It just wouldn’t be spring without the Salt Lake Children’s Choir annual May concert. For over 30 years, Ralph B. Woodward’s young charges have been delighting audiences with their angelic voices and infectious enthusiasm. And this weekend’s two concerts promise to be no different. “We’re doing a fun program and I’m looking forward to it,” Woodward told Reichel Recommends.

Anyone who has ever attended one of the group’s concerts knows that Woodward has some favorite style periods and genres that continually reappear; music from the renaissance, German art songs, folk music and original pieces by Woodward always have a place on the program. And that’s what one can expect at the upcoming concerts. “We’ll start with some early music by Palestrina, then do a madrigal,” Woodward said.

Salt Lake Children's Choir with Ralph Woodward

There will also be several art songs by Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann. “The kids will be singing ‘Das Wandern’ by Schubert and ‘Schneeglöckchen’ and ‘Mondnacht’ by Schumann.” Schumann is a particular favorite of Woodward’s. “I love all of his symphonies,” he said. “There is something about his music that’s hard to pin down that speaks to me. And there is so much you can pull out of a song like ‘Mondnacht.’ It’s so exquisite.”

Woodward is a world traveler, having visited and lived – and worked as a horn player – in several different countries in Europe and Latin America. That experience is reflected in his love of folk music, which has always held a central position in the choir’s repertoire. For the spring program, the choir will sing a wide ranging selection of folk music, including songs from Slovakia, Sweden and Panama. “The Panamanian song we’re doing has a lot of syncopated parts, and the kids are doing a great job with it.”

There are several of Woodward’s own pieces on the program, including his setting of the nursery rhyme “Hector Protector” and his polytonal setting of Ogden Nash’s poem “The Octopus.” “They’re a couple of zany pieces,” Woodward said. “We did both at an American Choral Directors Association convention a few years ago and the audience came unglued.”

A piece the group hasn’t done in many years and which found its way on the program this year is Stephen Hatfield’s arrangement of the Mexican song “Las Amarillas.” “It’s a tricky a cappella piece that has rhythmic punch,” Woodward said. “I thought I should give these kids a chance at tackling it.”

Another song the choir hasn’t done recently is “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies.” “It was very popular in America,” Woodward said, “but I don’t think a lot of people know it was written by a German immigrant named Robert Sauer who was on the BYU music faculty.”

The program will end with what has become one of the choir’s signature songs, Woodward’s hauntingly beautiful “A Day in Spring.”

“It’s going to be quite a musical odyssey,” Woodward said about the concert.

Accompanying will be pianist Merrilee Webb, who teaches at Dixie State College and is both a pianist and choral conductor. “She is very creative and talented and a great improviser,” Woodward said.

  • What: Salt Lake Children’s Choir, Ralph B. Woodward, conductor
  • Venue: First Presbyterian Church, South Temple at C St.
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. May 10-11
  • Tickets: $8 adults, $6 children 6 and up
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