Performing with Tabernacle Choir to Be a “Bucket List” Moment for Kristin Chenoweth

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Associate Church News editor

  • 12 December 2018

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

Growing up in Oklahoma, do-it-all singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth had a trio of must-see television shows: the Tony Awards, the Miss America Pageant, and finally, the annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas special.

Now the popular performing artist is adding her own name to the legacy of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s holiday concerts. She’s headlining this year’s show, which runs from Thursday, December 13, to Saturday, December 15, in the Conference Center.

Chenoweth has enjoyed a celebrated career. She’s won a Tony Award and an Emmy Award and appeared in solo concerts at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

But performing this week with the world-renowned choir—along with the Orchestra at Temple Square and Bells on Temple Square—is a Chenoweth “bucket list” moment.

The choir’s music “draws me in every time,” she said at a Wednesday press conference at the Relief Society Building. “For me, it’s part of my DNA, and I’m so honored to share the stage with [choir music director] Mack Wilberg. … We’re making music and celebrating the birth of Christ.”

Plenty of people share her enthusiasm—there are no tickets available to the free concert for any of the three shows. However, standby lines will form at the north gate of Temple Square each night the concert is held. Standby patrons will be seated in the Conference Center as seats are available.

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

But even if seats do not open in the Conference Center, the concert will be streamed live into the Tabernacle for standby patrons.

Choir leaders said they have had the high-energy Chenoweth on their Christmas concert wish list for about a decade.

“Audiences will be smitten by Chenoweth’s energy, warmth, and generosity,” said Wilberg.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had as versatile a performer as Kristin. She’s not only a classical singer, but she sings pop and country. … You will hear a little bit of each of those elements in this concert.”

Choir president Ron Jarrett noted the cast for this year’s concert features over 600 performers. Expect to see plenty of music and dancing.

“But there are some elements that you’ll just have to come and see,” he said.

For decades, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has been an essential element of the cultural fabric for Latter-day Saints across the globe. But Chenoweth said the choir is similarly regarded by some of the biggest names in the performing arts.

“I look back at the choir’s history and I just think, ‘I want to be a part of this.’”

Wilberg said he collaborated closely with Chenoweth in developing the concert program and swapping ideas to ensure the event is a success. He added that the choir has also put in the work to memorize all of the musical numbers.

Meanwhile, Chenoweth said she’s acclimating to Utah’s high altitude and dry air while taking in the local malls and food fare.

“I’m just a girl from Oklahoma, so I like the normal things.”

Still, performing with the choir at Temple Square is a “moment in my life that has been a long time coming,” she said. “I want to celebrate the reason for this [Christmas] season. I’m so honored to be able to do this.”

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.

Ron Jarret, president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, left, and Mack Wilberg, music director of the choir, sit with guest artist Kristin Chenoweth as they share exclusive details about this year’s Christmas concert during a press conference at the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.