KURT BESTOR, Abravanel Hall, Dec. 13; additional performances Dec. 16-19 (355-2787).

Kurt Bestor does Christmas with exceptional grace, style and beauty.

From beginning to end, his 14th annual Christmas concert is filled with non-traditional arrangements of traditional carols, performed by talented artists in ways that not only fill audience members with the spirit of the season, but leave them wishing for more.

Bestor opens this year's concert with a selection of "greatest hits" — some of the songs most-requested by fans over the years, including his rousing "Joy To the World," featuring studio singers and members of the Salt Lake Children's Choir; an exquisite "O Holy Night," enriched by Bestor's flugelhorn; and a calypso-flavored "O Tannenbaum," showcasing talents of the percussion trio of Kelly Wallis, Todd Sorensen and Kenny Hodges.

Special guests for 2002 include tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot, who flat-out wows the audience with the splash, dash, funk and passion he adds to "Good King Wenceslas," and a more mellow, but equally powerful "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear."

Equally impressive are the warmth and emotion provided by three-time Oscar, two-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Warnes, who captivates and charms with a tender "I'll Be Home For Christmas," a beautiful Middle-Eastern flavored "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" and a near-flawless interpretation of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" woven into "Silent Night."

As is his tradition, Bestor introduces a new Christmas song, "Carol of the Angels," on which, he claims, the ink is barely dry. The lyrical song is an impassioned plea to "throw wide the door" and let the angels' message of peace and good will in.

Both were plentiful in Abravanel Hall Friday, as Bestor and his stellar crew of musicians added flavor, texture and meaning to other carols and songs. After hearing "I Wonder As I Wander" on the harmonica, you may wonder why this Appalachian song is ever done any other way, and his shimmery "Carol of the Bells" is about as pretty as it gets.

The music combined with dramatic staging and lighting to provide an evening full of elegance — and fun.


E-MAIL: carma@desnews.com