Park City Interfaith Council presents two concerts to raise awareness of Mental Wellness Alliance | ParkRecord.com

Park City Interfaith Council presents two concerts to raise awareness of Mental Wellness Alliance

This spring, the Park City Interfaith Council decided to present a different kind of spring concert than it had in the past.

Four years ago, the council — organization that includes representatives from different churches and synagogues that work to build bridges between the faiths — recruited members of various community choirs and performed a "Messiah Sing-In" at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.

Since then, the council sponsored two more "Messiah" spring concerts, but after taking a break last year, the council came back with a new vision, said Randy Favero, the concert's chairman.

This year the Park City Community Choir, along with the Esperanza Orchestra, will not perform Handel's "Messiah," but has opted to perform John Rutter's "Requiem" instead.

I think this piece raises so many people’s consciousness, because it puts together people of different cultures, faiths and tribes, while respecting those differences...” Debra Cook, Park City Community Choir director

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The performances, both dubbed Concert With a Purpose, will raise awareness of the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance.

"It's great to bring different faiths together, but it's also great to bring greater awareness of this group and do something of value for the community," Favero said.

"We did a choir survey, and one-third wanted to do a concert every year," he said. "Another third wanted to do something different. The other third wanted to find another project to bring the community together. So, we split the difference and decided to do all of that in one concert."

There has also been a change in venues.

Instead of holding the concert at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, there will be two performances. The first will be on Friday, March 8, at St, Mary's Catholic Church, 1505 W. White Pine Canyon Road. The second will be performed on Saturday, March 9, at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Creekside Drive."We decided to go into a couple of facilities of a couple of our religious congregations, which gave them opportunities to share their own facilities with us," he said. "It was an intentional move to be more inclusive to members of our faith community."

To accommodate the smaller venues, the choir will be smaller this year, according to Favero.

The choir will still be composed of singers from 13 different organizations and 14 local music groups, such as the Park City Treble Makers, Park City Singers, the Utah Conservatory and the American West Chorus, Favero said.

"While we were able to get 110 people on the Eccles Center stage, we've had to cut the choir down to 70 people for these new venues," he said.

The choir will be joined by Esperanza Orchestra, a new community symphony started by Dr. Don Miller, Favero said.

Utah Conservatory co-founder Debra Cook, who will lead the chorus, selected "Requiem" because of the composition's message.

"The piece deals with the passing from this life into the eternities, and the hope that comes from the light on the other side," Cook said. "There are quite a few dissonant sections that open up into a beautiful harmonious and diatonic light."

Cook feels the piece honors those in the Summit County community who have passed on, especially those who suffered from mental illness.

"Those passings have been particularly painful and have awoken the need to address how valuable life is to us, as well as give an understanding and solace for those who are still suffering," she said.

Some of the choir members have felt those losses firsthand, according to Cook.

"There are two singers who had one of their good friends commit suicide a few years ago," she said. "It was difficult for them to work through, and they have told me that they have to sing in these concerts to honor their friend."

Rutter, an English composer who was born in 1945, wrote "Requiem" when he was 40. Rutter dedicated the work to his father, who passed away a year later in 1986, Cook said.

"He originally wrote it for a church choir, and the intent of the piece is to give comfort and understanding of our purpose of existence from those who have passed on," she said. "Besides feeling this piece was appropriate for an interfaith choir to perform, we also thought it was appropriate to bring a community together."

Cook first heard "Requiem," conducted by Rutter, in New York's famed Carnegie Hall.

"It was some decades ago, and I stormed the stage to see him because the work was so beautiful," she said as her eyes welled up with tears. "I had never done that before. But because this is such a good piece, I couldn't help it."

Some of Cook's friends have felt the same way about the piece.

"Some of the singing is done in Latin, and I've heard from so many people how much the music moves them to cry, even though they don't understand the language," she said. "I think this piece raises so many people's consciousness, because it puts together people of different cultures, faiths and tribes, while respecting those differences. At the same time it brings people together in one identifiable community."

Unity is the goal of the Interfaith Council, Cook said.

"It's a consortium of the community's religious leaders who work to build bridges of common understanding," she said. "And the choir is a manifestation of that. This concert is an opportunity, an event, where we can build bridges across religious cultures."

Cook, whose husband passed away in 2016, said her involvement with the Interfaith Choir is personal.

"In my blended family, I had some years when some of our children did not want to associate with us because of religion," she said. "So to be involved in an interfaith project where some of these prejudices could start melting away was valuable to me."

Park City Interfaith Council Community Concerts with the Park City Community Choir and Esperanza Orchestra
7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 8
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 W. White Pine Canyon Road
7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9
Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Brookside Court
Free