News Release

How the 2022 Witnesses of Christmas – Symbols of Christ concert came to be

From small devotional to historic broadcast

Last year’s Witnesses of Christmas concert, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe, was initially going to be no more than an in-person concert at a local stake centre in Italy. In fact, it wasn’t called Witnesses of Christmas at all—it was just the generous offer of Grammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker to perform a Christmas concert alongside her family in Rome for a few hundred local saints. Entertaining and inspiring as it surely would have been, it seemed the Lord had bigger plans in mind.

The concert is now live and can be watched (via YouTube).

In light of ongoing Corona virus fatigue, newly called Area President Elder Massimo De Feo thought Jenny’s program could be the perfect gift for everyone in the Europe Area. In nothing short of a miracle, what began as a small fireside turned into a historic broadcast that has been seen not just all over Europe, but across the world. Filmed at the Rome Temple Visitors Centre and the renowned Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark, Witnesses of Christmas featured Jenny Oaks Baker and Family Four, Alex Sharpe, formerly of Celtic Woman, acclaimed Danish Latter-day Saint actor Tomas Kofod, and concluding remarks from Elder De Feo and President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency of the Church. Considering the production’s humble beginnings and the fact that COVID-19 threatened to shut down the production from start to finish, it was a miraculous success.

For writer, director, and producer, Brian Cordray, however, its success inevitably led to another question: What could the Church in Europe do next year to build upon this experience? Who would they recruit to be part of the new cast? What songs would they sing? Where would they perform? Who would narrate it? How could they make the script interesting? And finally, how could he invite the same spirit of the concert before while building upon the starting point it set?

All these questions and more were theirs to solve beginning as early as January of this year. By following the Lord’s direction and moving forward in faith one step at a time, the production team took an essentially blank slate and turned it into a Christmas masterpiece.

Recruitment of artists

From the get-go one thing was clear—that the concert should feel distinctly European. While the circumstances surrounding last year’s event made amassing any kind of world-class talent impressive, this year, with more time to prepare, the crew wanted to recruit an all-European cast, which they ultimately did.

Using the proven Hollywood-approach of “Vitamin C” or working through contacts of contacts, the area team connected with a network of professional Latter-day Saint performers throughout Europe. Cold calls and unsolicited emails would lead to quick introductions and informal project pitches. To the producers’ delight, they were soon able to recruit musicians of different nationalities and genres who all, out of love for the Saviour, offered their time and talents for free.

Jack and Marta Tyndale-Biscoe (UK and Spain) – Pianist Jack Tyndale-Biscoe has studied music on three continents and has toured extensively throughout Europe. He is currently Talent Unlimited U.K. and DEBUT Classical Artist. Marta is a Catalan pianist and pedagogue. Both have taught as adjunct professors of music and languages at Brigham Young University – Idaho before moving to London.

Vesna and Igor Gruppman (Serbia and Ukraine) – Grammy award-winning violinists Igor and Vesna Gruppman met at the Moscow Conservatory and have since had incredibly successful music careers in performing, conducting, and teaching. They are now stationed in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where Igor serves as concertmaster for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Vesna teaches Viola at the Rotterdam Conservatory.

Constanze and Wolfgang Gebauer (Austria and Germany) – Both accomplished opera singers in their own right, Wolfgang and Constanze Gebauer first met on a stage and have since never left it, performing together in operas, musicals, and concerts throughout Europe

Naura (Spain) – Naura has studied music at two Spanish institutions and has performed numerous concerts as a solo soprano, accompanied, among others, by the Navarra Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Pamplonesa Band

Ruth Lorenzo (Spain) – Known widely for her 5th place finish in X Factor U.K., Ruth has had a successful solo career featuring 3 charting albums, 4 Spain tours, and notably, one of Spain’s best ever placements in the Eurovision Song Contest

Alex Sharpe (Ireland) – Alex is best known as a member of Grammy nominated group Celtic Woman and has headlined in various musicals and solo performances across the globe

Salome Moana (Switzerland) – Having received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Academy of Music in Basel, Switzerland, Salome is an up-and-coming improvisational jazz-pop artist who released her debut album in 2020, with a planned sophomore release in spring 2023

Louis and Per Herrey (Sweden) – Louis and Per Herrey are two of the three members of boyband The Herreys, who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1984, sparking a career that consisted of 10 studio albums and immense touring success

Repertoire selection

While last year’s program mostly featured beautiful instrumental pieces, this year, an emphasis was placed on performing both instrumental and vocal pieces. To this end, the production crew recruited the help of Jenny Oaks Baker, the primary performer from last year’s concert, who partnered with award-winning composer Kurt Bestor to create new arrangements of beloved European Christmas carols that would reflect the concert’s unique themes.

