Deseret Book Acquires Entertainment Group

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, November 15, 2004 – Robert H. Garff, Chairman  of the Board of Deseret Book Company, announced today that Deseret Book has acquired Excel Entertainment Group, effective immediately.  This acquisition brings together the leading publisher, retailer and distributor of religious products for members of the LDS Church with the highly successful LDS film distributor and music producer/distributor. 

“The real winners in this merger are the families who are interested in wholesome entertainment,” said Garff.  “There are so many products that downgrade our society.  The alternatives that Deseret Book and Excel provide are so needed and wanted.  I am personally thrilled that these two great companies have found a way to combine publishing and distribution together for the betterment of our communities.”

Deseret Book will retain many of Excel’s employees, including company President Jeff Simpson, who becomes Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Deseret Book.

“We believe this is one of those rare acquisitions that has the potential to truly be a win-win, because it is a merger of complementary strengths,” said Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book.  “Excel has demonstrated marketing excellence in music and film.  Their strengths, combined with Deseret Book’s strong retail and publishing brands, will make it possible for all of us to provide customers with better and greater entertainment options.  Deseret Book has always had quality as one of its hallmarks.  We’ve long been impressed with Excel’s commitment to excellence in the media they’ve brought to this market.”

America‘s Choir” to Air on Nationwide Thanksgiving Broadcast

By Laurie Williams Sowby

Public Broadcasting System stations nationwide have announced that the film America’s Choir, which features the Tabernacle Choir, will air on Thanksgiving night in a nationwide broadcast.  Although the film, along with a companion book and CD, made its official debut in July, the Thanksgiving broadcast may be the first opportunity for many Church members to see the film. 

Jim Bell, manager of marketing and communications at KBYU, estimated that 90 percent of the 200 PBS affiliates across the country have picked up the broadcast, sponsored by WETA in Washington, D.C., in cooperation with KBYU. Viewers will need to check local listings for times.

He noted that the broadcast will have the highest carriage of any show in 2004 and hopes America’s Choir will have the same kind of enduring popularity as A Thanksgiving of American Folk Hymns, a 1999 KBYU-produced special featuring BYU’s choirs.

Heidi Swinton and Lee Groberg, the pair responsible for three award-winning books and documentaries on Joseph Smith, the Nauvoo Temple and the Mormon Trail in recent years, have again teamed up for this special project.  The film traces the 150-year history of the Tabernacle Choir from its humble beginnings under a bowery in the newly-settled Salt Lake Valley to its performances at presidential inaugurations and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The choir marked its 75th year of broadcasting “Music and the Spoken Word” on July 18, 2004, and clips of early broadcasts are among many in the film that go behind the scenes as well as in front of the choir. Interviews with present choir director Craig Jessop as well as his predecessor Jerold Ottley, along with choir president Mac Christensen and members of the choir, give a personal touch to the documentary.

Guest artists who have performed with the choir – among them Bryn Terfel, Charles Osgood, Angela Lansbury, Walter Cronkite, Sting, Roma Downey and the King’s Singers – add their thoughts on the choir’s artistry and success.

The 136-page book is nicely laid out with well-written narrative and engaging color photos, old and new, which tell the story of the choir. Chapters bear hymn titles. The book details not only the background of the choir and orchestra, including performing tours, but also the building of the Tabernacle and organ – facts that are repeated in the documentary film. Present and former choir members will find their names listed alphabetically at the back of the book, following a timeline of important events in the choir’s history.

On its own label, the Tabernacle Choir has released a CD of the same title, featuring 16 of the choir’s all-time favorite hymns, anthems and songs, accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square. It’s a fitting display of the choir’s versatility as well as musicality. Along with hymns such as “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” there are popular favorites “Cindy,” “Danny Boy” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Of course, the CD includes “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Be With You ‘Till We Meet again,” the signature closer of its Sunday morning broadcasts.