By Sandi Durell . . .

An enthusiastic audience came to lunch on December 9, at Feinstein’s/54 Below to hear and cheer Brian ‘Stokes’ Mitchell speak about his involvement and long-time relationship, not only as Chairman of the Actors Fund, but as host and narrator of the upcoming “20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir”.

The audience was comprised of many folks who are the mainstay and represent leadership of The Tabernacle Choir along with broadcast executives (present from Salt Lake City, Utah and other locations) and are responsible for the 360 voices and creatives that make up The Choir.

On Monday December 13 at 8 pm, PBS will premiere the two hour anniversary special retrospective program hosted by the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award legend we know as ‘Stokes’. It will also be shown on the PBS Video app and on BYUtv and their free app on Thursday December 16 at 9 pm. It will contain performances of more than 40 guest artists and narrators including Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Angela Lansbury, Kelli O’Hara, Santino Fontana, Laura Osnes, Gladys Knight, and a plethora of other greats from all walks of the music and entertainment world. A small portion of that video was aired at the luncheon. You can read more at See more in the video below.

An important part of the afternoon included the presentation by the The Choir of a $100,000 donation to The Actors Fund. “Two forces for good have joined together.” Much information was made available about the work the Actors Fund has been doing throughout Covid to help so many in the entertainment industry – approximately $21Million has been given out to approximately 16,000 in need. We also learned about the Giving Machines in many areas of the country, including one at Rockefeller Centre. Choose your charity and donate!

There’s no one I’d rather listen to than Brian Stokes Mitchell speaking about anything, as evidenced by his interview with Ruthie Porter, entertainment journalist (baby sitter to his son way back when and obvious good friend throughout the years). He’s quick-witted, upbeat, sincere and always fun. Joining them on Zoom was Mack Wilberg, the Choir’s musical director, a songwriter in his own right, to give insight into how Stokes joined a handful of socially distanced orchestra members in an empty 21,000 seat Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to record intimate Christmas classics.

Stokes is an extraordinary storyteller no matter if it’s listening to his exquisite vocals or he’s speaking. What always stands out is the reminder that music is the great communicator as its healing properties speak to all of us. And where would we be without those who uplift our spirits and bring hope at the most essential times through song, performance and entertainment as we continue to maneuver through this pandemic.

Looking forward to the two-hour Anniversary Retrospective on PBS and BYUtv!

Photos: Allison Sullivan