The Power of Music and Podcasts

Tabernacle Choir Christmas
Kristen Chenowith performed with the Choir for Christmas 2018

Word was sent out today of the cancellation of the annual Christmas concert of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. The announcement does not come as a surprise but that does not mean there is not severe disappointment. Such is life in the year of Covid.

I have been lucky to live local to the Tabernacle Choir since they first started doing the annual Christmas concert.

Of course, millions have known about the concerts because they get picked up by PBS and aired nationally every Christmas. I have conversed with many who have enjoyed it on television but to be honest with you there is nothing like the excitement that going to the event generates.

As an adult, a music lover, and a Christmas freak the excitement of going to the event is as close as one comes to the excitement you feel as a kid on Christmas Eve.

Salt Lake City is not the huge metropolis of most of America’s busiest areas. But it is not a small city and the downtown area around Temple Square is usually decked to the nines every Christmas.

Going there to share space with hundreds of thousands of others and then to sit in a hall with more than 21,000 others gives it all a buzz you would expect at Christmas. But given also that there is usually snow in December and the bazillion of lights around town and especially around Temple Square — well, the setting bleeds Christmas.

What many outside of Salt Lake do not realize is that the concert is free.

You have to get the free tickets and there is usually a frenzy to claim them when they become available in October. They are usually snapped up within minutes and they become the hottest ticket in town rather quickly. You would think that the stars they bring in to headline the event would drive ticket demand but that’s not it. Honestly. It’s the music. It’s the magic. It’s the buzz of Christmas.

Part of what made it special for us is that when you see members of the choir or the orchestra in these videos you are seeing many of our friends. They volunteer to do what they do and they do it with such grace and class.

My children grew up with going to this event as a family almost every single year. Back in the day to get tickets all you had to do was devote time off work and just go stand in a line for several hours to get the tickets you needed.

About 80,000 tickets overall are usually available for the 4-performance event but in a market with 2 million people right there those free tickets are high demand.

Somehow we always made it and on those years we could not score the tickets we would go down through the snow and the lights to Temple Square anyway and tried the standby line. No matter what it was always a don’t-miss Christmas thing for us to do as a family.

How powerful was it?

Well, watch this video below from the 2012 concert. It’s not even a Christmas song (though millions know Les Mis√©rables). And Alfie Boe? Who here in the backwater world of Utah had ever heard of him? But what a thing to take my children to. Every year there were surprises like this one (seriously, watch it):

I was there when this happened. I can tell you there wasn’t a person in that hall who was not on the edge of their seat and who did not immediately rise and cheer at the song’s conclusion. That video now has nearly 6 millions views and it is famous worldwide.

But for as great as that song was, there was another part of the concert that does not get the notice it deserves. Here is that video:

Can you imagine seeing and hearing all this in one night — oh, with another 40 more minutes or so of Christmas music thrown in?

As I contemplate those past Christmas events now I realize how lucky we were to attend them. My children have a very high standard to live up to with their children as a result of growing up with this. It thrills me to see my grandchildren now growing up with a love of Choir music, opera, classical and pop Christmas music that my children learned through these Christmas concerts.

Sadly, there won’t be much of this for Christmas 2020 going on. I cannot even keep track of the number of cancellations I’m seeing.

But guess what?

The music doesn’t have to stop. And neither does the storytelling.

That 2nd clip above of Tom Brokaw telling the story of the Candy Bomber is a great example of what the Tabernacle Choir does with their concerts. Along with the music superstars like Natalie Cole or Gladys Knight or Kristin Chenowith that they bring in yearly they also bring in a guest narrator or storyteller.

And it runs the gamut. From Walter Cronkite to Hugh Bonneville the Choir has had some impressive storytellers over the years.

Storytelling this year is a void that will have to be filled by Christmas podcasters. That’s what we do with every episode.

Do our Christmas podcasters out there realize what an opportunity there is for us in 2020? We can fill the storytelling and music void.

It is a huge challenge to rise to.

We’re working on some new projects that will help us get out there more with music and the voice of storytelling this Christmas.

Interested in being a part of it?

Contact us if you want to play along. You will not regret it.

The better part of listening to Christmas music and storytelling is getting to produce it. We are going to have some fun.

By Jeff Westover of MyMerryChristmas.com and The Merry Little Podcast

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