At a luncheon at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate), on behalf of The Actors Fund, for which he has served as Chairman of the Board since 2004, accepted a generous $100,000 donation check from the Tabernacle Choir, to provide support and to give back to the Broadway community that has given them so much over the years. A tireless advocate for the theater community, Mitchell, an accomplished actor, singer, musician, and arranger, has been a guest soloist with the Choir in three major concerts and has maintained a close personal association and collaboration with the Choir’s leadership for more than a decade.
The afternoon event was held in celebration of the upcoming 20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir, an anniversary retrospective hosted and narrated by Stokes (as he is known to his friends and colleagues) and premiering on PBS on Monday, December 13, at 8 pm, and on BYUtv on December 16, at 9 pm. During the worldwide pandemic of 2020, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square was quiet, and the Conference Center in Salt Lake City was dark and empty. But then, with no public announcement and absolutely no fanfare, the acclaimed star of the stage and screen, and 2016 inductee into the Theatre Hall of Fame, returned to remember twenty years of inspiring Christmas concerts, preserving a beloved tradition that had to be re-imagined due to COVID-19.
The two-hour star-studded broadcast will feature memorable performances from the past two decades by an array of Broadway, cabaret, TV, and movie stars, opera, gospel, and pop singers, and journalists, historians, and newscasters, including Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, Angela Lansbury, Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, Richard Thomas, Jane Seymour, Hugh Bonneville, the Muppets, Santino Fontana, Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, John Rhys-Davies, the late Ed Herrmann, David Archuleta, Tom Brokaw, and many others. They are interspersed with intimate performances and storytelling by Stokes, taped last December, and following all COVID-19 safety protocol, in the empty 21,000 seat Conference Center on Temple Square, with just a handful of socially distanced Orchestra members and the Choir’s first-ever all virtual performance.
During the donation ceremony and program preview, Stokes was interviewed by arts journalist Ruthie Fierberg (who was also his son’s former babysitter), joined remotely on screen by the Choir’s music director, orchestrator, conductor, and composer Mack Wilberg. They discussed the artistic process and content of the upcoming show and lauded the power of the arts to bring people together, to uplift, and to touch hearts, just as, Stokes noted, these “two forces of good in the world [The Actors Fund and the Tabernacle Choir] have joined forces . . . to make things happen. It’s magical!”
The speakers also noted that everyone can help through “giving machines” at locations around the city for donations to charitable organizations, including The Actors Fund. Founded in 1882, The Actors Fund is a national services organization for the entertainment community, providing emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care, and more.
20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir plays on Monday, December 13, at 8 pm, on PBS, and on December 16, at 9 pm, on BYUtv.