KURT BESTOR, Abravanel Hall, Wednesday, additional performances Dec. 11-13, 355-2787.
The house lights darken, the audience falls to a hush, and from the back of the stage, you hear the clear and simple sound of bells. From that first moment, you know you are in for a special treat, and nothing that happens after will change your mind.
From start to finish, Kurt Bestor's 20th annual Christmas concert is filled with joy, good will, great music and the spirit of the season.
The night kicks off with a retrospective, including some fun video, of the past two decades, with a medley of Christmas carols and best-loved songs from Bestor's five Christmas CDs, including "Carol of the Bells," (the first Christmas song he arranged way back when), "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."
Throughout the night, he shows versatility and musicality with everything from flugelhorn to ragtime and jazz to soft and comforting. These and others are numbers that showcase the talents of his band, including guitarist Michael Dowdle, reeds expert Daron Bradford, percussionist Todd Sorenson, drummer Eric Valentine and bass player Carlitos del Puerto — as well as the orchestra.
Special guest for the concerts is violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, who actually played with Bestor's orchestra in her teens but has gone on to a career as a sought-after soloist. She and Bestor kick it up with a Celtic version of "Angels We Have Heard on High," which offers some fantastic fiddling on her part and lively bodhran playing on his. She also performs a stellar version of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and she brought the audience to their feet with her incredible bow work on Bestor's "Christmas Concerto for Violin and Electric Guitar" (featuring Dowdle, as well).
Winner of this year's Bestor' Best Singer Search, Danny Tarasevitch shines with a very gospelesque version of "Go Tell It on the Mountain." Bestor's daughter Erika, who is as old as the concert and has turned into a beautiful 20-year-old, joins him for a lovely version of "Prayer of the Children"; and in the family vein, his mother, Phyllis, does the narration for this year's traditional "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Magic, marvelous music and so much to enjoy — those are still the hallmarks of a Kurt Bestor Christmas.