When Vic Deauvono started pulling together a brand new interfaith Christmas concert last year, he said many locals were a bit skeptical. The region's predominant LDS demographic wasn't used to a concert of this nature being spearheaded by non-Mormons. Now in its second year, Deauvono's interfaith concert is picking up steam.
"I think the most difficult thing is trying to get people to capture what it is we're doing here, because they don't know the sincerity of the show," he said. "That has finally come. I think some of those questions were put to rest because of those who attended last year."
This year's concert, "A Celebration of Christ: An Interfaith Concert," is unique for a number of reasons. Held Nov. 30 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the concert will be filmed and distributed to public television, then made available for purchase -- however, it won't feature the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This will be the first distributed tabernacle concert film to not feature the famed choir. Prominent LDS performers will take part, however, including violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and BYU's Vocal Point. "The goal was to have all these people of different faiths, on the stage mingling, and many of them performing together," Deauvono said.
"A Celebration of Christ" will include performers from seven different religions, such as the Calvary Baptist Choir, the Salt Lake Children's Choir and Kevin Olusola of the famed a cappella group Pentatonix.
Baker, Vocal Point and Olusola will headline, participating in about two thirds of the concert numbers, with some solos and some collaborations. The show will feature 20 songs total, some written specially for this show. It also will showcase some pretty interesting pyrotechnics. The show, Deauvono said, will employ some unique "geometric projections" along the tabernacle walls and ceiling, transforming the venue into a number of settings.
"The geometry of it is set so that it can even go around the pipes of the tabernacle," he said. "And we can even change the color of the pipes."
One projection he's particularly excited for will make the tabernacle look like a cathedral. This projection is complete with red and gold catacombs all filled with bright white flickering candles, to be displayed as a small Gregorian choir enters the tabernacle.
It has become an extensive endeavor, yet the goal, Deauvono said, is simple: unity under Christ and celebrating Christ as the savior of the world. This objective is what got many of the performers on board, including Baker. Though she lives in Washington D.C., much of her family and fans reside in Utah, so she frequently returns here for shows. Revisiting her audience, and playing a show of this nature, made it an easy draw.
"I like the timing of the show, bringing in the Christmas season right after Thanksgiving," Baker said. "And it's always fun to come to Temple Square when it's lit, and be able to really focus yourself on the savior, instead of gifts and everything else that can distract you from the true meaning of the season. To be unified with other Christians is a really special experience."
In an area dominated by Latter-day Saints, Deauvono said it's easy for other faiths to get overlooked, and for these faiths to celebrate their commonalities together. He hopes interfaith concerts like this will aid that endeavor.
"It's really a push for people to learn to respect each other's faiths and not ever make doctrine an issue in our relationship; that's really what it comes down to," he said. "The arts unite people in emotion and spirituality."