When the Conference Center opened in 2000, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s Christmas concert moved from the Salt Lake Tabernacle into the new 21,000-seat auditorium. Singer Gladys Knight and actor Roma Downey were first guest performers for the concerts in the Conference Center.
Since then, a variety of award-winning performers have stepped on the Conference Stage to sing or share a narration and the Christmas story about the Savior’s birth.
Past choir president Ron Jarrett said he traced the roots of the Christmas concert back to an event held for employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“And then it expanded, and in 2000, when we were able to enter this beautiful facility [the Conference Center], we began the tradition of opening it up to many, many more people. … It has become a sought-after family tradition,” Jarrett said in 2017.
PBS began broadcasting a 60-minute recording of the previous year’s concert in 2004. In 2017, BYUtv joined with the choir to produce the broadcast specials.
The 2021 concert, “O Holy Night,” will be broadcast on PBS on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. EST and on BYUtv on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. EST.
A gift to the community, the free concert features the 360-voice Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, the 85 Orchestra at Temple Square instrumentalists, and the 32-person Bells at Temple Square ensemble. Gabriel’s Trumpets and dancers have also participated in the performances.
In the fall, a guest artist is announced and registration for the random ticket selection opens.
The annual concert includes music with the choir, orchestra, guest performers, an organ solo, a narrated story and the Christmas story from Luke 2. It concludes with all singing “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
A dress rehearsal is typically held on Thursday, with performances on Friday and Saturday, and the guest artists participate in the “Music & the Spoken Word” Sunday morning.
Here is a list of past guest artists at the Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concerts and their performances since 2000 to the recent announcement of Broadway singer, actress and “Disney Legend” Lea Salonga to perform in 2022. A list of all guest artists, including at the Pioneer Day and Easter concerts, is available at TheTabernacleChoir.org.
See TabernacleChoir.com/christmas for ways to stream the choir’s Christmas music.
Gladys Knight delights at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their Christmas Concert.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Gladys Knight was the first musical guest for the Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concert in the recently opened Conference Center. Knight, a Grammy Award-winning performer, sang a medley of Christmas songs: “Mary’s Boy Child, Jesus Christ,” “Sleep Little Jesus Boy” and “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.”
Roma Downey, star of television’s “Touched by an Angel,” narrated “Christmas Is Just the Beginning,” the script written by Margaret Smoot and Heidi Swinton.The Tabernacle Choir’s holiday gift to the community with Gladys Knight and Roma Downey
Angela Lansbury, who died on Oct. 11, sang the title song “Beauty and the Beast,” and also “We Need a Little Christmas” from “Mame,” and “Not While I’m Around,” from “Sweeney Todd.”
She was the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” and the voice of the Grand Duchess Marie in the animated movie “Anastasia.” She also portrayed Jessica Fletcher in the long-running TV series “Murder, She Wrote.”
Walter Cronkite conducts The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square during the Christmas concert Friday Dec. 13, 2002, at the Conference Center.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Journalist Walter Cronkite’s familiar voice was heard through the Conference Center when he was guest narrator at the annual Christmas concert of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. He shared “Silent Night, Holy Night,” the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. He was also presented with a baton and invited to conduct the choir and orchestra in a surprise rendition of the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
“This the newsman did with a polish that belied his non-professional status as a conductor,” the Church News reported.Voice of venerable journalist enriches Christmas concert
Frederica von Stade and Bryn Terfel sing with the Tabernacle Choir during the 2003 Christmas Concert The Wonder of Christmas at the Confernce Center Thursday Dec. 11, 2003.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Frederica von Stade, America’s acclaimed mezzo-soprano, and Bryn Terfel, the United Kingdom’s preeminent Welsh baritone, shared the stage as guest performers for this year’s concerts. All 80,000 tickets for the performances were distributed even before it was announced who the guest artists would be, the Church News reported.
Von Stade’s appearance included “The First Nowell,” “One December, Bright and Clear,“ and Czech carol (in French) “A Bethlehem allons vite!” She also performed with the choir during the Cultural Olympiad of 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Terfel performance included the Welsh lullaby “Suo gan,” which made him think of Mary trying to make her baby go to sleep; “The Lord is My Shepherd”; “O, Come All Ye Faithful”; and of “Impossible Dream” from “Man of LaMancha.” He has also performed and recorded with the Tabernacle Choir several times since then.2003 Christmas concert has an international flare
Audra McDonald performs during the dress rehearsal of Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004.
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Tony Award-winning Broadway singer and actor Audra McDonald said during the 2004 that she and her husband give the Tabernacle Choir’s recordings as Christmas gifts to his family as they are fans of the choir. During the concert, she sang “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” “I Wonder as I Wander” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Later in the program she was featured in another medley of contemporary favorites.
