Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Annie Bailey: Primarily Speaking, Music

I’ve heard it said that if Jesus were to come to church, he would spend a few minutes with the brethren, visit the women and youth for a while but spend most of his time in Primary.

Sometimes when those of us who seem to be called into Primary as our life’s mission, start feeling a little left out, it’s good to remember that Jesus himself loved to be with the children the most. Plus children can bring us the greatest of inspiration while showing us the purest love of Christ.

So it is that Annie Bailey, a die-hard Primary worker in Lubbock Texas, has taken the inspiration of the children she serves, a step further than most, by creating a new album of music specifically for the Lord’s little ones. “There is Joy”, an Eagle Springs Records production, is a new album of original songs for Primary aged children teaching them that Heavenly Father truly does have a plan for them and that he LOVES them. Featuring several beautiful young voices “There Is Joy” will be a welcome and gospel centered addition to your child’s music library. You can purchase “There Is Joy” online at PositiveMusicandDownloads either as a whole physical album or each song individually. Annie’s distributor is working on getting her album into Deseret Book and Seagull but it can be found in other brick and mortar stores. Go to Annie’s website at for more details.

Annie and I are members of and we finally had a chance to meet in person this past year. In August members of our group gathered from around the country in Springville UT, for the annual LDS Musicians Festival sponsored in part by yourLDSneighborhood. During the fireside portion of the weekend, Annie shared a few of her songs using some of the child soloists featured on the album and what a treat that was.

Knowing how much time, love, and money goes into an album I asked Annie what was her inspiration and what has making this album done to strengthen her personal testimony and witness of our Savior?

"When producer Greg Hansen and I met for the first time, we brainstormed and came up with ideas for possible projects that we could work on together. Through a series of discussions we later pinpointed a theme for the album. I took the theme, outlined the project and started writing. The album I actually set out to write, though, was not There Is Joy. But as time went on and songs emerged, some unexpectedly, I realized that the plan of salvation was the overall theme that tied it all together. Once I decided to pursue this new direction everything sort of fell into place.

"The inspiration behind the songs on the album came from many different places. I started with a general outline of topics I wanted to cover in the album (which as I mentioned earlier, evolved and changed over time), but the approach I took with each song was influenced by lessons I learned as I served in primary and studied about the topics I had chosen. Many of the songs were also shaped by experiences I had in my life during the time I wrote them. As I studied and prepared to write these songs, my understanding of the related gospel principles deepened. My testimony of the principles grew, as did my desire and commitment to live them, and I drew closer to my Heavenly Father and my Savior."

I also asked Annie what kept her going with her album to see it through to its completion.

"I’m a goal oriented person so I set goals for myself to keep focused. After we decided on a theme for the album, I prepared an outline of the song topics I wanted to cover. Then I usually chose one song at a time and set a goal on when I would complete it. Dividing the project up this way made it seem less overwhelming. I didn’t always meet every goal, but it was a good way for me to ensure that I kept moving forward. I also tried to sit down and write every day, even if it was only a little bit. Sometimes life got a little hectic so I would make a decision not to write for a time, but I always tried to set a goal of when I would start writing again.

"I think also as time went on I saw how my life was blessed through writing these songs, and I was motivated to complete the project so that I could share them with others. My hope is that the songs on the album will bless others in the same ways they have blessed me. From the e-mails I’m starting to receive, I can see that this is beginning to happen and it’s very rewarding."

One particularly inspiring and fun song to sing on the album is “A Spirit Child of God”. The lyrics read:

My Heavenly Father loves me and he prepared a way
That I, if true and faithful, can live with him one day
And though it won’t be easy, I’ll follow His great plan
I’ll never doubt His love for me, for I know who I am
A spirit child of God
A child of noble birth
I chose to be tested here on earth
I’ll follow His instructions, improve myself each day
I’ll learn from Christ, my Savior, who came and showed the way
And I will claim the blessings of Heavenly Father’s plan
He formed it out of love for me for he knows who I am

If each parent of a young child could routinely play wonderful music with messages such as those found in “There is Joy”, instead of just the junk food of music our children so often get fed, what a healthier knowledge of God’s love for them they could each possess.

