Europe-produced ‘Witnesses of Christmas’ program connects holiday symbols to the Savior

The annual Christmas program features European performers, European carols, narration, animation and video illustrations

Following last year’s popular “Witnesses of Christmas” musical Christmas concert produced by the Europe Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the questions started rolling in — “How about featuring more European performers?” “How about some diversity in languages?” and “How are you going to top that next year?”

Well, “next year” is now, with the “Witnesses of Christmas: Symbols of Christ” production set to answer those questions and more in celebrating the birth of the Savior.

Produced by the Europe Central and Europe North areas, the 2022 Christmas concert has a little bit of everything, beginning with 12 popular European musical artists featured in 10 performances.

But it is more than just music, with narration explaining how traditional Christmas symbols — stars, bells, candles, trees and more — are tied to Christ; video clips portraying the birth, life and teachings of the Savior; and animated 3D segments depicting scenes from Charles Dickens’ well-known novel “A Christmas Carol.”

Filmed in English and presented in 31 languages, the concert will first air Sunday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. Central European Time (in the United States — noon Eastern, 11 a.m. Central, 10 a.m. Mountain and 9 a.m. Pacific) and then be available on various official Church channels through the middle of next month.

“We invite everyone to enjoy this beautiful Christmas concert and to share it with family, friends and neighbors,” said Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Europe Central Area. “It will entertain, it will gladden hearts and uplift spirits. It will gently remind us that the symbols of Christmas point us to love, charity and peace — and to the ultimate source of those virtues, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Added Elder Hans T. Boom, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the Europe North Area: “This is the second year the Church of Jesus Christ in Europe has produced a beautiful Christmas concert, but the all-European talent roster in this year’s program is very important to us — these are our neighbors and friends sharing their talents and faith.”

Brian Cordray, the Europe Central Area manager of publishing services wrote, directed and produced the program. He explained the production’s premise: “The idea is to show these elements — whether it be the tree, candles, stockings, star or bells, all these noted Christmas symbols that are popular — and explain how each has a connection to Jesus Christ.”

Title card for the 2022 Christmas concert broadcast “Witnesses of Christmas: Symbols of Christ” from the Europe Central and North areas of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A look back at the 2021 concert

To appreciate the second-year sequel, one must know of the inaugural effort.

Last “Witnesses of Christmas” musical concert featured taping sites such as the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center and the historic Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark — both linked together by their Thorvaldsen “Christus” and ancient apostle statues.

The hourlong concert — available online from Dec. 19, 2021, through Jan. 6, 2022 — blended musical performances with a biblical account of the Savior’s birth and including video excerpts from holiday celebrations from Germany, Austria, France and Spain, which reflected some of Europe’s diverse Christmas traditions.

The program also featured President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, as they made stops in Rome and Paris, France. In his concluding message, President Oaks repeatedly testified of the living Lord and the birth, Resurrection and Atonement of the Savior.

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As a ‘present witness,’ President Oaks testifies of Christ during ‘Witnesses of Christmas’ concert in Europe

“As an Apostle of Jesus Christ,” President Oaks continued, “I am a present witness of this living Lord. I testify that Jesus Christ is the source of our joy, and the only Being who can bring peace to the troubled world. As the angels proclaimed at His birth, He was born for us ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11).”

Musical performers included violinist Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four — President Oaks’ daughter and four grandchildren — and soprano vocalist Alex Sharpe. Danish actor Tomas Ambt Kofod was the narrator for the program, which was presented in 24 languages.

The program had 2 million online views, with estimated viewership at 10 million.

Sites and performers for 2022 concerts

“Witnesses of Christmas: Symbols of Christ” features two taping sites — the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England, and the 2,000-year-old Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latter is transformed into a Christmas stage for the outdoor musical performances.

From the museum, Savannah Stevenson provides narration on the tradition and importance of the Christmas symbols, scenes from “A Christmas Carol” and key connections with the Savior’s birth, ministry and mission. Stevenson is a British singer and actress, whose credits include “Wicked” on London’s West End; she is familiar to Latter-day Saints because of her portrayal of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Church’s Bible videos.

