The Salt Lake Children's Choir will wrap up its season this weekend with a pair of concerts that will explore a wide range of music and cultures.

"This is a real survey of music from every place you can think of," choir founder and director Ralph B. Woodward told the Deseret News.

The youthful ensemble has always been noted for its diverse and extensive repertoire. Woodward's innovative programming has ensured that these concerts are enjoyable and entertaining for both the audience and the choir. And Woodward has had quite a bit of experience in working with children and getting them to sing at their fullest potential. After all, he's been doing this for more than two decades.

"The reason I started the choir in the first place was to teach kids to sing properly and to expose everyone to wonderful music," Woodward said.

This weekend's concerts will feature a broad assortment of works from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including a section devoted to folk music from around the world. "We'll start off with Henry Purcell's 'Music for Awhile,' which is a very elegant and lovely piece that we'll sing in unison," Woodward said. That will open a set of sacred music by Palestrina, Mendelssohn and Schubert. "We're doing Schubert's 'Twenty-third Psalm,' which we've never sung before. It's an exquisite piece, and I hope we'll do it justice."

After a group of art songs, the choir will perform an extended set of folk tunes from Wales, Scotland, France, Tyrol, the Ukraine and Latin America. "I like Latin American music a lot," Woodward said. "For the concerts we did during the Olympics last February, I came across a couple of pieces that I liked and which we'll do (this week)."

And while he was looking into music that the choir could perform during the Olympics, Woodward also discovered some Native American songs he fell in love with. "We've never really explored Native American music," he said. "For this concert, we're going to do a piece called 'Zuni Sunrise Song,' which is an evocative and atmospheric piece. I've added a little bit of harmony to it, but it still retains its outdoorsy feeling."

Selections from Woodward's own beautiful "Postcards from Paradise," "Evening Prayer" from Humperdinck's children's opera "Hansel and Gretel" and Duke Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" will also be sung.

Woodward said that this year was a particularly busy one for the children, and so the choir will be taking the summer off before plunging into the new season.

In November, members of the choir will be joining the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir under the baton of Keith Lockhart in Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8.

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After 22 years, Woodward says that every time summer comes around, he wonders whether he'll be up to leading the choir again for another season of concerts. "But when I see these young children coming along all bright-eyed, that keeps me going," he admits. "That and finding music for them to sing."

The concerts take place Friday and Saturday, May 31 and June 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students and can be purchased at the Kingsbury Hall box office, Day Murray Music and at all ArtTix locations or by calling 581-7100 or 355-ARTS.

THE SALT LAKE CHILDREN'S CHOIR is currently scheduling auditions. Anyone interested can call 537-1412.


E-MAIL: ereichel@desnews.com