I wish I’d had this wonderful collection of original Primary music when my children were young. It supplements the “Children’s Songbook” collection beautifully with the sweet voices of young children and beautiful arrangements by Annie Bailey. So be sure to check out Annie's website to order this great album for your family.

yourLDSNeighborhood has added exciting new things to its website. Please drop by and take a look, browse around, check out our vendors, our radio station, our authors, our musicians and more. Check out the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to the yourLDSneighborhood Newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the newsletter brings you articles, products, services, resources and interviews from around the world-all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Until next time,
Julie Keyser

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Daniel Beck: King of Song

A few years ago I bought my first Liken the Scriptures DVD,, Ammon and Lamoni about Ammon’s mission to the Lamanites. I was surprised how entertaining these somewhat campy little musicals were that my kids absolutely LOVE, but mostly I was impressed with the high quality music, lyrics, and vocal production . . . especially the voice of the man playing King Lamoni…Daniel Beck At once his voice stood out in its beauty and pure tone and, like so many other listeners, I couldn’t help but compare Daniel’s voice to Josh Groban’s.

While Dan, as he’s known by, sings slightly higher than Josh, there is no mistaking that his voice is just as fabulous. In an earlier article I wrote about Jessie Clark Funk’s latest album, Everything Speaks His Name found at, I mentioned her duet with Daniel Beck singing David Foster’s The Prayer being “magnificent”. Having just attended Dan’s first concert for his breakout album Love Like That, where he sang The Prayer with Jenny Jordan Frogley, INCREDIBLE is all that is left in my vocabulary. Jessie Clark Funk had her baby the day before Dan’s concert, so Jenny was asked to do the duet with Dan. She was an awesome matchup with Dan making their duet absolutely electrifying especially when Dan broke into Italian. Few people can sing Italian as gorgeously…Josh Groban and Andrea Boticelli come to mind…and yes I dare put Dan Beck in league with them. We are so blessed in the LDS music world to claim Dan as one of our own and hopefully the world will soon get to know him as we have.

I absolutely recommend a visit to Dan’s website, where you can read Dan’s musical biography and hear samplings in the music section of some of his best recordings from past projects; like “You Raise Me Up”, found on the 2007 EFY CD POWER IN PURITY, I Used to be Like You from Liken the Scriptures DVD David and Goliath where of course he is playing King Saul, and his beautiful duet of The Prayer with Jessie Clark Funk on Jessie’s latest album Everything Speaks His Name.

So what does Dan’s future hold? Well I asked him that recently.

Dan I thoroughly enjoyed your first concert promoting your breakout album Love Like That. What can we expect from you in the future as far as performances and will we possibly be hearing from you in future Liken the Scriptures productions?

I’ve just booked guest spots on “American Idol,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” gigs on the AMA’s, Grammys, and we’re filming my PBS special next week. Nah, just kidding, but we can dream can’t we? More realistically, in the coming months I hope to be able to do more concerts locally as well as in many other states to introduce people to the music on this album. There will be an even bigger marketing push for the album for Valentine’s day being an album of love songs and all. Jessie Clark Funk and I are currently working on a big Valentine variety show that we’ll be doing at the Rose Wagner Theater (that place is becoming my second home) on Valentine’s day. I sure have loved working with the good friends at Liken the Scriptures and they’ve just announced auditions for their production of “Jonah and the Great Fish” that will be filming next year. I’m planning on auditioning so I don’t know yet if I’ll be involved or not, but even if I’m not cast, hopefully they’ll give me a job as a page or something like that just so I can be a part of it again.

I was impressed with your loving expressions for your family. How do you go about balancing the need to be husband and father as well as entertainer?

Well, the family is definitely first and tops for me so there’s not a huge contest here. I think of it more as a dad who happens to be a singer/performer as well. My family is such a huge part of who I am, so when I’m performing, I just try to be real and who I really am, and when I’m doing so, they are there with me. That definitely makes it easier to just be dad and a real person both while performing and when the show is over. After the show it’s back to life I love so much as a husband and father and really couldn’t be more ordinary and that’s the way it has to be, for me. There is a bit of a balancing act when it comes to still working full time at a day job and performing on the side. I still have to make sure that the family has the time that we need to be together and to just be, and that it’s not crowded out by shows or concerts and the like.

