Review • Balanced program of carols focuses on three B's.
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"The three B's" is a time-honored staple of concert programming. But rather than the three B's you learned about in school, this year's Utah Chamber Artists Christmas concert was brought to you by Alfred Burt, Abbie Betinis and Barlow Bradford.
Burt, as most choral singers could tell you, was best-known as a composer of Christmas carols. Bradford, too, has earned a solid reputation with his carol arrangements and originals. So the exciting discovery on Monday's concert in Libby Gardner Concert Hall was the music of Betinis, Burt's 32-year-old great-niece.
Bradford's beautifully balanced program featured three carols of Betinis, each with a distinct flavor. The exquisite concert opener, "Be Like the Bird," featured rich, inviting singing from the women of Utah Chamber Artists, with the men backing them up on handbells. Reading that the composer wrote the piece while recovering from cancer treatment three years ago added weight and poignancy to its message of strength in adversity.
The other Betinis carols were nearly as appealing. "Song of the Pines" was as contemplative as the name suggests, while the exuberant "Run, Toboggan, Run" showcased the singers' crisp diction.
Betinis also wrote the text for "Prayer for Peace" and set it to her late great-uncle's music. Another lesser-known Burt carol, "Carol of the Mother," featured some lovely unison singing from the choir and sensitive playing from the small orchestra. Two upbeat Burt favorites, "Caroling, Caroling" and "Bright, Bright the Holly Berries," rounded out the set.
Bradford's contributions to the program included shimmering settings of the Christina Rossetti poems, "The Shepherds Had an Angel" and "In the Bleak Midwinter," a graceful arrangement of "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine" and the noble "Was Not Christ Our Saviour?" There were also two Bradford premieres, "A Day, a Day of Glory" and "Christmas Carol," both of which found the composer in celebratory mode.
Monday's concert started 20 minutes late due to crowds at the box office. While concertgoers inside the hall waited, Bradford led them in a pair of carols.
Utah Chamber Artists
The group's Christmas concert features music of artistic director Barlow Bradford, choral master Alfred Burt and Burt's great-niece Abbie Betinis.
When • Monday, Dec. 3.
Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah.