The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is moving forward with a Christmas concert this year — although it’s going to look a bit different amid the ongoing pandemic.
This year, the sold-out holiday tradition that draws 63,000 people to downtown Salt Lake City will be in the form of a TV special and internet stream called “20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir,” according to a news release.
“This year, our gift is this 20th anniversary special with highlights from two decades of concerts celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ,” Michael O. Leavitt, president of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, said in a statement on Friday. “Since COVID precluded holding and recording a live Christmas concert last December, we are extremely pleased to continue our decadeslong tradition of Christmas programming on PBS, with this exceptional broadcast.”
Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell will narrate and guest solo in the two-hour special, which premieres on PBS TV and PBS.org Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. MST.
Over 20 years, renowned artists like Angela Lansbury, Renee Fleming, Natalie Cole and Kristin Chenoweth have graced the Conference Center stage. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough and prominent news anchors like Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite — who even got to conduct the choir — have been narrators for the annual Christmas program.
“Putting together this retrospective was a remarkable, unexpected journey,” said Mack Wilberg, the choir’s music director. “The difficult part was selecting what should be included, given the wealth of material we had to work with. We also wanted to provide the interesting story of how the Christmas concert has been put together, featuring not only the army of volunteer performers from the choir organization, but also the many world-class guest artists we have had the privilege of working with over the past 20 years.”
While reflecting on the last two decades, the program will also highlight current projects, including Stokes’ performance of Wilberg’s new arrangement of “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” — featuring Wilberg on the piano — and a new solo from Tabernacle Choir organist Richard Elliott, who is always a crowd-pleaser in the Conference Center.
“20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir” will have several re-airings after its Dec. 13 premiere:
- Dec. 16, 7 p.m. MST on BYUtv and BYUtv.org
- Dec. 19, 5 p.m. MST on BYUtv and BYUtv.org
- Dec. 24, 6 p.m. MST on PBS TV
- Dec. 24, 8 p.m. MST on BYUtv and BYUtv.org
- Dec. 25, 1:35 p.m. MST on BYUtv and BYUtv.org
What about the Tabernacle Choir’s 2022 Christmas concert?
The Tabernacle Choir also revealed its plans for the 2022 Christmas concert, a taped program that will feature guest artists Megan Hilty and Neal McDonough.
Hilty is well known for her portrayal of Ivy Lynn in NBC’s musical drama “Smash,” and has appeared in the CBS shows “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight.” Her Broadway credits include Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked,” Doralee Rhodes in “9 to 5: The Musical,” and Brooke Ashton in “Noises Off.”
McDonough has appeared in more than 100 films, including “Captain America” and “Forever Strong.” He portrayed Lt. Compton in the World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers,” and Sean Cahill in the TV series “Suits.”
The 2022 Christmas program will be taped over several sessions with the choir, orchestra, bells and guest artists this December.
“Regrettably, due to the ongoing pandemic, we will have only a small, masked and socially distanced audience present, comprised primarily of choir organization members’ families,” Leavitt said. “This follows the pattern of recent general conference sessions and the upcoming First Presidency Christmas devotional.”