However great Daniel Beck’s voice is, without doubt his greatest asset is his family and his devotion to them. Throughout his concert he mentioned his family many times; especially his wife who you could tell was the real sparkle behind Dan’s eyes. I found Dan charming and approachable as an artist who cares about his audience and enjoys engaging them in his concert. We all had a great laugh, including Dan, when he completely forgot the opening lyrics to one of his songs. He finally got it on his third try and you could just see him doing all he could to contain his laughter as he sang the rest of the song without a hitch. Truly a fun and funny entertainer, and of course FABULOUS singer, so I highly recommend attending one of his concerts in the future, and don’t forget to buy your copy of Love Like That.

© Julie Keyser

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lawyer with Soul

Sometimes I just love this little job of mine. I go through a myriad of new and known LDS Music artists on the LDS Jukebox listing, (many of whom I know already but so many I have yet to meet), and decide who I’m going to interview next.

Having recently returned from Hawaii I was trying to get my bearings back when I found my first “Friend” request on the LDS neighborhood sponsored site I recently joined called Neighborhood and Friends. As I clicked on “Accept” Jay Young, Jay’s fabulous voice began singing gospel favorite, The Way He Came written by Mark Harris, in the background. The song is just one of ten featured on Jay’s debut solo album One More Stone which came out in 2008 to rave reviews.

So it was, in that moment of sweet memories of my Hawaiian musical paradise I had recently left, that I was suddenly taken to gospel glory (kind of like a City of Enoch experience but more down to earth), and knew who I had to interview next…my new music friend in the “Neighborhood” Jay Young.

Reading the numerous articles and bio on Jay’s website at I learned a lot about my new music friend.

#1 While Jay is a successful lawyer and partner with Marquis and Aurbach law firm out of Las Vegas, Nevada, at his core he’s really a gospel singer. Although he’s only had about six months of formal vocal training and doesn’t read music, he is a featured soloist in Sister Gladys Knight’s Grammy winning choir Saints Unified Voices…the ultimate SUV of gospel music!

#2 His wife has an awesome name…Julie of course, making this amazing musical duo (Julie is an accomplished pianist and also a member of the SUV choir) one of the coolest music pairs born of the 60’s.

#3 Jay and Julie (that has such a lyrical ring to it) have four children about the same ages as my own, and

#4, This to me is the most amazing of all, Jay had so many ear infections as a child that he suffered about 60% hearing loss in his left ear and a less profound loss in his right ear… yet he sings… beautifully!

His story reminds me in part of another great singer I met a couple of years back at a songwriter’s workshop I had put together. This young man suffered a vocal paralysis soon after winning a major TV network talent show yet went on a few years later (this past season in fact) to come in second place on American Idol…that would be David Archuleta…in case you hadn’t heard of him. Which leaves me to beg the question?

“If these two men can sing so incredibly despite the difficult physical challenges that would normally set back a music career…why can’t I sing that well?”

Okay, this article really isn’t about me whining again about my lack of vocal talent…well sort of it isn’t…but not really…now back to Jay.

So what can I say beyond “I’ve become a BIG fan of Jay Young’s gospel music”, other than encourage you to go to and learn for yourself what makes Jay’s voice and debut album “One More Stone” so full of the gospel! Okay, beyond that, maybe just have Jay himself answer a couple of questions that might not have come his way before.

Jay your story is so inspirational and amazing on so many levels, from being partially deaf and not a professionally trained vocalist, to becoming a featured soloist in the most amazing Gospel Choir lead by numerous Grammy award winning artist herself, legendary Gladys Knight. Looking back on your unexpected musical career how do you feel the Lord has blessed you, and helps you keep your life (particularly your family life) balanced, despite the tremendous sacrifice of being a member of the choir and a lawyer?

My single greatest asset in this life is my wife. She IS my balance; whenever one aspect of my life overburdens the rest, whether it is work, church service, or music, she knows how to pull me back and make me look at things in a way that I want to make those little adjustments we all seem to need from time to time. She is the one who has always encouraged me to make music more a part of my service to God. I have always felt the love of the Lord and feel blessed that I can express that love through music. It is such a joyful medium that has the capacity to touch a heart in ways that a spoken sermon or written word cannot. I have always expressed my emotions – good and bad – through song. It gives me joy when others tell me that one of my songs helped them through their day, helped them deal with troubled times, or allowed them to rejoice in God’s goodness.

