‘Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’ Concert Narrator Hugh Bonneville Calls the Special ‘Epic’

Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Hugh Bonneville

Hugh Bonneville is accustomed to large-scale productions. After all, he played Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, on the international-hit period drama Downton Abbey from 2010 to 2015. But PBS’s 15th annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert — which he narrates — is a whole other level.

“To be invited to this concert was a great honor,” says Bonneville, who taped the special nearly a year ago. “Scary, but great. The hall [at Salt Lake City’s Conference Center on Temple Square] seats 21,000 people. We did three performances with 15 cameras, 360 choir members, a 150-person orchestra and many, many dancers. It’s epic!”

At the same time, the actor notes, “there’s such a wonderful, rich resonance of affection, storytelling and celebration that, within moments, I felt totally relaxed.” Bonneville narrates a story about a family’s “tragic loss turning into a new hope” and reads from the Gospel of Luke.

Tony-winning actress and Younger star Sutton Foster is also on hand for the 60-minute special (a 90-minute version airs on BYUtv December 20) to perform holiday favorites like “Joy to the World.” “I don’t think I upstaged the Broadway star,” Bonneville notes with a laugh. “My part is a modest contribution to this extravaganza, but I felt lucky to be a part of it.”

He could say the same about another project: The Downton Abbey movie, due in theaters in 2019. “It was like herding cats trying to get everyone together,” he says, “but the core cast returned. It was good fun being back with the gang on the familiar sets. Three years evaporated in a second!”

Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 9/8c, Premieres, Monday, Dec. 17, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)