American Festival Chorus and Orchestra thanks you for sharing 10 wonderful years of creating music! Below are just a few of the highlights, memories, and feelings of this decade-long adventure.
NEW FACE, NEW NAME - With a new name and new leadership, American Festival Chorus (formerly Northern Utah Choral Society) has big plans for their inaugural season. In addition to masterworks by Mozart and Beethoven, plans include professional recording opportunities.
Under the baton of USU's music department head, Craig Jessop, Mozart's Requiem (November) and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy (April) will round out the season. Both will involve professional orchestras featuring the Fry Street Quartet as well as other music department faculty.
-(From our original website)
The chorus was invited to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Gov. Gary R. Herbert in August 2009. We performed "American the Beautiful," "Utah We Love Thee" (state song), and "God Bless America."
It was a great honor to get invited... I got a call from Mike Deaver from the governor's office about a month ago, inviting us. He said that both Gov. Huntsman and the new governor-to-be, Herbert, had requested us by name, so how could we say no.
- Craig Jessop
In 2009 the AFC was invited to the Utah State Capitol to provide music for the transition in state governor from Jon Huntsman Jr. to Gary Herbert as Jon had accepted the US Ambassadorship to China. My wife Deborah and I were members of the choir at the time and we both took the day off from work to go to Salt Lake with the choir. The sound of the choir filled the rotunda of the capitol in a magical way and I remember a security guard mentioning to us after we finished that the AFC was incredible[...]. It was indeed a memorable day!
- T. McGreggor
This season marked the beginning of our longest-running, and perhaps most well-known concert series: Christmas from the Ellen Eccles Theatre. Tickets sold so quickly that an extra performance was added (for a total of 3). This trend would continue with additional performances being added over the years, including performances outside of Cache Valley. This series, with generous support from Cache Valley Bank, has included a variety of spectacular guest artists, dancers, children's choirs, and the enchanting Westminster Bell Choir.
Craig taught us a profoundly deep respect for other’s faith[...] I was skeptical at first, my Mother warned me about gospel music……. Guest conductor Chantel Wright showed up, and we were wondering what on earth we were in for. Within 20 minutes she had totally won our hearts and admiration. She said, a gift not well given, is not a gift. Boy, that was humbling. Then, she said, for the song Praise His Holy Name, we would need to be ready to go back and repeat any section, where ever she felt like going back to, and we will just keep it going. She said, once we get to the end, we just can’t stop right there, someone might be in the middle of getting saved! And we just can’t stop, we’ll have to keep going[...] And that is what we did. It went off without a hitch, and was just totally an awesome experience I will remember the rest of my life[....] After the concert was over, and we were hoofing it back to the parking lot, I found myself walking next to Kevin Olson, our piano accompanist. He confided with me, that he was quite petrified at the thought of Chantel jumping around to different sections of the score, without any warning or pre-planning, but Kevin did it flawlessly! It was truly amazing, and a night I will always remember. I learned some life changing lessons in humility, and faith, from Chantel and our friends from the Salt Lake Calvary Baptist Church, that were there performing with us.
During the [...] run-up to the Christmas concert of 2015, my beloved grandfather, who was a lifelong patron of the arts and attended nearly every single one of the American Festival Chorus' performances, suffered a heart attack, fell into a coma[....] When he passed away mere hours before opening night, I felt so much peace and strength. I sang that night the words: "The bells of Christmas are ringing for Jesus the Savior is born; and Choirs of Angels are singing to welcome the glorious morn!" I knew Grandpa was singing with us in those choirs of angels, and I know he is front and center at every performance since. American Festival Chorus, the beautiful friendship there, and music was something that helped me pull through my grief and find peace, and will always be something that completes me and feeds my soul.