Is there any special missionary moment or event you would like to share in regards to music?

The Saints Unified Voices choir is a missionary choir. Bringing souls to Christ through music and testimony is our sole purpose. My favorite memory of using music as a missionary tool is from some presentations in the Atlanta, GA area in 2005. We happened to be performing in a stake where I served as a young missionary in the 80s. Just a few short years removed from the revelation on the priesthood, missionaries struggled mightily in efforts to teach and retain our African American brothers and sisters. Sometimes, we struggled even more getting the existing members to accept these new converts and wondered at whether the early saints gave similar resistance to Peter’s revelation allowing the word to be taught to gentiles.

I remember rejoicing as I walked onto the stage to see the congregation filled with as many dark as light skinned faces. I was overcome with emotion, though, as we sang a particular song where choir members one by one stand to show their unity in the gospel message. As we stood, one by one, members of the audience stood with us until all present were on their feet showing a unity in our faith in the same God. I had only dreamed as a young missionary of a day when an LDS church in Atlanta would be filled with people of different color in harmony. I remarked to the Mission President that night that I thought we were part of something that made a bigger difference in two nights than I did as a missionary in two years. He corrected me and said that it made more of a difference in two nights than his entire mission hoped to make in two years. We have since heard of hundreds of baptisms resulting from those firesides where neighbors introduced friends to the Spirit of God. I love being able to do missionary work with the musical gifts God has given me.

© Julie Keyser

Return to the Neighborhood.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sara Bethany Ham - Wanna be Brave

Is the only good uplifting LDS music available found on Sunday radio programs? Is there anything out there with a good beat that isn’t preachy? ABSOLUTELY and you’ll find a ton of it featured on The Neighborhood Jukebox.

One of the great new artists featured on the site is Sara Bethany Ham, and you can catch her awesome new song, Awake, off her debut album, Wanna Be Brave, in the pop/rock/alt section of the neighborhood jukebox.

Greg Hansen sent me an e-mail a while back introducing me to his first artist, Sara Bethany Ham, with his new label “Eagle Springs Records”. I was really excited about her sound and voice.

An excerpt from Sara’s website bio, gives us this bit of background:

Even though Sara has been singing her entire life, she discovered her love for music at the age of 14 when she joined a mixed choir as a freshman in high school.

After graduation in 2004, Sara attended an enjoyable first year of college at BYU-Idaho…Late in her first semester, her mom, who says she is Sara’s biggest fan, called from Southern California and told her about a vocal competition to record on Jenny Phillips’ 2006 Young Women’s album in Utah. Sara flew to Salt Lake City and competed with 130 girls for the chance to record “I Call Your Name” on Jenny’s Arise and Shine Forth album. Sara won the competition, was chosen to record the song and felt very honored to have her picture put on the cover of the CD. Sara was then invited to join the prestigious Jenny Phillips’ fireside Group and it was here that she realized she had found the right path.

Wanna Be Brave” is an upbeat and truly contemporary album with songs full of energy and positive messages teens will love. And that is just who Sara is trying to reach…teens.
As Sara told me “The reason I made the album…when I’m performing, for the youth especially, the main point I want to bring out is the youth can be who they are and still be cool. The youth don’t have to lower their standards to fit in.”

And she should know, barely past her teen years herself, Sara survived those crazy confusing times strong in faith and determined to help other youth stay on a positive course. “Wanna Be Brave”, the title song of her new album, is all about being brave enough to be true to the faith in this world of temptation. And Sara has made it her life’s mission to inspire the youth of today to reach higher and “Be Brave”.

While her first album is a major accomplishment she is even excited and proud of her upcoming wedding to fiancĂ© Kimball Mack. They first met during a High school choir festival in Las Vegas then met again at BYU after Kimball’s mission. Best of all…he sings too! I have a feeling that music will be playing a great roll in their life together and hopefully continue to bless the lives of others.

So do yourself a favor and check out Sara Bethany Ham at The Neighborhood Jukebox or at and find out for yourself what great contemporary LDS music is all about.

