The annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts are actually a three-part holiday tradition.
Part One happened Thursday morning, when choir officials appeared on KSL Radio's "Doug Wright Show" to announce that Tony-winning tenor Alfie Boe and venerated broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square for the traditional concerts, which are scheduled for Dec. 13-15 in the LDS Church's Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The two men will also join the choir for it's Sunday morning "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast on Dec. 16.
Part Two begins Saturday at 12:01 a.m., when the annual rush for free concert tickets begins. New Tabernacle Choir president Ron Jarrett told Wright that each year more than 1 million requests are made for the 84,000 tickets available for four 90-minute concert performances (including the Thursday night dress rehearsal, which choir director Mack Wilberg says is "treated basically as a performance," and a mini-concert that will be associated with the "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast). So the demand is high for a limited number of tickets.
"We try to make the ticket distribution as fair as we possibly can," Jarrett said, noting that a random selection process is used.
Those interested may register on the Internet at www.lds.org/events beginning Saturday, Oct. 13 at 12:01 a.m. and continuing through Monday, Oct. 22 at 11:59 p.m. Those without Internet access may register over the phone at (801) 570-0080 or at 1-866-537-8457. All registrations received during those 10 days will have equal chances at receiving tickets in the random selection process, church officials said.
"Not all registrations will be selected to receive tickets, and only one registration per household can be accepted," a choir press release said. "The maximum number of tickets that a household may request is four. Tickets will be mailed to those selected shortly after the registration process closes. Seating is limited to those 8 years of age and older. Patrons not selected to receive tickets will be notified by email."
Part Three of the tradition is the concert itself, which has become a holiday favorite both locally and nationally through annual PBS broadcasts. Wilberg said the DVD and CD versions of last year's concert, "Once Upon a Christmas," featuring Jane Seymour and Nathan Gunn, has just been released.
"We've seen the concerts on television, and they have been spectacular," said Boe, who is best known to American audiences for his performance as Jean Valjean during the "Les Miserables" 25th-anniversary concerts in London’s O2 Arena that were also broadcast over PBS television.
"It's always been one of those things that as a singer you think, 'Wouldn't that be amazing?'" he said. "So I'm very fortunate that I get a chance to do that."
Boe's wife, Sarah, has ties to Utah, and the Boe family actually lived in Utah for a period of time. But he said this will be the first time his family — including their two children — will attend one of the Christmas concerts in the Conference Center.
"I was absolutely amazed that I had been chosen," Boe said during an interview with Wright on KSL Radio. "I didn't realize the Conference Center held that many people. I wasn't nervous until you just mentioned it."
For Brokaw, who is widely known as the former face and voice of the "NBC Nightly News" for more than two decades, this will be his second performance with the choir. Last year he provided the narrative voice for a special "Music and the Spoken Word" presentation in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Boe suggested that for the final Christmas concert performance, perhaps he and Brokaw could switch places, and he could do the narration and Brokaw could sing.
"That might work for you," Wilberg said, "but I'm not sure it would work for him."
Choir officials indicated that although standby concert tickets will not be issued, those who don't receive tickets through the random selection process "are invited to stand by for last-minute seating each evening and on Sunday morning." The standby line forms at the north gate on Temple Square.