The actor, who stars opposite Megan Hilty, says humans need to spend less time “worrying about what the good church is” and more time being better people.
Neal McDonough is many things.
He’s an actor, appearing in movies like Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and TV shows like HBO’s “Band of Brothers” and CW’s “Arrow.” He is a husband and father of five children. He is a devout Catholic.
And right now, he’s the narrator for The Tabernacle Choir’s annual Christmas concert in Temple Square, which is being taped in front of a limited audience for broadcast on PBS over the holidays in 2022.
And he has no problem teaming up with the First Troop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“As humans, we spend so much time wondering what the right church is,” he said Friday. “By bridging [Latter-day Saints and Catholics] together it shows that whatever it takes to glorify God and be better human beings in his sight is the goal of all religion and belief.
The choir usually tapes its Christmas concerts a year in advance, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it couldn’t film anything in 2020. So this Yuletide, it’s streaming “20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir”, with more than 40 guest artists and more than 60 songs.
The program can be streamed online at PBS.org and BYUtv.org. A TV broadcast schedule for both stations is available at bit.ly/3E4PDlx.
For the choir members, the month apart finally came to an end in September, when they rehearsed for the first time since the pandemic began. The choir has only allowed half of its members to sing at each October 2021 General Conference session to accommodate social distancing.
For this week’s recording, however, the entire choir is back.
Recently appointed choir chairman Mike Leavitt, a former governor of Utah, said Friday he was confident that when audiences watch the 2022 show next holiday season, they won’t be disappointed.
“He skillfully finds ways to bring a sense of unity, peace and healing,” he said. “And that is the mission of the Tabernacle Choir in Temple Square.”
A Celtic-themed Christmas
McDonough was joined on stage by Tony-nominated singer Megan Hilty, whose credits include Ivy Lynn in NBC’s musical drama “Smash” and Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway musical “Wicked.”
Supported by The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra, as well as the Bells of Temple Square, McDonough and Hilty took part in a Celtic-themed Christmas program, which included the medieval carol ‘On This Day, Earth Shall Ring’; and “Christmas Is Coming, So Deck the Halls”, a mix of English and Welsh carols.
Hilty said his favorite was “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, written by Scottish poet James Montgomery.
“It’s such a singular experience,” she said, “to stand in front of the most iconic group of singers who are so perfectly formed.”
Celtic influences also held personal significance for McDonough and Hilty, both of Irish descent.
Before performing with the choir, Hilty hadn’t realized how rooted his family’s Christmas traditions are in the Emerald Isle, while McDonough said he loved hearing the old songs he had with him. grown up.
“[Music] is the only language of life that everyone can understand,” he said. With this Christmas concert “it’s not just the music. It is music that glorifies God. And that’s why we’re all here: to really talk about how we can all be better people through his eyes.
The choir’s musical director, Mack Wilberg, said choir directors didn’t realize McDonough and Hilty had Irish heritage until they were shortlisted for the program. The coincidence “seemed like a perfect fit.”
“How can we be better people on this planet? »
Wilberg said that when audiences see the show next year, he hopes people will feel “the sense of Christmas and hopefully want to be a little better.”
Leavitt added that he was impressed with how the program spoke to those of all faiths, uniting them in a sense of what Christmas means to everyone.
McDonough echoed that sentiment.
“Whether you are Catholic or Mormon, Muslim or Jew or Buddhist or agnostic or atheist, [this show] is a chance for all of us to understand ‘how can we be better on this planet?’ “, did he declare. “We are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God.