Friday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m.
During the worldwide pandemic of 2020, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square was quiet, and the Conference Center in Salt Lake City was dark and empty. But not entirely. With no public announcement and absolutely no fanfare, Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, a former guest artist with the Choir, came back to remember and relive twenty years of inspiring Christmas concerts.
From opera, gospel, and pop singers to Broadway and cabaret stars; from Shakespearean actors and movie and television stars to journalists, historians, and newscasters, the Choir’s guest artists have provided something for everyone. And as they’ve performed with the Choir and Orchestra, their formidable talents have shone as brightly as ever.
Performances from more than 40 guest artists and narrators who have starred in the Christmas tradition over the past 20 years will be featured, including Broadway stars Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Angela Lansbury, Kelli O’Hara, Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes; R&B singer Gladys Knight; the late jazz singer Natalie Cole; pop singer David Archuleta; legendary newscasters Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw; historian David McCullough; the Muppets from “Sesame Street”; actors Jane Seymour, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Thomas, the late Ed Herrmann, John Rhys-Davies, Roma Downey, the late Peter Graves, Claire Bloom, Michael York and Martin Jarvis; opera stars Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, Nathan Gunn, Alfie Boe, Sissel, Rolando Villazón and four Metropolitan Opera soloists and the London-based a cappella group, The King’s Singers.
Collectively, the featured guests have garnered 34 Grammy Awards, 19 Tony Awards, 14 Emmy Awards, 10 Golden Globe Awards, three BAFTA Awards, one Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Olivier Award.
“So much effort and creativity went into preserving this beloved tradition — now 20 years strong — in the middle of a global pandemic that has disrupted so much,” said Brian Stokes Mitchell. “I am honored to be a part of it. Not only will viewers enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce the most watched holiday special on PBS for 16 years, but they will also be able to feast on all of the wonderful moments this holiday special has delivered over the past two decades and remember how music connects people in very profound ways.”
This special two-hour “20 Years of Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” retrospective replaces the traditional TV special that would have been created from a live Christmas concert in 2020 that had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions. In new segments filmed in November 2020 (following COVID protocols), Mitchell joined a handful of socially distanced Orchestra members and the Choir’s musical director Mack Wilberg in an empty 21,000 seat Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to record intimate Christmas classics. The Choir also joins Stokes and the Orchestra in its first-ever all virtual performance.
“Due to COVID-19, we couldn’t have the in-person audience we always do, but the lockdown gave us a chance to provide audiences at home something different than they would experience in a normal concert year,” said Wilberg. “Because of the remarkable breadth of material we have from 20 years of Christmas concerts, there will be something for everyone in this retrospective, making it a wonderful way to celebrate and emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. It’s always a joy working with Brian Stokes Mitchell, who is not only a consummate performer, but also a warm and incredible person—qualities that comes across in everything he does. We are so pleased he is the one to tell the story of this concert tradition.”
Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell is an accomplished actor, singer, musician and arranger. Mitchell received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for his star turn in “Kiss Me, Kate.” He also gave Tony-nominated performances in “Man of La Mancha,” August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” and “Ragtime.” In 2016, he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and received his most recent Tony Award for his work as Chairman of the Board of The Actor’s Fund, a position he has continuously held since 2004. He is also on the Board and Artist Committee of Americans for the Arts and is a founding member of Black Theatre United.