Alfie Boe & Tom Brokaw talk to Tribune about Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Xmas concert
If Alfie Boe had gotten a job with the Salt Lake City Police Department, he wouldn't be the guest performer at this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert.
About a decade ago, during a particularly lean period for the British tenor, he inquired about becoming a personal trainer within the SLCPD.
"Then I started getting more work," he said. "The music picked up."
Boe, who is married to a Salt Lake City native and has a home in Utah, has come a long way from winning the 1994 West London Karaoke Championship and later becoming a potential Utah crime-fighter.
Boe was featured in Baz Luhrmann's production of "La Boheme," for which he later won a Tony Award, but Boe's most high-profile gig was starring as prisoner-turned-mayor Jean Valjean in a 2010 concert performance of the musical "Les MisÃ©rables" at the O2 Arena in London to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show. The filmed concert became a top-rated PBS special that was also shown in movie theaters and later released on video. The concert encore performance of "Bring Him Home" was credited to "The Valjean Quartet," with Boe alongside prior Jean Valjean performers Colm Wilkinson, John Owen-Jones and Simon Bowman.
This summer, the 39-year-old singer garnered more fame when he performed at the Diamond Jubilee Concert for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, singing "'O sole mio" leading into Elvis Presley's "It's Now Or Never." During the festivities, he also sang "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" with soprano Renee Fleming on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. All of the above performances showcased Boe's show-stopping range, even though each time he sings in public, he gets the butterflies.
"The nerves will be there," Boe said of his upcoming performance, which incidentally will be his first formal concert in Salt Lake City. "I always tend to get nervous. I try to channel those. I pace a lot. That tends to help."
Alfie still spends much of his time in London and Europe, but returns to Salt Lake City whenever possible. He and his wife who have two children together like to hike, and eat at Pat's Barbecue and the Trolley Wing Company. He's even taken to skiing, despite a one of Sarah's relatives leading him down a hair-raising mogul run at Snowbird during one of his first ski trips.
The humble Boe said he was approached by the Choir about a year ago, and was flattered. "I never turn down a gig," he said.
Mack Wilberg, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, said inviting Boe was an easy decision.
"For us, Alfie Boe was an obvious choice," Wilberg said. "He is a remarkable talent with a stirring and dramatic vocal style that fits well with the choir ... When you think about it, Alfie Boe carries on the tradition of a long list of classically trained British artists who have joined their vocal talents with the choir."
NBC anchor Tom Brokaw will serve as the concerts' narrator, which the 72-year-old said he felt privileged to do so.
In a Tribune interview, Brokaw said one of his fondest childhood holiday memories was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's annual Christmas concerts while he listened intently to the radio in his prairie home in South Dakota.
Later in his life, he and his family began traveling to Utah to ski, with Brokaw taking to the slopes for the first time in Park City in 1970. Until recently, his family owned a home near the Sundance Resort.
His deep affinity for Utah continued in 2002, when he covered the Winter Olympics for NBC News and was granted an opportunity to interview late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley.
In 2011, Brokaw was invited to to record "9/11: Rising Above," a "Music and the Spoken Word Special Broadcast" presented 10 years after the events of September 11, 2001. At that time, the idea of having him return for the Christmas concert was broached. He joked that at first he thought they wanted him to sing.
"I live in a family of very talented vocalists," Brokaw said. "I am tone-deaf. I can't sing 'Happy Birthday.'"
Once Brokaw's long weekend is over, he will spend Christmas Eve in New York, where his family will continue its own tradition by eating oyster stew and his wife's signature persimmon pudding. On Christmas Day he will fly to San Francisco to see his West Coast family.
His wife Meredith's birthday is Dec. 25, so Christmas has always been an important day for Brokaw. He said when she was younger and heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Hallelujah" on one Christmas, she thought it was especially for her.
Catherine Reese Newton contributed to this story.
2012 Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas ConcertGuests for this year's Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square concert are tenor Alfie Boe and broadcaster Tom Brokaw.When • Thursday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m. (dress rehearsal); Friday, Dec. 14, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m.Where • LDS Church Conference Center, 60 West North Temple Salt Lake CityTickets • Free tickets have been distributed; standby line at the north gate on Temple Square. Overflow seating in the LDS Tabernacle and Assembly Hall.
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