The Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall: A Prelude to the Exodus

Journal 58:3 (2019)
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The Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall: A Prelude to the Exodus

Author Darrell Babidge

Although it is little known today, the Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall was an important part of Nauvoo’s cultural history. Joseph Smith designated a spot for it near the temple, the spiritual landmark of the city. The Saints completed the building after Joseph Smith’s death, with funds raised by the Nauvoo Music Association. Many musical concerts were given to packed crowds, and the building was used for meetings of the Apostles, the Seventies, and women’s groups. That the Saints living on the American frontier would care to build a large hall that was acoustically designed for music performance is evidence of the value they placed in cultural refinement. The Saints had to abandon Nauvoo, but the events in that hall affirmed the Saints’ love of music that continues today.


On many an evening in 1845, anyone near the corner of Woodruff and Young Streets in Nauvoo, Illinois, would have heard music coming from the newly constructed Music and Concert Hall (fig. 1).1 The following year, the music making abruptly stopped as thousands of Nauvoo residents fled from mob violence, abandoned the city, and began their journey westward to the Great Salt Lake. Today on the same corner is an empty grassy area where children often play. This article seeks to tell the history of the Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall. This hall points to the lifeblood of music and community in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints although the hall was used for only a brief time. The people of Nauvoo placed an emphasis on music that was unusual for a frontier town. They also set a standard of providing buildings for cultural refinement that continues among the Saints today.2

Joseph Smith’s Vision for a Music Hall

Wednesday, April 19, 1843, was a busy day for the Prophet Joseph Smith. He attended court hearings for most of the day and then met with several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Red Brick Store on Water Street. Specific assignments to quorum members focusing on the construction of the temple and the Nauvoo House were carefully orchestrated. There had been enough on his mind that day, but there was one more item of business to be completed. In the evening, he made his way to Woodruff and Young Streets, one block north of the temple, and designated “lot 4, block 67,” for a music hall.3 Finding a place dedicated to concertizing, it seems, was a high priority for the Prophet. His vision for the city included other buildings such as the Seventies Hall and the Masonic Hall designed for use by specific groups, but the Music Hall was dedicated to musical performances.4 That he designated a building for the celebration of music to be so near to the temple gave the Music Hall an elevated status. The temple was being built on the bluff, and the Seventies Hall and Masonic Hall were downhill in the lower part of the city. Joseph’s vision of a hall for musical performances and its lofty position of accompanying the temple site was high praise indeed for the arts and for community gathering. Joseph also desired a hall that would seat more people than the Seventies Hall or Masonic Hall could.5

Little if any work on the project was undertaken in 1843, and, sadly, Joseph died before the Music Hall was constructed. But four months after his martyrdom in June 1844, his desire for music to resound from a designated edifice at last began to be realized. By October 1844, construction of the hall was under way, despite the uncertain future of the Saints in this city. On October 30, the Nauvoo Neighbor published a letter extolling the urgency and pride that one should take in completing an edifice of this importance and asking residents to contribute to the construction cost by buying shares6 (fig. 2):

Our citizens cannot sufficiently appreciate the effects that [we] are now making to finish one of the finest monuments of our city. Our choir numbering over one hundred members, whose zeal can only be made manifest by the difficult circumstances under which they are laboring, by singing in the open air and that too frequently in windy weather; that we have an imperfect idea of the thrilling delight such a body of music placed under different circumstances would produce. But Mr. Editor, taking it as it is, I would ask where are we to go for music, if we do not find it in Nauvoo? I will boldly answer no where. . . .

I am informed that the shares in the Concert Hall are not all at present taken up, something considerable yet remains to be done to complete that Hall. I would say let still a more glorious spirit of enterprise be made in finishing of that building. . . . A poor man can put five dollars in that Hall, without grumbling, aye, and pay for it too as well as the rich man; because his hands are his fortune. . . .