Till I write again,
Julie Keyser

Return to the Neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hilary Weeks Workshop with NSAI

Have you ever juggled your aspiring music career with the pulls of your family? Ever said to your spouse “Honey if I can just get this one song to be picked up by an artist it will be worth the cost of the demo.” Or “If I can just perform out enough I can build a fan base” and yet in the process feel torn by the needs of your family and the restraints of your budget? HELLO…you are not alone.

So when the idea was presented to me to have Hilary Weeks give a workshop for the Utah chapter of NSAI, (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International of which I recently stepped down as head coordinator), I thought great! But I wanted her to present something that was unique for the group. My co-coordinator, Cami Morrison, came up with the perfect thought. How to balance your music career with your family life.

Who better than Hilary Weeks? Hilary has a family of her own, travels year round to concerts and speaking engagements, and is very popular with Deseret Book’s “Time Out for Women” events. Just take a look at her schedule on her website at and see for yourself.

Is her life a bit hectic? Yes…but she has a wealth of information to share about how she manages her own journey in the crazy business of music. This is a unique opportunity for those of you seriously looking into a songwriting/music career or who are trying to make it right now in the business and feel that constant tug and pull between family and finance like I do. After Hilary’s presentation we will allow our NSAI members, along with a few non-NSAI members, to have a short group evaluation of a song. Hilary will be participating in the song evaluations.

Refreshments will follow.

Hilary is a much sought out speaker and performer and she has offered our NSAI group, since we are a not-for-profit organization, a special rate so we are able to offer an incredible intimate evening with her for only $15.00 for NSAI members and $20.00 for non-NSAI members on Wednesday October 8th from 7:30-10:00 pm. The location is the Piano Gallery at 650 S. State St. in Orem. Please e-mail me, Julie Keyser, at if you would like to attend.

Over the last few years the Utah chapter of NSAI (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International) has been privileged to host some of the best songwriters in the country, several of whom live right here in Utah.

NSAI is committed to helping aspiring and independent songwriters craft songs which are commercially marketable and give them the tools to move forward with their music careers. NSAI does this by offering monthly workshops; through it’s over 100 chapters worldwide, where songwriters come together for one hour lessons, developed by any one of NSAI’s pro-songwriters, followed by an hour of individual song evaluations lead by a trained coordinator.

So if songwriting is in your blood, as it is mine and thousands like me, do yourself a favor and check out NSAI and see what we can do for you.

Until next time,
Julie Keyser

Julie Keyser ©Sept. 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Jennifer Griffiths: Inspiring others with “A Song and a Prayer”

Just the other day I received this invitation from my good friend Jen Griffiths via e-mail:
"I share my music with people online again, but with a little different approach than I did last time. So, Jen Griffiths Music is officially online! My site has a free weekly 5-10 minute podcast called "A Song and A Prayer." Each podcast has an inspirational message followed by an original song. Let me know what you think!"
So...I checked it out, like any good friend would, not realizing what a difference it would make in my life by just listening for a few minutes. But before I go into what a difference it made for me that day let me get you caught up on Jen Griffiths the person, the singer/songwriter extraordinaire...the friend.

I first met Jen through the website. She was looking for a co-writer and I answered the call. We found out afterwards that we lived less than ten minutes away from each other. Our first co-write attempt was the song "Tempted" found at the pop/rock/alt section and while it turned out to be a great song, and has had a few labels and artists seriously consider it, it hasn't gone farther than the demo stage at this point...however, the best thing that came out of that first co-writing experience together was a lifelong friendship.

In time we became part of a foursome of singer/songwriting women that included Jen, myself, Lindy Kerby and Stacilee Whiting. We performed our original inspirational music at Relief Society Enrichment Night gatherings and even the state prison. Our theme was always the same: "Don’t be so hard on yourself for not being perfect. The Lord loves you and we are all human and make mistakes." We gave this message in our own inspirational and somewhat corny way but hearts were always touched.

Jen always sang one song in particular called "Forgive Yourself" that really addressed the theme of our musical mission as a group. It's a light pop song with a deep message. In our first performances I would play backup on my guitar to her keyboarding while she sang the song. We felt like such our own highly toned down Mormon Mom sort of way. But only this past weekend did that song effect me at the level it was truly intended.