From the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England, Savannah Stevenson provides narration for the 2022 Christmas production “Witnesses of Christmas: Symbols of Christ,” produced by the Europe Central and North areas of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The British actress portrayed Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Church’s Bible videos. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Featured performers include:

  • Ruth Lorenzo (Spain), who is known for logging Spain’s highest-ever finish at the Eurovision Song Contest and her fifth-place honors on the British talent show “The X Factor.”
  • Louis and Per Herreys (Sweden), two members of the 1980s boy band The Herreys, who won the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest and recorded 10 studio albums.
  • Salome Moana (Switzerland), an award-winning jazz-pop artist who released her debut album in 2020, with her second planned for 2023.
  • Nuara (Spain), a soprano soloist at numerous concerts and accompanied by the Navarra Symphony Orchestra and Pamplonesa Band.
  • Igor & Vesna Gruppman (Ukraine and Serbia), Grammy Award-winning violinists with successful careers in performing, conducting and teaching and who are now in Rotterdam, Netherlands — he as concertmaster for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and she teaching at the Rotterdam Conservatory.
  • Alex Sharpe (Ireland), a member of the Grammy-nominated group Celtic Woman who has headlined in various musicals and performances worldwide.
  • Jack and Marta Tyndale-Biscoe (United Kingdom and Spain), he is a British pianist having toured extensively throughout Europe, and she is a Catalan pianist and pedagogue. They taught as adjunct professors of music and languages at Brigham Young University–Idaho before moving to London.
  • Wolfgang and Constance Gebauer (Germany and Austria), accomplished opera singers who first met on a stage and have performed together in operas, musicals and concerts throughout Europe.

A performer last year, Baker returned for 2022 as the musical director, helping to recruit the European Latter-day Saints to participate this year. Renowned composer Kurt Bestor provided the arrangements for beloved European Christmas carols being performed.

Built more than two millenia ago, the Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain, served as the backdrop for the outdoor musical performances for the 2022 Christmas production “Witnesses of Christmas: Symbols of Christ,” from the Europe Central and North areas of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

All the performers donated their time and talents free of charge, as did the 10 members of the orchestral ensemble that accompanied them. “This unique concert is a gift of love to all of Europe from the heart of every performer in it,” Elder Boom said. “I think viewers will feel that.”

‘Symbols of Christ’ setlist

The concert features the following numbers, performers and the related Christmas symbols:

  • Overture, performed by the orchestra
  • “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle” an Italian carol, by Naura, featuring stars.
  • “Nu Tändas Tusen Juleljus,” a Swedish song, by the Herreys, featuring candles and light.
  • “O Tannenbaum,” a German carol, by the Gebauers, featuring trees.
  • Holly & Ivy,” a British carol, by Moana, featuring wreaths.
  • “O Come All Ye Faithful,” a carol original written in Latin, by the Tyndale-Biscoes, featuring candy canes.
  • “Carol of the Bells,” a carol based on a Ukrainian folk chant, by the Gruppmans, featuring bells.
  • “Joy to the World,” an English carol, by Lorenzo, featuring stockings.
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter,” an English poem often performed as a carol, by Sharpe, featuring gifts.
  • Finale: “O Holy Night” a carol based on a French poem, performed by all artists, featuring nativity scenes.

Elder Boom also contributes a message based on lessons from “A Christmas Carol” of repentance and redemption as well as service and giving. And Elder De Feo speaks of the history and traditional importance of nativity scenes.

Songs are performed in different languages and different styles, from jazz-pop to opera. A couple of numbers even have verses in different languages.

In addition to the narration and musical performances in highlighting the symbols and their connections to Jesus, the program features clips from the Church’s Bible videos and the 2019 short film “The Christ Child,” providing depictions of the Savior’s birth, teachings and life as accompanying illustrations.

Cordray singled out one example of the performance of “Carol of the Bells” by the Gruppmans, who insert a Ukrainian melody in the middle of the traditional carol as a tribute to Igor Gruppman’s native country. “And in the middle of this, we show how the Savior is the Prince of Peace,” Cordray said. “We have scenes from the life of the Savior and how He brought peace with His ministry.”

Other video segments include 3D animation representing scenes from “A Christmas Carol.”

How to watch — and other activities

The concert will be available from 6 p.m. CET Sunday, Dec. 11, until mid-January 2023 on the following official Church channels:

In conjunction with the program, activities for children and families can be found at, as well as Christmas service calendar, posters, pass-along cards and promotional videos.

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