I will close this epistle by urging the necessity of immediately finishing the hall, because [it is being] built for the most benevolent purpose. Our places of worship are as yet few and small. I am informed that the Concert Hall will be used for preaching during the winter. Get this Hall completed so that rising generations in coming time will look upon you as the founders of the greatest city in the west, and the greatest benefactors of the age in which you lived.7

The hall was to become the hub of all musical activity in Nauvoo, and it was to be competitive with other music halls in the nation. An acoustically engineered music hall was to be an admirable prospect indeed, and it was fitting since Nauvoo’s population was larger than Chicago’s and there was an ever-increasing influx of converts with musical talent. The Saints recognized that they might have to leave their city but continued to build despite that fear. The Music Hall was to be the oasis of Nauvoo’s cultural entertainment, whereas the temple would be Nauvoo’s spiritual oasis. Sadly, both were utilized by the Saints for a very short time.

Funding and Using the Unfinished Hall

Raising funds was imperative for this realization, and so finding money for the building was an ongoing crusade for the Nauvoo Music Association, which sold capital stock at $2.50 a share.8 It would eventually cost nearly one thousand dollars to complete the hall.9 Building the Music Hall was a lower priority than building the temple, which for the Saints was the ultimate goal of their spiritual fulfillment; the font and some rooms of the temple were completed in the fall of 1844. Money for the Music Hall was eventually raised despite general poverty among the Saints. Along with monetary donations, Saints sacrificed their time to erect the Music Hall, though not as much as was sacrificed for the temple.

With the winter of 1844 setting in, the unfinished Music Hall soon became a place used not only for musical events, but for education and gospel preaching. The new hall was now to be used as a school, among other things, and what greater place than under the shadow of the ­temple, the House of the Lord. Howard Coray (fig. 3), who was at one time a secretary to the Prophet Joseph, rented the unfinished hall in the fall of 1844. He wrote that he procured “the Music Hall for a school room; it was large enough to accommodate 150 students; and I succeeded in filling the room, or nearly so; in running the school I had my wife’s assistance.”10 How the building was utilized for the school is difficult to tell, since the Music Hall would eventually accommodate an audience over four times that size. It seems that construction was still under way during the late months of 1844, but there must have been some consternation over having a hundred young students running around the unfinished hall.

In December, although the dedication of the hall was a few months away, the building was taking shape, and rehearsals for upcoming events were already being held there. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Newell K. Whitney visited the hall a week before Christmas, attending “the practice of music at the Concert Hall” in the evening.11

As the New Year began, more meetings were being held in the hall. Brigham Young and ­Newell K. Whitney met there with members of the Aaronic Priesthood on Friday, January 10, 1845. Newell “recommended that the bishops establish in their respective wards the manufacturing of palm leaf and straw hats, willow baskets and other business that children are capable of learning, that they may be raised to industrious habit.”12

On January 24, Brigham Young’s recorder noted, “The plasterers finished plastering the Concert Hall. This building is thirty feet by fifty and eleven feet high. The ceiling is arched and has sounding jars. It has been built amidst difficulty and discouragement in consequence of poverty, and has cost nearly one thousand dollars: much of the burden has laid on the Trustees, Stephen H. Goddard, Wm. F. Cahoon, and Wm. Clayton.”13 Traditionally, sounding jars were cylinders embedded into the walls to enhance the acoustics of a room by amplifying and reverberating sounds (fig. 4). This was a feature that rivaled any building in Illinois at that time; speakers and musicians alike certainly benefitted from the acoustics provided by the sounding jars.14

There were at least two other meetings held during these weeks before the dedication: Heber C. Kimball spoke on “increase and expansion,” Orson Pratt “advanced an idea pertaining to the magnitude of the planetary system,” and Heber Kimball and Patriarch John Smith preached that if the Saints would adhere to counsel, they “should grow right into the Millennium.”15 The Music Hall also opened up for a city election as well as a funeral service.16

Dedication of the Music Hall, March 3–5, 1845

The dedication of the Music Hall was finally announced in the Nauvoo Neighbor on February 26, 1845: “Grand Concert. Of Vocal and Instrumental Music. The Nauvoo Choir and Band, propose giving a Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music in the ‘Nauvoo Concert Hall’ as a dedication of said Hall, to take place on Monday and Tuesday evenings the 3d and 4th of March, and longer if necessary. The doors will be opened at 6 o’clock, and the performance to commence at half past six precisely.” Although the concerts were free, patrons were encouraged to make a liberal donation. The money was to cover the cost of lighting the hall and “to purchase some other articles necessary to finish the Hall in good style,”17 for the Saints wanted the hall to be of superior quality. The anticipation that a third performance might be needed to fill the demand was correct: a concert was added on March 5, and even then people were turned away.18