When I got Jen's request to check out her site I was dealing with some personal issues and feelings of discouragement. As I listened to Jen's story and prayer that went along with her song "Forgive Yourself" I started to feel the Spirit and then as the song played I became deeply touched by the words...
"She'd been told she was beautiful, but each time she looked in the mirror she saw a thousand flaws appear. It's an age-old story of which we've become a part by expecting perfection from all we are."
Then the chorus hit me hard
"Every tree has hidden scars. Every sky can turn gray, but the bird still loves the old oak's branches and we still pray for rain. If we can look beyond life's imperfections then why not our own...forgive yourself your human."
I couldn't get through the song without the floodgates of my tear ducts opening up...thank heavens I was by myself.

Well okay, my writing of the words does this song no justice at all, so do yourself a favor go to Jen's website at and discover for yourself the powerful healing effect of Jen's beautiful pop vocals blended with her incredibly inspirational lyrics. The website isn't perfected yet so be patient with the downloads cause it's definitely worth the wait.

And now, so you can get to know this great musical talent, Jen Griffiths, better I've included her bio from off of her website and asked her to answer a few questions for me as well.

Jen Griffiths is a singer-songwriter, originally from Northern California, and has been writing music for almost 20 years. Jen has performed her original music in numerous venues and has been mentored as a writer by some amazing music industry pros. She currently resides in Utah County with her husband and three children.

What was the underlying inspiration behind your new website theme of a "Prayer and a Song"?

Well, that's exactly what it was--inspiration! The idea for the podcasts and the title "A Song & A Prayer" just came to me all at once. When you get those kinds of ideas (that are whole and complete) you know they are not something that originated with you, but rather from a Greater Source. I had all these songs that I had written and all these experiences that I could share with other people and I knew I needed to do it, so I acted on that inspiration.

What do you hope to accomplish in the hearts of your listeners?

My greatest hope for my listeners is that they will feel a renewal of hope, an uplifting of spirit, and a measure of peace when they hear the messages--that they will reconnect with the Source of all strength and joy, which is God.

Where does your inspiration for each song you write come from?

I find inspiration everywhere--life, people's, trials, celebrations, phrases I hear people speak, stories--everything has the potential to become a song topic!

Will you be performing again anytime soon so we can hear your terrific music live?

On the FAQ page of my website I answer the question "Are you available for presentations?" The answer is yes. The page gives more specifics on how to go about that, but interested parties should email me at to check availability.

Until next time,
Julie Keyser
© By Julie Keyser

Return to the Neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LDS Musicians Festival 2008

Getting our peculiar groove on.

As I write this I’m recovering from six months of planning, organizing, and near stomach ulcers from helping put together this year’s LDS Musicians Festival for 2008 sponsored in part by and and several other great sponsors.

Our group, of die-hard internet musician friends at, has been together and growing since 1999 when folk singer and founder Brad Thompson first put out a call to the World Wide Web in search of other LDS Musicians. The first to answer the call was LDS hard rocker Mark Hansen. Since 2000 there has been a yearly gathering of some of our members to share music amongst ourselves and the community almost every year.

This year, with the help of and many other great sponsors like, a few of my favorite online music friends were able to meet face to face and share an inspiring weekend of music at the Springville Arts Park and at Showtime Utah,, in Pleasant Grove Utah. Everything from rap to soft Sunday sounds was heard as we came together for our annual fest. Most arrived in spirit though since our members, nearly five-hundred, are spread around the world via the internet and getting to Utah to attend is expensive.

Friday night was dedicated to the youth, a first for our group, and while the numbers were small (note…text messaging among teens is the best advertising…try it next year) we showed the teens of the Springville community that came that you can rock hard, like Mark Hansen, with positive songs or dance to great beats and clean lyrics with the help of DJ Shawn Phillips of Movin’ fm 100.7 in Utah and hip-hop artist Arythmatik from Arizona.

Arythmatik is a Mormon hiphop/rapper who focuses on positive and clean living messages for the youth with his very urban sound. My teenage son and nephew totally loved his style and had a great time when he performed, especially when he had my nephew get on stage to show off his break dancing skills.

