There are certain Utah holiday moments: watching your son or daughter perform in The Nutcracker at the Capitol Theatre, a bundled-up stroll through the lights at Temple Square, a turn or two on the ice rink at the Gallivan Center and the fight for parking at the Gateway. And while the rest of the nation can boast Christmas lights, skating rinks, child ballerinas and shopping battles, there is only one Kurt Bestor Christmas concert—and it is quintessential Utah.
For 16 years and counting, Mr. Christmas—he doesn't like to be called that, really, I've tried it—ahem, Kurt Bestor, has been rolling out the yuletide glee up and down the Wasatch and as far as Dallas and Seattle. The consummate showman, with his pearly whites and lion’s mane of brown hair, each holiday season composes a new set for the faithful and soft-shoes his way through it, year after year, after year. After. Year.
He once told me: "I love doing the Christmas concerts, but there is more to Kurt Bestor than Christmas."
Bestor made his bones on composing film and television scores, and the 53-year-old grandson of a big band-era trumpeter is an extraordinarily talented musician. His music has introduced Monday Night Football and the Winter Olympics, and his musical chops are apparent during his annual Christmas performance as he jumps from instrument to instrument, piano to cornet and around the octaval circle. Bestor's Christmas extravaganza is a mixture of his own compositions, old chestnuts roasting on open fires and spirituals like Silent Night, arranged with the composer's own unique flair.
Bestor may be weary of his annual Christmas duty, but audiences are not. His multi-night stands routinely sell out, and extra days are often added. Grandmas bring their grandchildren, young Mormons make it a chaste date, and just you try to get a ticket for a Monday night show. That's family night, bub; standing room only. Whether he likes it or not, Bestor is as much a part of Utah as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It's a heavy burden, but here, we suit up. Jerry Sloan didn't often miss a Jazz game, right? And Bestor will never miss a yule-tide, we hope. Here's to you, Mr. Bestor, for marching out the long slog of Christmases from here to eternity.
His holiday show “A Kurt Bestor Christmas,” runs Dec. 13–15 at Abravanel Hall. Artix.com for tickets.