On Monday, March 3, the Music Hall opened its doors for the first time as the official hall for musical concertizing. The dedicatory concert began at 6:30 p.m. There were ten selections by the choir, seven selections by the band, a solo by celebrated singer John Kay (fig. 5), and a string trio. The choir consisted of twenty-seven female and eighteen male singers. Of significance were two new musical pieces that were premiered at these concerts. John Taylor had written a song called “The Seer” about his martyred friend and prophet, and Parley P. Pratt had also written a dedicatory hymn called “Sacred to Truth This Hall Shall Be,” which was performed by the band and choir at the beginning of each dedicatory concert.19

Truth is our theme, our joy, our song,
How sweet its numbers flow;
All music’s charms to Truth belong,
To Truth ourselves we owe.

’Twas Truth that brought us from afar,
’Twas Truth that placed us here;
Union and Truth without a jar
Can halls and temples rear.

’Twas Truth first formed our band and choir,
On Zion’s western plains;
’Twas Truth that tuned our earliest lyre
In sweet, harmonious strains.

Sacred to Truth this Hall shall be,
While earth and time remains;
Where the Band and Choir in harmony
Shall swell their sweetest strains.

By Truth our union is complete,
Our songs in concert rise;
And by the power of Truth we’ll meet
To sing amid the skies.

Hosannah to the Prince of Peace!
His Truth has made us free;
All hail the day of full release—
The earth’s glad Jubilee!20

The programs also included “Lamentation of Zion,” by William Clayton, sung by John Kay and Susan Divine; a glee sung by William Cahoon “and lady and Mrs. Bayles”; and “Maid of Judah.”21 Zina D. H. Jacobs attended on March 4 and noted that the concert was “wonderful to tell.”22

On Wednesday, Heber C. Kimball gave a sermon about music and the building up of Nauvoo:

Brethren and Sisters—Agreeable to Br. Goddard’s request, I arise to address you for a short time. I hope the congregation will be as still as their crowded situation will allow. . . .

I am an admirer of music. I am fond of variety, and when I say this I consider that I am not, in the least, stepping aside from the laws and character of the Creator. Look over this vast congregation and you will be convinced that God is a God of variety. Here are near a thousand persons before me, and my eyes do not rest upon any two persons who are alike in features, or the lineaments of countenance; . . . Here are many different kinds of instruments, and a great number of tunes can be played, and a variety of sounds may be sounded from a variety of strings on an instrument (for instance the piano,) whereby music may be varied to suit the different tastes and feelings of the mind, and thus can a sameness or monotony be avoided, and different interest be excited.

There is an order in the kingdom of God; there is an order in the creations of God; there is an order in music, and there is an order and law adapted to the government, regulation, and creation of all things.23

Heber C. Kimball, although waxing lyrical, seemed to have been stirred by the evening’s music.

A review by Lyman Littlefield of the third and final night of these concerts adds information on the structure of the building and gives us an idea of the proceedings of the evening:

The late Concerts, which came off at the new Music Hall, in this place, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights of last week, was attended with great interest on each evening. The Music Hall is a large and commodious brick building, suitable to convene some seven or eight hundred persons. It is finished at the north end with a raised floor or platform, furnished with seats and desks for the accommodation of singers and musicians.

On Wednesday evening I was in attendance to see what music there was in Nauvoo. At sun-down the house was filled beyond convenience, and it was found impossible for more to enter. At dusk the house was lighted with three chandeliers, which spread an ample light over the vast assembly disclosing hundreds of happy and smiling faces exhibiting the beautiful and intelligent faces of Nauvoo.

The choir consisted of twenty-seven female singers, and eighteen gentlemen. There were twelve of the band present.24

Heber C. Kimball was voice for the dedicatory prayer after the band had performed, and the choir sang a piece called “Strike the Cymbal.” What followed was a four-and-a-half-hour concert of music and addresses delivered by Brigham Young and Kimball.

