SHADOW MOUNTAIN SHOWCASE 2000, Kingsbury Hall; Tuesday evening, one performance only.
From the first tinkly notes of Brett Raymond's toy piano to the last stirring "Arise and Shine Forth" of Joy Gardner's version of the Michael McLean song, the Shadow Mountain Showcase 2000 concert was simply that.
Simply — and profoundly — that: a chance to not only honor recent Pearl Award winners and feature new artists but also an opportunity to hear some of the brightest and best the genre has to offer, to witness the breadth and depth of the local faith-centered music scene.
Hosted by Raymond and Gardner, the concert, a part of the annual LDS Booksellers Convention, was a night filled with power and emotion as well as some light-hearted fun as it featured artists that record on the Shadow Mountain (a division of Deseret Book) label.
New artists showcased included George Dyer, whose rich tenor voice lent depth and magic to a Kurt Bestor arrangement of "All Creatures of Our God and King"; singer-songwriter Doug Walker, who presented a moving story of what can happen "if you have eyes to see what heaven sees in you;" and Christina England, who with Jay Richards at the piano, rendered a version of "Be Still My Soul" that was both delicate and strong.
Among the headliners was Bestor, who led the Utah Chamber Artists Orchestra in the overture to his "Lamb of God" movie soundtrack, a piece filled with rich imagery conveying the message and meaning of the last seven days of the life of Christ. The album will be released in October.
Lex de Azevedo brought in his Millennium Choir, and with help from Dyer singing the role of the angel Gabriel, offered two exquisite selections from his epic oratorio, "Gloria: The Life of Christ." De Azevedo's new addition, "The Life of Christ: Hosanna," will be released in the spring.
And perennial favorite Michael McLean sang several selections from his upcoming "Michael Sings McLean" album, including "Only You," "Let It Go," and a song from his Noah's Ark musical, which he will showcase on Broadway in the near future, a song that encourages: "hold on, the light will come." "I can't tell you how many times knowing that the light will come has been a gift to help me keep holding on," he told the audience.
Also in the spotlight was violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, winner of three Pearl Awards, including best instrumentalist, who showed her style and technique in a selection from Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo" as well as in a Bestor arrangement of the love theme from "Somewhere in Time."
Singer-songwriter Hilary Weeks, who also won three Pearl Awards at the recent Faith Centered Music Association ceremony, shared her spirited "He Will" and her softly moving "Lead Me Home." And the classical guitar duo of Mark Small and Robert Torres served up a soft and lyrical "Every Life That Touches Ours For Good."
Raymond, known for adding new meaning to Primary songs, kicked things off with a lively, toe-tapping "Lift Up Your Voice and Sing," and an impromptu "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree."
Gardner, who plays the female lead in the new LDS film "The Testament," and who, it was announced, will become the very newest Shadow Mountain recording artist, added the finishing touch with her elegant "Arise and Shine Forth."
All in all, it was an evening of uplifting sound and joyful noise that in large measure fulfilled its promise: a showcase of striking and varied talents.