    • Overture: Orchestra
    • Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle: Naura
    • Nu Tändas Tusen Juleljus: Herreys
    • O Tannenbaum: Gebauers
    • Holly & Ivy: Salome
    • O Come All Ye Faithful: Tyndale-Biscoes
    • Carol of the Bells: Gruppmans
    • Joy to the World: Ruth
    • In the Bleak Midwinter: Alex
    • Finale: O Holy Night with Everyone

Upon asking performers their favourite part of the concert, more than one mentioned Bestor’s original arrangement of the Christmas classic O Holy Night. About this, acclaimed pianist Jack Tyndale-Biscoe noted that, “It is our hope that those who listen, especially to this last number, both [those] of our faith and our many other friends out there, may be transported to perhaps feel more reverence for that sacred night in the history of humanity, feel more light enter their souls and hearts as they think of the gift of a Saviour, and ultimately feel more love as they ponder the crux of the Christmas season; gratitude and giving.”

Location finding

Sometimes, the right path only materializes after an initial step into the unknown is taken. Such was the case for this year’s concert. The idea was to seek out a site that would uniquely connect viewers to Jesus’ time through ruins of the then reigning Roman Empire, but many of the more well-known Italian sites were unfortunately cost prohibitive. As the cast was being recruited, Cordray was introduced to Ruth Lorenzo, one of Spain’s brightest stars, who introduced him to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mérida, Spain, which contains the ruins of a Roman provincial capital established just 25 years before Christ’s birth. After several talks, administration permitted filming with the backdrop of the Roman architecture just this past October.

About this setting, soloist Alex Sharpe said, “The setting of the Roman amphitheatre of Mérida, Spain was breath-taking, and it immediately transported me back in time, being on that stage and singing under the stars helped me to imagine Mary and Joseph in such humble surroundings bringing the Saviour into the world and the anticipation of hope in the air.”

Narrating the story of Christmas

Last year’s concert was wonderfully narrated by Danish thespian Tomas Kofod, who previously portrayed the sacred role of Jesus Christ in the Church production The Testaments. Seeking a female voice this time around, the production crew was able to recruit the talents of none other than Savannah Stevenson of the U.K., who many church members may recognize as the actress who played Mary, the mother of Christ, in The Church of Jesus Christ’s Bible Videos. Stevenson, Cordray said, “brought warmth and professionalism to the role of narrator.”

Upon enlisting the talents of Stevenson, the area production team began looking for locations in the United Kingdom where crew could film the narration. As they sought the perfect Victorian-era venue, local Church members suggested the Charles Dickens Museum in London. For Cordray’s script, this proved to be a game-changer as he recognized the opportunity to draw from Dickens’s classic story a Christmas Carol in his writing. After all, according to Cordray, “It’s clear that Scrooge’s journey is a spiritual one where he learns to become more Christlike. Isn’t that what we all want?”

The production team also had the idea early on to consider how various features of Christmas that are often considered quite secular (e.g.: Christmas trees, candy canes, bells, stockings, holly wreaths, etc.) actually connect all to Christ. This idea was seen through to the end, hence the appearance of many of these symbols in the program and the altered name Witnesses of Christmas – Symbols of Christ.

Experiencing the spirit of Christmas through music

For the producers, recapturing the sweet spirit that accompanied the inaugural Witnesses of Christmas concert fortunately wouldn’t prove difficult - as long as the concert focused on the real reason for the season: Jesus Christ. “[God] gave a divine spark to the show,” opera singer Constanze Gebauer noted, “so that everyone,” regardless of background, nationality, or religious affiliation, “would feel it.”

In the New Testament, Matthew writes, “Where two are three are gathered together in my name, there I am, in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20) For Witnesses of Christmas – Symbols of Christ, scores of saints literally did gather themselves in His name—from the production crew to the cast, all the way down to the many translators who made the concert available in 31 different languages. As they will all attest with one voice, Jesus Christ truly has been “in the midst of them” during this unique production.

How to Watch

Witnesses of Christmas – Symbols of Christ will air live on December 11th, 2022, at 6pm CET. It will be available on the official church channels, including:, the Church Country Page website, YouTube and Facebook until middle of January 2023.

Along with the programme, there will be activities for children and their families, found on

Further material including a Christmas service calendar, posters, pass-along cards and promotional videos will soon be available on

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