Performer John Kay (fig. 5) was a convert from England with a fine baritone voice. He worked in iron and brass and was also a policeman in Nauvoo; he had a large personality and cheerful disposition. Joseph had often asked John to sing as entertainment for visitors who came to Nauvoo. Littlefield wrote of his performance at the inaugural concert, “Mr. Kay as a singer, would do credit to any Eastern concert. His voice is full, soft, and well cultivated, and he varies it with harmony and skill.”25 William Pitt, another English convert, with his accomplished band of instrumentalists, played seven selections, and the choir sang ten selections. Of the choir, Littlefield wrote, “The room was filled with intense and burning melody. The harmony of so many cultivated voices, all seemingly tuned to the high aspirations of sublimity, at once captivated the musical mind, and filled the ear with the refined tones of modulated music.”26 Heber C. Kimball’s address on this final night of concerts stirred the audience with a sermon on the divine order of music, to which he concluded, “This is the third night that this hall has been filled to overflowing, and you may continue these concerts for thirteen or twenty nights to come and the same interest will be excited, and the hall will be as crowded every night, with a new congregation, as it is now.”27

Of anecdotal interest is an article written in the Nauvoo Neighbor a few weeks later, where a disgruntled reviewer addressed the discomfort of sitting in an unventilated hall:

If public speakers do not wish to injure their lungs, they should be cautious about speaking in unventilated rooms or halls.

When the Music hall was dedicated, why did brother Goddard and many others say on the third evening that the music and singing was better than it had been the two previous evenings? The reasons are obvious; on that evening the upper part of the windows were taken out, which supplied the musicians and singers with pure air.

The windows to the Masonic, Seventies, and Music halls, should be so fixed that they can be dropped down from the top from four to eight inches, which should always be done, when they are filled with a congregation, though the weather might be as cold as Greenland. I hope those who have the care of these buildings, if they regard the health of this people, will immediately fix them so they can be properly ventilated.28

The complaint seems somewhat pedantic, but it helps us get an idea of the setting of the concerts.

Continued Musical Events and Meetings, 1845

The following Saturday no music was performed, but a ladies’ meeting was held.29 The next Monday there was a choir rehearsal at which Orson Spencer was asked by the choir director, Stephen H. Goddard, to speak about the education and edification of music. Some of the Apostles were also to speak but apparently did not turn up.30 In mid-March there seems to have been a disturbance among the choir members because Heber C. Kimball met with them for two nights in a row—the second night being accompanied by Brigham Young as backup.31 There is no indication of what the dispute was about, but Goddard, it seems, wanted to make sure there was harmony in the soul as well as from the voice. The Apostles also held a meeting there to ordain bishops for “a Bishop and Deacons Guard,” which was made of “quorums of twelve deacons under the leadership of a bishop” to keep watch in all parts of the city.32

Four weeks after the inaugural concert series, another series of concerts was announced. From the Nauvoo Neighbor, great music was promised: “There will be a three days’ concert (April 7th, 8th, and 9th) at the Music Hall. Our musicians and ‘sweet singers’ will give a specimen of ‘rich licks’, and expect a ‘little rhino’ in return. For further particulars see hand bill, and for reality step in and snatch a taste beyond the reach of art.”33

It seems that there were now high expectations for these music marathons. Examining the handbill that advertised the event (fig. 6), we can see that the program changed nightly. This was an adventurous undertaking. The choir was not so heavily featured this time, singing only once before each intermission, and accompanied by the band. Sixteen glees in total were performed throughout the three-day event. These were unaccompanied vocal trios or quartets that harmonized to secular songs of the day. As well as playing overtures and grand marches with his band, William Pitt also played solo numbers on the flute and violin. There were a few vocal duets and solos, John Kay taking the spotlight. Hosea Stout attended all three evenings with his wife, Louisa, and on the first night wrote, “I went with her to a grand concert of vocal and instrumental music at the Concert Hall at six o’clock P.M. We were well entertained until about 11 o’clock and came home.”34 The Nauvoo Neighbor published this review:

Our Concert: The concerts at the Music Hall, last week, were excellent. The compositions and music, most of which was the natural production of the city of JOSEPH, (for so it is the intention to call Nauvoo,) was first rate, and does great credit to the genius and talent of the saints. . . .

