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WTIU’s Holiday Specials

Watch a poignant retelling of the World War I Christmas Eve truce, tour European Christmas markets, learn the epic story of the rise of Christianity, and more.

The St. Olaf Choir presents a concert in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral

BLOOMINGTON, IN (November 23, 2013) – WTIU presents an exciting array of specials to spice up the holidays—including a behind-the-scenes look at at IU production of The Nutcracker, an opera about a poignant episode from World War I, and the world’s most famous Christmas story as you’ve never heard it before.

Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas
Sunday, December 1, 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the holidays with timeless favorites performed with a Celtic twist in this new chapter of musical enchantment from the enormously popular all-female ensemble, Celtic Woman. Vocalists Lisa Lambe, Susan McFadden and Meav Ni Mhaolchatha perform timeless holiday favorites. A visual and aural feast, this moving and festive celebration was filmed at Dublin’s Helix Theatre. (r 12/5 1pm; 12/7 10:30am; 12/7 5:30pm)

Home for Christmas: The Chris Mann Christmas Special
Sunday, December 1, 10:30 p.m.

Classically-trained singer Chris Mann celebrates the holidays with help from Martina McBride and saxophonist Mindi Abair. Included: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”; “Merry Little Christmas” (with McBride); “On a Night Like This”; “Hallelujah”; “Ave Maria”; “Auld Lang Syne” (with Abair); “Over the Rainbow”; “O Come, All Ye Faithful”; and “O Holy Night.” (repeats 12/3 1pm)

Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Tuesday, December 10, 8 p.m.

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As seen and heard by more than 80,000 people in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, this program features renowned journalist-author Tom Brokaw and Tony Award-winning Les Misérables tenor Alfie Boe in a concert of holiday favorites. Boe’s moving signature performance of “Bring Him Home” is a highlight. The choir also welcomes a surprise guest, Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, the American “candy bomber” who dropped gum and chocolate for German children during the Berlin airlift of 1948–’49. Together with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, these guests bring attendees to their feet more than once during the night. (repeats 12/25, 1 p.m.)

Xmas without China
Thursday, December 12, 10 p.m.

Pride and mischief inspire Chinese immigrant Tom Xia to challenge his American neighbors to survive the Christmas season without any Chinese products. The Jones family eagerly accepts this consumer mission impossible and is drawn into an intercultural exchange with the Xia family. As the Joneses strive to adapt without their Chinese-made appliances and Christmas lights, Tom hopes that they’ll begin to appreciate his birthplace. When Tim Jones challenges Tom about his pride in communist China, Tom, struggling to explain China and go beyond the stereotypes, realizes he’s on a journey of self discovery, torn between his competing loyalties to the U.S. and China. Xmas without China is a playful yet poignant exploration of America’s increasing interdependence with China in a time when the relationship between the United States and China is shaping the 21st century.

Silent Night
Friday, December 13, 9 p.m.

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This opera recounts the true story of the World War I Christmas Eve truce. For one evening on December 24, 1914, French, German, and Scottish soldiers laid down their arms and joined in a spontaneous celebration reflecting the fellowship humanity of the season. Based on the Academy Award-nominated film Joyeux Noel, this two-act production was commissioned by the Minnesota Opera and premiered in November 2012 to national acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize for Music for composer Kevin Puts. With a libretto by Mark Campbell, Silent Night is sung in French, English, German, Italian, and Latin with English subtitles. (repeats 12/14 2 a.m.; 12/15 1 p.m.; 12/16 3 a.m.)

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
Wednesday, December 14, 7 a.m.

Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat are having a wonderful time getting ready for Christmas. There’s only one problem: Neither of them can figure out what to give the other for a present. In the end, both gift-giving predicaments are elegantly resolved, revealing the true spirit of the holiday season. (repeats 12/25, 6:30 a.m.)

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2013
Sunday, December 15, 4 p.m.

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This special will include appearances and performances by some of the most recognizable names in entertainment. The evening’s festivities will be capped off with the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which is traditionally handled by the President and First Family. (repeats 12/25 12 p.m.)

The Weekly Special
Thursday, December 19, 8 p.m.

The Weekly Special joins special guests in the studio to celebrate the season with heartwarming holiday stories. (repeats 12/22 10:30 a.m.)

Christmas at Luther: Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Thursday, December 19, 9 p.m.

