In the chaotic world of professional music, some groups, after a few years, just drift apart and go in different directions.
An up-and-coming, made-in-Utah group - Envoy - is the flipside of this situation. Just a few years after graduating from high school and serving missions for the LDS Church, the three talented young men drifted together.Envoy will perform on Friday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. as part of the lineup for Eugene Jelesnik's annual Salt Lake Philharmonic holiday pops concert in the Marriott Hotel grand ballroom. Admission is free.
The popular trio's members are Kary Burns, the oldest of the three and the one who initially got the group together; James Marsden, who is a prolific composer (without reading a note of music), and Danny O'Very, whose last name is pronounced oh-VERY.
Burns and O'Very graduated two years apart from Brighton High School, where Burns (class of 1982) became aware of O'Very's musical ability when O'Very, then a freshman, auditioned for a talent show. Both O'Very and Marsden graduated in 1984 (Marsden from Kearns High School).
Envoy takes a refreshing approach to music in today's world of deafening, hard-rock sounds and controversial lyrics. Their material espouses wholesome, uplifting and positive Christian values.
Their sound goes back to the Lettermen and SunShade 'n' Rain style of tight, pleasing harmony, which is not too surprising when you consider that two members of the group - Burns and Marsden - were coached by Dan Whitley of SunShade 'n' Rain.
Marsden wrote one of SunShade's most requested songs - "Don't Say Goodbye," inspired by the death of Whitley's young son from cancer. This song, which has been recorded in slightly different tempos and versions by both SunShade 'n' Rain and Envoy, takes a hopeful, spiritual, upbeat approach to dying.
For their part on Friday evening's pops concert program, Envoy will sing "Turn Your Love Around"; "Wind Beneath My Wings," Bette Midler's hit song; "Johnny B. Good," a hit from the earlier rock 'n' roll days; and "America," a medley of patriotic tunes.
Marsden's first connection to Jelesnik goes back several years. When he was 15, Marsden had called the Jelesnik home to see about getting a group he was with at the time on the "Talent Showcase" program, then a regular part of the KSL-TV schedule.
Jelesnik's wife, Virginia, a talented pianist, answered - and proceeded to give Marsden a piano lesson over the phone.
Marsden's group, which then included a female singer and saxophone player, didn't make the cut. But the original Osmond Brothers didn't the first time around either, as Jelesnik recollects - and neither did young Rosanne Barr (who approached Jelesnik one day on a Salt Lake street and asked to perform on his show. He turned her down. Today he considers it one of his most astute decisions).
The medley that Envoy sang a year or so ago when the three performed together for the first time - "Love One Another," "I Am a Child of God" and "You're Not Alone" - is included on the group's first album, "Come Back Home," being distributed by Lex de Azevedo's Embryo Music.
Other songs include "I'll Always Know," "Hero," "Somebody's Watching You," "Making the Right Move," "Lisa Marie," the aforementioned "Don't Say Goodbye," "Danny Boy" and the title song, "Come Back Home."
"When we took Envoy out on tour last March, they were unknown, and they brought the house down wherever they performed," Azevedo told us, but Randy Thorderson, one of his arrangers, gets the credit for discovering the group and getting it to sign with the Embryo label.
One thing you'll never find on an Envoy tape or compact disc is a label saying "Caution - this album contains objectionable lyrics."
The name they chose for their trio - "Envoy" - was selected because it embodies what they feel is their purpose in performing music: to be messengers, ambassadors and representatives of a lifestyle that is positive and morally clean.
If you're looking for role models, any one of the guys could qualify.
Burns and his twin sister are the oldest of seven children. Growing up in the Cottonwood Heights area, he was student body president at Brighton High, where he sang in the a capella and madrigal choirs.
He served a mission for the LDS Church to Santiago, Chile. Now employed as a micro computer and computer networking specialist at Alta Health Strategies, he recently married the former Tanya Pulsipher and is pursuing a business degree at the University of Utah.
O'Very was well known in Utah long before Envoy became part of his life. Before graduating from Brighton High in 1984, the award-winning swimmer broke more than 40 individual state swimming records. He was a missionary for the LDS Church in Peoria and Nauvoo, Ill., and most recently was captain of the University of Utah men's swimming team for 1989-90.
His strong, clear tenor voice got plenty of exposure in a trio comprised of his brothers, and he also composes. One of Envoy's most popular songs, "Lisa Marie," was written during O'Very's mission. Married in August to the former Jennifer Archuleta, he's studying telecommunications and film at the U.
Marsden is a native of Parowan whose family later moved to the Salt Lake Valley, where he excelled in sports and music at Kearns High School.
He's no novice in the recording studio. After graduating from high school, he wrote and coproduced his first solo album, "Missionary to Go" - leaving for the LDS Church's Columbus, Ohio, mission two days after the recording was released.
He's also written music for SunShade 'n' Rain and is a student at LDS Business College.
Watching and hearing them perform during a recent rehearsal session in a studio at KSL-TV's Broadcast House, I found the young men to be bright, articulate and energetic, with solid goals and a genuine desire to share beautiful music with others.
And, I have a hunch, you'll never need a pair of industrial-strength earplugs for an Envoy performance.
Their full, rich, three-part harmony should appeal not only to the younger generation, but to parents and grandparents, too.