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Draper Journal

Two local composers celebrate the Christmas story with ‘King of Kings’

Dec 01, 2019 12:25PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Composers Tyler Teerlink and Jake Lives are collaborating on “King of Kings,” an original holiday musical experience to be performed by Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society. (Photo courtesy Michael Kralik/Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

Defining Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society's new orchestral and choral Christmas piece, "King of Kings," is no simple task. "It's not quite a cantata or an oratorio," said Director Sherri Jensen, although it is based on scripture. The musical style is more contemporary than classical. 

Tyler Teerlink, who is writing "King of Kings" with fellow composer Jake Lives, said, "It's not a collection of holiday songs but a narrative, telling the Christmas story through music.” 

“You can convey messages that words cannot speak through music,” Lives added. “Our goal is to tell the story in a relatable way and address what the Christmas story means to us now.”

Inspired by the sacred works of Latter-day Saint composer Rob Gardner, Lives and Teerlink refer to “King of Kings” as a “musical experience.” 

"This is something the community has never heard, something different," Jensen said. "'King of Kings' will put people in the mood for the real meaning of Christmas — a really meaningful concert.” 

“King of Kings” will be performed Dec. 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Union Middle School in Sandy.

As Teerlink explained, “King of Kings” examines the inner lives and feelings of the biblical characters in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. For example, Mary processes her doubts balanced with faith following the visitation from the angel Gabriel in a song titled, “I Know Not.” The song “sheds a light on her story in a new way,” Teerlink said. “We want to make the characters relatable to the audience.”

Lives and Teerlink are collaborating on the music, lyrics and orchestration for the entire piece. “We talk about what message we want to convey and characterization,” Lives said. “Sometimes we start with the lyrics, like writing a poem together. There are other times when we just wake up one day and the music is there.” 

“It’s like a puzzle we’re putting together. The creative process is inspiring but also confusing. It’s a refining process. There was a day when Tyler wrote a whole song and I loved it. Another day I woke up with just part of a song in my mind. It can be a struggle to finish it, it doesn’t always come easy,” Lives said.

Both composers are just 23 years old and both grew up in Draper. Teerlink was a member of the first graduating class at Corner Canyon High School while Lives attended Jordan High School. Teerlink and Lives started writing music and playing in bands in their teens and performed in high school choir and band respectively. Currently, both are pursuing degrees in music education at UVU.  

“King of Kings” is not the first piece for choir and orchestra that the two have worked on together. They collaborated with another composer on “George Washington: Ordained of God,” which was performed by Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society last summer.

Teerlink aspires to teach and direct a choir one day. “There is something magical about choir,” he said, “about people coming together to create a unified sound.” 

Lives is a percussionist and got involved with Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society in 2017 when he learned that the organization needed a percussionist. “I kind of fell in love with the group,” he said. 

Performing with Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society holds special meaning for many of its members. Second violinist Elizabeth Valentine has commuted to rehearsals all the way from Spanish Fork. "For me it's about the emotion, the feeling. It's not just a focus on technique; it's more than that," Valentine said. 

Playing in last year's Christmas concert, she said, "I felt a rush of emotion and love in the Christmas spirit," she said. "It did wonders for my soul." 

Lucas Erasmus has been singing bass in the choral society since it began. "There's something really unique about this organization," he said. "I love it. The music is uplifting and patriotic. It is a joy to sing it." 

For Lives, “King of Kings” as a musical experience is “heaven-sent music. It’s inspiring, touches your soul and your heart.” 

The Draper Philharmonic & Choral Society will present “King of Kings” at Union Middle School on Dec. 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. Union Middle School is located at 615 East 8000 South in Sandy. For tickets and more information, visit