Kurt Bestor enjoys Egyptian Theatre shows
December 19, 2014
For Kurt Bestor, the holidays are crazy.
The Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist performs his annual Christmas concerts with hundreds of musicians up and down the Wasatch Front, including stops in Logan, Salt Lake, Sandy, and even Pocatello, Idaho.
So, when it comes time for him to venture into the Wasatch Back and play his low-key, acoustic Christmas Eve and Christmas day concerts at the Egyptian Theatre, he’s ready to kick back and settle down.
"It’s funny and I don’t say this to pander, but I really look at the Park City shows as a homecoming," Bestor said during an interview with The Park Record. "These are our last shows of the season and last show of the year and it’s pretty chill. All the musicians who can play with me during these shows are good friends and we really get into the music up there because we play music we can’t ordinarily play with the big groups. It’s not about the fireworks that take place in my Salt Lake shows. These are nice and relaxing, which is so much different than the rest of the holiday season for me."
A few years ago, Egyptian Theatre Manager Randy Barton approached Bestor with the intimate-concert idea, according to Bestor.
"People are surprised that I agreed to do that, but there are a lot of people who spend their winters in Park City who want to see some live music on Christmas Eve and Christmas," Bestor said. "We perform the shows early, so people can go out on the town afterwards or go back to their hotels and have a little family time."
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The musicians Bestor will perform with this year include woodwind expert Daron Bradford, Nashville-based guitarist Ron Saltmarsh, who has played with Diamond Rio and Roseanne Cash, and Matt Larson on the bass.
"There will be a few additional surprises and I’m still trying to get some more people to come and make an appearance," Bestor said
Per tradition, Bestor will perform a newly penned Christmas song.
"I have a new one that actually mentions Park City and it’s called ‘Utah Is Christmas to Me,’" he said. "I will say that the only time I will ever sing the words ‘funeral potatoes’ is in this song, and I’m not kidding."
The song is about the unique things Bestor loves about Utah during Christmastime.
"I’ve written original music over the years about peace on Earth and how to find Christmas and I’ve also redone traditional carols," he said. "This one is different and it’s a hybrid of styles."
In addition to the new song, Bestor will play some music from his new album, "Outside the Lines."
"This is my first non-Christmas album since 2004," he said. "I thought it would be nice to have an even decade between albums. I’m turning into Steely Dan by releasing a new album every decade or so."
Like with many musicians these days, Bestor crowdsourced to raise money for the project, but the biggest challenge was deciding what style of music he wanted on the album.
"I had to decide who I am and what kind of composer I am," he said. "I started writing and the album became an amalgam of a few styles, really. So, when you listen to it you may find it’s kind of jazz-meets-classical-meets-Latin."
That’s why he named it "Outside the Lines."
"It seems that everyone today wants to put you in a category, especially if you’re a musician and composer," Bestor explained. "They want to know what your song genre is and that’s where things get strange. I’m not really classical. I’m not really jazz. I’m certainly not really Latin. I’m just me and this album is the sum of all my parts."
Recording a non-holiday album was refreshing for the composer.
"I will never say that Christmas is some kind of prison, because it certainly is not, but doing the new album was liberating for me," he said. "Many people don’t really know me beyond the Christmas music and I think that’s kind of sad. So making ‘Outside the Lines’ was great."
The first single is called "Baroque Coco," which led to another first for Bestor — a short-form music video.
"The world of music distribution has become a bizarre place," he said. "It’s no longer, ‘Hey, come listen to my new CD.’ It’s more, ‘Man, you should see this music video. They have 1,000 dancing pigs in tutus.’ So, it’s hardly about the music anymore."
With that churning in his head, Bestor felt a bit intimidated about doing a music video.
"As an instrumental pianist, many people think the only thing to do is put your grand piano on top of a big red boat in the middle of the Great Salt Lake and send a drone over to film it," he said. "I didn’t want to do that. So, I came up with another idea that used a new technology called video mapping."
Painter Pablo Picasso’s cubist works inspired Bestor’s vision for the project.
"I wanted to create these images of the band and project them onto these different shapes," he said. "I worked with Chris Florence, who was the video’s editor, and we did it in nearly one pass."
The two made videos of all the musicians playing their instruments and then edited the videos so they could be projected onto triangles, circles and squares.
"When that’s going on, I walking around these shapes and end up playing the piano," Bestor said. "It was a lot of fun and very whimsical and adds to the uniqueness of it. I think people will see the video and won’t just say, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting technique’ but will also say, ‘I don’t mind the music, either.’"
Bestor plans to play "Baroque Coco" live with the music video during the Park City concert.
"The guys up at the Egyptian do a great job of using new camera and GoPro technology so the audience can see my fingers playing the piano during live videos as well as enjoy the filmed videos," he said. "It makes for a nice evening."
Bestor hopes the audience will enjoy the show for its technical merits, but also because it’s so low-key.
"There are people who are in the Pharaoh Club who donate to the Egyptian Theatre that sit in the front and enjoy some drinks and nachos while we play," he said with a big laugh. "That’s something that doesn’t happen at Abravanel Hall."
Emmy Award-winning composer and musician Kurt Bestor will present his annual, intimate Christmas Eve and Christmas concerts at the Egyptian on Wednesday, Dec. 24, and Thursday, Dec. 25, at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $29 to $50 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .