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Concert series gains wider audience

Some performances are now on radio

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The Temple Square Concert Series, long a mainstay of the cultural offerings at Church headquarters, has broadened the scope of its audience.

Since last September, selected concerts from the series have been broadcast on KBYU-FM.

And for the duration of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in February, the concert series lineup is being expanded to 46 morning, afternoon and evening presentations over 23 days. (Please see accompanying article on this page.)

The concerts are presented primarily in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

The growth of the series since its beginning in 1980 is such that committee member Dorothy Stowe likens it to the image in the legend of the camel that persuaded its master first to let it stick its nose under his tent and eventually occupied the tent completely.

Indeed, said Ray H. Barton, committee chairman, "this started out as just a chance or springboard enabling local young artists who were just coming up to show [their talents]. Then it began to spread."

Today, the series is international in its representation, he said. True, an estimated 75 percent of the performers are Latter-day Saints, including the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Temple Square Chorale. And many still are Utah based, such as the International Children's Choir and the Utah National Guard's 23rd Army Band. But a good many hail from outside the area and represent other cultures. Some are discovered by Iain B. McKay, who has been series director since its founding, during his travels. And through word of mouth, performers learn of what a quality venue the series is and sometimes make application and audition to perform in it, willing to render their talents with only their travel expenses as remuneration

In all, certain standards of quality and professionalism are upheld.

"Music is truly the universal language," Brother Barton said. "It touches our souls. But there's music and there's music. Some music can dull the spiritual senses. We strive for music that is appropriate to accompany the gospel message as it goes forth from Temple Square, music that leaves us feeling better."

The musical message is going forth with more power than ever before with the inauguration Sept. 2 of weekly broadcasts carried over KBYU-FM, the radio station at BYU.

"Selected concerts are recorded for broadcast, and we provide narration and continuity," said Steven Jones, audio-visual producer for the series. J. Spencer Kinard and Tracy Shamo, serving on a Church-service basis, voice the narration and commentary, which is written by Sister Stowe, a retired staff writer at the Deseret News who specialized in the performing arts.

"The hour-long programs can be heard every Sunday evening at 6:30," Brother Jones said. "In addition, they are offered on the Internet via audio streaming on www.kbyu.org. They will also be available in the near future in Rexburg, Idaho, on radio station KBYI-FM."

In addition to the Temple Square performing groups and outstanding local artists, concerts selected for broadcast have included the Zurich Boys Choir and the Turnovsky Trio from New Zealand.

The radio exposure is perhaps one indication that the Temple Square Concert Series has "come of age," as it were.

"I feel that our series has been and is increasingly worthwhile for many reasons," Sister Stowe said. "It gives our expert local artists a place to perform and build assurance. And just as important, it builds bridges to the community through our courtesy and gratitude for the gifts they bring to the city. Many Jewish, Protestant and Catholic artists have performed in the concert series and have grown to love the venue and feel at home there. These and the many artists from around the United States and the world go home and speak well of us.

E-mail: rscott@desnews.com