The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is welcoming back Broadway and Disney star Lea Salonga — this time for a series of concerts in the Philippines, Salonga’s home country.

Salonga, well known as the powerful singing voice behind Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan, will join as a guest artist for the choir’s performances in the Philippines next year. The announcement comes about a year after Salonga made her debut with the choir as a guest artist for the annual Christmas concert in Salt Lake City.

Although Salonga didn’t have much familiarity with the choir up to that point, she said taking part in the Christmas concert was a memory of a lifetime.

“I’m not going to forget that sound, and being enveloped by it,” Salonga said during a press conference with the choir last year.

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Tabernacle Choir heading to the Philippines for the first time

Next year’s performances in the Philippines, which will run from Feb. 20-29, marks the second stop on the choir’s “Hope” world tour — and the choir’s first visit to the Philippines, according to a news release sent to the Deseret News.

Internationally, the Philippines has one of the highest viewerships of “Music & the Spoken Word,” the choir’s weekly broadcast, per the release.

The choir also recently announced that the Tabernacle Choir’s annual Christmas concert will be broadcast in the Philippines for the first time. Last year’s concert, which featured Salonga and British actor Sir David Suchet, will air Dec. 24 on CNN Philippines, the church’s Philippines area Facebook page shared.

The move comes as the choir recently expanded its mission statement to add the words “throughout the world.” The choir’s president, former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, shared that news during a press conference earlier this month, noting that the concert would be available in both the Philippines and London for the first time.

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The choir launched its “Hope” tour earlier this year with performances in Mexico City, as the Deseret News previously reported. Over the next four years, the choir and orchestra plans to travel twice a year to different parts of the world. 

“Our goal is to magnify the choir’s impact throughout the world by helping people feel God’s love for his children,” Leavitt said in a statement earlier this year. “Our performances will be free. Many will be livestreamed so local congregations in the regions we visit can invite their friends and communities to participate.”

Lea Salonga sings during The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Christmas concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Lea Salonga’s appearance in the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert

During last year’s Christmas concert, Salonga — who won a Tony Award for her role in “Miss Saigon” — talked about her Filipina heritage and shared the meaning behind the Christmas song “Payapang Daigdig,” which she said is “especially beloved” in the Philippines.

“In my home country, the Philippines, Christmas actually begins in September,” Salonga said, per the Deseret News. “That’s how much we love the holiday. And it’s not just the decorations, the food and the presents — we love the music.”

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Salonga explained how Manila, the capital of the Philippines, was attacked in 1942 just a few weeks after the Pearl Harbor bombings. By the time World War II ended three years later, the city was almost completely destroyed, Salonga said.

A year later, on Christmas night in 1946, the young musician Felipe Padilla de Leon climbed to the top of the tallest remaining roof, looked out upon the devastation and felt inspired to write a carol of peace.

“It has brought hope and healing to the Filipino people ever since,” Salonga said. “May it bring hope to you this Christmas as well.”

The choir’s February performances in the Philippines will touch on the music and choral traditions of the country, according to the release.

“It was a delight to have Lea Salonga share her extraordinary talents at our Christmas concert last year in Salt Lake City,” Mack Wilberg, the choir’s music director, said in a statement. “It is an honor for the choir to go to Lea’s home country to perform with her again and experience the kindness of the Filippino people.”