It was made up of the sacred, sentimental, and comic, and done up to the very sense of the heart.35

This series of concerts set a different tone than the previous one. There were at least three more concerts later in the month (April 20, 21, and 22), although they were not advertised in the Nauvoo Neighbor.36

The hall became a hub of activity for other events throughout the next few months, as well as the continued use by the school. During the summer, the hall was also occupied from time to time by the “female association for the manufacturing of straw bonnets, hats, and straw trimmings,” in fulfillment of Bishop Newell K. Whitney’s admonition a few months earlier that straw hats be made.37 To celebrate the Fourth of July, another concert was held, in which the proceeds went to the “old police.” William Pitt’s band, as well as John Kay’s popular solo voice, were prominent features of the concert.38

Reportedly, another grand concert of vocal and instrumental music was held in the Music Hall at which the Nauvoo choir and band performed. The choir sang “Strike the Cymbal,” “Heavenly Visions,” “Jerusalem,” and the “Dedication Hymn.” Included were a violin trio, a grand slow march, and an overture.39

The Hall Used as a Place of Preparation for the Exodus

The heat of enemy conflict against the Saints grew to a fever pitch by the fall of 1845.40 Instead of being a place of concertizing, the hall was used as a place of refuge for Saints who had been living in the many settlements outside the city. The Seventies had used the Music Hall for meetings41 but were now forced to meet elsewhere so that the refugee Saints, along with their furniture, could be housed in the hall. Soon the hall joined the list of buildings that the Saints were hastily trying to sell. On October 31, 1845, the Twelve sent a letter to Catholic Bishop John B. Purcell in Cincinnati, Ohio, offering to sell the Music Hall with various other buildings if they wanted them.42 At the end of November 1845, at a Sunday meeting in the Music Hall, Thomas Bullock wrote, “The day was very cold, with thick ice on the river. At 11 a.m. the seventies met in the Concert Hall. Brigham Young met with the captains of the emigrating companies and gave them instruction to prepare themselves for the journey to the west. It was reported that 3,285 families had been organized into companies, 1,508 wagons were on hand and 1,892 wagons were being built.”43 The finality of knowing that they were to abandon their beloved city and its newly constructed buildings must have been devastating to them. By mid-December there must have been some respite because the Seventies resumed their meetings in the Music Hall.44

On December 6, a meeting was held in the hall to discuss the exodus westward, and subsequent meetings were held there as Saints frantically tried to find the means to leave.45 These meetings held by the Seventies continued until the exodus from Nauvoo.

Pitt’s Nauvoo Brass Band also kept minutes of their meetings, and their records indicate that they met in the Music Hall often. A record called “A Book containing the Minutes of Joseph’s City Band” existed at one point but may no longer be extant. Horace Whitney, reporting in the Contributor, had access to it in 1880, and what he transcribes from some of its pages reveal a few more particulars, including the last three performances that the hall hosted. The transcribed minutes report that there would be “a grand concert” at the Music Hall on January 17, 1846. Interestingly, tickets were sold to pay off a debt for instruments that the band had purchased in St. Louis.46 The height of concern for most people at this point was to sell their homes and use all their resources to purchase necessities for the journey west, but this pressing need did not deter crowds of people from attending the concert. The band minutes offer a glowing report of the proceedings and note how the money was also used for other purposes. “The concert appears to have been a decided success; it was given three times, on the last occasion for the benefit of the Temple hands, and each evening drew a crowded house.”47 This concert series marked the end of Nauvoo’s cultural spectacle at its very best, and what better way to celebrate than in the hall their beloved Joseph had planned. Although the future was precarious for everyone in attendance, this was their last chance to unify their souls in song and merriment. At each concert, twenty-four pieces were performed. The mood varied from the comical to the serious. It was a poignant moment when a vocal trio sang, “Satan, Spare the Saints,” as the snow fell that final night.48

As the final chords were struck and final notes sung from within the Music Hall on January 19, 1846, attendees knew that they would not enjoy the luxury of listening to the Saints’ musical best in the comfort of this hall anymore. The success of these music extravaganzas, which fulfilled Joseph Smith’s vision for the hall, were short-lived. Within two weeks, the first group of Saints left Nauvoo. During the few short months that the hall was filled with music, it became a haven from the oppression the Saints felt.

