Kiss My Xmas | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Kiss My Xmas 

Feeling the spirit at A Kurt Bestor Christmas.

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I love Christmas'but I do not love Christmas music. If I purchase a Christmas album, it shouldn’t be July while I’m thinking ’tis the season to be jolly, deck the halls with what the hell does this all mean?


I can, however, listen to other genres whenever I feel like it. Music, for me, is not season-specific, and if I get a hankering, I don’t want my friends to lock me up because of the sudden urge to hear “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” in the depths of summertime.


Not only that, but Christmas music conjures up memories of second grade and trying to learn three notes on the dreaded recorder in hopes that my parents would think I was the Highlander of the impossible instruments. The recorder sounds like several crickets being violently interrogated. I challenge anyone to make that instrument sound good'I may buy you breakfast.


So, could Kurt Bestor oh-holy-night his way into my heart with his Christmas concert at Abravanel Hall last week? I knew only a little about the man; he’s been playing around here for at least 20 years, doing TV themes, movie scores and various other composition work in his nonholiday downtime. Every December, he stages A Kurt Bestor Christmas. Popular with the LDS crowd (even though he’s lapsed himself), Bestor busts out the Christmas tunes so that we may jumpstart the spirit. He has the charisma and charm to play to the family-friendliness of LDS culture. When in Utah …


Speaking of Utahness: I was 20 minutes late arriving to Abravanel Hall. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard some robotic Christmas music that sounded like what we’ll be listening to in our flying cars in 2025. I thought, “Whew, haven’t missed anything; this is just some awful pre-show music.” Whoops, it actually was the show.


I struggled to get seated, crushing half-a-dozen punctual souls in the process. I’d been expecting lots of cheesy caroling and Christmas shtick but was pleasantly surprised to see an orchestra in the back and some acclaimed backup band members.


No singing, just instrumental music. That, I could handle. My ADD mind was comforted by the fact that after each Christmas song, Bestor would stand up and explain the era that the song originated from and the background behind the writing. Like the History Channel, but I got to leave the house!


He picked a random audience member to read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which is a story I hold close due to family tradition. It just so happened to be that the gentleman he’d chosen had injured himself, was on crutches and had to hobble onstage. It also just so happened that his name was Tim. Thus ensued the Tiny Tim jokes. He did an animated job of reading it, though, and was nicely accompanied by the band jumping in with songs to match parts of the story, making for one of my favorite parts of the show.


Then Bestor introduced a special guest: None other than Debbie Gibson (though I think she prefers Deborah now). Gibson was great. She had the voice and energy to nearly rival Xtina Aguilera. She almost made me come to the dark side of Christmas songs.


But I was more into the instrumental side of the show'Bestor can play the piano, no denying that'but the songs with vocals? Not so much my thing. His man on the wind instruments'I’ll be damned!'actually made a recorder sound great; I’ll bet he was the prodigy of the second-grade Christmas pageant. I owe him breakfast.


Bestor himself emanated ego throughout the show, and I think some leaked onto me'pardon if I’m a bit inflated for the next 7 to 10 days. Still, A Kurt Bestor Christmas (hmm, maybe the title should have been a clue) was definitely innocuous entertainment for a night out with the family. You know … if you’re into that sort of thing.

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