By Sarah Biesinger Re
Heart-stoppingly beautiful and utterly delightful, A Covey Center Christmas! Holiday Concert is a Christmas treat so good, you’ll want seconds! A perfect mix of upbeat, contemporary pieces, sacred hymns, new works, and Christmas classics, this one night only event will become your new Christmas tradition. With powerhouse vocals starring Marvin Payne, Dallyn Vail Bayles, Mindy Smoot Robbins, and Shayla Osborn Beck, featuring the talented instrumentalists Scott Sackett (piano), Credence McNabb (string bass), April Moriarty (violin), and Adam Holdaway (percussion).
The Covey Center Main Hall creates an ideal location for the concert, with its stunning acoustics and central location. The night of the concert there was a winter street market set up right outside, adding to the “feel of the season.” As always on Provo Center Street, be prepared to walk a few blocks once you finally score street parking. This event and location make the perfect family outing or date night with plenty of restaurants to choose from for a pre-show dinner or post-show dessert.
The set is dressed simply with a lamp post and projections on the backdrop. The vocalists add jackets or scarves for each of the ensemble pieces and sing together by the lamp post, mimicking a group of carolers on a winter street. It adds a sense of warmth and charm to the production. Projections of lights, driving snow, snowflakes, etc. play on the backdrop changing to match the mood of each song.
My favorite pieces included a cheeky rendition of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by Payne with Smoot Robbins and Obsborn Beck doo-wopping in the background. Payne also sings several original songs; my favorite ponders if we were among the angels witnessing the birth of Jesus. I also loved a special arrangement of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” sung by the whole ensemble until the lyrics:
“And in despair, I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men”
A disconcerting sentiment, and as the three walk off stage leaving Payne to begin a new song, a feeling of unease settled over me. But as I listened to Payne’s melodious voice expressing gratitude for “the baby”, he starts in on the final verse of “I Heard the Bells…”. Smoot Robbins completes the arrangement with her stunning vocals in “Ave Maria”. The arrangement strengthens the ending sentiment, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep…” and brings home the hope we have in Christ.
Mindy Smoot Robbins and Dallyn Vail Bayles sing one of my favorite duets of the evening. I was unfamiliar with the song, but part of it is in Italian, part English, and all incredible. Their two voices complement each other perfectly, making a powerful dynamic for several more duets. Bayles took my breath away as he sang one of my personal favorite Christmas songs, “I Wonder as I Wander.” His rich baritone fills the space with all the expression, and wonder, and contemplation the lyrics have to offer. Shayla Osborn Beck rocks several powerhouse solos, including “Where Are You Christmas?” and “Go Tell It to the Mountain” which she recounts as being one of her own favorite Christmas songs. Before several pieces, the artist gives some background on their song selection and personal history, adding to the personal, intimate feel of the concert.
The incredible violinist, April Moriarty, leads a beautiful instrumental composition of “What Child is This?” that brought tears to my eyes. Each of the musicians strengthens the ensemble, Scott Sackett accompanies on piano, Credence McNabb on string bass, and Adam Holdaway on percussion. Payne even joins in on acoustic guitar.
We had an unfortunate experience where the Box Office staff lost my husband’s ticket and left him waiting in the lobby for the entirety of the concert. Having turned off my phone out of respect for the performers, I was unaware of the issue until the concert had ended. When I approached the staff members, the ticket was immediately found but no apology or acknowledgment was given. This was my first experience with the Covey, and it was likely an uncommon one, but it put a bit of a damper on an otherwise wonderful evening,
Overall, A Covey Center Christmas! Holiday Concert is spectacular. This is the second year the group has graced the Provo stage, and I sincerely hope they keep coming back in the years to come. What a delightful way to spend an evening and get into the Christmas spirit! Make this uplifting evening of stunning music your new family Christmas tradition. A treat you can feel good about indulging in year after year.
The Covey Center for the Arts presents A Covey Center Christmas! Holiday Concert
Covey Center – Main Hall 425 West Center Street Provo, Utah 84601
December 2, 2017 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Tickets: $18 per person
Covey Center for the Arts Facebook Page