Sting, Utah Symphony to play benefit for Zion National Park’s centennial

(Matt Sayles | AP file photo) Rock star Sting, shown here at the 2018 Grammy Awards, will perform with the Utah Symphony on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Usana Amphitheatre — a benefit for the Zion National Park Forever Project, ahead of the park's centennial in November.

If you want to take a trip back in time, says Lyman Hafen, venturing into Zion Canyon — the heart of Zion National Park — will do it.

“It’s really awesome to go up canyon,” said Hafen, executive director the Zion National Park Forever Project, the nonprofit that supports the federally maintained park in southwestern Utah. “You’re seeing vistas and experiences up canyon that might have been what like it was 100 years ago.”

Zion National Park marks the centennial of its establishment, on Nov. 19, 1919, late this fall. This Saturday, though, the foundation and music lovers get to celebrate early, and raise money to support the park’s operations, with a benefit concert.

The show is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. at Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City. Tickets are $35 for lawn seating, at SmithsTix.com. (Reserved seating is sold out, though some tickets are available for resale, also at SmithsTix.com.)

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) The late afternoon sun lights up the entrance to Zion National Park, Thursday, October 10, 2013.

The headliner will also prompt some looks back in time: the rock star Sting. In May, Sting released a new album, “My Songs,” reinterpreting both his hits with The Police (such as “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take”) and his solo career (“Englishman in New York,” “Shape of My Heart” and others).

“Sting is an international rock star,” Hafen said. “His music transcends. It’s loved and known around the world. That’s a neat connection to Zion, because Zion National Park is loved and known around the world.”

Sting’s backup band and opening act for Saturday’s show is the Utah Symphony. Thierry Fischer will conduct the first half of the concert, when the symphony plays Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festival Overture” and George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” Rob Mathes will conduct when Sting is center stage.

“We kind of see this as two Utah icons,” Hafen said. “The symphony represents our state’s cultural roots, and Zion is the state’s first national park.”

At a VIP dinner before the concert, Park City artist Susan Swartz will present a new 6-foot-square acrylic-on-linen painting, “Zion’s Glow,” commissioned by Zions Bank. The work by the internationally known painter will eventually hang at the park.

(Image by Susan Swartz) "Zion's Glow," 72'' x 72'', acrylic on linen, by Park City painter Susan Swartz. The work, commissioned by Zions Bank in honor of Zion National Park's centennial, will be presented at a VIP dinner before Saturday's benefit concert at Usana Amphitheatre featuring Sting and the Utah Symphony.

Hafen said the concert started with a question: “How could we do something that would really celebrate the centennial, outside of Zion itself and outside of southern Utah?”

That question was posed, Hafen said, to some of the Zion Forever Project’s Salt Lake City supporters — including Zions Bank’s president and CEO, Scott Anderson, and businessman Kem Gardner, who chairs the Utah Symphony’s board of trustees.

The concert, Hafen said, “was their brainchild. ... Once we planted the seed, we knew it would be something awesome to do something in Salt Lake City.”

Federal funding for national parks has remained flat for the last dozen years, Hafen said, while visitation to Zion has nearly doubled. “We’re not talking thousands, we’re talking millions,” he said. The Zion Forever Project’s support helps fill that funding gap.

The role of the Zion Forever Project, the park’s designated nonprofit partner, is “to provide support for the parks,” Hafen said, with funding for projects like the Junior Ranger program for kids.

The nonprofit traditionally has raised money through merchandise, sold at the park’s gift shops, he said. In recent years, though, the project has taken on a philanthropic role, raising money from donations and benefit events, like the Sting concert.

“We’re helping visitors be consumers of this place, but also contributors to it,” Hafen said.