By Larry Barkdull and Bianca Lisonbee
Announcing A Celebration of Christ Interfaith Christmas Concert
What do Jimmy Stewart, an Italian art history teacher, a young girl’s dream, and a Beat Boxing Cello player all have in common?
Meet my friend, Taryn Elkins, whose life-long dream has been to compose and produce “A Celebration of Christ Interfaith Christmas Concert.” Her persistence has been rewarded. For the second year, combined choirs of multiple faiths will converge to honor the birth of the Savior at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Saturday, November 30.
Taryn is the daughter of Scott Elkins and the late Rita Palmieri Elkins, who taught Art History at BYU for several years. Taryn has created a musical and visual feast for this concert. An inspiration for the concert came from one of Taryn’s favorite movies, “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” In the movie, Mr. Krueger, played by Jimmy Stewart, has a dream about conducting for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “Ever since the first time I saw this show,” she says, “I knew I wanted to do that someday.”
That kernel took root and began to grow with the encouragement of Taryn’s mother, Rita. I have first-hand knowledge of Rita’s talent to inspire. Before I was a writer, I fancied myself as a music composer. Rita had written a Christmas poem of exquisite prose. I set the piece to music and called it “Hush, Little Baby This Christmas Night.” It is still sung by choirs to this day.
Rita was a Catholic born in Florence, Italy. Her family migrated to the United States, and later, while attending BYU, she heard and accepted the restored gospel message. Rita had planned to attend an eastern college in Virginia, but, as fate would have it, she stumbled upon a BYU catalogue two weeks before school was to start, and seeing the beautiful scenery and mountains, she declared, “This is the school I want to go to.” A friend responded, “Do you realize that this is the Mormon school?” She said, “I don’t care. That is where I want to go.”
Beauty drew Rita to the valleys of the Everlasting Hills. Rita instilled in Taryn a great love for beauty, especially for the arts. With her unique background, Rita explored her passion for bringing together people of all faiths. And that is exactly the goal of “A Celebration of Christ. Interfaith Christmas Concert.”
Rita believed that if you had faith and worked hard, miracles really could occur. That belief was transferred from mother to daughter and compelled Taryn to press forward through the challenges to realize her the dream.
Vic Deauvono, the producer/director of the concert says, “A wonderful aspect of the concert is what each of the different faiths bring to the event.” This year Kevin Olusola from Pentatonix will be performing his famous cello-boxing number. As an example of interfaith cooperation, the matinee will begin at 4:30 to allow, Olusola, a Seventh Day Adventist, to observe his Sabbath. These kinds of collaborations enrich the interfaith experience for all the participants.
Those who were in attendance last year will not forget the beauty of the artistic images projected on the domed ceiling of the Tabernacle. Many of the images came from the exquisite stained glass windows from the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City. This visual splendor, combined with the power of Taryn’s musical arrangements of beloved melodies, provide a cornucopia of musical and artistic delights.
Bianca Palmieri Lisonbee, Rita’s sister and Taryn’s aunt, is the executive producer and creative consultant for the concert. She says, “What Taryn has done by blending together different melodies to create something unique and exciting is really a metaphor for the purpose of the concert. Bringing together people of different faiths to offer their musical testimony of the Savior, produces a result that is truly a sum greater than its individual parts.”
Taryn reflects, “My mom was just 54 when she died of cancer. She was this caring, independent, passionate Italian woman. She left us a legacy of faith and music like no other… a legacy that I feel a need to fulfill.”
The last two lines of the arrangement “Be Still My Soul” and “Silent Night” express Taryn’s feelings about her mother. “All safe and blessed, until we meet at last, sleep in heavenly peace.”
Bianca Lisonbee says, “If you find yourself feeling a little short on miracles this season then plan to attend this event. To be part of the glorious experience of coming together in the historic tabernacle with people of many faiths gathering to raise their voices to testify of Christ will fill your hearts. Last year as I participated with Catholics and Baptists, Mormons and Presbyterians and many others in bearing witness of Christ I couldn’t help but think of the scripture that says that “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.”
This year’s concert will be held on Saturday, November 30, the first weekend when millions of lights illuminate Temple Square for the holiday season. Come and join with us. Listen to the music and see the lights. What better way to start your celebration of Christ’s birth.
Some of this year’s featured artists and guests:
- Vocal Point
- Jenny Oaks Baker
- Kevin Olusola from Pentatonix
- Pastor Mike Imperiale from the Presbyterian Church
- The Engemann Brothers
- The Calvary Baptist Choir
- Ralph Woodward’s Salt Lake City Children’s Choir
- Gregorian Choir
- Catholic Choir
- Snow College Orchestra and Choir
Tickets on sale now; CLICK HERE OR CALL: 801. 570-0080 or 866.537-8457