Update: The music video was released on Dec. 12. See the new article here.
Hundreds of angels dressed in white descended on the hills of Rock Canyon Park on Monday, overlooking a nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus surrounded by live camels, sheep and donkeys. And if one looked closely, one might have seen various costume-clad Mormon celebrities scattered throughout the scene, including Alex Boyé, BYUtv’s Studio C cast members, and the missionary mother and son from “Meet the Mormons.”
The event was part The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ new Christmas campaign, #ShareTheGift. Although one of the goals of the event was to break the Guinness World Record for the largest live nativity, which those involved succeeded in doing, the main purpose was to film footage for a new music video that will go along with the campaign.
“It’s our statement to the world,” said producer Derral Eves. “We need to bring Christ back into Christmas.”
The music video, which was funded by the Radiant Foundation and is expected to go live in the coming weeks before Christmas, is a collaboration among many talented Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Stars and collaborators include David Archuleta, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens and various YouTube sensations such as Boyé, Devin Supertramp and Stuart Edge. Producers said each of these YouTubers will share the video on their respective channels, which have a combined reach of around 15 million followers.
The idea began with a nativity ornament admired by executive creative director Jeff Taylor, who envisioned thousands of people holding flashlights in the shape of the ornament. He decided to present his idea during a meeting discussing the LDS Church’s media campaign.
“I floated the idea, and all of the sudden the room just came alive,” he said. Within 24 hours, the concept for a music video involving the Piano Guys, Peter Hollens and “everyone else” was born. The entire production was pulled together in just three weeks.
“The message is, ‘It’s okay to believe. It’s okay to believe in Jesus Christ. You’re not weird; you’re not naive,'” Taylor said.
While the musicians and many of the main characters in the nativity are well-known actors, musicians or YouTubers, the 1,000 angels needed to break the world record were all local volunteers who braved the cold for hours to be a part of the special event.
Alex Boyé, a Mormon singer/songwriter and YouTube sensation, shared his excitement about being involved.
“When I heard about this I was like, ‘Oh, oh, pick me,'” said Boyé, an award-winning singer and songwriter known for his African twist. “Anything to do with the Church getting in with social media and getting in with the culture and just breaking through those barriers and helping people realize that we’re just fun, cool, normal people, that gets me really excited.”
“Meet the Mormons” star Dawn Armstrong was also present with her children, all dressed in white angel costumes. By her side was her son Anthony, who was the missionary in the film.
“I hope people will get out of this video what Christmas is all about: the gifts that God gave us,” he said. “I hope that this shares goodness.”
While the campaign is sponsored by the LDS Church, Taylor said it is intended for all believers of Jesus Christ.
Featured vocalist in the video Peter Hollens is not a Mormon. According to Taylor, Hollens and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were looking into working with each other weeks before the idea was born.
“The stars just really aligned,” Taylor said. “We thought it would be great to bring people of all different faiths to come together. The Radiant Foundation is really hoping to bring believers of all stripes.”
Producer Derral Eves said it was nothing short of a miracle to make schedules work and bring the entire cast together, especially in the short period of three weeks. “Multiple faiths came together to really show our devotion to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Argentinian actress Florencia Donelli, who was cast to play the part of Mary, said she was “honored” to be part of such a large production. “Through my role as Mary, (I want to show that) religion isn’t the most important. The most important is to be united as fellow beings. … And remember that it’s the same God and the same goal. We all have the same desire of happiness and peace.”
Many local Utahns, including BYU students, had the opportunity to take part in the production. Ally Simpson, a junior from Layton studying civil engineering, and Robyn Whitmer, a junior from Tooele studying elementary education, skipped work, study time and family home evening to volunteer as angels.
“We’re excited,” Simpson said. “I think it’s a really cool opportunity, not only to do something fun but to get publicity and get awareness out about Christmas and the Church’s connection with Christ and the focus on that for the season.”
Creative director Jeff Taylor said the video will consist of four main scenes, opening with a living-room Christmas party hosted by the Piano Guys, Peter Hollens and David Archuleta and closing with an aerial view of the angelic volunteers lit up in the ornament shape. A camera attached to balloons was used to capture the scene unfolding below.
“It’s been an amazing process,” Taylor said.
More information on the #ShareTheGfit campaign is available at christmas.mormon.org.