On the Gregorian calendar, it is 2019. On the Chinese calendar, in a few days it will be the year of the earth pig. In Utah, it is now officially the “year of the train.”
Gov. Gary Herbert declared that on Friday, as he announced the entertainment lineup for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike — which ceremonially completed the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869.
Celebrations will include original plays, operas and orchestral music to be performed by Broadway stars, the Utah Symphony, the Utah Opera and the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, among others.
Herbert said he hopes to “inspire the next generation” with stories about “the iconic event that helped define our state as the crossroads of the West,” and helped to usher in the industrial revolution here.
“Construction of the transcontinental railroad showed the world that the remarkable is possible with vision and hard work, dedication and collaboration,” Herbert said, standing beneath a mural in Salt Lake City’s Union Pacific Depot depicting the Golden Spike ceremony
“We’re going to party like it’s 1869,” said Douglas Foxley, chief of Spike 150, the state initiative to celebrate the anniversary. “We’re going to have a great party. Move over Winter Olympics. We’ve got the real gold: the Golden Spike. … Let’s get on the track and start moving this.”
The entertainment lineup for the anniversary they unveiled on Friday includes:
• The O.C. Tanner Gift of Music Concert. On May 10 at 8 p.m., the concert will feature Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell (a Tony Award winner) and Megan Hilty (who starred as Glinda in “Wicked” on Broadway). They will perform with the Utah Symphony and The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square at the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
• “As One.” The original musical presentation and ceremonial reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike will occur on the May 10th anniversary from 12:30 to 1 p.m. at Promontory Summit. It will be broadcast live on KSL-TV, and made available by UEN for schools across the state.
• “Gold Mountain.” The new musical was created by award-winning composer Jason Ma and actor/director Alan Muraoka (best know as “Alan” on Sesame Street). It is a love story about a young Chinese rail worker, starring Broadway star Ali Ewoldt (who recently starred as Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway). It will play May 8-9 at the Regent Street Black Box at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City, and May 10-11 in Ogden at Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
• Ogden gala. The event on May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the David Eccles Conference Center in Ogden will feature the 16-piece New Deal Swing Band, led by Tad Calcara, the principal clarinetist of the Utah Symphony. Stories and history of the railroad will be incorporated into the performance.
• Utah Symphony. On May 17-18 at Abravanel Hall, a newly commissioned work from Grammy-nominated, Chinese-born American composer Zhou Tian will premiere. The concert will include Aaron Copland’s “Appalacian Spring” and “Billy the Kid.”
• Utah Opera. Four composers have been commissioned to write 10-minute, Golden Spike-themed operas. They will premiere in late May in Brigham City, Ogden and Salt Lake City locations, and then will be performed in community concerts and in “random acts of opera” over the next few seasons.
More information and instructions about how to obtain tickets will be available at www.spike150.org.
Foxley said those who hope to attend the sesquicentennial celebration at Promontory Summit must purchase a vehicle ticket, which costs $20. The first block of vehicle tickets will be released on Monday at the group’s website.
Three of the four final spikes driven in 1869, including the famous last Golden Spike, appear in the new Utah Museum of Fine Arts' exhibit titled “The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West.” It’s the first time the ceremonial final spikes have been reunited since the 1869 celebration.