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Doug Robinson: Tickets tempt fibbers and scalpers

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 7 2010 1:32 a.m. MST

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's annual Christmas Concert is a hot ticket. It must be. People will do almost anything to get into the Conference Center to see the annual event.

Some people write letters explaining that they absolutely must have tickets for the upcoming concert because they have a terminal illness and won't be around to see next year's concert. Some of them really are sick; others send the same letter again the next year.

Some people apply for tickets a dozen times thinking it will increase their odds of securing tickets (it won't). They use fake addresses — some of them are empty lots — to circumvent the rule that limits applications to per household.

Some people have been known to show up at the concert with tickets from last year's concert, or the year before that, hoping no one will notice.

Some of the less resourceful people have simply made a photocopy of tickets on regular paper and show it at the door.

And still there are others who come to the ticket window to explain that they had tickets but misplaced them. It's remarkable how so many people manage to lose tickets during the Christmas season.

Sometimes the Christmas spirit is dishonest.

"I hear a lot of stories," says Micah Day, ticket manager for the event. "We keep a book of (such) treasures."

Memo to fans: The odds are stacked against you getting a ticket the honest way, which are distributed lottery style. This year's concert, which will feature Utah's David Archuletta of American Idol fame, drew a record 1,515,963 ticket requests.

The Conference Center is big, but it's not that big. Do the math. There are 21,000 seats and the concert runs four nights. That's 84,000 seats — only 1,416,000 tickets short of the demand.

The MoTabs could fill up LaVell Edwards Stadium 25 times with their Christmas concert.

This year's ticket requests came from 57 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Barbados, French Polynesia, Laos, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, England, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Mongolia, plus all 50 states.

People want to see the concert so badly that they are willing to fly around the world to see it.

But most of them are turned away.

"I've become the most hated man in Utah every Christmas," says Day. "I've been accused of ruining people's Christmas."

It should be noted that this is only after people have failed to get tickets. Before that, Day is very popular. "All my friends come out in December," he says. "I try to stay 'incognito.'"

But even Day can't beat the system for ticket selection, which is performed randomly by a computer. "It is truly random," says Day. "I can't even manipulate it."

And yet some have threatened lawsuits because they have failed to get tickets after years of trying.

Not that you can blame people for wanting them. The MoTab Christmas concert is the best bargain in the entertainment world if you can get in. Imagine an event that is in extreme high demand but low on supply and features a world-class venue with world-class guest entertainers and arguably the world's finest choir — and it costs nothing. Even parking is free. The only thing that costs money is the gas you put in your car and maybe the hot chocolate you buy across the street afterward.

"You can't even buy your way in, when you'd gladly pay," says Mac Christensen, the choir's president.

Well, you can if you're a complete schmuck. Maybe you saw the report on KSL-TV — the tickets are being hawked by scalpers. Talk about re-gifting. The LDS Church puts on a concert at great expense, gives away the tickets to promote goodwill and people are trying to turn them into a buck — at Christmastime.

It's all driven by one thing: The MoTabs and their Christmas show are unequalled.

Christensen gushes, "It's probably the greatest Christmas show in the world today — 360 members in the choir, 150 in the orchestra, 100 dancers, plus the guest artists, in a building that holds 21,000 and there's not a bad seat in the house. There's nothing like it. And there's no charge! This is the church's gift not only to the community but to the world."

After pausing, Christensen adds, "Not only is it a great show, it gets us all thinking along the right lines for Christmas."

Well, other than the scalpers and the people telling fibs to get into the show.

Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Send e-mail to drob@desnews.com

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