Performing at President Nelson’s Birthday Celebration Is “an Opportunity of a Lifetime” for Artists
Contributed By Sydney Walker, Church News staff writer
“I hope people can feel the love we have for each other and the love we have for the Savior, the prophet, and for this Church.” —Violinist Jenny Oaks Baker
Singing alongside 15 family members for President Russell M. Nelson during his 95th-birthday celebration will be “heavenly” and nothing short of “a dream come true,” said Debra Bonner, mother of The Bonner Family.
Mauli Jr. Bonner, the oldest Bonner son, who goes by “Junior,” has been writing and preparing the music the family will sing in the Conference Center on the evening of Friday, September 6. Getting everyone on the same page hasn’t been an easy task, but the family has leaned on the Lord and on each other to create a piece they all felt good about, he said.
“I can’t tell you how many versions we have come up with,” Junior Bonner said, laughing. “It’s been a group effort. We are so excited to perform what we have been preparing for the last two months.”
This performance will be special, Junior Bonner said, because the Bonner children are spread out all over the country, and the first time they will perform the song together will be on Friday night. They have been practicing and talking through their parts.
“Each word [in the song] mattered. We hope that people hear these words and understand the intent of them, because they mean a lot to us,” said Conlon Bonner, the sixth Bonner child.
The Bonner Family will be joining Latter-day Saint performing artists Nathan Pacheco, Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, GENTRI, and Donny Osmond, along with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, in the Conference Center on Friday evening.
The event honoring President Nelson’s 95th birthday will focus on the influence of the Savior in his life and his lifelong service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It will begin at 8:00 p.m. mountain daylight time and be broadcast live in seven languages. The celebration will be emceed by Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, a General Authority Seventy, former sportscaster and professional football quarterback, and Ruth Todd, a former television news anchor.
Pre-event interviews with The Bonner Family, Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, GENTRI, and Nathan Pacheco revealed the music they will be performing and their thoughts on the opportunity to perform for President Nelson.
Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and her four children—who just released their first family album earlier this month—will be performing “The Sound of Music Medley” during the event. Baker has performed in the Conference Center several times, but this will be a first for the children.
“Our kids have been performing since they were 3 and 4, so they actually don’t get as nervous as I do,” she said.
Baker and her children have performed all over the world together. Laura, 18, plays the violin; Hannah, 16, plays the piano; Sarah, 14, plays the cello; and Matthew, 12, plays the classical guitar.
“The opportunity to represent family is always something we appreciate,” Baker said. “I’m grateful to be able to perform with our children, and I hope people can feel the love we have for each other and the love we have for the Savior, the prophet, and for this Church.”
Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and her four children—three on string instruments and one on piano—compose Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, with performances all over the world to their credit. They will perform during President Nelson’s birthday celebration on September 6, 2019.
Vocalist Nathan Pacheco will be singing “Nessun Dorma” as a solo, which he described as “a beast of a song” and “a huge adrenaline rush.” He will also be singing “The Prayer” in a duet with Donny Osmond. This will be the first time Pacheco has ever performed with him.
Pacheco has been working with his teacher in Manhattan and rehearsing quite a bit to prepare for this event. He’s also been pondering on a personal experience he had with President Nelson.
Pacheco sang at a special Christmas celebration for the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and many other General Authorities last December. Following his performance, Pacheco said, President Nelson was supposed to speak.
“But instead of doing that, he just took me by the arm, and he looked me straight in the eyes. He started asking about me and my family,” Pacheco described.
“Here is the prophet, who must be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he had a message he was going to share with everyone. But instead, he kind of went off course of what he was planning to do, and he just took time for ‘the one,’” Pacheco said. “I was and continue to be very touched by that.”
Tenors Brad Robins, Casey Elliott, and Bradley Quinn Lever make up the group GENTRI, The Gentlemen Trio, and they will be performing “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra. Singing with the Choir in the Conference Center and performing for President Nelson is “the opportunity of a lifetime,” Elliott said.
“This Friday night is an incredible opportunity for us to testify of our Lord and Savior,” Lever said.
“I love that President Nelson was a heart surgeon and is a heart surgeon,” he added, “especially at a time when men’s hearts are failing them. . . . I love the gospel, I love the Savior, and I love President Nelson and all he does for us.”
GENTRI, The Gentlemen Trio, which comprises three tenors—Bradley Quinn Lever, Casey Elliott, and Brad Robins—will perform during President Nelson’s birthday celebration on September 6, 2019.