Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Oscar Hammerstein II’s Grandson Teams Up with Choir for RootsTech, Music and the Spoken Word

Without the Hammerstein family, Broadway just wouldn’t be Broadway as we know it. In 1864, Oscar Hammerstein I emigrated to America from Germany via Liverpool, England. After a three-month journey to the United States, Hammerstein arrived broke, with dreams of making it in the opera business.

He started working in a factory for $2 a week and eventually worked his way up the factory organization to become the creator and owner of 80 patents, many of which were machines that helped make the factory’s production process easier. With the money he made in the business, along with revenue from his many inventions, Hammerstein built theaters, including the Harlem Opera House, the Columbus Theatre, the Manhattan Opera House, and the Olympia Theatre. Sadly, his theater ventures were all financial failures and Hammerstein was once again broke.

Starting in the 1890s and into the early 1900s Hammerstein built more new theaters (eleven theaters in all), but all were too expensive to sustain, and once again he faced bankruptcy. Despite his struggles with the opera, Hammerstein earned the nickname “The Father of Times Square” because it became a thriving theater district. Hammerstein died in 1919 due to kidney problems.

Hammerstein’s son Willie, who managed his father’s most successful theater, the Victoria, had a son he named Oscar, after his father. Oscar Hammerstein II, along with Richard Rodgers, would go on to change musical theater forever. The highly influential partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein would produce a string of Broadway hits such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.

The songwriting partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein has been referred to as the greatest of the 20th century, and for the past 40 years, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed and recorded songs from the duo’s musicals. During RootsTech in 2017, the Choir performed a special concert with music from the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection, featuring guest soloist Dallyn Vail Bayles.

Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of Oscar Hammerstein II, narrated the RootsTech concert. In addition to serving as the Hammerstein family historian, he is also a painter, writer, and lecturer. Hammerstein III will also deliver the Spoken Word segment during the Choir’s Music and the Spoken Word broadcast Sunday, February 12, 2017. 

Broadway star and former Choir guest artist Laura Osnes performs "If I Loved You" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.