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Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert features Celtic music, Catholic storytellers and a ‘sense of unity’

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Neal McDonough, who stars alongside Megan Hilty, says people need to spend less time “worrying about what the right church is” and more time becoming a better person.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Actor and producer Neal McDonough speaks to members of the media before The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square taped its 2022 Christmas concert on Friday, May 17. December 2021. The choir normally records its Christmas shows for a year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing can be filmed in 2020.

Neal McDonough is many things.

He’s an actor, appearing in movies like Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and TV shows like HBO’s “Band of Brothers” and the CW’s “Arrow.” He is a husband and father of 5 children. He is a devout Catholic.

And right now, he’s the narrator of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s annual Christmas concert, which is being taped to a limited audience to air on PBS over the 2022 holiday season.

And he has no problem partnering with the top performing troupe of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We spend too much time as humans worrying about what the right church is like,” he said Friday. “By bridging [Latter-day Saints and Catholics] Together, it shows that whatever it takes to glorify God and become a better person in His eyes is the goal of any religion and belief.”

The choir usually records its Christmas concerts a year in advance, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can’t shoot anything in 2020. So this Yuletide, it’s airing “20 Years” of Christmas With The Tabernacle Choir,” featuring over 40 guest artists and over 60 songs.

The show can be streamed at PBS.org and BYUtv.org. TV broadcast schedules for both stations are available at bit.ly/3E4PDlx.

For the choir members, the one-month gap finally ended in September, when they rehearsal for the first time since the pandemic started. The choir allowed only half of its members to sing during each session of the October 2021 General Assembly to accommodate social distancing.

However, for this week’s tape recording, the entire choir is back.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, who was recently appointed the new president of the Temple Square Tabernacle Choir for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed his excitement for the recording of the Christmas Concert 2022 taking place in a few hours on Friday, December 17, 2021.

Choir President Mike Leavitt Named Recently, a former Wyoming governor, said Friday he’s confident that when audiences see the 2022 show next holiday season, they won’t be disappointed.

“It skillfully finds ways to bring about a sense of unity, peace and healing,” he said. “And that is the mission of the Tabernacle Choir in Temple Square.”

Celtic themed Christmas

McDonough was joined onstage by Tony-nominated singer Megan Hilty, whose credits include Ivy Lynn in the NBC musical “Smash” and Glinda the Good Witch in the musical “Wicked” on Broadway.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Actress and singer Megan Hilty speaks to members of the media in front of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square recording the 2022 Christmas concert on Friday, December 17, 2020. 2021. The choir normally records its Christmas shows a year during but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing can be filmed in 2020.

Supported by The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra, along with the Bells in Temple Square, McDonough and Hilty participated in a Celtic-themed Christmas show.

Hilty says her personal favorite is “Angels from the Kingdom of Glory,” written by Scottish poet James Montgomery.

“It was an uncanny experience,” she said, “in front of a group of the most iconic singers by training.”

The Celtic influence is also personally significant for McDonough and Hilty, both of whom are of Irish ancestry.

Before performing with the choir, Hilty hadn’t realized how many of her family’s Christmas traditions had roots in the Emerald Isle, while McDonough said he loved listening to old songs he grew up with.

“[Music] is the only language in life that everyone can understand,” he said. With this Christmas concert “it’s not just music. It is music that glorifies God. And that’s why we’re all here: To really talk about how we can all become better people through his eyes. ”

Choir music director Mack Wilberg said choir leaders don’t realize both McDonough and Hilty have Irish heritage until they’ve secured the show. The coincidence “seems like a perfect fit.”

‘How can we be better people on this planet?’

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Director Mack Wilberg speaks to members of the media in front of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square filming the 2022 Christmas concert on Friday, December 17, 2021. Chorus Choir usually records her Christmas shows a year in advance, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing can be filmed in 2020.

Wilberg said that when audiences see the show next year, he hopes people will get a feel for the “meaning of Christmas and hopefully want to be a little bit better.”

Leavitt added that he was impressed by the way the show reached out to people of all faiths, uniting them in the sense of what Christmas means for everyone.

McDonough echoed that sentiment.

“Whether you are a Catholic or a Mormon, a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or an agnostic or atheist, [this show] is an opportunity for all of us to find out ‘how can we be better on this planet?’ ” he said. “We are all brothers and sisters in God’s eyes.”

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2021/12/17/tabernacle-choirs/ Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert features Celtic music, Catholic storytellers and a ‘sense of unity’

Ryan Perry

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