The 30th edition of Kurt Bestor’s Christmas shows will feature four guest artists from past years, chosen by popular vote. Jenny Oaks Baker (click here to read more) will kick things off.
Kurt Bestor presents his 30th annual Christmas concerts, each with a different musical guest chosen by popular vote.
Jenny Oaks Baker • Thursday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Lexi Walker • Friday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m.
One Voice Children’s Choir • Saturday, Dec. 16, 2 p.m.
Dallyn Vail Bayles • Saturday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m.
Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $32.50-$57.50; artsaltlake.org
Lexi was the guest star on Bestor’s final Christmas shows in Abravanel Hall before he moved a couple of blocks southeast to the then-new Eccles Theater last year. Now she can’t wait to check out the new place.
“I’m really excited about this beautiful new theater,” she said. “I’m excited for what that brings to the show.”
Her career took off quickly after videos of her singing at sporting events were widely shared online; she’s made guest appearances with local favorites such as The Piano Guys and GENTRI, as well as with personal heroes such as Idina Menzel. Now 15, she attends a charter school in American Fork, where she says teachers and administrators have been very accommodating of her performance schedule. She still loves cooking, baking, reading and art, and lately she’s been writing her own songs.
“She steps up,” Bestor said. “Her vocal ability — her craft — is at a very high place for her age. … When she sings ‘Prayer of the Children,’ I don’t think I’ve heard anything like it. The audience is stunned by the emotion coming out of this little girl.
“People will remember her 20 years from now,” he said, adding he’s impressed at how grounded Lexi has remained despite her growing fame. “She will stick around.”
One Voice Children’s Choir
One hundred members of the popular choir will join Bestor on the Eccles stage. “That’s my Rubik’s cube,” he said.
There are nearly 150 singers in the choir, but it’s rare for them all to appear together, partly because of space considerations and partly because these are kids 4 to 18 years old, after all, not full-time entertainers.
The choir started out as the official children’s choir of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Fukuda recruited members from nearly 70 local schools. The children enjoyed performing together so much that they kept going. Now the choir is so big and its membership so spread out — some kids travel weekly from as far away as Wyoming and Idaho — that rehearsals are split into two weekly sessions, one in Utah County and one in Salt Lake County. Fukuda emphasizes, though, that they’re a single choir, with no divisions based on age. (When boys’ voices change, they switch to tenor.)
“They perform so much, I don’t know how these kids even go to school,” Bestor said. It’s true that the choir makes around 50 appearances a year, but Fukuda doesn’t require any of the singers to perform on more than half of those.
Recruiting for the Bestor show wasn’t difficult. Fukuda and his singers are especially excited to be singing with a live orchestra, rather than a single piano or a pre-recorded track. “He’s a very adventurous musician,” Fukuda said of Bestor. “He kind of Bestorizes everything in his jazzy style, and it’s really, really cool.”
Dallyn Vail Bayles
Bayles was the guest on Bestor’s first show at the Eccles, and Bestor was pleasantly surprised when fans voted the tenor back right away: “He really is mesmerizing. … You look at him and think, ‘There’s somebody’s dad,’ then he starts singing and he really captivates.”
Bayles, 40, is indeed a father of five children with his wife, Rachel. He grew up in Green River, where music and drama teacher Jessica Jenkins sparked his interest in performing. When he was in ninth grade, he was part of a student group she brought to Salt Lake City to see a touring production of “Les Misérables.”
“That was life-changing,” he said. “I’m so grateful to her.”
Bayles studied music, dance and theater at BYU, where he now teaches voice and acting, and earned a master’s in musical theater from the Boston Conservatory after several years performing on national tours and in regional theater. His credits include playing the impassioned revolutionary Enjolras in the Broadway tour of “Les Miz.” The show remains a favorite, and “Bring Him Home” is now a signature song for him.
“It’s almost like coming full circle,” he said. “That song has always held special meaning for me. … It’s such a beautiful message, and people connect with it so strongly.”
Clarification: Dallyn Vail Bayles will perform with Kurt Bestor and his band on Saturday, Dec. 16. An earlier version of this story had a mismatch of day and date.