Behind the Scenes with Hugh Bonneville
Hugh Bonneville talks about what Christmas means to him, and describes his experience making the annual holiday musical spectacular, 'Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir'. This one-hour holiday spectacular premieres Monday, December 17, 2018, on PBS.
- I've never stood in the tailwind of a jet engine,
but I'm guessing it feels a bit like that,
you get this blast of energy (laughing)
and astonishing power behind you
and it feels like you're being propelled
or lifted up on some, like on a jet,
you're being lifted off the ground by it,
it's quite an extraordinary sensation
to have such powerful, beautiful voices behind you,
supporting you, in my case, during a narration.
I mean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of course
has been in the vocabulary, if you like
or on one's radar for as long as I can remember
and I now feel, I hope I'm not being too presumptuous,
I now feel part of the family, it's great.
I think anyone who fails to be overawed,
when they first step out onto the stage
of the Conference Center is a big fibber, as we say,
there's a word we have in Britain, gobsmacked,
your gob being your mouth and the smack presumably being,
I can't believe what I'm looking at,
so I was gobsmacked at the sheer scale of it.
But what seemed like a sort of terrifying, scary monster
has actually become quite an intimate friend,
you realize very quickly that it's designed
and constructed in such a way,
that you can reach out to every corner of the house
and feel connected to them.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for that warm welcome
and what a spectacular drawing room you have here.
I've known some grand houses in my time,
but this place makes Downton Abbey look like a tool shed.
I suppose the main thing
that I think audiences need to be let in on
is that I don't have a Labrador dog
and I don't have a huge castle or a huge team of servants,
much as that would probably be quite enjoyable.
I'm very lucky to live in the countryside
in the south of England,
about an hour and a half south of London
and it's a great place, where I love hiking,
I love walking my dogs up there,
I run up on the Downs a fair bit
and you really can see the tapestry of England
laid out beneath you up on the heights
and that's where I'm probably to be found
probably once or twice a week.
Obviously Thanksgiving is the big tradition in America,
but in England, it's really Christmas time,
that is the family get together,
I'm very blessed that my family tend to live quite close by,
so we can visit and it's all lovely and friendly
and there isn't time for temperatures to rise,
apart from in the kitchen
and I am a disaster in the kitchen,
so I restrict my contribution to shucking oysters.
But my mother-in-law is the great one for tradition,
in terms of what we call the Christmas pudding,
which is a sort of suety, stodgy, cakey affair,
that is served after the Christmas turkey,
which we traditionally have.
Within this Christmas pudding is usually concealed
little trinkets like the size of a dime,
in the olden days it was a sixpence
or a thrupenny bit, it led to quite a few broken teeth
and swallowed thrupences over the years as well.
♪ The most wonderful time of the year ♪
- Sutton has the most gorgeous voice
and I thought the one element that really struck me,
apart from her goofiness, she's quite goofy,
professional on the stage, but goofy off,
was her choice of songs, because they were so personal
and while they may not, some of them
have been, you know, traditional Christmas fare,
they absolutely relate to something,
that matters a lot to her, each of them
to do again with family and cherishing memories of people
and I just adore the John Denver,
that's always gonna be one of my Christmas songs now.
♪ Oh, Christmas, Christmas high among the stars ♪
- This year's concert, well, like all of them
is executed to an incredibly high standard of performance,
but I think this is shot through
with a sense of contemplation and reflection,
as well as enormous celebration.
The things we associate with Christmas,
with family, with connecting,
with reaching out to people less fortunate than ourselves,
commemorating those we've lost
and also being really excited about the prospect
of unwrapping presents, of giving to others
and I think this concert captures all that,
it has a real range of emotions pulsing through it.
I'm guessing 90 plus percent of those involved
are volunteers, are doing it because they love it
and it's that word, amateur, but the proper meaning of it
coming from the Latin, amo, amas, amat,
the love of what they do and that shines through,
I've not been in an environment like this on this scale,
that's number one, but number two,
the care and the passion and the joy,
that the performers derive from what they're doing,
I've found incredibly touching actually,
from the tiniest little angels running around
in their frock for the first time on stage
to the most, you know, senior citizen,
if I may put it like that of the orchestra or the choir,
the delight that people take
in sharing it with such a big audience,
that's what surprised me most,
I hadn't realized quite how much joy
people derive from performing, I know I do myself,
that's a wonderful live experience
that I'm used to and enjoy and I hadn't quite appreciated
that it's being shared by maybe 500 people on stage.
♪ La la la la la la la la la