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Youth ensembles bring Mormon history to life

A group of musicians and devout Mormons will share their love of music and religion with a special concert Sunday celebrating the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Las Vegas temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“House of the Lord” will be presented at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave. It showcases the Zion’s Youth Symphony and Chorus.

The original work is a collaboration between Wendy Randall, a 1991 graduate of Boulder City High School, and brothers David and Jeffrey Skouson. The three were involved with Red Mountain Music Co. for about 10 years, Randall as executive director, Jeffrey Skouson as music director and David Skouson as conductor.

“Jeffrey, Wendy and I talked about two and a half years ago about the 25th anniversary of the Las Vegas Temple. We decided to do what we in the church call a temple pageant,” David Skouson said. “It’s not officially sanctioned.”

The hour-long concert is based on journals and historical documents and retells the story of how Mormons settled in the Las Vegas area.

According to David Skouson, who has worked on Broadway and considers himself an honorary Boulder City resident, the concert features a range of music, including pieces that could be classified as hymns, ballads, cinematic and hoedowns.

Randall said she had been trying to convince David Skouson for years to take his “beautiful compositions” and turn them into something more than pieces for his own amusement.

“We’ve put together a lot of shows, … but this is the first one I’ve written scripts and lyrics for and collaborated in songwriting,” said Randall, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English with a creative writing emphasis from Brigham Young University.

She said the concert is similar to an oratorio, with various musical numbers connected by a narrative.

“It’s more dramatic than a concert,” but with the size of the two ensembles it has to be presented concert style, without sets as you typically would see in a musical, Randall said.

The two ensembles are composed of high school students — 180 in chorus and 90 in symphony — who must audition to join. Although membership in the LDS church is not required, most of the participants are members, Randall said.

There are 13 Boulder City students involved in the show. Arianne Hess plays violin in the symphony and Tyler Campbell, Ben Fraser, Tommy Fraser, Payton Hess, Conner Leavitt, Garrett Leavitt, Gavin Morris, Monte Morris, Tyson Morris, Jess Randall, Joren Selinger and Emma Torgesen sing in the chorus.

“I’m most excited for the kids,” David Skouson said. “This music isn’t easy music; there are some pretty complicated rhythms. Most of the kids’ backgrounds is high school band or high school orchestra. This has been a lot of work for them, and they’ve done a great job.”

Special guest soloists for the concert are Brandon Albright, Kelly Albright, Jordan Bluth, Benjamin D. Hale, Brodie Perry, Michele Ringer White and Chelsea Wilson Calder.

Tickets for the concert are free but limited. For more information, visit www.zionsyouth.org.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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