Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concert canceled because of the coronavirus

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Christmas concert is alive with music of the season featuring Broadway star Kelli O’Hara in the Conference Center on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

The Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert has fallen victim to COVID-19.

The event has been canceled for 2020 because of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ prohibition of large public gatherings during the pandemic.

This year’s television broadcast of the Christmas concert will be unaffected. The December 2020 telecast of “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir” on PBS and BYUtv was recorded in December 2019, and features performances by Broadway star Kelli O’Hara and actor Richard Thomas (“The Waltons”).

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) From left, Tabernacle Choir President Ron Jarrett, actor Richard Thomas, singer and actress Kelli O’Hara and Choir Music Director Mack Wilberg talk about the 2019 Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert at Temple Square, during a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

Ron Jarret, president of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, called the cancellation “disappointing,” adding in a news release that he is “exploring ways to continue the choir’s annual traditions of TV specials and recordings next year even in the absence of a live Christmas concert in 2020.”

Fall concerts by the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Bells at Temple Square are also off the schedule. Tabernacle Choir auditions have been suspended until 2021 as well.

The Tabernacle Choir’s first Christmas concert took place in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Christmas Day, 1894, according to choir publicist Kim Farah. For the next eight decades, the choir performed Christmas music at various events, including the First Presidency’s Christmas devotional and on the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcasts.

In 1974, music director Jerold Ottley began the tradition of an annual Christmas concert, sometimes with guest artists, Farah said. The current incarnation of the concerts, highly produced shows from the Conference Center, launched in December 2000, with singer Gladys Knight and “Touched by an Angel” star Roma Downey as the guest stars.