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The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square cancels the Christmas concert. Here’s what to expect instead

The Christmas concert — the largest undertaking of the choir’s 75 performances each year — has been canceled. The annual tradition draws 63,000 people to downtown Salt Lake City and has featured prominent guest artists like Renee Fleming, Kristin Chenoweth and Walter Cronkite.

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Kristin Chenoweth sings with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square during their opening Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The choir announced on Friday that it has canceled the Christmas concert for 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After months of playing the waiting game, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has officially made a decision: The 360 singers will be sitting out the rest of the 2020 season, the Deseret News reported Friday. 

“The sad reality is that singing is one of the most efficient ways of spreading this virus,” Scott Barrick, the choir’s general manager, said last month.

That means no Christmas concert — the largest undertaking of the choir’s 75 performances each year. The annual tradition, which began in 2000, draws 63,000 people to downtown Salt Lake City and has featured prominent guest artists like Renee Fleming, Kristin Chenoweth and Walter Cronkite

“This is disappointing for all of us,” choir president Ron Jarrett said Friday, according to the Deseret News. “But we have found a silver lining in these unique times by discovering innovative ways to share our vast repository of music with more people globally than ever before through the blessing of modern technology.”

Last month, the choir was still in the “analysis” phase of deciding what to do about the annual Christmas concert, Barrick told the Deseret News, saying at the time that the choir had “options” and wouldn’t “disappoint.”

The choir is following the direction of its sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to avoid large public gatherings where COVID-19 is present, theDeseret News reported Friday.

Since there won’t be a live Christmas concert this year, it’s unclear what will happen with the annual concert broadcast in December 2021. But Jarrett hinted that a solution is already being considered, the Deseret News reported. 

“We are exploring ways to continue the choir’s annual traditions of TV specials and recordings next year, even in the absence of a live Christmas concert in 2020,” he said.

In the meantime, Barrick told the Deseret News last month that people can expect to see the 2019 Christmas concert — featuring Broadway star Kelli O’Hara and “The Waltons” actor Richard Thomas — on BYUtv and PBS this year. The PBS network has aired the Christmas special since 2004, and for most of those years, the concert has been the network’s top-rated holiday broadcast.

Last month, Barrick said the choir has gained a greater following in recent months as it has relied on previously recorded broadcasts and performances. While Barrick looks forward to the choir reuniting and putting together new performances, he said the most important thing is to contain the virus.

“We have to be sure that before we can gather the choir together and the orchestra, too, … we just have to make sure that it’s safe for everybody,” he said. “But particularly during this COVID time frame, the esteem and the appreciation for the work of the choir has just been wonderful. Even though we have this period where we are without the choir, we still have all of their wonderful performances we’ll be continuing to share.

“So regardless of what happens, a lot of the choir is still around.”

Read here for a history of the Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts.