Kurt Bestor gets personal with Egyptian Theatre concerts
‘Mr. Christmas’ enjoys acoustic performances
Emmy Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated composer Kurt Bestor has been known as “Mr. Christmas” to his fans since 1988.
That’s when he recorded his first holiday album “An Airus Christmas.”
Since then, Bestor has presented annual Christmas-concert extravaganzas throughout the Western United States, culminating with performances at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.
In 2010, Egyptian Theatre manager Randy Barton invited Bestor to give two intimate solo Christmas concerts in Park City on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“Randy knew what he was doing,” Bestor said during a phone call to The Park Record. “I really wasn’t sold on it, but he told me that Park City audiences were different and that I should give the shows a try.”
Barton was right and, now, six years later, Bestor still looks forward to performing these intimate Egyptian Theatre concerts.
Next week, Bestor will perform four nights, from Thursday, Dec. 22, through Sunday, Dec, 25, Christmas Day.
“The Park City shows have always been different than what I do at my other shows,” Bestor said. “I’m free to perform a little more jazz up there than in Salt Lake. I also have a banter with the audiences up there that I don’t have in the other places.”
Even the Park City concerts have grown over the years. Instead of playing full solo concerts, Bestor brings in his core group: guitarist Mike Dowdle, bassist Matt Larson, multi-instrumentalist Daron Bradford.
“There will be one night when Ron Saltmarsh will play guitar,” Bestor said. “Mike had a prior thing he couldn’t get out of. They both are great guitarists, and I enjoy playing with both.”
Bestor said Matt Larson is one of Salt Lake City’s premiere bassists and also had a lot of praise for Bradford.
“Daron is incredible,” Bestor said. “He plays so many instruments that it just blows me away.”
In addition, the band will be joined with a couple of guest artists.
“The audience will get multiple choices this year, because I’m performing four nights,” Bestor said. “Luckily I don’t have to look very far to find great people.”
“If you like great violin, the greatest violinist I know around here is Jenny Oaks Baker,” he said. “She’ll join me on Dec. 22 and 23.”
Bestor’s other guest is Park City’s Teresa Eggertsen Cooke.
“She’s is back by popular demand,” he said. “Everyone in Park City knows her and likes her. And she will join me on Dec. 24 and 25.”
Bestor enjoys Christmas music because of the recollections attached to the songs.
“It’s one of those genres where everyone has a memory,” he said. “Those memories are typically guileless and innocent. No matter how old or crotchety you are, once you hear the songs, your other senses kind of light up.
“For example, when I play certain songs, I can actually smell the pfeffernusse cookies and my grandma’s cooking,” Bestor said. “When I play other songs, I can remember where I was when I wrote them or where I was when I first heard a song.”
Bestor feels Christmas music reconnects listeners with innocence.
“I think most people, unless they are too far gone, the songs take them to a place where they are free again and not so sarcastic,” he said. “We live in a time where many people will tell you they don’t listen to this kind of music, but honestly, when most people hear Bing Crosby sing ‘White Christmas,’ they will relive that [point of their lives.]”
Throughout his career Bestor has arranged and rearranged Christmas music to the point where he can recognize whether or not a song will fit his style.
“This is going to sound a little arrogant, but at this point in my career, I can probably arrange almost any song, short of ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,’” he said with a laugh. “However, I think I lean towards more of the traditional Christmas songs that you would find in the Oxford Book of Carols.”
Those songs include “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” or “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.”
“Those types of harmonics and melodies fit with what I do,” Bestor said. “It’s the pentatonic scale that lends itself for me to be able to attach variable chords to the songs.”
Bestor finds it a challenge to rearrange more contemporary works such as “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire.”
“Songs like that are hard to venture away from the chords, because the chords are such big part of the original composition,” he said. “On the other hand, I can find ways to play ‘Silent Night’ in major chords or in minor chords. I can jazz it up and do a number of things with the timing.”
A big change for this year’s concerts is the lack of a new and original Kurt Bestor Christmas carol.
“I have composed a new Christmas song every year, but this time, I have decided since I have so many [things I want to do during the concert] that I didn’t write a new song this year,” he said. “I have so many traditional songs that people want to hear, like ‘O Holy Night’ on the flugelhorn or they want to hear ‘Song for the Children,’ that I don’t have much freedom to change up my show every year. So, I opted not to do a new song.”
Although some fans may be disappointed, they will still be treated to the high-quality performance they know.
“I never get tired of doing this once I get on stage and start playing, even though the preparation and the marketing does get a little old,” Bestor said. “Every once in a while I tell my wife as I walk out of the house to make an appearance that I don’t feel like being
Kurt Bestor today. But when I start playing the music, I’m don’t feel tired and I’m not tired of the music.
“Even by the time I get to Park City, I’m exhausted because I’ve done a myriad of shows and marketing, but Park City is the place where I can take a deep breath and stop the train,” he said. “I can see that light at the end of the tunnel because my last show is Dec. 25, and Christmas music kind of sucks after that.”
Emmy Award-winning Kurt Bestor will perform his acoustic Christmas concerts at 8 p.m. on Dec. 22-23, and at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24-25, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $29 to $45 and they can be purchased by calling 435-649-9371 or by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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