The building continued to be used for gatherings. The 25th Quorum of the Seventies met in the Music Hall during the first few weeks of 1846, while hundreds were departing from Nauvoo daily. These gatherings included parties as well as sober meetings. On January 26, they held a feast for themselves and their wives.49 On March 2, the Seventies met again in the hall, where it was announced that those who had not yet received their endowments would receive them in the wilderness.50 A week later, on March 9, knowing they were meeting for the last time, the Seventies asked the Nauvoo Brass Band to play for them.51

The Abandoned Music Hall

By April 1846, the hall was on the market to be sold. In a new local weekly paper, the Hancock Eagle, the Music Hall was advertised for sale (fig. 7). It was eventually sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church for $310 in February 1847.52 A search through extant land and property records provides no indication that the hall was still standing by the end of 1848.53 It may be possible that the 1850 tornado that toppled most of the temple also damaged the Music Hall. Interestingly enough, a journal entry from George A. Smith in 1856, when he and Erastus Snow traveled through Nauvoo, mentions the Music Hall apparently still standing:

Went to Nauvoo Put up at the Mansion. . . . Elder Snow & myself Waked the Town in the Dark & mornd over the desolation of Joseph City & the hard hearted condition of his fmily Slept in Room No & Mansion, Room Dirty, Nauvoo Look desolate the Site is vary hansome the Best Buildings are standing mostly out of Repair The Mason hall is dilapidated Seventy hall & Concert Hall Look the Worse for Wear the Mansion house was not kepe in order has not bene cleand up Lately or Repanted Since Joseph Smith Done it the old Temple Looks sorry.54

And in a letter to T. B. H. Stenhouse, Smith wrote,

We also made a flying visit to Nauvoo or the city of Joseph. I should judge that about three fourths of the Mormon buildings had been torn down, removed, or destroyed. Many of the best buildings remaining, show clearly the effects of ten years neglect. Although most of them are inhabited, few appear to be kept in repair. . . . My mind imperceptibly drew a contrast between Nauvoo in its glory and Salt Lake City, and from looking at the Masonic Hall, Seventies and Concert Halls, and Arsenal, my conclusion was that Salt Lake City is so far ahead of Nauvoo, that the latter could be better compared with Provo, more properly in its public buildings, machinery &c; but not in population.55

By 1976, the National Register of Historic Places listed the Concert Hall as “no longer extant.”56

We often recount the loss of the Saints’ homes and the pinnacle of their spiritual worship, the temple they had so painstakingly built, but they had also left behind the nucleus of their musical yearnings. Fortunately, just as they could make temporary homes and perform religious rituals out on the plains, they could also create music with unified voices and instruments. The music was a lifeline for the Saints and was the something they could carry with them that could not be spoiled. This legacy has been handed down, and today we obtain the same response as we unify our voices and hearts to lift us spiritually and socially to a higher plane.

Darrell Babidge

When I was a master’s student at BYU, I enjoyed the classes I took as a music major, but what really grabbed my attention were the Church history classes I elected to take. My interest in Church history grew from that moment on, and when I joined the faculty in the School of Music at BYU a few years later, I was drawn to find a research project to align with my love of music and Church history. It didn’t take me long. I kept coming across brief journal entries about a music or concert hall in Nauvoo. This music hall was not the same building as the Masonic Hall (later known as the Cultural Hall), and so my curiosity got the better of me. This was a specifically designated building for music making, and I was compelled to find out more.

I traveled to Nauvoo to do some research. I went to the Visitors’ Center, looking for the miniature building of the concert hall on the dais map, knowing it would be a block north of the temple. To my amazement there was no indication of it ever being there. This then became my quest: to put this wonderful concertizing hall back “on the map.”

That Joseph Smith chose an elevated plot of land a block north of the temple for the use of vocal and instrumental music intrigued me. I would like to think that his vision of this building, which he never saw completed, was a pinnacle tribute to his love of music.

