News Story

Tens of Thousands to Attend Christmas Concerts

Over 20,000 concertgoers are expected to attend each of the four performances of the annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square Christmas concert in the Conference Center.  This season’s concerts, titled Ring Christmas Bells, feature Tony Award-winning singer/actor Brian Stokes Mitchell and acclaimed actor Edward Herrmann. Mack Wilberg conducts the concerts with Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen and Andrew Unsworth at the organ.

A preview performance on Thursday, 11 December, preceded two evening concerts, Friday and Saturday, 12 and 13 December, and cast participation in the weekly CBS Network broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, Sunday, 14 December.

Returning to Salt Lake City after performances with the choir in September, Brian Stokes Mitchell shares his musical versatility in his guest appearance with songs ranging in genre from jazz to classical to pop. Mitchell, himself a composer and arranger with music featured in the concert, describes conductor Wilberg as a “kindred spirit” and anticipates the “fun and excitement” of the seasonal collaboration.

Wilberg says, “We are absolutely delighted to have these two great talents with us this Christmas. Our audiences fell in love with Stokes’ rich baritone and marvelous stage presence when he was here in September. Combining his talents with an actor the caliber of Edward Herrmann, for whom we have written a very special narration, will make this program one audiences will thoroughly enjoy.”

In the concert, Mitchell will perform three pieces he arranged himself in addition to those arranged by Wilberg.  Mitchell, during his associations with the choir conductor, discovered “that we feel music in the same way.” In the old English Carol “The Friendly Beasts,” Mitchell musically assumes the voices of the various animals in the stable and displays the broad range of his vocal talents. The gifted baritone also joins the choir and orchestra in the traditional French carol finale “Angels From the Realms of Glory.”

In keeping with the concert theme, versatile actor Edward Herrmann shares the poignant tale of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s composition of the poem “Christmas Bells,” which eventually became the beloved holiday carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow penned the meaningful text during the Christmas season of 1864 after learning of his son’s injuries in the Civil War and three years following the accidental death of his wife. “Longfellow suggests the hope for peace we all share,” Herrmann said. “I’m terribly moved to share this message in this remarkable venue.”  Herrmann will also narrate the timeless account of Jesus Christ’s birth in Luke 2.

Herrmann, whose narrations are familiar to public television or History Channel viewers, has also participated in similar readings with orchestras in other cities and claims a lengthy list of movie and television credits.

Joining the choir, orchestra and renowned guest artists will be the Bells on Temple Square, six local high school bell choirs and a community bell choir known as The Bells of a Joyful Sound. In addition, over 80 dancers from the community will participate in the program, as will a featured dance ensemble of eight ballet students, all choreographed by Carol Iwasaki of the University of Utah Department Of Ballet. Organ solos by Tabernacle organists Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen, and Andrew Unsworth will round out the festive holiday offering.

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