Music • Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert features duo known for their Utah ties.
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If Alfie Boe had gotten a job with the Salt Lake City Police Department, he probably wouldn't be the guest performer at this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.
About a decade ago, during a particularly lean period for the British tenor, he inquired about becoming a personal trainer within the police department. "Then I started getting more work," he said. "The music picked up."
Boe, who is married to a Salt Lake City native and has a home in Utah, has come a long way from winning the 1994 West London Karaoke Championship.
Boe was featured in Baz Luhrmann's production of "La bohème," for which he won a Tony Award. But perhaps his most high-profile gig was starring as prisoner-turned-mayor Jean Valjean in a 2010 London concert performance of the musical "Les Misérables"celebrating the musical's 25th anniversary. The filmed concert became a top-rated PBS special that was later screened in movie theaters and then released on video. The concert encore of "Bring Him Home" was credited to "The Valjean Quartet," with Boe alongside prior Valjean portrayers Colm Wilkinson, John Owen-Jones and Simon Bowman.
This summer, the 39-year-old singer earned more attention when he performed at the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth. Boe sang "O sole mio," leading into Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never." During the concert, he also performed "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" with soprano Renée Fleming on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
All of these performances helped showcase Boe's show-stopping range. Yet despite his far-reaching musical career, Boe says that every time he sings in public, he still gets butterflies.
"The nerves will be there," he said of his upcoming performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which incidentally will be his first formal concert in Salt Lake City. "I always tend to get nervous. I try to channel those. I pace a lot. That tends to help."
Boe performs often in London and Europe, but returns to Salt Lake City whenever possible. He and his wife, Sarah, and their two children like to hike, and eat at Pat's Barbecue and the Trolley Wing Company. He's even taken to skiing, despite one of Sarah's relatives leading him down a hair-raising mogul run at Snowbird during one of his first ski trips.
Boe said he was flattered when the choir extended the invitation about a year ago. "I never turn down a gig," he said.
Mack Wilberg, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, said inviting Boe was an easy decision. "He is a remarkable talent with a stirring and dramatic vocal style that fits well with the choir," Wilberg said. "When you think about it, Alfie Boe carries on the tradition of a long list of classically trained British artists who have joined their vocal talents with the choir."
NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said he felt privileged to be asked to serve as the concert's narrator.
In a phone interview, the 72-year-old broadcaster recalled his fond childhood memories of listening to the Tabernacle Choir's annual Christmas concerts while at home in South Dakota.
Later in his life, he and his family began traveling to Utah to ski, with Brokaw taking to the slopes for the first time in Park City in 1970. Until recently, his family owned a home near the Sundance Resort.
His deep affinity for Utah continued in 2002, when he covered the Winter Olympics for NBC News and was granted an interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 2011, Brokaw was invited to to record "9/11: Rising Above," a special broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word." At that time, the possibility of returning for the Christmas concert was broached. He joked that at first he thought the choir wanted him to sing.
"I live in a family of very talented vocalists," he said. "I am tone-deaf. I can't sing 'Happy Birthday.' "
His wife Meredith's birthday is Dec. 25, so Christmas has always been an important day for Brokaw. He said when she was younger and heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Hallelujah" on one Christmas, she thought it was especially for her.
Catherine Reese Newton contributed to this story.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir does Christmas
P Guests for this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concert are tenor Alfie Boe and broadcaster Tom Brokaw.
When • Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" followed by mini-concert, Sunday, 9:30 a.m.
Where • LDS Conference Center, 60 W. North Temple Salt Lake City
Tickets • Free tickets have been distributed; standby line at the north gate on Temple Square. Overflow seating in the LDS Tabernacle and Assembly Hall.