The Church Music Festival typically features original compositions by members.
But this year, for the first time, the annual festival has anew objective: featuring the culture of a particular country.
Katie Bastian, who manages music for Church events, said the 2023 festival is featuring Kenya. Several festival planners produced a music video in the country, she said, and the program will include Kenyan music, as well as videos produced by four other countries.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is holding this year’s Church Music Festival on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. MST in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, ChurchofJesusChrist.org announced. The event is free and tickets are not required. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The festival will also be livestreamed on broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. The broadcast will be recorded and archived on Gospel Library, the Sacred Music app and Gospel Media for on-demand viewing.
Initially published in English, the broadcast will later be available in Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Sheet music from the concert will be made available for download from the Sacred Music app, music website and Media Library.
Bastian said this year’s festival features over 500 performers, including a multicultural choir from northern Utah; choirs from institutes of religion in Logan, Salt Lake City and Orem; the BYU Singers; a Tabernacle organist; and other performers from a variety of countries. The event includes live and prerecorded music.
Some performers will share personal stories, favorites hymns or thoughts on why sacred music in their own language is important to them, Bastian said.
As for the music itself, it’s “across the map,” Bastian said. One gospel song in particular “is not your grandma’s church music. It’s going to raise the roof.”
Bastian expressed excitement about the festival’s new direction, noting that she and other event organizers will choose different parts of the world to feature in next year’s festival.
“I think it’s good for all of us to get to know members around the world, even in a small way through a music video,” she said. “You can really feel of their power and their testimony.”
The ‘lifetime friend’ of music
Bastian said the Church Music Festival began in the 1970s. Festival organizers get 500 to 1,200 submissions a year, she said, and choose 80 to 90 for awards.
Of this year’s award winners, only four are being featured in the festival program, Bastian said.
“The focus of the festival moving forward is to feature sacred music in all different styles,” she said, adding that members “want to see that music’s the language that we all speak. ... I think this festival is inviting members worldwide to think about worshiping through music in ways that they’ve never thought about before.”
Stephen Breinholt, Temple Square performances coordinator, said music is “a lifetime friend” that accompanies people both in formal worship and informal worshipful moments.
Bastian said she hopes the 2023 Church Music Festival will help members become comfortable with new music styles.
As someone who sings with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, pondering hymn lyrics often augments her scripture study, she added.
Music “takes you out of this routine [of] going through the motions... to a much more intentional worship experience through music,” Bastian said. “And you don’t have to be a good singer to do that.”