Sissel Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
by Robert A Jones
SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Sissel
and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed three full 90-minute concerts and a live TV and
radio broadcast on Sunday consisting of a 30-minute concert followed by a mini-concert over the weekend.
These concerts were held in one of the largest concert halls in the world. The LDS Conference
Center seats 21,000 and was nearly packed for each of the four concerts. Sure there are concerts held
in sports arenas as large or larger, but this hall was specifically designed for concerts and similar
events, not for sports with amazing acoustics despite its massive size.
Over 80,000 people were
able to experience Sissel live over this weekend in Salt Lake City. To put this into perspective,
on her recent USA tour of the eastern United States with nine concert performances, she appeared in
theatres which averaged 2,000 seats for a total of about 18,000 people. Sissel was able to
perform for more people on the first night of these Christmas concerts than in all of the nine
concerts on her tour combined.
The concert opened with several songs performed by the choir without Sissel: "Bring A Torch,
Jeannette, Isabella," "Wexford Carol," and "Sunny Bank." The first number was accompanied by
beautifully clothed dancers who looked like Scandinavian boys and girls holding up lanterns,
marching out from amongst the audience up onto the multi-level stage which was decorated like an
old European village.
Finally Sissel came on stage in a gorgeous black gown with a hoop skirt to sing
"Hark! The Herald
Angels Sing!" Finally the concert had really begun! Sissel's crystal clear voice is perfect for
songs such as this.
Sissel continued on singing "In The Bleak Mid-Winter," a sparse, melancholy yet uplifting tune with
a slightly Irish lilt.
Next Sissel adressed the audience, saying she was so pleased to be back in Salt Lake City, rejoining
the many friends she had made last year when she performed with the choir. She said she especially
loved to sing Christmas carols and had just completed her own Christmas tour of Scandinavia.
Sissel said the next song she was to sing with the choir was a very ancient song over 700
years old from Germany, but that it had traveled all over the world. I imagine this was her way of
saying, "Even though we're going to sing a German song, the choir is going to sing it in Latin and
I'm going to sing my part in Norwegian," because that's just what they did when they sang "In dulci
jubilo" or otherwise known as "Jeg synger julekvad" in Norway. I had never been a big fan of this
song previously, but it was so amazing, and flawless that I gained new appreciation for it.
Sissel introduced the song
"Mitt hjerte alltid vanker" and told a little bit about the song as she
was about to sing it in Norwegian and most wouldn't understand. I can't really critique
every song Sissel sang because there aren't enough superlatives to describe her perfection. But you
can hear a live recording of this song yourself by clicking the link above.
After the choir sang "Noe! Noe!" and "Away In A Manger" alone, Sissel rejoined them to sing "Marie
Wiegenlied" in a sumptuous arrangement by Kjetil Bjerkestrand.
One of the highlights of the evening was the choir's singing of a Nigerial carol, even though
Sissel wasn't involved. "Betelehemu" featured bongo drums, swaying rhythms, a glorious solo by
choir tenor James Shumway, and African chants and wailing towards the end. It was a real eye
opener and crowd favorite.
The choir followed this up with a traditional rendition of "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful," an organ
solo of "Noël des ausels (Carol Of The Birds) by Richard Elliott, a spirited "Spirit Of The Season," from
The Polar Express and "White Christmas."
Sissel gracefully floated down the staircase of the multi-level stage dressed
in an extravagantly tailored chocolate satin top and a full, luscious mint green velvet skirt. Kjetil
Bjerkestrand accompanied her on the piano as she sang her hauntingly beautiful rendition of ABBA's
"Like An Angel Passing Through My Room." Certainly Sissel is the first and only performer to sing
an ABBA song in concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Next the choir was joined by a bell choir to perform "Ring, Christmas Bells" a medley of Christmas
tunes with bells, including massive bells slowly lifted up by choir members from under their seats.
Sissel came back out and told how in the dark of winter, light is especially important In Scandinavia,
so much so that they have a traditional procession celebrating the light called Santa Lucia. At this
point a number of young women dressed in white gowns with crowns of candles on their heads came
out from behind the choir and down onto the upper level of the stage while Sissel sang "Vitae Lux
(Light Of Life)."
Sissel next hummed the opening chords to "Lux aurumque" with the choir, before retreating off stage
while the choir finished that carol and sang "Silent Night" as well.
When Sissel next appeared she was carrying a large booklet and began to read "The Christmas Story" of
the birth of the Savior as told in Luke chapter 2.
Finally, Sissel and the choir closed the show by singing
"Angels, From The Realms Of Glory," with
Sissel effortlessly singing this difficult piece.
Sissel and the choir received multiple standing ovations from the 20,000+ crowd and she came out
for an encore wherein she and the choir sang more of "Angels, From The Realms Of Glory."
As the crowd dispersed outside of the Conference Center, an entrancingly beautiful heavy snowfall
had begun to settle on a previously warm, dry downtown Salt Lake City. Sissel brought the Christmas
atmosphere with her to town.