Actor Peter Graves, right, and choir conductor Craig Jessop during the dress rehearsal of Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004.
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Veteran movie and television star Peter Graves, who was on “Mission Impossible,” shared a narration of “In Search of the King” based on a story by Henry Van Dyke and also read the Christmas story from the New Testament.
He joked about accepting the invitation saying: “I was delighted, and I knew I wouldn’t self-destruct!”
This concert also marked the choir’s first-ever collaboration with Ballet West, according to the Church News archives.Guests, grandeur accompany 2004 choir Christmas program
It was operatic soprano Renee Fleming’s first time in Salt Lake City and the Grammy Award-winner’s performance included “What Child Is This” and “Poor Mary.” She joined with the choir in “Joy to the World,” “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella!” in French, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”
British actress Claire Bloom narrates a Russian story as the orchestra provides the background music during a dress rehearsal of the Christmas performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005.
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
British stage, screen and television actor Claire Bloom presented the narration “A Christmas Bell for Anya” and the Christmas story for the book of Luke in the New Testament.
Dancers from the University of Utah Department of Ballet also performed, according to the Church News archives.Joy to the world conveyed at 2005 concert
When Norwegian-born Sissel, whose ethereal arias are throughout the film “Titanic,” sang during the 2006 Christmas concert, it was her second time performing with the choir and orchestra. In 2005, she performed with the choir for a broadcast of “Music & the Spoken Word” to commemorate the centennial of Norwegian independence.
Her performance included “Vitae Lux” (“Light of Life”), “Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker” (“My Heart Always Wanders”) and the reading of the Christmas story in Luke 2.
She has since performed with the choir during the summer concert in 2019.Acclaimed soprano lends flavor of Scandinavia to 2006l concert with choir, orchestra
The King’s Singers, England’s six-man a cappella vocal ensemble, are one of the Choir’s most frequent guest artists, having performed in the 2016 Pioneer Day concerts, the 2007 Christmas concerts, in a Cultural Olympiad concert in the Tabernacle during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, 1998 Tanner Gift of Music concert and several appearances on “Music & the Spoken Word.”
During the “Rejoice and Be Merry” Christmas concert, the group sang “El niño querido,” “La peregrinación,” “Riu, riu, chiu,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Jingle Bells.” With the choir and orchestra, they performed “Sussex Carol,” “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly,” “O Holy Night,” “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow!,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the finale “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”
The random ticket selection process was introduced due to the high demand of the tickets at previous concerts, according to the Church News archives.
Tony Award-winning baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell sang holiday favorites for “Ring Christmas Bells” including “Sleigh Ride,” “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” “The Friendly Beasts,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” He was also the featured guest at Tanner Gift of Music concerts in 2008 and 2019 and is the narrator of “20 Years of Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir” that was released in 2021.
Veteran stage and screen actor Edward Herrmann, who also won Tony and Emmy awards, performed a narration set to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and the reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2.
The Bells on Temple Square were augmented by bell choirs from local high schools and a community group that gave homage to the theme “Ring Christmas Bells,” according to the Church News archives.Christmas bells ring at 2008 concert
For Grammy Award-winner Natalie Cole’s family, Christmas isn’t “official” until they hear “The Christmas Song (‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’),” and her father, Nat “King” Cole’s iconic recording. She performed her own version of her father’s song during the concert titled “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” She also sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Grown-Up Christmas List,” “Caroling, Caroling,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “The Holly and the Ivy.” She also read the Christmas story from Luke 2.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough shared the story behind a cherished carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and a beloved song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” (He died in August 2022.)
When singer and “American Idol” runner-up David Archuleta performed during the annual Christmas concert, “Glad Christmas Tidings,” he was the youngest guest artist to perform with the choir. It was also the first time a Utahn was the guest artist. His performance included “Joy to the World,” the whimsical “Cat and Mouse Carol,” Spanish Carol “Los pastores a belén” and “Silent Night.”
Veteran stage and film actor Michael York, who is half Welsh, narrated the story of John Parry, a 19th century convert to the Church from Wales who organized a chorus among the Welsh emigrants. In Salt Lake City, that chorus formed the nucleus of what became the Tabernacle Choir. He also shared the Christmas story from Luke 2.David Archuleta, Michael York headline 2010 Christmas concert
Opera baritone Nathan Gunn, whose awards include the first annual Beverly Sills Artist award, performed “Mighty Lord, and King All Glorious” from “Christmas Oratorio” by Bach, and also “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “A Wintry Mix: Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, Let It Snow!” “Silent Night” and the choir’s finale “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” for the performance titled “Once Upon a Christmas.”
