Music is a way to express devotion to the Lord with both power and beauty. It can unite hearts, minds and souls in common purpose.

That was evident Friday night at the annual Church Relief Society Music Festival, held at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

The event featured songs and arrangements by women, selected through the annual Church Music Submission process. "These are songs written by women for their Relief Society sisters all over the world," said Diane Bastian, a member of the church's General Music Committee and in charge of the concert. The festival, she says, celebrates the contribution of creative people, and gives them an opportunity to hear their works performed.

The 13 musicians featured this year come from Utah, Colorado, Missouri, California, New Mexico and other states throughout the country. Most were in the audience to hear their music performed by a choir of Relief Society members from stakes in Bennion, Utah. Choir director was Leah Tarrant, with Bonnie Moore as accompanist.

The selections included both original songs and arrangements of favorite hymns and showcased a variety of styles and messages, but all imbued with faith and spirit.

Michelle Willis' arrangement of "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," highlighted a hymn she has loved since childhood. Rachel O. Mohlman did this special arrangement of "Come, Follow Me" when her brother left on a mission.

Katie Bastian wrote "Lean on My Ample Arm" for a struggling friend. Sally DeFord's "Write Thy Name Upon My Heart" was composed in response to favorite scriptures. Annette W. Dickman's "Psalm 27" was written for a devotional of family history missionaries.

Lynne Christofferson's "Lead Me to the Tree" was done at the request of a Young Women president preparing a program on Lehi's vision of the tree of Life.

Donna Howard's "This Beautiful World" celebrates the many wonders of creation; Janice Kapp Perry's "Legacy" was written for her mother but is a tender reminder of all family connections; Tamra Braatz wrote "Our Hearts Knit Together in Love" in honor of the bonds all women share. Katherine A. Wright's "Immovable and Strong" encourages faith and unity in today's world.

Judith Roberts Spragg provided a new arrangement and additional lyrics for an old favorite, "Coventry Carol." Anne-Marie Hildebrandt arranged "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" specifically for a women's choir. Suzanne Barner Kitchen's "Oh, What Songs of the Heart" was done for a stake Relief Society conference, but could well be a theme for the entire evening.

It was thrilling to hear her song performed, said Wright. "You hear it in your head, but it's so different to hear it sung with so much feeling. The choir was outstanding."

"It is wonderful to feel that my work was good enough be be included," said Howard. "It gives me the courage to keep writing."

Christofferson, too, was pleased and excited to hear her work performed. The choir and soloists did "a tremendous job with all the numbers," she said.

"This is a great inspiration to women," added Perry. "It inspires us, it keeps us all encouraged to keep writing."

And that's what is so wonderful about it all, said Diane Bastian. They have been doing the festival for at least the past 10 years. "But there are always so many creative people out there, willing to share. There are always more songs to come."

There are always new messages of faith, hope and joy, she said. "Music is such an important tool in bringing people to Christ."