This program celebrates the joy and traditions of Christmas with the renowned choirs of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Holiday music, 500 choristers, a symphony orchestra, thousands in the audience and glowing candlelight capture the wonder and joy of the season as Luther College’s internationally-acclaimed musicians mark 32 years of sharing the seasonal gift of music with their annual Christmas concert. (repeats Wed, 12/20, 2 a.m.; 12/23 5 a.m.; 12/25 3 p.m.)

Craft in America “Holiday”
Friday, December 20, 9 p.m.

This program celebrates holiday traditions rendered in handmade crafts. Nordic folk woodcarver Harley Refsal brings to life the rich history of winter solstice. Clay artist Susan Garson creates fanciful Chanukah menorahs. George Vanderbilt’s opulent turn-of-the-century Christmas is recreated at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Daring chefs make lavish gingerbread houses for the competition at Grove Park Inn. Navidad is celebrated in San Antonio with religious processions, tamales, and Kathleen Trenchard’s sparkling luminarias. Garcia Art Glass makes colorful ornaments, and Veronica Castillo creates a traditional Mexican Tree of Life. (repeats 12/21 2 a.m.; 12/23 3 a.m.)

Christmas at Belmont
Friday, December 20, 10 p.m.

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Nearly 700 student musicians join the Belmont School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children’s Choir to present this production of traditional carols, classical masterworks, world music, and light-hearted seasonal favorites. The program features the University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz Ensemble, Bluegrass Ensemble, and a mass choir. Hosted by internationally renowned mezzo soprano Denyce Graves and recorded at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (repeats 12/21 3 a.m.; 12/23 4 a.m.; 12/24 8 p.m.; 12/25 1 a.m.; 12/25 2 p.m.)

Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir
Monday, December 23, 9 p.m.

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This Christmas special was filmed in Trondheim, Norway’s magnificent Nidaros Dom cathedral, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in the world. Featured performers include the renowned voices of the St. Olaf Choir, the premier mixed voice choral ensemble from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, conducted by Anton Armstrong; and Jentekor, and the girl choir of Nidaros conducted by Anita Brevik. The program showcases the rich choral music traditions of two countries, presenting traditional Christmas hymns and carols in both Norwegian and English as well as accompaniment by a string quartet, piano, organ and Hardanger Fiddle, a traditional Norwegian instrument. The St. Olaf Choir, the pioneer a cappella choir in the U.S., has a long standing relationship with Norway, dating back to 1874 when St. Olaf College was founded by a group of Norwegian-American pastors. (repeats 12/24 1 a.m.; 12/25 5 a.m.;12/25 4 p.m.;12/27 3 a.m.;12/27 5 a.m.)

FRONTLINE: From Jesus to Christ – The First Christians
Part one: Tuesday, December 24, 10 p.m. (repeats 12/25 3 a.m.)
Part two: Tuesday, December 31, 10 p.m. (repeats 1/1 3 a.m.)

FRONTLINE presents the epic story of the rise of Christianity. Drawing upon new and sometimes controversial historical evidence, the series transports viewers back 2,000 years to the time and place where Jesus of Nazareth once lived and preached, and challenges familiar assumptions and conventional notions about the origins of Christianity. Program 1 traces the life of Jesus of Nazareth, exploring the message that helped his ministry grow and the events that led to his crucifixion around 30 A.D. The second hour turns to the period that followed Jesus’ death, examining the rise of Christianity and concluding with the first revolt—the bloody and violent siege of Jerusalem and the beginning of a rift between Christianity and Judaism. The broadcast explores new evidence suggesting that Jesus’ followers, because of their diversity and the differences in their cultures and languages, looked at and interpreted Jesus and his teachings in many different ways.

Musical Journey of Christmas
Wednesday, December 25, 5 p.m.

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First lady of the organ Diane Bish hosts this one-hour Christmas special combining historic sites, European Christmas markets and Cathedrals, guest artists, and famous organs in a program of Christmas music and beauty to delight the whole family. Bish visits include: Augustina Church, Vienna; Stephans Dom, Vienna; Innsbruck Cathedral; the Ettal Monastery, and Oberammergau, Rothenburg. Special guests include the Canadian Brass,The Wiltner Boy Choir of Innsbruck, Innsbruck Chamber Orchestra, the Tyrolean Chamber Choir of Worgl, and pan flutist Zamfir.

