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Tabernacle Choir will host TV special in lieu of traditional Christmas concert this year

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs on Dec. 11, 2003. The choir will be providing a two-hour TV special in 2021 showing the last 20 years of Christmas concerts.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs on Dec. 11, 2003. The choir will be providing a two-hour TV special in 2021 showing the last 20 years of Christmas concerts. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A television special with an overview of the last 20 years of Christmas concerts will replace this year's Christmas concert that has been a tradition for the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, the choir announced Friday.

"Every year, the Christmas concert by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square is a gift to the world from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year, our gift is this 20th anniversary special with highlights from two decades of concerts celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ," choir President Michael O. Leavitt said in a news release.

The television special is titled "20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir," and is narrated by Brian Stokes Mitchell, a Broadway singer and actor. The broadcast will be available on PBS and BYUtv. It will air on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. MST.

The 2020 Christmas concert was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leavitt said he is excited to continue the tradition of a Christmas program this year through the broadcast.

Mack Wilberg, director of the Tabernacle Choir, said the hardest part of compiling the 2-hour documentary was selecting what to include because of the "wealth of material" available. The goal was to provide the story of the Christmas concert and feature both members of the choir and guest artists.

"Putting together this retrospective was a remarkable, unexpected journey," Wilberg said in the release.

Although the program is built from previous concerts, there are some new additions to the program this year including an arrangement by Wilberg of "That's What Christmas Means to Me" with Wilberg on the piano and Mitchell singing, and a rendition of "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly," by "a socially distanced Orchestra at Temple Square," and separately recorded videos of choir members creating a virtual choir.

The Tabernacle Choir resumed practices during the last few months, and a socially distanced choir performed at the most recent session of the church's general conference.

The choir announced that it will also begin taping for the 2022 program this December. The taping sessions will not be open to the public, but invited guests including the families of choir members will be able to be in the audience.

Guests artists for the 2022 program include actress and singer Megan Hilty, known for her portrayal of Ivy Lynn in NBC's musical drama "Smash." The Tony Award nominee also starred in "Patsy & Loretta" on Lifetime. Actor and producer Neal McDonough, seen in more than 100 films including "Captain America," "Greater" and "Forever Strong" will also join the choir for the December TV taping sessions.

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