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It’s the toughest ticket in church entertainment.
Usually, people make a total of 1 million ticket requests to attend one of the three live performances of the annual Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Christmas Concert in the Conference Center. The building’s capacity is 21,000, so in a normal year up to 63,000 people see one of the concerts, which are filmed and then edited to become a Christmas special broadcast on PBS and BYUtv.
This is no normal year.
For one thing, the choir’s phased approach to returning from the pandemic meant officials weren’t able to plan on a concert this year until October. For another, there are no tickets this year. The choir will tape the 2022 PBS/BYUtv Christmas concert special in front of a far smaller live audience made up only of family members of the choir and a small number of invited guests.
“We didn’t decide to do a concert this year until two months ago,” Tabernacle Choir music director Mack Wilberg said. “Most years, we think about the next year before we’ve actually executed the plans for the year before.”
Some audio is already in the can, but the show will be filmed Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the two headliners:
- Broadway star Megan Hilty is fresh off her appearance earlier this month in NBC’s musical special “Annie Live!” She was nominated for a Tony Award for best actress in a Broadway show in 2016, when she won the Broadway.com audience award in that category. She has also played Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway production of “Wicked.”
- Award-winning actor Neal McDonough is a devout Catholic who once was fired from a network show for refusing to do sex scenes. He played Lt. “Buck” Compton in “Band of Brothers” and has appeared in over 100 films and almost 1,000 hours of major television dramas. He won has two Satellite Awards for best supporting actor.
Wilberg was still writing music last week for this week’s taping. That’s why he didn’t travel to New York for the news conference about the choir’s $100,000 donation to the Actors Fund. Instead, he joined a panel discussion by Zoom. At the end of the call, Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell encouraged Wilberg to get back to his piano to finish the concert music.
Mitchell told the news conference that the Tabernacle Choir usually only rehearses the Christmas concert songs three times. Wilberg said he had a problem with getting the music printed for one of the songs the choir will film on Friday, so the choir rehearsed that song just twice.
Of course, given the stringent musical requirements for joining the choir, its members are adept at picking up material quickly.
And for the record, the choir and the Orchestra and Bells on Temple Square and trumpet ensemble — nearly 500 people for the Christmas concert — still are tested for COVID-19 every time they get together, said Scott Barrick, the choir’s general manager.
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