Wilberg encouraged her to affect a colloquial English sound for the voice of the page in the story. For that she chose an accent from the west country, near Bristol. She said that's where the American accent is derived, because so many emigrants departed from ports on the western shore.
In the program's climax, a sublime rendition by the choir and orchestra of "Silent Night" segued into Seymour's recitation from Luke 2 of the story of the birth of Jesus, followed, in keeping with tradition, by Wilberg's exultant arrangement of the French carol "Angels, from the Realms of Glory."
Seymour said she has done spoken narration before but never with music live in the background. "I think if I wasn't musical, I wouldn't understand how to wait for certain moments and hear the music that he's built to crescendo with me talking about the angel coming down, and things like that."
Earlier in the program, Gunn's rich voice was showcased in "In dulci jubilo" and "Sing Lullaby!" a Basque carol that he identified at the news conference as one of his favorite portions of the program.
Reflecting on the joy of his childhood Christmases, he said, "As a father of five, I'm a little bit greedier these days and what I like most, really, is the entire season, because it gives me an opportunity to be a little bit goofy, where I'm otherwise not allowed to be." He told of donning a Santa hat and saying " 'ho, ho, ho' until my 16-year-old gets annoyed" and putting a reindeer costume on the family dog, Nacho.
He enlarged a bit on that at the news conference, saying that Christmas at home, when he is not traveling and the family can be together, is very much a religious holiday in which they attend Mass together. Later, he and his wife, Julie, invite friends and neighbors to their home where they try to revive the dying art of singing carols around the piano, each year choosing a different cultural Christmas theme.
Seymour said Christmas with her husband, James, and their six children "has always been about family" and the effort to express their mutual love in unique ways, the idea being that sentiment is more important than the money spent.
"Our family tradition is we all make cards and we write what we want to say to one another, so it becomes very personal."
At the concert, Gunn performed "Mighty Lord, and King All Glorious" from "Christmas Oratorio" by Bach, among other operatic selections.
But he demonstrated the range of his repertoire with a whimsical performance of Ken Darby's musical setting for "'Twas the Night before Christmas" and a medley of "Winter Wonderland," "White Christmas" and "Let It Snow!"
As in previous years, the Sunday broadcast of the choir's TV and radio program "Music and the Spoken Word" will feature the guest artists and selections from the Christmas concert. A "mini-concert" will follow the half-hour broadcast for those attending it live in the Conference Center.
The nationwide network broadcast begins at 9:30 a.m. and is presented locally over KSL-TV Channel 5.
Tickets were distributed earlier by a random selection process, but choir president Mac Christensen said there is a chance for standby seating, both at tonight's performance and at the broadcast Sunday, with the broadcast offering the better hope.
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