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Soprano, British actor to join Mormon Tabernacle Choir for Christmas concerts

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 11:52 p.m. MDT

Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform during the opening session of the two-day Mormon church conference Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Salt Lake City.  (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press) Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform during the opening session of the two-day Mormon church conference Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — American soprano Deborah Voigt and British actor John Rhys-Davies will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for the annual Christmas season concerts in December.

The anticipated announcement was made Tuesday by Ron Jarrett, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He said the concerts this Christmas season will be unforgettable.

“The talents of Deborah Voigt and John Rhys-Davies will fill our hearts with the Christmas spirit that will linger with us all season long,” he said on KSL NewsRadio's "Doug Wright Show."

Voigt is recognized as one of the world’s most versatile singers. She is known for her performances in the operas of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, and her portrayal of heroines in Italian operas. She starred as Brünnhilde in the PBS series “Great Performances from the Met” in Wagner’s complete “Ring” cycle for her first appearance of the 2012-13 season.

Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Paramount Pictures)

Voigt won both the Gold Medal in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition and first prize at Philadelphia’s Luciano Pavarotti Vocal Competition. She was also named one of the top 25 cultural tweeters to follow by the Los Angeles Times, known to her Twitter fans as a “Dramatic soprano and down-to-earth Diva.”

Rhys-Davies is well-known for his roles as Gimli the dwarf in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the Arab excavator Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. He has also appeared in the television mini-series “Shogun” and “War and Remembrance.”

Rhys-Davies said his early exposure to classical literature while being raised in England, Africa and Wales led him to pursue acting and writing.

Mack Wilberg, music director for the choir, said having Voigt in the performance has been in the works for several years. He called it a "dream come true."

Jason Statham and John Rhys-Davies in Jason Statham and John Rhys-Davies in "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale." (Brightlight Pictures)

"People say, 'I don't know how you're going to outdo what you just did,'" Wilberg said. "That's part of our challenge, but it's a great challenge to have."

Jarrett said Rhys-Davies will be a perfect match for this year's theme and called Voigt a "choice gem in our treasure chest of performers."

Voigt said she grew up listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and her first reaction to joining the Christmas concert was disbelief.

"You mean the Tabernacle Choir? The really, really fabulous Tabernacle Choir?" she said. "They keep telling me (the Conference Center) is a very intimate environment despite the thousands of seats in it."

Voigt and Wilberg were in New York City Tuesday discussing options for the program that Voigt said is "going to be unique and familiar at the same time."

Acclaimed British actor John Rhys-Davies and American soprano Deborah Voigt, not pictured, will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for their annual Christmas concerts Dec. 12-14 in Salt Lake City. (LDS Church) Acclaimed British actor John Rhys-Davies and American soprano Deborah Voigt, not pictured, will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for their annual Christmas concerts Dec. 12-14 in Salt Lake City. (LDS Church)

The concerts, which attract about 85,000 people, "is a big work but it's so worth it because it brings the community together in such a great way," Jarrett said. "It's a great honor to be associated with these people and provide another unbelievable, unforgettable Christmas experience."

The concerts will be Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, at 8 p.m. with a dress rehearsal Thursday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. Voigt and Rhys-Davies will also join the choir and orchestra for its weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast and mini concert on Sunday, Dec. 15.

Free tickets are required for the performances and are distributed through a random selection process.

Registration will be online at www.lds.org/events from Oct. 12 at 12:01 a.m. through Oct. 21 at 11:59 p.m. Those without Internet access can register over the phone at 801-570-0080 or 1-866-537-8457. All those who register during the 10-day window will have an equal chance to receive tickets.

Soprano Deborah Voigt as Salome gazes upon the severed head of John the Baptist during dress rehearsal for the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Soprano Deborah Voigt as Salome gazes upon the severed head of John the Baptist during dress rehearsal for the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of "Salome" by Richard Strauss on Oct. 18, 2006. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)

One registration is allowed per household with no more than four tickets requested per household. Tickets will be mailed to those selected.

For those without tickets, there will be last-minute seating each night and for the Sunday morning performance with a standby line beginning at the north Temple Square gate.

The concerts are 90 minutes, and the Sunday performance is about an hour.

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com Twitter: EmileeEagar

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