Actor Jane Seymour, who has won multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards, shared the opening narration during “Sing Forth This Day,” by Mack Wilberg, and shared the story of “Good King Wenceslas” and read the Christmas story from the New Testament.
During the Thursday night dress rehearsal before the Friday and Saturday performances, PBS President Paula Kerger made an announcement, according to the Church News archives. For many years, the Christmas concert has been recorded and then broadcast on PBS the following year. Kerger announced that it was “ the number-one-rated entertainment program on PBS during the holidays.”2011 Christmas concert features British actor Jane Seymour and operatic baritone Nathan Gunn
Titled “Home for the Holidays,” the 2012 concert featured a third guest. Tom Brokaw, a veteran news anchor and author, shared a dramatized reading of the American “candy bomber,” Gail Halvorsen. Halvorsen, an active Latter-day Saint and U.S. Air Force pilot who served during the Berlin airlift, helped start dropping candy — tied with tiny parachutes. And Halvorsen, then 92 and dressed in a pilot’s uniform, joined Brokaw onstage. (Halvorsen died earlier this year at age 101). Brokaw also read the Christmas story in the New Testament.
British tenor and Tony Award-winner Alfie Boe sang “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables.” The recording artist and opera and Broadway star portrayed Jean Valjean in the London production celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Les Misérables.” He shared that in stage show, the title of the song is “The Prayer.” “If you have that in mind that you are actually singing a prayer it comes across really well and that’s the beauty of it.”
He also sang “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “I Wonder as I Wander,” “Christmas at Home” medley and the finale “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”2012 Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas Concert features veteran newsman Tom Brokaw
In “Let the Season In,” soprano Deborah Voigt performance included “The Holly and the Ivy” and the Frank La Forge composition “And There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields.”
With operatic prowess, she joined with the choir and orchestra on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Magnifcat in D Major.” Voigt also performed a of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “We Need a Little Christmas” and a comedic rendition of “The Twelve Days After Christmas.”
British actor John Rhys-Davies, known for his roles as the dwarf Gimli in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Arab excavator Sallah in the “Indiana Jones” films, led a theatrical performance of “A Dickens Christmas.” Rhys-Davis portrayed the “Ghost of Christmas Present” from Charles Dickens’ famous novel “A Christmas Carol,” which included flying over the audiences in the Conference Center. He also shared the Christmas story from Luke 2.2013 Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert takes viewers to Dickensian England
Cookie Monster, Elmo, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Grover, The Count, Abby Cadabby and Rosita traveled from Sesame Street to the Conference Center. And while Cookie Monster sang “C is for Cookie” and searched for cookies during the concert, titled “Keep Christmas With You,” he his fellow Muppets helped put on the concert — Rosita and Abby, volunteered to be in the choir, Bert and Ernie to help in the control room, Grover and Cookie to direct, and Elmo to take a video camera and be an on-the-spot reporter from Temple Square and elsewhere. And Big Bird helped direct the choir.
Broadway star Santino Fontana, along with Elmo, Abby and Big Bird, tried to help Cookie Monster see there was more to Christmas than treats. Fontana had performed earlier in year in the summer Pioneer Day concert. He was also the voice of Prince Hans in Disney’s “Frozen” and portrayed Prince Topher in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” on Broadway.
His performance included “The Candy Man” and “Pocketful of Miracles,” followed by the Alfred Burt composition “Some Children See Him.” He also sang “Everyone Who Likes Christmas” along with “Keep Christmas with You (All through the Year),” performed with Rosita and Abby Cadabby. He also shared the Christmas story in Luke 2.
The age limit was lowered from 8 years old to 5 years old because the Muppets were featured, according to the Church News archives.
There were six guest artists for the the 2015 “Hallelujah!” concert, which also paid tribute to Handel.
Broadway star Laura Osnes, British stage and screen actor Martin Jarvis, and four Metropolitan Opera soloists.
Osnes, who had recently been on Broadway stage in the title role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” also performed in the Pioneer Day concert earlier in the year.
She sang “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.” “Do You Hear what I Hear?” “ The Secret of Christmas, from Say One for Me” and “Christmas Bell Fantasy.”
Jarvis narrated the story of George Frideric Handel and the creation and early performances of “Messiah” with the oratorio’s music sung performed by the choir and orchestra or the Metropolitan Opera soloists. He also shared the Christmas story in Luke 2.
