The American Festival Chorus and Orchestra will present its annual Christmas from the Ellen Eccles Theatre concert this Friday and Saturday in Logan. This year the concert will feature violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and singer Alexandria Sharpe.
“This year we have two guest artists,” said Craig Jessop, director of the American Festival Chorus. “We have Jenny Oaks Baker and she’s just outstanding. She’s a Utah girl, but lives and works in Washington, D.C. as a violinist. For many years she’s been a member of the National Symphony Orchestra. Soprano Alexandria Sharpe, she’s coming to us from Ireland. She was a member of the group called Celtic Woman and has traveled all over the world.”
Sharpe and Baker will perform with more than 300 musicians in front of a sold out crowd.
“The singers are all volunteers and are members of the community,” Jessop said. “The orchestra are professional players. We pay them. Some come all the way from Salt Lake to play for us.”
Jessop started the American Festival Chorus four years ago and has been doing the annual Christmas concert since.
“It’s really resonated with the community and it’s a really elegant way to bring in the Christmas season,” Jessop said. “I think that it is as high of quality as anything you would find if you drove to a much larger city, such as Salt Lake City or Denver or anyplace else. I’m really proud of the organization and what they’ve been able to do.”
The American Festival Chorus has had a lot of success and has become very popular in its four years in Cache Valley, said Wally Bloss, executive director of the Ellen Eccles Theatre.
“They’ve got a strong following,” Bloss said. “Craig Jessop has got what I call star power in Utah. He’s the former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He grew up in Cache Valley. If he’s involved in something, there are automatically a lot of people that show up.”
Jessop said that he is happy for what the American Festival Chorus has accomplished so far.
“This choir doesn’t have the wonderful support system either financially or otherwise that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has and yet the quality of music I think is comparable,” Jessop said. “I’m really proud of what they’ve been able to do.”