Darrell Babidge was a member of the BYU Music School faculty from 2006 to 2019 and will begin teaching voice as a faculty member at the Juilliard School in New York City in fall 2019. He will also teach at the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. He earned a bachelors in vocal performance at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, United Kingdom; a masters at Brigham Young University; and a professional degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He has performed at the Metropolitan Opera and as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and has sung throughout Europe, Asia, and America. Students he taught at BYU and privately now sing at opera houses throughout the world and record for major labels.


1. Records indicate that the hall was known variously as the Music Hall, Concert Hall, and Music and Concert Hall.

2. On appreciation for the arts among the Latter-day Saints in the 1800s, see for example Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989); Gideon O. Burton, “Mormons, Opera, and Mozart,” BYU Studies 43, no. 3 (2004): 23–29; Ronald L. Davis, A History of Music in American Life, Volume 1: The Formative Years, 1620–1865 (Malabar, Fla.: Robert Krieger Publishing, 1982), 240. Compare the absence of music halls in the description of American frontier towns as noted in Lewis Atherton, Main Street on the Middle Border (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954), 28–30.

3. “History, 1838–1856, Volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843],” 1540, Joseph Smith Papers, accessed May 154, 2019, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-d-1-1-august-1842-1-july-1843/183.

4. All of these halls were multi-use buildings and were used for meetings, musical events, socials, and private events, as well as their specified purpose.

5. The Music Hall was the largest public gathering place in the community. Brigham Young stated, “Masonic hall will hold 300. Music Hall 500 and 70s Hall about 400 also the academy which is not yet finished.” Brigham Young, Minutes, December 9, 1845, Brigham Young Collection, 1840–1846, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City. See also Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 192; Hosea Stout, Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861, MSS 7418, 34, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

6. These shares were issued by June 1843 (or perhaps earlier) and continued to be issued until at least January 1845. The funds may have been used to pay expenses of the Nauvoo Music Association in addition to the construction of the Music Hall.

7. “Nauvoo Music and Concert Hall,” Nauvoo Neighbor, October 30, 1844, 2.

8. Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 59.

9. Joseph Smith Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed., rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 7:363–64.

10. Howard Coray, Journal of Howard Coray, typescript produced at Brigham Young University Library, 1961, 19, Perry Special Collections.

11. History of the Church, 7:327. Such an event is not mentioned in the Nauvoo Neighbor.

12. Brigham Young, Journals, January 10, 1845, CR 1234 1, box 71, folder 2, Church History Library; History of the Church, 7:351.

13. History of the Church, 7:363–64. William Pitt and John Pack were also on the committee. “Grand Concert,” Nauvoo Neighbor, February 26, 1845, 3.

14. Sounding jars were used in ancient Greece and Rome and into the medieval era and were “espoused again in the 19th century in attempts to improve the acoustics of large concert and assembly halls.” Robert G. Arns and Bret E. Crawford, “Resonant Cavities in the History of Architectural Acoustics,” Technology and Culture 36, no. 1 (January 1995): 105.

15. History of the Church, 7:352, 365; Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, “‘All Things Move in Order in the City’: The Nauvoo Diary of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs,” BYU Studies 19, no. 3 (1979): 301.

16. Heber Chase Kimball, Diaries, photocopies, February 3, 1845, MSS SC 1859, Perry Special Collections; Stanley B. Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 95.

17. “Grand Concert,” 3.

18. “Elder Kimball’s Remarks,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 7, 1845, 2.

19. Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 59–60.

20. “Hymn for the Dedication of the Nauvoo Concert Hall,” Contributor, March 1880, 137; see also William E. Purdy, “They Marched Their Way West: The Nauvoo Brass Band,” Ensign 10 (July 1980): 21.

21. L. O. L., “The Concert: ‘Music Hath Charms,’” Nauvoo Neighbor, March 12, 1845, 2.

22. Beecher, “Nauvoo Diary of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs,” 305.

23. “Elder Kimball’s Remarks,” 2.

24. L. O. L., “The Concert: ‘Music Hath Charms,’” 2; italics in original.

25. L. O. L., “The Concert: ‘Music Hath Charms,’” 2.

26. L. O. L., “The Concert: ‘Music Hath Charms,’” 3.

27. “Elder Kimball’s Remarks,” 2.

