Essentials: Entertainment Picks Nov. 26- Dec. 2 

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FRIDAY 11.27
The Letter That You're Writing Doesn't Mean You're Not Dead
Artworks speak not only to the viewer, but also to each other. In this artistic equation, one plus one equals three. Florida-based artists Benjamin Zellmer Bellas and Noelle Mason each create an exhibit at CUAC Contemporary Art, both titled The Letter That You're Writing Doesn't Mean You're Not Dead.

In the back section of CUAC's bifurcated exhibition space, Mason has fashioned dozens of handmade embroideries on lace handkerchiefs (detail pictured), describing details of the Columbine High School massacre—including love letters and other personal revelations—from the point of view of the shooters. An oversize print of a still from the surveillance video is also featured, for an installation piece that is nothing less than incendiary. As a whole, her works examine the sensationalism of the media, as well as the self-mythologizing nature of the written, declarative mode.

Zellmer Bellas' work, in the front of the gallery, looks at landscape in unusual ways. According to the exhibit description, the photographs of shadows cast by birch trees were printed from paper made from the bark of those same trees. An array of empty frame hangers was taken from an exhibit of photos by John James Audubon, an emphatic statement about the vanishing nature of wilderness. You have to take his word about the genesis of these and the rest of his works, and his booklet accompanying the exhibit is completely engrossing.

The two artists' work connects in a dialogue about the nature of loss, and what is preserved in the aftermath. The viewer is left to connect the dots between the two. (Brian Staker)
The Letter That You're Writing Doesn't Mean You're Not Dead @ CUAC, 175 E. 200 South, 385-215-6768, through Jan. 8.

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FRIDAY 11.27
Christmas in Color Outdoor Light Display
Every holiday season, families head out together in search of festive illuminated decorations. Sometimes they'll find neighborhoods full of cars packed with eager viewers, resulting in traffic jams. Or people decide to head out on foot and wind up chilled to the bone. It's enough to make you consider staying at home and staring at a TV Yule log.

Utah native Richard Holdman—founder of Animated Color, one of the producers of the popular Midway Ice Castles—has come up with a dazzling solution for those who want to enjoy holiday-light displays. And this one ranks among the most ambitious such displays ever created: an outdoor showcase of more than a million LED lights, including tunnels and towering Christmas trees. In this brand-new creation from Holdman—whose own house display has racked up nearly 40 million YouTube views—visitors will take a 20-minute ride through a Kearns neighborhood, listening on their radios to beloved holiday tunes that work in synchronization with the light show. It's a unique drive-through spectacle, all from the warmth of your own vehicle.

Tickets and reservations are available exclusively online, as a way to manage traffic flow; no guests will be admitted who show up without pre-payment, so be prepared. Start a new holiday tradition, and make your reservation early. (Scott Renshaw)

Christmas in Color Outdoor Light Display @ enter at Ed Mayne Street off 4800 West, Oquirrh Park, Kearns, Nov. 27-Jan. 2, Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m., $20 per vehicle; Friday-Saturday and Christmas week, 5:30-11 p.m., $25. Pre-purchase only.

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Messiah Sing-In
Opportunities to perform with a group of pros are rare. The Utah Jazz generally don't invite you to come make a spot start for them. The actors at Pioneer Theatre Co. don't ask you to say their lines along with them. So when the Utah Symphony invites you to get in on the act, it's time to step up.

Whether you think you're a good singer, or you know you're not a good singer but still like to belt out the tunes, the symphony invites you to sing with them at the annual Messiah Sing-In on Saturday night at Abravanel Hall. The evening features highlights from The Messiah, the oratorio for which George Frideric Handel (pictured) is best known, and which is still running 273 years after its Dublin debut. With the symphony providing accompaniment, and the Utah Symphony Chorus offering some guidance, thousands join as one voice to mark the opening of the holiday season and sing, "Hallelujah!"

The list of other chorus pieces typically includes "And the glory of the Lord," "For unto us a child is born," "Glory to God in the highest," "His yoke is easy" and "Worthy is the lamb." To give the singing audience a break, four professional vocalists are on hand to tackle the solos.

The annual performance of "Hallelujah," one of the most recognized choruses in history, will be followed the first weekend in December by another famous chorus as the Utah Symphony performs Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in conjunction with multiple choirs. (Geoff Griffin)
Utah Symphony: Messiah Sing-In @Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple,801-355-2787, Nov. 28, 7 p.m., $10-$41.

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MONDAY 11.30
Utah 2015: Photography, Craft, Video & Digital Works
Utah's Division of Arts & Museums commemorates 116 years of juried exhibitions and artistic competitions in the state, and this year's competition is the first to include video and digital works along with its photography and crafts competition. From more than 400 works entered, 56 were selected as the best representation of this variety of media produced in the state. The Statewide Annual Competition rotates categories every year; last year was painting, sculpture and installation, and 2016 will be mixed media/works on paper.

It's an intriguing blend of traditional and high-tech media that gives us a work like Brian Christensen's "Breath of Life" composed of blown glass, steel and breath condensation displayed in the same room with Susan Harris' "Three Sided Jar" (pictured), of black stoneware, laterite wash, reduction cooled. It also gives pause to consider that a medium such as photography, which was once a new technology, was then eclipsed by digital art, which was then again transformed by digital technology. And then a work like Heidi Moller Somsen's "Papoose" combines an old technology like bicycle inner tubes along with natural elements such as willow branches to create an innovative work of art, demonstrating the resourcefulness of local artists.

The list of award recipients, presented Nov. 20 at the opening reception, included Best In Show winner Amy Jorgensen's high-definition video "Far From the Tree," as well as six jurors' awards and two honorable mentions. (Brian Staker)
Utah 2015: Photography, Craft, Video & Digital Works @ Rio Gallery, 300 S. Rio Grande St., 801-245-7270, through Jan. 8, 2016.


Primary Children's Hospital Festival of Trees
One way to rekindle the holiday spirit after the Black Friday fallout is to spend the day at Salt Lake City's annual Festival of Trees. To accommodate this one-stop shop for all things yuletide, the South Towne Convention Center is transformed into a surrogate North Pole. Attendees can admire the 700-plus trees decorated by several local organizations, check out mind-boggling feats of cookie-based engineering at the Gingerbread Village and pick up a fresh-baked cinnamon roll for some holiday sweetness.

Not only do admission proceeds go to Primary Children's Hospital, but the wide variety of trees can be purchased via silent auction to raise additional funds for the hospital. This year's event marks 45 years of operation, during which time the Festival of Trees has raised more than $37 million for Primary Children's. If surrounding yourself with wall-to-wall cheer while donating to a truly noble cause doesn't say it's time for the holidays, what does?

(Alex Springer)
Festival of Trees @ South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State, Dec. 2-5, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., $6.

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