Pop singer David Archuleta and actor Michael York took center stage Thursday night to kick off the annual Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concerts. (Downloadable, broadcast-quality video clips from the concert and a press conference with the performers are available for news media use. Watch YouTube video of press conference here.)
Choir president Mac Christensen called this year’s opening show “the greatest night we’ve ever had.”A capacity crowd witnessed the performance in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and three more performances are scheduled. Two concerts will be Friday, 17 December, and Saturday, 18 December, both at 7:30 p.m. The weekly half-hour CBS radio broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word on Sunday, 19 December, at 9:30 a.m. in the Conference Center will also feature Archuleta and York. This will be followed by additional music from the previous performances in a mini-concert. (Attendees should plan on being in their seats 30 to 60 minutes before each performance begins and should not save seats.)
“It just seemed so unreal last night,” said Archuleta, who has lived in Utah since age 10. “It was one of those moments where it was very hard to actually take it in and realize this is actually happening. … I’ve always enjoyed listening to the Choir — I think they’re my most listened to thing on iTunes. It’s amazing. There’s no place like performing here. It’s really incredible having the Choir right behind you. It’s like, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’”
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The Choir was joined by the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Bells on Temple Square. Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy conducted the performances; both also arranged or composed much of the music.
Archuleta sang several classic Christmas songs, while York, whose acting career has spanned 45 years, shared the stories of how the Choir was formed and read the traditional account the birth of Jesus Christ from Luke 2.
“I was this sort of outsider,” said York, who is a native of Britain. “I’ve been to Salt Lake City before and been outside the buildings, and I’d seen the tapes of the shows and of course watched it on PBS. But [it is special] to be actually inside, to belong as a part of this extraordinary entertainment. But it’s more than entertainment because there’s a great sense of fellowship and of worship at this time of year.”
As with previous seasons, the concert began with a processional of 107 dancers entering the stage through the multiple aisles of the 21,000-seat center. The dancers were directed by Carol N. Iwasaki, choreographer. Costumes for the evening were designed by Susan Memmott Allred, resident designer of the Utah Opera Company.
“When you grow up having respect for something, it just doesn’t really seem like you’re going to be there next,” Archuleta said. “[This concert] already is one of the most amazing things I’ve been able to do, and I know it will be one of the most memorable moments of my life.”