When Craig Jessop invites you to join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for its Christmas concerts, it's an offer you can't refuse. That's how the King's Singers feel.
The six-member vocal ensemble is this year's special guest for the choir's annual Christmas show in the Conference Center, which begins tonight, with repeat performances Friday and Saturday.
The group will also join the choir for Sunday's "Music and the Spoken Word" program, which will be expanded to include a mini-concert immediately following the broadcast.
Jessop said he is thrilled that the group is in Salt Lake City again. "We're honored to have the King's Singers here. They've been our friends for many, many years."
Jessop was joined by the six vocalists for a news conference Wednesday in the LDS Church's Relief Society Building.
This year's concerts mark the fourth time the group has performed with the choir in the past 10 years. And everyone is excited to be back. "We're delighted to be here," first countertenor David Hurley said. "We are so looking forward to these concerts and to singing with this wonderful choir."
Hurley and his colleagues second countertenor Robin Tyson, tenor Paul Phoenix, first baritone Philip Lawson, second baritone Christopher Gabbitas and bass Stephen Connolly said that appearing with the choir has been among the highlights of their musical careers.
"Two of my most spiritual experiences have occurred with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Lawson said. "The first was when we were here for the Olympics concert. The other was when we came back last year to do 'Music and the Spoken Word."'
That was in February 2006. The broadcast coincided with Lawson's birthday and was the occasion for a special moment for him. "I asked Craig for my pitch, and when I turned around the choir started singing 'Happy Birthday."'
Jessop first came in contact with the King's Singers in 1981 at an American Choral Director's Association convention in Providence, R.I. "At that time, I felt they set the standard for a cappella singing," he said. "And this generation of singers is the strongest and best in the King's Singers entire history."
This year's Christmas concert, titled "An Olde English Christmas," features the group both alone and with the choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square in a number of well-known songs and carols arranged by associate choir conductor Mack Wilberg.
All available tickets for each of the performances and for "Music and the Spoken Word" on Sunday have been distributed. However, there will be a standby line forming at the North Gate on Temple Square at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. concerts, and at 7:30 a.m. for the 9:30 Sunday broadcast.The concerts will also be shown on big-screen TVs in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for overflow crowds.