Kurt Bestor celebrates 10 years of Park City holiday concerts
What: Kurt Bestor
When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22, Monday, Dec. 23, Tuesday, Dec. 24 and Wednesday, Dec. 25.
Where: The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Emmy-winning composer Kurt Bestor is celebrating two musical anniversaries this holiday season.
It’s the 32nd year he’s performed his big-production Christmas concert run in Salt Lake City, and it’s also been 10 years since he started performing his stripped-down acoustic performances at the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.
In fact, Bestor said, the anniversary for the Park City concerts, which will run this year from Dec. 21 through Dec. 25, seems like a “bigger deal.”
“I think a decade in Park City is more significant, because it’s like ‘the little concert that could,’ you know,” Bestor said.
When the composer, known in the Intermountain West as “Mr. Christmas,” started the Egyptian Theatre concerts, the idea was to play two nights — Christmas Eve and Christmas — with just a piano and flugelhorn.
Over the years, the concerts have grown in a couple of ways, according to Bestor.
“We’ve added more dates, and I began bringing a band with me,” he said.
Even with a band, the concerts remain “cozy,” Bestor said.
“I’m able to tell stories and play music in a setting that is right there in the moment, because the audience is sitting close to the stage and there isn’t a lot of space between us,” he said. “That’s something that is impossible to duplicate at the Salt Lake City shows.”
This year, Bestor decided to make another musical change in the programs.
“I started making Christmas music in 1987, and yet, I don’t play a lot of music from that album very much,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve heard from a lot of people that they want to hear songs from that first Christmas album, so I’m doing a retrospective.”
Bestor’s plan is to perform songs from each of his albums, whether they are Christmas-oriented or not.
As in the past, he will bring in some guests to help with his signature single, “Prayer of the Children,” an a cappella number about hope.
“I have performed and presented that song differently over the years,” he said. “I’ve sung it through a vocal machine, and I’ve had some of my special guests sing it.”
This year, Bestor decided to have children sing it.
“We had two kids sing it in a concert I did in St. George the other night, and it was everything that I wanted,” he said. “To hear children from a country where they have the opportunity to attend school, the security of healthcare and other things, sing about the plight of children from Syria or other places in the world that aren’t as safe, is a powerful statement.”
Bestor knows some adults will try to politicize the song, but said the song isn’t about them.
“At the end of the day, the kids are going to be here cleaning up after us,” he said.
Bestor is happy to know the Park City concerts have become a tradition for local residents and visitors over the years.
“I’ve been able to look into the audience at Park City and see this family who has come every year,” he said. “They have this tradition of wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, and it’s been great to see them.”
Still after 10 years, there are some who are shocked Bestor performs a Christmas-themed concert on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
“When they approach me about it, I always ask if there are better days to play Christmas music,” he said laughing. “I mean, I’d understand if I was playing on Dec. 26, but the 25th is the perfect time.”
In addition to spending Christmas night at the Egyptian Theatre, Bestor said there are other perks of performing in Park City.
“My wife and my daughter come up and stay in Park City, and after the Christmas Day concert, we go sit in a hot tub at Deer Valley and enjoy some of the Park City food,” he said.
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Under the plan, Sundance would operate The Ray theater at Holiday Village as the only venue in Park City or the Snyderville Basin.