The songs revealed a variety of tones and emotions, from the sprightly "Let's Dance by the Firelight" to the reverent "Handcart Pioneer Prayer."
The choir also sang arrangements of the familiar hymns "Come, Come Ye Saints" and "America, the Beautiful."
Although the lyrics in the songs Gatrell composed clearly outlined the events faced by the pioneers, Gatrell took advantage of a break in the singing to explain the motivation behind the compositions.
She mentioned that many of the pioneers in the handcart companies had only recently come from England so had little money. They placed about 16 pounds of clothing in bedding in the carts and traveled in companies with wagons carrying the food.
"It was the Willie and Martin handcart companies who got into trouble," said Gatrell. When Brigham Young was alerted to the struggles of the two companies, he called for those in the valley to send support in the form of wagons loaded with food and warm clothing.
"When we went to Martin's Cove I was very, very happy to see that my great-grandfather was one of those who came as a rescuer," said Gatrell.
Gatrell also said that she was inspired by the story of Levi Savage, who had tried to convince the handcart pioneers to spend the winter in Nebraska at the Winter Quarters site. When the pioneers insisted on going on, Savage announced he would go with them, even through storms and suffering, and said he would die with them if necessary.
While Saturday's program was put together to honor the sesquicentennial anniversary of the handcart pioneers, Gatrell has been writing songs honoring the pioneers for many years and the Ruth Gatrell Singers have performed those songs along the Wasatch Front.
The concert was also enhanced by the accompaniment which harmonized with the singers. The accompanist was Sharon Gatrell of Layton, who is currently studying piano on scholarship at Weber State University.
The members of the choir are Stephanie Bell, Sally Clark, Maurine Clark, Laurie Gailey, Ann Hammond, Elizabeth Haynes, Tauna Homer, Carma Jenkins, Laura Jones, Marilyn King, Joyce Lambson, Helena Langford, Eliza Lovins, Katy Maddock, Pam Miner, Carolyn Parrish and Tammy Van Tassell.
The singers will be performing several times during the Christmas season, beginning with a performance at the Composers Guild's New Sounds for Christmas Concert at Wasatch Presbyterian Church on 1700 East and 1700 South in Salt Lake City at 7:30 p.m.
Other performances will be held at Temple Square on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. The singers will also perform in the Farmington Community Arts Center on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.