Season of Light: Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” starring Tony Award-winning Disney and Broadway star Lea Salonga (“Mulan,” “Miss Saigon”) and world-renowned screen and stage actor Sir David Suchet (“Agatha Christie’s Poirot”) will premiere on PBS and BYUtv this December.
Now in its 20th televised year, the beloved annual holiday program, presented by Boston public media producer GBH, weaves together inspirational music – including nods to Salonga’s Filipina heritage – with hope-filled storytelling about Sir Nicholas Winton, a real-life hero who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during World War II. The result is a universally moving program that invites hope and welcomes the spirit of sharing goodness this holiday season. The 90-minute “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” will premiere on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS App. BYUtv will air the special on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. ET on BYUtv, BYUtv.org and the BYUtv app.
“I like to think that, in whatever language, music transcends every manmade barrier,” said Salonga. “There is one Filipino song that I have just been loving to perform that’s about finding peace, quiet and hope amidst chaos and devastation, and it’s one of the most beautiful Christmas songs of any language. It feels like a gift to have been there in such an incredible space, with everybody from the musicians to members of the crew and the little kids who get to dance, all of whom met us with kindness at every step.”
Salonga joins The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in singing cherished Christmas carols, hymns and holiday classics. In one highlight, she delivers a powerful performance of a World War II-era song in Tagalog, “Payapang Daigdig,” which shares a message of finding peace and hope amidst devastation. Classical pieces, such as Felix Mendelssohn’s triumphant “And Then Shall Your Light Break Forth,” complement well-known holiday favorites such as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” As the evening’s narrator, Suchet powerfully recounts the story of Winton, an English stockbroker who worked tirelessly in the months before World War II to save endangered Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, orchestrating the safe passage of 669 refugees, with a known posterity of 6,000.
“I’ve appeared with other orchestras, but never in a space like this and never with a choir like this,” said Suchet. “Yet the more I worked with everybody, including the wonderful staff and the crew, the space seemed to warm up. Being there with the Choir and the amazing talents that they give so generously from their hearts was tremendous. I know where that sound comes from, and if it doesn’t come from the heart, then the audience doesn’t feel it. The Tabernacle Choir makes us feel it, and it is such a privilege to be on the stage knowing that we are all together.”
Per tradition, this year’s “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” was filmed in December 2022 to air this year. The Season of Light program unites a 500-person-strong cast including The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, Bells at Temple Square and Gabriel Trumpet Ensemble to deliver an unforgettable program in front of three live audiences in Salt Lake City’s 21,000-seat Conference Center at Temple Square.
Over the past two decades, the annual television broadcast has featured stars such as Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Angela Lansbury, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Santino Fontana, Gladys Knight, Megan Hilty, Natalie Cole, Sutton Foster, David Archuleta, Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, John Rhys-Davies, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Thomas, Jane Seymour, Neal McDonough, David McCullough and many more.
“Working with Lea Salonga and Sir David Suchet was a pure delight, and as you take in all that they have done as artists, you realize that they truly are the embodiment of the season of light that we speak to with this year’s Christmas concert special,” said Mack Wilberg, music director of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. “Throughout their impactful careers, they have been tremendous examples of achieving excellence while continuing to be a force for good. We are proud to share their powerful voices through this performance with everyone and celebrate our inspiring message of kindness and peace.”
Lea Salonga is a multiple award-winning actress and singer renowned across the world for her powerful voice and perfect pitch. She is best known for her Tony Award-winning role in “Miss Saigon.” Lea was awarded the Disney Legends Award in 2011, and fans of all ages recognize Lea as the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from “Aladdin” and Fa Mulan from “Mulan.” As a concert artist, Lea gave two tours in 2019 and 2022 that saw sold-out audiences and record-breaking sales across North America and the United Kingdom.
David Suchet, eminent stage, screen, and television actor, is best known for his role as the engaging, suave and precise Hercule Poirot in 70 episodes of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” for over 24 years. Suchet has received many awards and nominations for his decades of work on stage. In 2011 Queen Elizabeth awarded him Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2020 Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire for his services to drama and charity.
“Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” is co-presented annually by inspirational family television network BYUtv and GBH, the largest creator of PBS content for TV and the web. BYUtv is also the television home of the Choir’s weekly program “Music & the Spoken Word.”
Funding for “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” on PBS is provided, in part, by Ronald C. & Kaye Gunnell, Charles & Janet Stoddard and David B. & Jolynn Davies.