The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 22, 2013

Catlin native 'steers' TV holiday special

The Commercial-News

---- — CATLIN — On Christmas Eve, the Taylor family will gather around the television set to watch son Garrett’s latest production.

In fact, the 30-year-old Catlin native will be there, too, watching “A New York Christmas to Remember” with parents Ted and Constance Taylor.

Garrett Taylor was music director for the special, featuring host Regis Philbin and the puppetry of Jane Henson. It was taped at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan, which Taylor attends. Philbin was baptized in the church, and other noted entertainers attend services there.

In the hour-long program, Philbin will proclaim the Bible passages of the birth of Jesus as dramatized by the puppet characters created by the late Jane Henson.

There also will be performances by Heather Henson, the Fordham University Choir, the National Children’s Chorus and the St. Paul the Apostle Choir.

Constance Taylor said, “We’re looking forward to the show. We’re just really proud (of Garrett).” Besides, she added, she’s always been a big fan of Philbin.

Taylor likened his job as music director to someone who steers a ship, and keeps everything on course. He oversees more than 100 people, including a 25-piece orchestra and a 24-member choir, which he put together using his church choir and professional singers. He’s also conductor and pianist, but does not sing in the production.

About 5 million viewers are expected to tune in Tuesday night, but that didn’t make Taylor nervous during the taping.

“You go in and do your job and hope and pray that your work and preparation come together,” he said in a telephone interview from New York. “Everything is about telling the Christmas story.”

It helped that he had some talented people to work with, he said, adding, “I was so pleased to have a top-notch production team. Everybody was so lovely to work with.”

The special will feature well-known Christmas songs, carols, the Nativity story, and reflections, he said.

One of the highlights will be the puppets created by Jane Henson, who died last year. While studying theology, she was taken with the medieval three-dimensional Nativity scenes. She creatively blended those into a new format using puppets.

“It was always a dream of Jim Henson to have something like this,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing how life-like they are.” The details are very meticulous, he said.

Taylor is excited about Tuesday’s program, calling it unique. “Even in New York City, these things don’t happen all the time. It really is something different and special,” he said.

“I’m excited for people to see this and experience this. Things like this don’t happen a lot.”

There will be no commercials; two pre-filmed video segments will be shown so the performers could have a break. Taylor said there also will be bird and angel kites flying in the church.

While he has performed at Carnegie Hall, this is Taylor’s first time doing a TV special, he said. “I try to treat it like everything else,” he said.

Taylor also has worked on “Annie” on Broadway all year, teaching the children music. He also has worked for six years on “Wicked” during its 10-year Broadway run, playing keyboard in the orchestra pit.

He’s music director at his church, and gives voice lessons in Manhattan. He’s a 2001 graduate of Catlin High School and a 2005 graduate of Millikin University in Decatur, where he studied vocal performance. He appeared in numerous local productions.

Constance Taylor said of her son, “He’s so talented. I don’t think they’ve tapped his talent yet.”

The holiday special could lead to bigger opportunities for him, she said, but added, “He’s famous to us.”

FYI The TV holiday special "A New York Christmas to Remember" will air at 10:35 p.m. CST Tuesday on CBS.