SALT LAKE CHILDREN’S CHOIR, Cathedral of the Madeleine, Dec. 2; additional performance 7 p.m. Dec. 23, LDS Chapel, 951 E. 100 South,

Without the Salt Lake Children’s Choir’s annual Christmas concerts the holidays just wouldn’t be the same. And apparently that feeling is wide spread, as it was standing room only in the Cathedral of the Madeleine for Sunday’s performance.

The children mesmerized their audience with a program spanning several centuries and spreading across two continents. Founder and director Ralph Woodward knows how to bring out the best in his young singers; his repertoire is always well chosen and his arrangements are nothing short of fabulous.

True to tradition Woodward started his Christmas concert with early music; this year it was two 14th/15th century German pieces, “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich” and “Savior of the Nations, Come,” which were followed by a Benedictus by Giovanni Palestrina. It’s a wonderful way to evoke the special mood of the holiday season.

Throughout the 90-minute concert, Woodward mixed things up nicely, programming traditional Christmas music from Europe with modern pieces. And in between, there were also a number of Woodward’s own creations.

It’s difficult picking highlights in a delightful concert such as this, but there were a few standouts.

Among them were Michael Praetorius’ “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” a staple of the choir; the Basque carol “The Angel Gabriel;” the French carol “Angel O’er the Fields;” Pavel Chesnokov’s evocative “Dostóyno yest” (“Song to Mary”); Utah composer Vanja Watkins’ “Light of the World;” and Henri Büsser’s “Berceuse,” another choir favorite.

Among Woodward’s pieces, “Gloria al Rey” was particularly noteworthy.

At the end of the concert there was the traditional sing along with the audience. Woodward always invites former choir members to join the ranks of current singers for this closing portion of the program. Sunday evening there was a huge throng of former choristers joining in to sing “The First Noël;” “O Come, All Ye Faithful;” “Silent Night;” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

The choir was accompanied by harpist Lysa Rytting and organist Ken Udy.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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