For more than three decades singers, originally of the Provo Utah Central Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have put on a program of music for the Christmas season.
At the request of the Provo Utah Central Stake presidency (President Ross Denham, Louis Bandley and Harold Laycock), a Stake Concert Series was inaugurated in the Fall of 1979. The Central Stake choir for that occasion numbered about 25 singers. During the intervening years the concert series has continued and the annual Christmas concert has become a significant part of the holiday season, not only for the stake, but for the community as well.
The concert is loosely patterned after the world-famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast evey Christmas Eve from King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Minnesota Public Radio—and KBYU-FM (89.1 MHz)—often broadcast this service live on Christmas Eve at 8 am Mountain (3 pm Greenwich Mean Time).
The concert venue has usually been, as it is this year, the stake center on 1200 West 500 North in Provo. In early years, before the installation of the 18-rank, manual tracker organ in that church, the venue was another building on 400 North 700 West. And on one or two occasions in the mid 1990s, it was moved to the Provo Tabernacle.
In other years, it has been augmented by a separate Christmas Eve service with guest conductors such as Mack Wilberg, presently music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
In still other years, the choir has been invited to swell the ranks of the local congregation of St. Mary's Episcopal. For many choir members, a year without singing at St. Mary's on Christmas Eve is almost a year without Christmas.
Since the first concert, this celebration of Christmas music has begun, just as the service of its original inspiration, with the traditional carol, Once in Royal David's City. And, it has always finished with Silent Night. Each year, the music director, Professor Douglas E. Bush, chair of organ studies at the Brigham Young School of Music, has chosen a series of choral settings of carols familiar, unfamiliar, old and new that have never failed to please concert goers. The musical selections always span several centuries and have never been identical from year to year outside the carols already mentioned.
Over the years, the choir has performed mostly live at the concerts and venues already noted. However, it has recorded one cassette (back in the day) and one CD, A Star Shall Rise.
Each year, the musical director is Dr. Bush and the choir is accompanied by Larry Tomkinson, a local organist. The choir's librarian is Carol Dean. Decoration of the venue is furnished, set up and taken down by the inexhaustible Claire Rogers. Readings are provided this year and many others by Dr. Glade Hunsaker, professor of English, Brigham Young University. Carols and hymns noted by an asterisk in the programs are sung with congregation participation.