`A sesquicentennial musical tribute'

A melodic panorama of the LDS pioneer epoch and a United States senator's speech from the Congressional Record honoring the Saints were combined in "A Sesquicentennial Musical Tribute" Aug. 15 at Abravenel Hall in Salt Lake City.

Conducting the Utah Symphony was Crawford Gates, well-known LDS composer and creator of the 1947 musical, "Promised Valley," among many other works. Also featured were prominent LDS classical pianist Grant Johannesen and the Utah Chamber Artists, conducted by Barlow Bradford.The program offered musical works by LDS artists such as former Salt Lake Tabernacle organist Robert Cundick, poet Edward L. Hart, the late composer and arranger Leroy Robertson, and early 20th century composer Arthur Shepherd.

Brother Johannesen's virtuosity was showcased in the Utah Symphony's peformance of Brother Gates' "Pantameron: Reflections on the Trek," which was commissioned by and dedicated to the pianist. Three piano interludes by Brother Johannesen during that work were variations on the beloved pioneer hymn, "Come, Come, Ye Saints." Titles of the five orchestra parts are descriptive of the inspiration behind the work: "The Last Days of Nauvoo - We are surrounded by fear"; "We sing, we dance, we laugh - lest we cry"; "Love sustains us - but the Trek is oppressive"; "Iowa Night 1846: We are bludgeoned by isolation, cold and death"; and finally, the fanfare and finale, "But in our hearts - Faith and Joy Triumph."

The audience demonstrated its appreciation for the performance of the Gates composition with an enthusiastic standing ovation.

During the second part of the program, the orchestra and choir of the Utah Chamber Artists performed Brother Shepherd's "From a Mountain Lake" and "Gigue Fantasque." Then, the audience was treated to Brother Cundick's and Brother Hart's collaboration, "To Utah," a sweeping portrayal of the arrival of the pioneers, laying out Salt Lake City, prevention of the threatened seige of the city by U.S. Army forces, expansion of the territory, construction of the Salt Lake Temple and finally, the state centennial.

Just after intermission, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Sesquicentennial Committee, introduced U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

"Sen. Hatch called me about six months ago and said I have an idea," Elder Ballard related. "This was his idea," he added, referring to the concert. "It was born in his mind, and on behalf of the Sesquicentennial Committee, Senator, we thank you very much."

Sen. Hatch then spoke to the audience and noted that he, that day, had met with the First Presidency and shared with them a tribute to the Mormon Pioneers he had presented on the floor of the Senate on July 24 of this year. An enlarged copy of the tribute, as printed in the Congressional Record, was displayed on stage at the concert. In it, the senator summarized the history of the Saints' trek from Nauvoo, across Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming, and the settlement in the Salt Lake Valley.

"Critics might say that they brought their misery upon themselves," read Sen. Hatch's tribute. "Such was the litany of those who mobbed and burned and killed without mercy. Yet the Saints were moved by a destiny their detractors could not have understood. . . . Today, the desert blossoms with the fruits of their labor, while their descendants continue to build upon their firm foundation. A year-long celebration, with the theme, `Faith In Every Footstep,' is now in progress to honor their memory."

After Sen. Hatch had spoken to the audience, Elder Ballard introduced a "surprise" for him. The orchestra and choir of the Utah Chamber Artists performed two songs from his new album of devotional music, a collaboration with LDS composer Janice Kapp Perry for which he wrote the words.

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