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Three Kings of Christmas Concerts
December 12, 2011  | By Tom Brinkmoeller

By Tom Brinkmoeller

For those politically incorrect enough to still not only use the word "Christmas" but to think of the day primarily as a religious observance, PBS has three upcoming concerts that should suit the season perfectly. Not only do these concerts acknowledge the origin of the event, they do it with the kind of depth and high quality -- hundreds of voices, full orchestras -- that the commercial networks wouldn't, and couldn't, try to copy.

First on the schedule, Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be broadcast on public television at least twice this year -- on many stations this Tuesday (Dec. 13) at 8 p.m. ET and Dec. 23 at 9 p.m. ET. (Check local listings.) As were the previous eight broadcasts of this spectacular concert, this year's is ideal for people who enjoy a blend of world-class choral, orchestral and dance performed by the most professional group of volunteer music artists in America. Actor Michael York and singer David Archuleta, this year's guest artists, are the only paid members of a production that includes nearly 1,000 singers, dancers, musicians, and production and house crew. The dedication of all of these people is reflected in the high quality of the performance.

This telecast was shot last December, the previous Christmas season. That's the same as all Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert specials, said Ed Payne, who has been a producer of the concerts for 15 years. A total of 12 cameras records the four performances in front of a 21,000-seat hall. The hall is filled for each 90-minute free concert. The results are edited into a 60-minute air version to be seen the following year.

The editing process takes nearly that year, Payne said, and because the audio component is so important to the broadcast, no video editing begins until a finished audio track is delivered the following February. The video then is edited to fit the audio track. The polish and dedication are obvious; the artistry shines brilliantly. It's the ultimate church-choir choral concert.


Also a joy to watch and listen to, and also volunteer-driven, are the other two new Christmas concerts this season: Christmas at St. Olaf (Dec. 20 at 9 p.m. ET and Dec. 23 at 10 p.m. ET) and Christmas at Belmont (Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. ET). Check local listings for both.

More than 500 student singers and instrumentalists from St. Olaf College in Minnesota perform in the former. The number of student performers from Tennessee's Belmont School of Music is close to 700 in the latter. Like the Mormon performance, these are done for the joy of performing and entertaining. Unlike the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast, these two were shot and edited this year, and quickly turned over to PBS for broadcast. Performed earlier this month, each had to be trimmed from a longer performance length to one hour, by mid-month.

For this reason, neither was available for preview. But each has a fabulous heritage of talent, enthusiasm and delivering beautiful performances. Based on seeing several from past years, it's more than safe to say these will be excellent for so many reasons -- picture-perfect programs for the Christmas season.


Eric Thomas said:

I was in attendance at the Mo Tab concert with David and Michael York. Worthwhile is an understatement. What a joy it was.

Comment posted on December 13, 2011 4:31 PM
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