bring about the current recording project, which was originally to have been conducted by Shaw. With Shaw's death last January, less than three weeks before the scheduled recording sessions, Mr. Jessop was pressed into service to take the podium and bring the project to fruition.
"This is in no sense a 'translation' of the texts of the Brahms German Requiem," wrote Shaw on December 23, 1998. "Every time in the past fifty years that I have considered making an English version of the German Requiem, I have concluded that a 'translation' would not work grammatically, philosophically, or 'spiritually,'" he continued. "A version in English would need roots in language as deep as those in music, and as exalted in beauty."
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 325 voices in all, was founded in 1847. The Choir has made over 150 recordings, has performed for four presidential inaugurations, and is heard weekly on the program "Music and the Spoken Word," the world's longest-playing syndicated radio broadcast.