My nephew also loved break dancing on stage with Alex Boye Saturday night at the end of our headliner concert featuring the great folk/jazz/singer/musician Sam Payne and Alex Boye fabulous pop artist and Mormon tab choir member. The concert opened Saturday night with power house singer Jen Marco Handy and her group “Shine” and blues man Neil Bradley Owen. It was a great concert on a gorgeous summer evening with only a few crazy sound blips due to wind. Thanks to the support and efforts of the sound engineers with London Sound we were able to have the best sound, overall, our fest has ever had.

Saturday, during the day, was filled with a chance to meet and hear the music from new and old friends of our group like children’s songwriter Annie Bailey, members of the beautiful harmony group “Musically Inclined”, Mark Hansen, Sam Payne, Steve Brown (this year’s Fest President), Neil Bradley Owen, and many more including some we’d never heard of. They came in from the community to hear the music and wound up sharing their own during our open mic.

This year we celebrated one more first that everyone agreed was great fun…The “Green Jell-O Awards”. A clear plastic fancy swirled trophy with a picture of a bowl of green Jell-O in the middle and a little green plaque below telling what the award was for. A homage to the early fest’s days when a few bigwigs of the LDS music industry referred to the fest gathering as a ward talent show on steroids and a “Green Jell-O” event. Our founder took that as a complement as we are the music of the people…but hey, as they say “We’ve come a long way baby”. And as Greg Hansen, of Sounds of Zion noted when he joined us this year “I can’t believe how much talent is in your group?”…Yup, indeed we’ve got that covered. Our awards were few but fun with such areas of achievement as “Longest Poster”, “Most Encouraging Member”, “Farthest Traveled”, etc. with our first “Life Time Achievement” going to Mark Hansen.

Since I had been so busy preparing the fest behind the scenes, and taking care of my family over the last few months, I had only briefly noticed that I had been put on the “Songwriter’s in the round segment” for Saturday afternoon. Songwriting rounds, often seen in Nashville bars and clubs, are where a few selected songwriters share the stage and take turns sharing the songs (often well known ones) they’ve written. The songwriters generally don’t make them famous, the singers do, but there’s nothing like listening to the heart of a songwriter as they sing a popular radio tune the way they first played it out on their acoustic guitar.

So when it was time for me to get up there I wound up on stage in between two very well seasoned performers Sam Payne and Neil Bradley Owen (who not only write their songs, but make them popular by singing them in concerts often) along with Mark Hansen who’s usually heard singing his songs to a rockin’ minus track. I felt so unworthy, especially considering I’d hardly had time to practice and was the only one up there of the four of us without an album. But it was a blast to perform again, nervous as I was, and be the one who could be counted on to humor the crowd with my inability to remember my own lyrics.

Sunday was the culmination with our music devotional held at the Showtime Utah theatre in Pleasant Grove. Joan Peterson, who is known in Utah for hosting the “Sounds of the Sabbath” on KOSY 106.5 every Sunday, graciously allowed us to use her theatre for free. It had a great sound system and we were able to hear from such terrific singers as Jen Marco Handy, Lindy Kerby, Musically Inclined, songs by Annie Bailey with her young guest artists Hannah Ford, Natalie Gale, as well as Jen Marco Handy singing with her sweet daughter. Award winning songwriter Steve Brown endeared the crowd to his wonderfully funny folk style when he sang his hilarious song “Sister Hathaway’s casserole”. Nicole Sheahan with her beautifully unique vocals, Mike Weingarten, Jen Marco Handy and Lisa Harris with the group “Shine” also shared some amazing songs. The evening ended with the powerful and soulful vocals of Hope Goshurn and Kavita King singing “When You Believe” from the musical “Prince of Egypt”. Punch and cookies were served afterwards in true Mormon style.

So now, that months of planning are done and my life is slowing down again, I’m left with the wonderful memories of another fest, ideas on how to make it better next year, and plenty of leftover pop and snacks that didn’t sell…a near year supply of junk food which are making great fillers in my kid’s lunches.

Take care, till I write again and I hope you will join our LDS Musicians fest next year and discover some great new artists in person.

Julie Keyser

Return to the Neighborhood.