UTAH CHAMBER ARTISTS, under the direction of Jerold Ottley, Tuesday, Dec. 5, and Wednesday, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall, U. Tickets may be purchased by calling at 581-7100.

The Utah Chamber Artists have once again proved how much they deserve the "artists" segment of their name.

Under the baton of former Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor Jerold Ottley, the choir presented its annual Christmas concert on Tuesday evening (to be repeated Wednesday).

In spite of a tendency to lean toward traditional arrangements during the Christmas season, the concert is a tasteful and artistic evening of newer music, as well as fresh takes on old favorites.

Ottley's program selection also emphasizes the strong and unique aspects of the choir — namely its clean, precise sound, and its ability to portray the subtle nuances of color in the music.

The program includes some exceptionally beautiful arrangements of favorites, such as "Come Thou Long Awaited Jesus" and "A Day in a Manger," both by Jackson Berkey. (The tune to "Come Thou Long Awaited Jesus" is the same as the Latter-day Saint hymn "In Humility Our Savior.")

Other highlights included Richard Elliot's arrangement of "Silent Night," Robert Young's "To Him We Sing" and Daniel Gawthrop's work "This Child, This King."

You've got to hand it to the Utah Chamber Artists for always offering more than a standard stand-and-sing performance. And rather than reaching for dance-like actions to add a visual dimension to the performance, they find new, interesting and tasteful ways to complement the aural experience.

This concert begins in "surround sound," with the choir lining the side aisles of the Libby Gardener Concert Hall to present "Sing We Noel," with the accompanying brass octet onstage.

When the choir returns to the stage to sing for the duration of the program, it is joined by actor Michael Bennett, who introduces and comments on the various pieces.

Aside from adding a narrator, there is a very notable twist to the Utah Chamber Artists' usual program format — instead of including the chamber orchestra as part of the program, it opts instead for a brass octet on a couple of the songs, and small numbers of accompanying instruments on the rest.

On Tuesday, the brass must have been exceptionally enthusiastic to herald the occasion, as it sometimes overpowered the choir. But generally, the minimized accompaniment works well.


E-mail: rcline@desnews.com