The Tabernacle Choir and Temple Square Christmas is one of the most festive Christmas experiences you can have. In our latest episode of the Merry Little Podcast we speak with Scott Barrick of the Tabernacle Choir about the Christmas traditions of the Tabernacle Choir and Temple Square:
- Tabernacle Choir and Temple Square Christmas MyMerryChristmas.com 31:32
Many get a taste of the Tabernacle Choir concert via PBS on television every Christmas. The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square share recorded presentations of their annual Christmas concert each Christmas. This year they celebrate this tradition with a new special looking back at the past 20 years.
~ Tabernacle Choir Television Special ~
The special two-hour anniversary retrospective program is hosted by Broadway legend and Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell. The special will premiere on Monday Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video app; and on BYUtv, BYUtv.org and the free BYUtv app on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 9 p.m. ET.
Performances from more than 40 guest artists and narrators who have starred in the Christmas tradition over the past 20 years will be featured, including Broadway stars Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Angela Lansbury, Kelli O’Hara, Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes; R&B singer Gladys Knight; the late jazz singer Natalie Cole; pop singer David Archuleta; legendary newscasters Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw; historian David McCullough; the Muppets from “Sesame Street”; actors Jane Seymour, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Thomas, the late Ed Herrmann, John Rhys-Davies, Roma Downey, the late Peter Graves, Claire Bloom, Michael York and Martin Jarvis; opera stars Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, Nathan Gunn, Alfie Boe, Sissel, Rolando Villazón and four Metropolitan Opera soloists and the London-based a cappella group, The King’s Singers. Collectively, the featured guests have garnered 34 Grammy Awards, 19 Tony Awards, 14 Emmy Awards, 10 Golden Globe Awards, three BAFTA Awards, one Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Olivier Award.
“So much effort and creativity went into preserving this beloved tradition—now 20 years strong—in the middle of a global pandemic that has disrupted so much,” said Brian Stokes Mitchell. “I am honored to be a part of it. Not only will viewers enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce the most watched holiday special on PBS for 16 years, but they will also be able to feast on all of the wonderful moments this holiday special has delivered over the past two decades and remember how music connects people in very profound ways.”
~ Tabernacle Choir Virtual Performance ~
This special two-hour “20 Years of Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” retrospective replaces the traditional TV special that would have been created from a live Christmas concert in 2020 that had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions. In new segments filmed in November 2020 (following COVID protocols), Mitchell joined a handful of socially distanced Orchestra members and the Choir’s musical director Mack Wilberg in an empty 21,000 seat Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to record intimate Christmas classics. The Choir also joins Stokes and the Orchestra in its first-ever all virtual performance.
Woven throughout the intimate performances, behind-the-scenes views, reflections and storytelling led by Mitchell are soul-stirring standout moments. Highlights include a rendition of “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” featuring Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, Kristin Chenoweth, Laura Osnes, Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Deborah Voigt, Alfie Boe and Nathan Gunn; “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” featuring Audra McDonald; Gospel favorite “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” featuring Gladys Knight; Angela Lansbury joining the Choir in “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd”; “O Holy Night” featuring Kristin Chenoweth; “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” from “The King and I,” featuring Kelli O’Hara; “My Grown-Up Christmas List,” featuring the late Natalie Cole; plus performances from the Muppets from “Sesame Street”; Broadway star Santino Fontana; operatic stars Deborah Voigt, Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Bryn Terfel, Frederica Von Stade; Alfie Boe; soloists from the Metropolitan Opera; and The King’s Singers.
In addition to the musical performances, which reflect a variety of musical styles and traditions from around the world, the special highlights the range of past narrators who have joined the Choir and Orchestra to tell the stories of Christmas, including Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey,” “Paddington”), John Rhys-Davies (“The Lord of the Rings,” “Indiana Jones”), Jane Seymour (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Somewhere in Time”), Richard Thomas (“The Waltons,” “The Americans”), the late Ed Hermann (“The Lost Boys,” “Annie”), legendary news broadcasters including the late Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw and more. Together with the music, these standout moments help tell the storied history of this beloved institution, which every year celebrates the love, spirit and peace of the season.
“Due to COVID-19, we couldn’t have the in-person audience we always do, but the lockdown gave us a chance to provide audiences at home something different than they would experience in a normal concert year,” said Wilberg. “Because of the remarkable breadth of material we have from 20 years of Christmas concerts, there will be something for everyone in this retrospective, making it a wonderful way to celebrate and emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. It’s always a joy working with Brian Stokes Mitchell, who is not only a consummate performer, but also a warm and incredible person—qualities that comes across in everything he does. We are so pleased he is the one to tell the story of this concert tradition.”
In addition to the airings on PBS and BYUtv, ”20 Years of Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” is available for purchase as a DVD with the same name. A companion book, “Keepsake Christmas Stories: Holiday Favorites as Performed with The Tabernacle Choir,” features narrations and color photographs from many of the Christmas concerts. “Christmas Best,” an audio recording of select Christmas music by the Choir and Orchestra, is available to stream, download or purchase at SmartURL.it/ChristmasBest2021.
~ About Temple Square ~
The Tabernacle Choir calls Temple Square in Salt Lake City home. Temple Square is a ten acre plot of land first identified by Brigham Young in 1847 as the city-center location for the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This downtown location has developed over the decades into a beautiful campus of both modern and pioneer-era structures, including the famous egg-shell shaped building known as the Tabernacle, for which the Choir is named. In 2000, the Church built the Conference Center across the street from Temple Square, a multi-purpose facility seating 21,000 people. It is the venue where the Tabernacle Choir performs its many concerts, including the annual Christmas concert.