“A Kurt Bestor Christmas” has become a holiday staple in Salt Lake City, and Thursday’s opening night concert marked a milestone for the Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated Utah musician.
“It was 25 years ago that we did this first concert,” he reminisced with audience members at Abravanel Hall. “We had only a few other musicians on the stage, and just enough people in the audience to justify coming back again the next year.”
Bestor marveled at how not just the audience and number of musicians on stage has grown, but also how his daughter Erika Bestor, who was born around the same time, has grown into a beautiful 25-year-old woman.
Erika Bestor had a moment in the spotlight with dad to help him sing his newest Christmas song for 2012, “Home, and it’s Christmas.”
His daughter was one of three special guests who joined him on stage.
In keeping with this year’s concert theme, “Made in Utah,” Utah-native violinist Jenny Oaks Baker played a handful of songs alongside Bestor. The duo received a Grammy nomination this year for her album, “Wish Upon a Star: A Tribute to the Music of Walt Disney.”
Bestor’s Celtic-flavored “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” which featured Baker playing fiddle, was a standout, as was “Carol of the Bells”.
Irish singer Alex Sharpe, recently a member of Celtic Woman, was another guest. She launched into Bestor’s rendition of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” which seemed an odd choice for her special brand of voice.
While it was probably a nice departure for her, the belty number did nothing to underscore her rare gift.
Fortunately, several other numbers did, including a majestic arrangement of “Wexford Carol” and a Gaelic “Silent Night.” Sharpe’s voice is a clarion call floating above a thousand shimmering notes — it’s not meant for background music or blending.
Bestor was nostalgic during this silver anniversary. He performed the song from his first-ever Christmas show, “What Child is This?” as well as many familiar favorites including “Deck the Halls” and “Noel” from his 1997 album.
He also played one of his most well-known songs using a vocal synthesizer, “Prayer of the Children,” to wild applause — as always.
In several past interviews, Bestor has expressed the hope that audiences find a sense of peace in their hearts during his concerts. With instability, turmoil and unrest ever defining our world stage, what of that elusive “peace on earth” we so fervently seek at Christmas time?
Bestor has spent his artistic career seeking an answer, but, wisely, doesn’t claim to have it. A peace within, however, has been the defining aim of his annual Christmas concert for a quarter of a century.
As Bestor slid into place under gleaming ivory keys or stood to play his flugelhorn during his opening-night performance Thursday, he, his band of musicians and his guests provided a two-hour respite from the storms.
"A Kurt Bestor Christmas" runs December 13-15 at Abravanel Hall.