SALT LAKE CHILDREN’S CHOIR, First Presbyterian Church, May 4; second performance 7:30 p.m. May 5, tickets at the door
Nothing quite compares to the simple beauty of children singing. There is an innocence and sweetness to their voices that makes the music they sing magical. Ralph Woodward knows this and for the past three decades he’s nurtured young singers, developing their potential and introducing them to some of the great works in the vocal/choral repertoire.
Woodward is the founder and director of the Salt Lake Children’s Choir, which for over 30 years has been delighting its audiences with memorable concerts. This weekend the group is performing its annual spring concert, and Woodward has once again chosen a program that is remarkable for its variety and scope. He knows how to get the best out of his young charges and Friday’s performance showed once again that the Salt Lake Children’s Choir is one of the state’s premiere youth choral ensembles.
Keeping true to tradition, Woodward opened the concert with a set of early music, including a Benedictus and an Osanna in Excelsis by Palestrina and Handel’s “Thanks Be to Thee,” all of which the choir sang with crisp intonation and nicely crafted articulation.
These were followed by three art songs, sung in English and accompanied by pianist Craig Jorgenson (who also accompanied the choir on a number of other pieces): Brahms’ “A Thought Like Music” and “Song of the Skylark” and Wolf’s “Song to Spring.” The interpretations were notable for the fluid lyricism the children brought to each.
No Salt Lake Children’s Choir concert would be complete without a few folk songs and several of Woodward’s own pieces, both of which are well represented on this program.
Woodward likes to take his kids and his audiences on a global trek through folk music, and this weekend the choir travels from Japan to South America and Europe. Countries visited are Venezuela, Brazil, Slovakia, Portugal and Scotland. There is also a brief stopover in the United States, which was represented by the cowboy song “The Old Chisholm Trail.”
As a composer, Woodward has written a considerable amount of music. He is a formidable composer who understands the art of writing for young voices. Among his pieces on the program are a selection from his evocative collection he calls “Postcards from Paradise,” the fun and witty “Calypso Loco,” the moving setting of “The Lord Is My Shepherd” and the poignant “A Day in Spring,” a song that has become synonymous with the Salt Lake Children’s Choir.
One would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable and pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. Concerts by the Salt Lake Children’s Choir are not to be missed.
The ensemble can be heard on Classical 89 today at 5 p.m. on the rebroadcast of “Highway 89.”