Soprano Erin Morely, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, tenor Ben Bliss, and bass-baritone Tyler Simpson, sang “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” and “’For Unto Us’—The Story of Messiah.” Morely, Mumford and Bliss are members of the Church and Mumford performed the choir for the “Messiah” Easter concert. All of the performers sang the finale “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
Rolando Villazón, the tenor soloist in the choir and orchestra recording of “Messiah” released in March 2016, was both the vocal soloist and narrator for the Christmas concert, titled “ O Come, Little Children Christmas.”
Villazón, who grew up in Mexico and lived in France, read Hans Christian Andersen’s bittersweet tale “The Little Match Girl.” He also shared the Christmas story from Luke 2.
He performed the French carol “Il est né, le divin Enfant” and a medley of American Christmas songs with mezzo-soprano Angela Brower, a member of the Church who he met while doing a production in Germany. She told him about the choir and her dream to sing with them.
The program also included Villazón singing “Deck the Halls,” and the Spanish carol “Cancion para la Navidad” and joining with the choir in the finale “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
Sutton Foster, a Tony Award-winning Broadway actor, singer and dancer, sang “Christmas Time Is Here from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulder,” “Pure Imagination” from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and a “The Golden Age of Christmas” medley. She also joined the choir as the the concert, titled “A Merry Little Christmas,” culminated in “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
Hugh Bonneville, British stage, film and television actor, including Robert, Earl of Grantham, on the television series “Downton Abbey,” narrated the story behind the Christian hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. Spafford wrote the song after the loss of his four daughters in the shipwreck that his wife survived. He also read from Luke 2 of the birth of the Christ.
A first for the Christmas concerts, Wilberg turned and directed the audience in a singalong of “Jingle Bells.”
Singing with the Tabernacle Choir was a bucket list item for actor and singer Kristin Chenoweth. The Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor’s career spans stage, film, television and concerts and best known for her role as Glinda in Broadway’s original 2004 production of “Wicked.”
Her performance includes “We Need a Little Christmas.” “O Holy Night”, “Mary, Did You Know?” and the French carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” and “Angels Among Us” — and ringing a large bell during Richard Elliot’s organ solo “Carol of the Bells.”
The Orchestra also performed selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” during the concert titled “Angels among Us.”
Chenoweth also shared O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”
In the 2019 concert titled “Christmas Day in the Morning,” Broadway singer and actor Kelli O’Hara performance included “Mary’s Little Boy Child,” “The Birthday of a King” and “A Cradle in Bethlehem,” which is a favorite of her father.
In a nod to her Broadway career — for which she has received seven Tony Award nominations and won Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Anna in The “King and I” — she sang three Rodgers and Hammerstein songs: “A Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific, “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I, and “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.
Actor Richard Thomas, known for his Emmy award-winning performance in “The Waltons” as John-Boy Walton, narrated throughout the concert, including Pearl S. Buck’s story, “Christmas Day in the Morning” about a boy searching for the perfect gift for his father. Thomas also read the Christmas story from Luke 2.
The concert also featured a “Tree of Life,” which is a collaboration between Wilberg and David Warner and included a white tree descending from the ceiling.Tabernacle Choir’s 2019 Christmas concert invites all to share and awaken love
Titled “On This Day, Earth Shall Ring,” the 2021 was recorded with a masked and socially-distanced audience — about 4,000 each night in the 21,000-seat auditorium.
Megan Hilty is an American singer and actor, sang “Christmas is Coming, So Deck the Halls” and a medley about home and family that ranged from upbeat and festive with “Round and Round the Christmas Tree” and “Home for the Holidays” with the slower-paced “A Place Called Home” from “A Christmas Carol” musical in between. Her voice soared in the carols of “The Holly and the Ivy,” “Come to Him This Holy Night” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
She previously performed with the Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony in 2019 to commemorate the Golden Spike anniversary.
Neal McDonough shared about his Irish Catholic upbringing, a few Christmas symbols from Ireland and the story of Mary and Joseph during his narration.
The Celtic-themed concert was nod to the Irish heritage of Hilty and McDonough. Hilty has Swiss and Irish heritage on her father’s side and her husband’s grandparents are from Ireland. McDonough’s parents are Irish and came to the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
“O Holy Night” will be broadcast on PBS on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. EST and on BYUtv on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. EST.
Choir officials announced on Friday, Oct. 21, that Broadway singer, actress and “Disney Legend” Lea Salonga will be the guest artist at the choir’s Christmas concert. Salonga is the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from “Aladdin” and Fa Mulan for “Mulan” and “Mulan II.”
A guest narrator will be announced later.
The concert will be open to the public. Registration for the random ticket selection will be open until Sunday, Oct. 30, at 11:59 p.m. MST. Full details can be found at tabchoir.org/Christmastickets.Tabernacle Choir announces guest artist for 2022 Christmas concert to perform for live audience