New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
This December, Tony Award-winning actress Sutton Foster and renowned actor Hugh Bonneville, of "Downton Abbey" on MASTERPIECE, will star as guest musical artist and narrator, respectively, in the beloved annual holiday television special "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" on PBS and BYUtv. A 60-minute version of the program returns for the 15th consecutive year when it premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 17 (check local listings) on PBS stations. The special has been the top-viewed holiday program on PBS nearly every year for the past 14 years1. BYUtv, a nationwide family entertainment network that produces the broadcast and co-presents it to millions of viewers worldwide alongside WGBH, will air the full 90-minute version at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 20.
As guest artist and narrator, Foster and Bonneville join the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, Bells on Temple Square
handbell choir, Gabriel Trumpet Ensemble, dancers and actors in an elaborate, Victorian-themed program that celebrates the Christmas season through music, dance, storytelling and pageantry.
"I've always associated the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Christmas, so it was truly an honor to take part in this wonderful tradition, which is unlike anything else I've done before," said Foster. "There's something that happens when you stand on the stage and you're sharing this experience not only with the Choir and Orchestra, but with the 21,000 people that attend each night. It becomes about everyone, no matter what you believe, coming together to celebrate this season. For me, this time of year is all about family and celebrating the people that have passed, so to be able to bring in all of the things that I love was a very powerful experience."
Bonneville added "I've never been part of something where the word 'amateur' has had a truer sense of the word, coming from the Latin root, 'amo,' or 'the love of it.' The love and the commitment that these people who are volunteering give to this program for the single purpose of celebration through music, word and dance - it's a rare and extraordinary experience."
The 60-minute version on PBS highlights the musical achievement and artistic diversity of Foster and the Choir with powerful arrangements of cherished holiday carols such as "Joy to the World," "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "Christmas Time is Here," from the beloved "A Charlie Brown
Christmas," "Silent Night
" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory." Bonneville rounds out the program with a reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2, and a spellbinding account of the tragic true story of a night at sea in 1873 and its aftermath for the composer of the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul" and his family.
Viewers of the full 90-minute version on BYUtv will also enjoy an emotional take on John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders" - a favorite of Foster's that she sings as tribute to her late mother - as well as "Pure Imagination" from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and an audience sing-along to "Jingle Bells." Richard Elliott, the Choir's principal organist who each year conceptualizes a distinct and imaginative organ feature piece that has become a fan favorite, delivers a rendition of "I Saw Three Ships" on the iconic, 7,708-pipe instrument with a percussion ensemble from the Orchestra at Temple Square.
"Both Sutton and Hugh are truly among the smartest, most passionate and talented artists today, so to have both of them perform with us was really a dream come true and a great honor," said Mack Wilberg, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "Each guest brings their distinctive gifts and talents, and this program is uniquely special thanks to Sutton's immense vocal artistry and sparkling personality paired with Hugh's charismatic delivery and stage presence. For the past 15 years on PBS, with 15 unique performances, it has become a sought-after family tradition to enjoy this Christmas institution, and we're thrilled that through our relationships with BYUtv and WGBH we can share this remarkable gift with audiences around the world."
The 2018 broadcast is co-presented by WGBH, the largest creator of PBS content for TV and the web, and BYUtv, the television home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's weekly program "Music and the Spoken
Word." The Christmas special was taped and produced by BYUtv over three consecutive nights in front of a live combined audience of 63,000 people at the Conference Center at Temple Square
in Salt Lake City in December 2017.
"Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" has been a Temple Square
tradition since 2000, but first aired on PBS in 2004 with performances by American mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel. It has continued each year since, featuring some of the most prominent musical artists of their generations, including Audra McDonald, Renée Fleming, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Natalie
Archuleta, Deborah Voigt, Santino Fontana, Laura
Osnes and Rolando Villazón. The program has been narrated by such esteemed guests as David
McCullough, Jane Seymour, John Rhys-Davies, and Walter Cronkite among others.
"Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" marks Foster's second PBS appearance. Earlier in 2018, she starred in a solo concert on "Live from Lincoln Center" alongside special guest Jonathan Groff (Tony nominations for "Hamilton" and "Spring Awakening"). In his role as Robert Crawley on "Downton Abbey," Bonneville became a fan favorite on PBS in the United States. He also hosted "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2018" on PBS, which rang in the new year with the Vienna Philharmonic at the opulent Musikverein—a locale where the Choir and Orchestra performed on tour in 2016. He took over the role from Julie
Andrews, who hosted the tradition for eight years, and from Walter Cronkite, who hosted the program for many years prior to that.
In addition to the airings on PBS and BYUtv, the Christmas special with Sutton Foster and Hugh Bonneville is available for purchase as a DVD or CD titled "A Merry Little
Christmas," and an illustrated book titled "It Is Well with My Soul." For more information, visit: https://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/shop/christmas.html or https://www.shoppbs.org.
Funding for "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" on PBS is provided by Ronald C. and Kaye Gunnell; Timothy E. and Teresa J. Wright; Rex and Ruth Maughan; Gary and Cathy Crittenden; Tom and Leslie
Thomas; Terrel and Janet
Bird; Jim and LeAnn Hansen; Kirk and Rebecca Hansen; Greg and Monica
Drennan; Richard and Shellie Silliman; Jim and Sandi Cook; Jeff and Cynthia Shaw; Charles and Janet
and Lora McAllister; John and Lu Jean Jenkins; Chris and Misty Veterlaus and The Alan and Jeanne Hall Foundation.
For more information, please visit www.pbs.org/mormontabernaclechoir.
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About the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a world-renowned, 360-member choir credited with over 4,600 episodes of its weekly live performance of Music
and The Spoken
Word, making it the longest continuing network broadcast in history. The Choir has traveled around the world performing in acclaimed concert halls, for the inaugurations of seven U.S. presidents beginning with its first for President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, at World's Fairs and expositions, in acclaimed concert halls, on television and radio broadcasts and now internet streams, and numerous other prestigious events and occasions. The Choir has won four Emmy® Awards, two platinum and five gold albums for its recordings and was awarded the National
Medal of the Arts in 2003.
The Orchestra at Temple Square
is a 150-member, all-volunteer symphony orchestra organized in 1999 to perform and accompany the musical ensembles of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir organization. With their incomparable medley of voices and instruments and their shared faith in God, the Choir and Orchestra are a significant, recognizable presence in the world of music, giving service through song. More info at www.mormontabernaclechoir.org.