(Thank you to Mack Wilberg for his arrangement of Angels We Have Heard on High).
by Sarah Peterson, Deseret News
The world record for the largest live Nativity will be challenged next week in Utah.
The event, hosted by The Radiant Foundation, will take place Monday, Dec. 1, at Rock Canyon Park in Provo. People of all faiths are invited to participate. The performance will be recorded and published on YouTube before Christmas.
The live Nativity will feature hundreds of volunteers along with YouTube celebrities and performers such as David Archuleta, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and The Piano Guys.
Singer-songwriter Peter Hollens, who has almost 80 million views on YouTube, will also participate in the production, along with Shay Carl and Colette Butler of the Shaytards, a family with more than 1 billion views on YouTube.
"What we’re doing is literally trying to show the world that Christmas is all about Christ, and we’re coming together with multiple faiths to show the world that we truly believe in Christ and that he is the Savior of the world, and we’re celebrating his birth," Derral Eves, one of the producers, told the Deseret News. "So we’re breaking a world record and making a YouTube video all at the same time."
Although the production will be one of the largest collaborations of its kind, Eves said the production team only recently came up with the idea.
"We’re trying to do the biggest video project in the shortest amount of time," Eves said. "To pull together over 1,200-plus extras in addition to get these big YouTubers to all come in line and come together to do this big event has been very difficult, but the miracles have been there every step of the way where it’s just very easy to make it happen. We’re keeping a log of all the miracles. It’s just amazing how everything has come together."
It all started three weeks ago when Jeff Taylor, executive creative director for Bonneville Communications, discussed with other employees what it would take to make the world's largest Nativity.
Jeff Harmon with the Harmon Brothers YouTube marketing team also joined the project and assembled people to work behind the scenes. Eves calls that group the "YouTube dream team."
"We met with the group of YouTube influencers, and 24 hours later we all just could totally see that it would make an epic YouTube video," Taylor said. "The stars are aligning, and heaven's working in our favor. ... It's come together so fast and so well. ... It's been absolutely marvelous to be part of this."
The YouTube team members were eager to invite other YouTube stars to be a part of the event.
"The biggest thing was getting the celebrities to come and do it," Eves said. "We wanted to make this an interfaith project. We wanted to make this a joint effort, and so we were looking out there at what YouTuber would really make a huge impact, and Peter Hollens and The Piano Guys came to the top of our minds."
The group contacted Hollens, who quickly agreed. He then asked musician and composer Marshall McDonald to manage the music for the event. McDonald wanted to include a performance of Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” featuring David Archuleta.
That decision led the team to reach out to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to inquire if Wilberg, the choir's director, would be interested in participating.
"I called the Tabernacle Choir to try and grease the skids, and I said, ‘Have you heard of Peter Hollens?’ and they said, 'Just two weeks ago we were talking about a collaboration that we need to do with him because we love his stuff,’ ” said John Dye, a digital media strategist for Bonneville Communications. "Divine intervention definitely stepped up to the plate here."
On the night of the event, Archuleta, Hollens, The Piano Guys and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform "Angels We Have Heard on High."
"It is probably one of the most, if not the most, powerful Christmas pieces I’ve heard, and it’s still in rough," Eves said. "We don’t even have Peter’s vocals in there yet. It’s just an amazing, amazing piece of composition. Marshall’s done a great job."
Before they knew it, the team had recruited some of the Internet's most popular performers.
"Every one of them felt like they wanted to contribute, and most of them had inspiration coming from on high," Eves said. "It was just like everything had been lined up. We had doors opened that are very difficult to get — all these big YouTubers that have the right time, the right schedule that they can actually do this."
People interested in being part of the live Nativity can sign up for a specific role or to participate as an angel atlivenativityworldrecord.com. Those with specific roles will be given costumes the night of the event, and the angel volunteers are asked to dress in white. Volunteers must arrive at the park by 2 p.m. and remain there until 8 p.m.
Eves explained that Radiant not only hopes to break the live Nativity record set in 2013 but also plans to make the event an annual tradition that brings the community together and highlights the true meaning of Christmas.
"We want to make a statement every year that it’s not about materialism," Eves said. "It’s not about giving presents in that regard. It’s really about Jesus Christ. It’s about serving others and coming together and making a difference in the world by sharing the gift, which is sharing our devotion of Jesus Christ."
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