This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Typically, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas guests alternate between Broadway and opera stars. This year, the choir gave listeners both. Thursday's performance officially a dress rehearsal, but attended by more than 20,000 ticket-holding patrons and featuring the high production values that characterize the Tabernacle Choir's holiday extravaganzas felt like two concerts in one.
Laura Osnes, Tony Award-nominated star of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," returned to the LDS Conference Center stage after headlining the choir's Pioneer Day concerts this summer. She brought her friendly next-door-neighbor charm to familiar fare such as "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Do You Hear What I Hear," then joined the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in a medley of songs about bells, arranged by Sam Cardon: "Silver Bells," "Carol of the Bells," "Jingle Bells" and more.
A well-balanced quartet of young Metropolitan Opera veterans appeared in 18th-century garb to sing Tabernacle Choir music director Mack Wilberg's arrangement of the traditional "Divinum Mysterium" while dancers representing various time periods proceeded down the aisles. The quartet soprano Erin Morley, mezzo Tamara Mumford, tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Tyler Simpson returned for the concert's centerpiece, a preview of the forthcoming release of the choir's "Messiah" recording. Together with the choir and orchestra, they sang snippets from Handel's great oratorio as British actor Martin Jarvis related the circumstances of its composition. Dancers and actors, including a bewigged gentleman representing the composer himself, pantomimed the story of the debtors, unwed mothers and foundlings who were the recipients of Handel's charity. This segment concluded with a rousing performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus in its entirety.
The choir took the spotlight in selections including the Catalonian carol "Fum, Fum, Fum!" and a medley of "The March of the Kings" with Bizet's "Farandole." Associate Tabernacle Choir music conductor Ryan Murphy led the orchestra in his sprightly arrangement of "Over the River and Through the Wood" and the "Troika" from Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kijé" Suite.
Audiences at the choir's Christmas concert can always count on a show-stealing solo by principal Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott. This year's arrangement cleverly combined "Joy to the World," "For Unto Us a Child Is Born," "Hallelujah" and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in a free-wheeling fantasia that featured some of Elliott's world-renowned pedal work.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The annual Christmas spectacular.
With • Conductors Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy, the Orchestra at Temple Square and Bells on Temple Square, organist Richard Elliott, Broadway star Laura Osnes, narrator Martin Jarvis, soprano Erin Morley, mezzo Tamara Mumford, tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Tyler Simpson
When • Reviewed Thursday; repeats Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; the guests also will appear on Sunday's 9:30 a.m. live broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" with mini-concert to follow
Where • LDS Conference Center, 60 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City
Running time • 90 minutes; no intermission
Tickets • Yes, they're free; no, there aren't any left; try your luck with the standby line at the north gate of Temple Square