“Walter Cronkite Joins Tabernacle Choir for Christmas Celebration,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 77–78
Walter Cronkite has fond memories of sitting with his parents around their radio listening to Music and the Spoken Word. It is a program he has respected throughout his life. So when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir staff called his office to invite him to join them for their Christmas concert, Mr. Cronkite was a little excited.
“They called my office and talked to my chief of staff, Marlene Adler. She excitedly called me on the phone and said, ‘Guess what!’” recalled Mr. Cronkite. There were some scheduling conflicts, he said, “but we got that settled pretty darn quickly by canceling everything else.”
On 14–15 December 2002, Mr. Cronkite—a veteran journalist who was once voted “the most trusted man in America”—was the special guest at the annual Christmas concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.
“This is a thrill in a thrill-filled life,” Mr. Cronkite told the audience, which greeted him with a standing ovation. “I can’t tell you the goose pimples that run up my spine to stand in front of this choir.” And reflecting on his parents who introduced him to Music and the Spoken Word, he added, “I’d like to think tonight they are incredibly proud that Little Walter ended up in front of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
Set amongst flocked evergreens with twinkling lights, the choir and orchestra presented an evening of music and narration. The music included selections from traditional carols to modern favorites. Audience members held their breath for the delicate rendition of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” and nearly leaped to their feet when a bell choir joined for “I Saw Three Ships.”
The program concluded with an emotional tale of Christmas 1914, narrated by Mr. Cronkite. Europe was embroiled in World War I, and soldiers had dug in for battle. But on Christmas that year, the spirit and music of Christmas brought enemies out of the trenches, and soldiers stood side by side as brothers, singing the carols of their homelands to one another. As Christmas Day ended, the troops returned to their trenches, and the sweet strains of “Silent Night” wafted across the battlefield as night fell around them.
The choir gently sang “Silent Night” as performers respectfully reenacted scenes from the story and photographs of soldiers flashed on auditorium screens.
“It said a lot about human beings,” commented Mr. Cronkite of the text written by Steve Walkerly at Bonneville Communications. “It ought to awaken people here at Christmastime to the horror of men [at war], who otherwise should be of goodwill.”
The program concluded with a standing ovation and an encore chorus of “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
While in town, Mr. Cronkite also joined the Tabernacle Choir for its weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, about to enter its 75th year.