“I remember her at the rehearsal saying, ‘OK, I’m a Julliard-trained musician. I can do this. I can do this.’ It was really cute,” he said with a laugh.
McDonald has said that performing with the choir is an “experience that I will have in my heart for the rest of my life.”
She added, “What moved me most about the choir is the singularity of sound. It sounds like one voice, one multifaceted voice. And so to be enveloped by that sound is miraculous, it really is.”
Of her performance with the choir, Lansbury said, “I didn’t realize that I was going to be hit by this extraordinary spirit!” She added, “You’re simply drenched in the power and the spirit and the warmth. This is unforgettable.”
“The artists we approach are always very flattered and anxious to perform, as long as it can be worked into their schedule," Barrick said. Whenever possible, the invitations are made directly to the guest, without first going through the performers’ management representatives.
Barrick was reminded of a quote from von Stade: “There are certain wonderful landmarks that one has in one’s career — sort of the brass ring — and I’d say one of the top brass rings is to be able to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
Norwegian vocalist Sissel has recommended, “If you ever have a chance in your lifetime to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, don’t even think about it, just do it.’ ”
Guests have included soprano Renee Fleming, the London-based a cappella group the King’s Singers, Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell, jazz singer Natalie Cole and actors Claire Bloom, Edward Herrmann, Peter Graves and Michael York.
“We’ve performed with so many guest artists, not only at the Christmas concerts but other performances as well, and they all know each other,” Barrick explained. “Many times we’re able to ask a previous artist to be our entree to another.”
Concert viewers are amazed at the sheer spectacle of the performance of the guests, the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square in the 21,000-seat Conference Center, believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built.
“We try with each concert to have — and we haven’t really talked about this in public, but you can use this term — a ‘wow moment.’ We have our wonderful guest artists and they of themselves are a ‘wow’ when they come out on stage,” Barrick said.
“Last year it was the snow falling inside the Conference Center. Before that it was the large Christmas tree coming out of the center of the stage. Sometimes it’s just the sheer spectacle of what the set looks like.
“We have a ‘wow moment’ that we’ve planned for this year, but we never spoil that surprise.”
Could he give a hint to a news writer who would swear not to share?
“Not on a stack of Bibles,” Barrick said. “(Director) Mack Wilberg would slit my throat.”
Meet the choir’s guests:
Guests artists at this year’s “Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir” are:
Alfie Boe is perhaps most widely known to Americans as the hand-picked artist to perform the role of Jean Valjean in the 25th anniversary production of “Les Misérables.” He won a Tony Award for his role in the Baz Luhrmann version of “La Bohème” after the director spent two years looking for the lead. Boe performed at the Diamond Jubilee concert of Queen Elizabeth II, singing “O Sole Mio” before launching into Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never.”
His most recent recording is “Storyteller,” which follows “Alfie,” “Bring Him Home” and “After a Dream.” Boe’s wife Sarah is a Utah-raised and University of Utah-trained actress, and the couple and their two children are part-time residents of Salt Lake City.
Tom Brokaw, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor for more than two decades and a former host of the network’s “Today Show,” previously performed with the choir when he recorded “9/11: Rising Above,” a “Music and the Spoken Word” special broadcast. He is the author of “The Greatest Generation" and other best-selling books.
He has been awarded a Peabody Award, two duPonts and several Emmys. Brokaw lives on a ranch in Montana with his wife Merideth. The two have been married since 1962 and have three daughters.