Kurt Bestor enjoys intimate Christmas concerts in Park City
Emmy Award-winning composer Kurt Bestor is known for his grand-production Christmas concerts he takes on tour throughout the western United States.
He is especially loved in his home state of Utah where he performs a series of shows along the Wasatch Front that include the 22,000-seat Energy Solutions Arena.
But those performances don’t compare to the intimate Christmas concerts he has performed at the Egyptian Theatre for the past four years.
In fact, Bestor, who will play this season from Dec. 23 through Dec. 25, said these concerts are the perfect way for him to celebrate the season.
"I do all these big-production shows all over and they are so fun to do, and then I go up to the Egyptian and it’s more of the type of Christmas that I like to do, to be honest," Bestor said during an interview with The Park Record. "Also, every year, my wife goes back to Kenya to visit her family, and in the past, I was usually alone at Christmas."
That changed when Egyptian Theatre manager Randy Barton asked Bestor if he would be interested in doing these performances.
"Randy, to his credit, wanted to so something in Park City during that time, because a lot of people come to town and they don’t have a lot of things to do during Christmas," Bestor said. "I felt it was a great idea. When you think about it, people wake up and open their presents and after that’s done, they sit around and say ‘Now what are we going to do?’
"Christmas is really over at that point and some will people go see movies and things like that," he said. "So it’s nice to give them other options. And we do the show early enough so people can still enjoy their evening."
Bestor has made a new family through these performances.
"My family is the band I play with and the people I have gotten to know in the Egyptian Theatre’s Pharaoh Club, who sit in the front of the theater," he said. "Since I’ve started playing these shows, it really has become a tradition for me."
Bestor’s band that will perform the concerts includes bassist Matt Larson, guitarist Ron Saltmarsh who moved to Salt Lake City from Nashville, Tenn., and multi- instrumentalist Daron Bradford.
"Daron turned down the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts so he can play these shows, which I sure do appreciate," Bestor said with a laugh.
This year, the Egyptian concerts will feature a special guest — cellist Nicole Pinell, who will perform a track that is on Bestor’s new CD, "Outside the Lines," which will be available at the show.
"Nicole will play the Bach Cello Prelude from Suite No. 1 in G Major," Bestor said. "I did an arrangement of that, which was pretty daunting because it is Bach, after all.
"But all through the years I’ve heard it played by people like Yo-Yo Ma and I’ve always heard chords and guitars in my head," he said. "So I thought it would be fun to play for the people in Park City."
In fact, Bestor will play a couple of new songs from the CD in Park City.
"This is the first non-Christmas CD that I have done in almost a decade, and it’s not being released publicly until next year," he said. "So the only time people can hear any of the songs or buy it are at my live performances."
The composer said he enjoyed getting away from the Christmas theme for the project.
"It was nice to do something where I had absolutely no rules or anyone telling me what to do," he said. "I threw caution to the wind and did something just for me. I did what felt best and didn’t worry about what the market wanted."
"Outside the Lines" was influenced by a style Bestor calls "Kickassical."
"It’s essentially a classical-baroque style that I like to jazz up with acoustic bass and violins," he said.
Out of the 11 songs on the CD, eight are originals.
"The other three are arrangements of classical pieces," he said. "One is the Bach that I talked about and another is my arrangement of ‘Pavane,’ which is a beautiful song that was written in the early 1900s by a great impressionist composer named Gabriel Fauré.
"Of all the songs he did, that one had an amazing melody and I have wanted to do it for a long time," Bestor said.
The last non-original is a mashup of Led Zeppelin’s "Kashmir" and "Presto (Summer)" from Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons."
Of course Bestor will perform a new original Christmas song during the Egyptian concerts.
"I always write a new carol each year as a gift for those who come see my concerts," he said. "This year, however, I nearly didn’t. I literally put it off until a couple of weeks ago, because I was tossing around the idea of not getting locked into tradition."
In the past, Bestor has written his original Christmas songs in the vein of Bing Crosby or in the singer-songwriter style of Marc Cohn.
"This year, when I decided to write it, literally two weeks ago, I was looking through Christmas books that people had given my daughter and there were a couple of books that dealt with Christmas trees," he said. "So I dreamed up a story that happened in a medieval town that has a Christmas tree contest, and the winning tree gets decorated."
"Even though I procrastinated, I’m glad I was able to write the song, which is called ‘Carol of the Little Tree,’" he said. "We’ll pass the sheet music out during the concert so people can take it home."
In addition to the new song, there will also be some surprises during the Egyptian concerts.
"I’m planning to perform some songs that I haven’t performed in Park City before," Bestor teased. "I like sharing this wonderful time of the year where people can put away their snarkiness and cynicism away and become like kids again as they listen to these melodies, so I will do some new arrangements this year."
Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Kurt Bestor will perform Christmas concerts at the Egyptian Theatre from Monday, Dec. 23, through Wednesday, Dec. 25. Monday’s concert will begin at 8 p.m. and the shows on Tuesday and Wednesday will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $29 to $50 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com . For more information, visit http://www.kurtbestor.com .
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