28. J. H., “On the Laws of Nature,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 23, 1845, 1.

29. Charles C. Rich, Journal, March 8, 1845, Charles C. Rich DVD Library (Provo, Utah: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute and BYU Studies, 2005): “Saturday 8th. Attended a Ladies meting at the Music Hall in the forenoon and the High Council in the afternoon.”

30. “Remarks of Elder Orson Spencer, on Monday Evening, the 10th Ult.,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 7, 1845, 3.

31. Kimball, Diaries, March 17, 1845; Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel, 98.

32. John Lee Allaman, “Policing in Mormon Nauvoo,” Illinois Historical Journal 89, no. 2 (1996): 94; History of the Church, 7:388; Kimball, Diaries, April 20–21, 1845.

33. “Three Days’ Concert,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 2, 1845, 2; emphasis in original. “Rhino” is a slang term for money.

34. Hosea Stout, Journal and Letters 1829–1915, MSS 7418, Perry Special Collections.

35. “Our Concert,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 16, 1845, 2; italics in original.

36. Kimball Diaries, April 20–21, 1845; Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel, 105–6; “Singing,” Nauvoo Neighbor, April 23, 1845, 2.

37. “Notice to the Ladies,” Nauvoo Neighbor, May 21, 1845, 3.

38. “Concert,” Nauvoo Neighbor, June 25, 1845, 2.

39. Roger D. Launius and John E. Hallwas, eds., Kingdom on the Mississippi Revisited: Nauvoo in Mormon History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 80.

40. Leonard, Nauvoo, 508–621.

41. Seventies Quorum Records Volume 1, Second Quorum Minutes, September 27, 1845, CR 499, reel 1, Seventies Quorum Records 1844–1975, Church History Library; Brigham Young Journals, January 10, 1845, CR 1234 1, box 71, folder 2, Church History Library; History of the Church 7:549; Greg R. Knight, ed., Thomas Bullock Nauvoo Journal (Orem: Grandin Press, 1994) 50, 77; Samuel H. Rogers, Reminiscences and Journal, 1841–1886, MS 883, reel 1, Church History Library.

42. Lisle G. Brown, “‘A Perfect Estopel’: Selling the Nauvoo Temple,” Mormon Historical Studies 3, no. 2 (2002): 61–85; History of the Church 7:508–9.

43. History of the Church, 7:532; see also Knight, Thomas Bullock Nauvoo Journal; “Note of Preparation,” Times and Seasons, November 15, 1845, 1031.

44. History of the Church, 7:441; Seventies Quorum Records Volume 1, Second Quorum Minutes, September 27, 1845.

45. Nauvoo Brass Band Records, cited in Horace G. Whitney, “An Interesting Record,” Contributor 1, no. 9 (1880): 196.

46. Later, out on the plains of Iowa, William Pitt and his band played these instruments to help unify their fellow Saints as they slowly crossed the muddy grasslands of Iowa.

47. Whitney, “Interesting Record,” 197.

48. Nauvoo Brass Band Records, cited in Whitney, “Interesting Record,” 196.

49. Seventies Quorum Records Volume 1, Twenty-fifth Quorum Minutes, January 26, 1856, CR 499, reel 79, Seventies Quorum Records 1844–1975.

50. Seventies Quorum Records Volume 1, Twenty-fifth Quorum Minutes, January 26, 1856.

51. Seventies Quorum Records Volume 1, Twenty-fifth Quorum Minutes, March 9, 1846.

52. Land Deeds, Carthage County Hall Offices, Carthage, Illinois.

53. Archives Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois.

54. George A. Smith, Journal, October 30, 1856, MS 1322, box 2, folder 10, George A. Smith Papers 1834–1877, Church History Library.

55. George A. Smith, “Cor[r]espondence of Hon. Geo. A. Smith,” The Mormon, November 15, 1856, 3, https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/sources/8736/smith-geo-a-cor-r-espondence-of-hon-geo-a-smith-the-mormon-15-nov-1856-3.

56. National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form, 3, https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/f8f12647-0a4d-4a83-ae21-1d06b0de1540. The form notes only twelve structures in the section “Representation in Existing Surveys” in 1934, and the Music Hall was probably not among them.

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