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Christmas With The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Rolando Villazón (on KPBS 2)

Airs Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2

Guest artist Rolando Villazón, renowned operatic tenor, performs and narrates...

Credit: Courtesy of Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Above: Guest artist Rolando Villazón, renowned operatic tenor, performs and narrates the Christmas Story, as recorded in Luke 2 of the King James Bible, and a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Little Match Girl.”

No. 1 watched program on PBS during holidays brings poignant, cross-cultural, Latino-themed celebration to millions of viewers

“Christmas With The Mormon Tabernacle Choir" premieres on KPBS 2 December 15 at 9 p.m. This annual spectacular will feature world-renowned operatic tenor Rolando Villazón as guest artist and narrator.

Canción para la Navidad

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Rolando Villazón perform "Canción para la Navidad" in this bonus clip from "Christmas With The Mormon Tabernacle Choir."

This year’s broadcast debuts its first Latino guest artist and weaves beloved Latin-American Christmas carols with traditional holiday favorites to deliver a poignant cross- cultural holiday celebration.

O Come, Little Children

The lyrics to this affectingly simple German Christmas carol were penned in 1798 by a Catholic priest, Christoph von Schmid. Though Schmid’s verse was set to various melodies in the 19th century, it is best-known in an 1835 setting that matched the poem to the tune of a children’s song from 1790 composed by the German court musician Johann A. P. Schulz.

“My first major performance as an opera singer wason PBS with ‘La Bohème’ at Lincoln Center, so it’s wonderful to be part of such a rich PBS tradition and broadcast,” said Mr. Villazón. “Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Conference Center at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, this concert includes beautifully arranged arias and treasured ‘villancicos’ that speak about connecting with others and giving shelter to the wanderer and the homeless. This concert is really about reflecting on what makes us human and unites us as part of the universal Christmas tradition. The music, the orchestra, the acting and the singular sound of the beautiful Choir are very inspiring. There’s nothing quite like this in the world in terms of the scale, grandeur and purpose.”

How Excellent Thy Name

Handel's oratorio Saul begins with a Chorus of Israelites praising God for saving their nation through David’s miraculous slaying of Goliath. The scene later concludes with an abbreviated reprise of this regal chorus, “How Excellent Thy Name,” appended by a joyfully contrapuntal “Alleluia!” Experience Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir featuring Rolando Villazón.

“Christmas With The Mormon Tabernacle Choir” unites a 600-person-strong cast comprised of the 360-voice world renowned choir, 150-piece orchestra, bell-ringers, dancers and actors to deliver an unforgettable program of music, pageantry and storytelling.

Carol of the Drum

Katherine Davis’s 1941 Christmas song, “Carol of the Drum” was based largely on a traditional Czech carol. In 1963 it was retitled “Little Drummer Boy,” and remains to this day a much-loved seasonal classic. Experience Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir featuring Rolando Villazón on PBS.

The program is filled with holiday carols in both English and Spanish, including: “Deck the Hall,” “Carol of the Drum,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” “Campana Sobre Campana” and others.

Angels from the Realms of Glory

The tune for this popular Christmas song comes from the 18th-century French carol “Les Anges dans nos Campagnes.” In Mack Wilberg’s stirring arrangement, this carol has become the signature finale at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Featuring tenor Rolando Villazón.

Mr. Villazón also provides narration both for the Christmas Story as recorded in Luke 2 of the Bible, and a new retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Little Match Girl,” complete with a live- action performance.

Luke 2: The Christmas Story

The familiar, beloved account of Christ’s birth found in the Gospel of St. Luke has long been the traditional centerpiece of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concerts. In this concert, Rolando Villazón’s narration is accompanied by a gentle orchestral meditation based on musical motifs drawn from “O Come, Little Children.”

“Rolando is one of the most versatile artists alive today, who, with concurrent careers as opera singer, television host, author, stage director and cartoonist, assumes the dual role of singer and narrator with ease,” said Mack Wilberg, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “He brings a deep passion for his Mexican culture and characteristic wonder and enthusiasm, which are reflected throughout the program in a unique way. We knew for years that we wanted Rolando to join us for a performance in Salt Lake City, and are delighted by the chemistry, creativity and diversity that came about as a result.”

The Little Match Girl

In this dramatization of “The Little Match Girl,” Rolando Villazón narrates David Warner’s new iteration of the poignant tale over the Orchesta’s backdrop of original music by Mack Wilberg, as the Choir provides commentaries on nurturing the divine spark of faith and love. Experience Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir featuring Rolando Villazón.

Behind the Scenes with Rolando Villazón

Go behind the scenes with Rolando Villazón and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


DVDs, CDs and a book of the concert are also available for purchase.


Mormon Tabernacle Choir is on Facebook, Google +, Instagram, and you can follow @MormonTabChoir on Twitter.

Rolando Villazón is on Facebook, and you can follow @RolandoVillazon on Twitter.


The 2017 broadcast is co-presented by BYUtv and WGBH Boston.

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