Fostering a love of singing among children is something that Ralph Woodward knows how to do. As the founder and director of the Salt Lake Children's Choir, he's been working with kids and encouraging their musical talents for nearly 30 years. And he doesn't seem to grow tired of it. If anything, it inspires him to keep going.
Twice a year, the choir puts on a concert, and anyone who's ever been to one knows it's a musical event to look forward to.
This coming weekend, the choir will perform its annual spring concert in First Presbyterian Church, and Woodward is thrilled with how the program has shaped up. "We've got some engaging and wonderful material this year," he told the Deseret News. "We're doing some pieces we haven't done in a while, and we're bringing back some favorites."
There are numerous program highlights, he said. Near the top of the list is a number of pieces from Palestrina and Purcell to Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms. Among these is Schubert's setting of Psalm 23, a work the choir has done only once previously. "It's a sublime work," Woodward said. "I first heard it about 40 years ago with the BYU Men's Choir, and I've never grown tired of it."
Woodward is fond of Schubert's music because of its transparent beauty and immediacy. "This setting has it all. And with this year's group, I thought it would be beautiful to do it again."
While music by the masters is always a focal point of any concert by the Salt Lake Children's Choir, the concert wouldn't feel complete without a set of folk music.
"One interesting angle to the program is that we will be exploring the music from three different mountainous regions of the world," he said. "We hadn't planned it that way, it just happened, and I think it will be a lot of fun." Selections include music from Norway, Switzerland and the Andes.
There will also be songs from Brazil, Japan and Russia.
The Brazilian piece has an unusual history, Woodward said. "Years ago I found a collection of street vendor calls. I put six of them together, and the result is a cacophony of sound." For this song, Woodward divides the choir into sections and each section will be hawking a different food. "It will be everything from ice cream to tangerines."
Besides directing the choir, Woodward is also a composer who has written a huge volume of music for his choir, four of which will be on the program.
Accompanying the choir is pianist Jessica Lee, and Steve Keen will be joining them for a couple of songs.
"Steve's a great accordion player and jazz pianist. We've had him on our spring concerts before, and it's always been a lot of fun." He'll be accompanying the kids on Duke Ellington's "Lucky So and So."
Of course, the program will end with Woodward's own "A Day in Spring," a song that has become the choir's signature piece. "We have to do it," Woodward said. "People expect it."
If you go
What: Salt Lake Children's Choir, Ralph Woodward, conductor
Where: First Presbyterian Church, South Temple at C St.
When: May 8-9, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $8 general admission, $5 students (admittance restricted to children 6 and older)