SALT LAKE CHILDREN'S CHOIR, Cathedral of the Madeleine, Dec. 6

For 30 years, the Salt Lake Children's Choir has been a part of the local music scene. And during these past three decades, the holiday season wouldn't be quite the same without the choir's annual Christmas concerts in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Under the direction of founder Ralph Woodward, the choir of some 70 singers performs holiday works by Renaissance and contemporary composers with an enthusiasm that is infectious. Their performances over the years have continually exhibited wonderful musicality and expression as well as finely crafted articulation and execution. With the Salt Lake Children's Choir, one can always expect the highest artistic standards. It's without question one of the top youth ensembles here.

Last weekend, the group performed its annual Christmas concert and as in years past it was a remarkable example of what talented youth are capable of under the guidance of a dedicated director.

The program followed the choir's traditional pattern. It opened with a set of early pieces that included Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's "Osanna in Excelsis," Orlando di Lasso's "Hodie Apparuit" and a lovely motet for the yuletide by the French baroque composer Louis Nicolas Clerambault.

There were also numerous traditional songs from Europe that have been a part of the choir's holiday repertoire from the beginning. Among these was the charming French song "Listen to the Sounds in Heaven," which the choir sang with feeling and great expression.

Woodward, who is also an accomplished composer as well as conductor, included several of his own pieces. Among these were an especially poignant setting of the Ave Maria and "Gentle Jesu," a heartfelt song which the choir sang with eloquence.

The second half opened with a Latin flavor, with Woodward's lyrical "Alleluia Hispana" and Juan Orrego-Salas' rhythmic "Danza," from "Canticos de Navidad."

Two selections from Benjamin Britten's well known "A Ceremony of Carols" followed, sung with feeling and conviction by the choir. They in fact did a fabulous job with the rhythms and harmonies of both pieces.

No concert by Woodward's group would be complete without Michael Pretorius' "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" and Henri B?sser's "Berceuse." The latter has become one of the choir's signature pieces and they sang it with finely crafted expressiveness.

The evening ended with about 40 former choristers joining the choir in a sing along of Christmas favorites: "The First Noel;" "O Come, All Ye Faithful;" "Silent Night;" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

e-mail: ereichel@desnews.com