European Christmas Markets
Wednesday, December 25, 6 p.m.

Join us on our discovery of Europe’s Christmas Markets, where the town center, market square or just the narrow, cobblestone streets of the cities and towns of Europe come alive in winter with festively decorated wooden stalls offering all sorts of treats and delights. As we travel through Germany, France and Switzerland, we visit cities and towns and learn of their history, see their major sights, and visit their charming markets. Besides being a visual treat, the show is also a musical treat, as the Kingston Trio provides special folk arrangements of traditional Christmas carols to add to the magic and enchantment of the medieval and castle towns. In our visit to Bernkastel-Kues we see the town hall decorated as an Advent calendar, and learn of the traditional beverage of the markets, the Gluhwein.

In Nuremberg we visit the imposing castle, and one of the most famous of all the Christmas markets. You can almost smell the roasting sausages and gingerbread sold in the stalls. In Rothenburg we learn of the traditional wooden Christmas decorations from the son of the founder of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store, and wander along the ramparts the fairy tale village. Then we have a quick stop in the wine town of Rudesheim. A unique visit is made to the ancient town of Michelstadt and its Christmas market. And then into France, to see how the French celebrate the season in Strasbourg. We conclude our travels in Switzerland, with the sights and sounds of the holidays in Basel and the alpine city of Lucerne. This show is a true Christmas treat, as we experience Europe at a time of community, conviviality, and color. It will fill your senses with the warmth and the fun of the holiday season, with some geography and history lessons to boot. (repeats 12/29 7 p.m.)

Sugarplum Dreams: Staging the Nutcracker Ballet
Wednesday, December 25, 8 p.m.

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Each holiday season, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker is presented in a colorful production by the Ballet Theater of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. This program goes behind the scenes of the 43rd annual presentation of this classic, showing the preparation, talent and sheer effort exerted to bring this production to life. Produced in documentary style, Sugarplum Dreams begins with the auditions of children from the pre-college ballet program, capturing a hectic day-in-the-life of the dancers and instructors as the performance approaches, while the excitement and anticipation mounts as all the elements come together during dress rehearsal. The program concludes backstage in the highly charged atmosphere of The Nutcracker performance.

Purdue Christmas Show 2012
Wednesday, December 25, 9 p.m.

The annual Purdue Christmas Show, one of Indiana’s most time-honored traditions, returns to public television for the 2013 holiday season. This program will delight viewers of all ages with entertaining vocal and instrumental arrangements of holiday favorites, both traditional and modern, sacred and secular. A cast of more than 250 campus and community performers from the Purdue Varsity Glee Club, Purduettes, Purdue Bells, University Choir, Heart & Soul, All Campus & Community Chorale, and the PMO Kids Choir fill the 6,000-seat Elliott Hall of Music with the sights, sounds and spirit of the holidays. This production features engaging storylines, humorous and touching theatrical moments, and elaborate sets and costumes. This year’s set list includes a jazzy version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” a Jersey Boys-style take on Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph,” the holiday pop tunes “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Man with the Bag,” and traditional carols “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings.”

A Christmas Carol: The Concert
Wednesday, December 25, 10 p.m.

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A Christmas Carol: The Concert is a unique musical and television event: the first time Dickens’ classic tale has been adapted for a live orchestral concert with choir and soloists, and performed for audiences in a concert setting. The stirring score recalls Broadway classics, and is filled with memorable, haunting, and rousing songs. The story, faithfully and skillfully adapted by Broadway’s Alisa Hauser, is dazzlingly performed by leading lights from the Chicago and New York theater world, including Michael Aaron Lindner and E. Faye Butler. Directed for the stage by Tony-Award winning Lookingglass Theatre Company’s David Kersnar, lit and designed by Emmy Award-winner Todd L. Clark, A Christmas Carol: The Concert is a celebration of classic storytelling and ensemble performances which provide viewers with both the comforts of a classic tale and the thrill of seeing and hearing it told like never before.

Call the Midwife Holiday Special
Sunday, December 29, 8 p.m.

An unexploded World War II bomb is found under a warehouse close to Nonnatus House, and the nuns and local families become homeless. Dr. Turner races to immunize children against polio, but then the illness strikes closer to home. Chummy persuades a royal visitor to the East End to open the new Community Center and scrambles to get everything in place for Christmas.

WTIU Media Contact:
Scott Witzke


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