SALT LAKE CITY — It's been 30 years since Kurt Bestor put on his first Christmas concert and the Grammy-nominated Utah composer is excited to take the stage this year and say, “We did it. We made it 30 years.”
“I never intended to start an iconic show, a show that would become a tradition that would last this long,” Bestor told the Deseret News. “But it feels nice to be a part of something, to have created something that has legs like that.”
Bestor is known for his instrumental Christmas music, writing “Prayer of the Children” — recorded in 2009 by Three Dog Night — and composing music for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and several videos for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I’ve talked to many Utahns who have made his concerts a Christmas tradition in their family,” said tenor Dallyn Vail Bayles, one of Bestor’s guest artists for this year’s Christmas concerts. “I think that’s the highest compliment you could receive.”
In honor of the 30th anniversary of “A Kurt Bestor Christmas,” Bestor let his fans vote online for which guest artists should return for his shows this year.
Among the fans’ top picks were Bayles, violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, vocalist Lexi Walker and the One Voice Children’s Choir, all of whom will perform at one of Bestor’s concerts this year. Bestor said he was surprised and not surprised by his fan base’s response.
“I figured when I put out the vote to people … that they would probably pick one of those famous national, international artists, like Melissa Manchester or Debbie Gibson,” Bestor said. “As it turns out, the top five vote-getters were all Utah products, which says something kind of cool.”
Bayles told the Deseret News he was “incredibly humbled” to find out he had gotten the vote to perform at Bestor’s concerts.
“There are few composers that I can honestly say I thrill at being able to perform their work, but he is one of them,” Bayles said. “I really connect to his music and arrangements, which is a wonderful and rare gift for a performer. It makes my job much easier.”
Baker, who has recorded two Christmas albums with Bestor, told the Deseret News she was excited when she found out she would be able to perform with Bestor again this year.
“I love performing with Kurt Bestor,” Baker said. “I feel like it’s performing with Mozart, like Mozart wrote me music and I get to perform it with Mozart.”
While Bestor has fond memories throughout his 30 years of performing “A Kurt Bestor Christmas,” “Prayer of the Children” is always one of the true highlights.
“There’s this moment of an absolute hush, and the audience and I, we feel like we’re kind of on the same spiritual plane,” Bestor reflected.
As a Utahn, performing for Utah audiences feels like performing for friends and family, according to the Emmy-winning artist.
“I always tease people and say, ‘Look, I want this to feel like we’re in my front room,’ and I get that feeling even in the brand new Eccles Theater,” Bestor said.
Bestor knows how to put the magic in Christmas music, according to Baker.
“He just knows how to write really emotional music that really touches people and brings them closer to the Savior, so it’s lovely to be able to perform his Christmas music,” Baker said.
Over the last 30 years, a challenge Bestor said he has faced is competing with the rise in popularity and number Christmas concerts during the holiday season.
“It makes me nervous and it pushes me to keep raising my level, to make sure that I can go to Year 31 and beyond,” Bestor said.
Baker said it’s an honor for her to perform at Bestor’s 30th-anniversary show.
“He’s a legend,” Baker said. “Not a lot of shows last 30 years, so he must be doing something right.”
If you go …
What: “A Kurt Bestor Christmas”
When: Thursday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 16, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: Eccles Theater Delta Performance Hall, 131 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City
How Much: $25-$57.50