Joseph Daynes: Mormon Musician

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Joseph Daynes Mormon Musician

Joseph John Daynes was the first Tabernacle organist. He served as accompanist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and as a soloist.

Daynes was also a composer. Perhaps his best-known piece is “As the Dew from Heaven Distilling,” which is the traditional closing hymn played during the weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts. He was one of the principal editors of the Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody and he wrote the music for many of the hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he was a lifelong member. The 1985 Church Hymnbook contains five hymns he composed; the previous hymnal had twenty-seven, including “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice”; “We’ll Sing with One Accord”; “Lord, Accept Our True Devotion”; and the lesser known “Great God, Attend While Zion Sings.”

Daynes was born on April 2, 1851, in Norwich, England, to John and Eliza Daynes. The family was converted to the Church and were baptized and immigrated to Utah Territory in 1862. The Daynes family was musical and brought several instruments with them. According to family history:

Each evening when the Saints camped for the night a concert would be given at which the singing would be lead by John Daynes and the accompaniment played by Joseph J. Daynes on the little Melodeon [a small one-rank pump organ]. When the emigrants arrived in Salt Lake City they camped on the square now occupied by the City and County Building and, following the custom, indulged in a musical entertainment.
President Brigham Young made a practice of calling at the point of encampment as the various emigrant trains arrived in the valley, for the purpose of welcoming the saints. He arrived at the camp ground just as the concert was being given and was at once attracted to the young musician, then eleven years old, performing in a remarkable manner on the little organ. President Young at once said, “There is our organist for the great Tabernacle organ.”[1]

Daynes was sent to New York to study music and when the organ was completed in August 1867, he became the first Tabernacle organist at age sixteen. He held the position for more than thirty years. He resigned in 1900.

Daynes and his wife, Mary Jane Sharp, were the parents of seven children. Daynes died on January 15, 1920. In 1862, Joseph’s father, John Daynes, founded Daynes Music, the oldest continuously run family business in Utah.