The Salt Lake Children's Choir presents its annual spring concert next weekend. Called "From San Marco to Humahuaco to 'The Sunny Side of the Street,' " the program will include music from the Renaissance to today, as well as folk music from around the world and popular songs.
"We're going to start off with San Marco," said Ralph B. Woodward, the choir's founder and director. "San Marco is where Palestrina worked for a long time, and we're doing three pieces by him, including a rarely heard 'Benedictus.' "
On the classical side, the choir will also sing a 16th century madrigal, Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and art songs by Schubert and Hugo Wolf. "We're also doing Mendelssohn's beautiful 'Surrexit Pastor Bonus' and Vaughan Williams' 'The Infinite Shining Heavens,' " Woodward said.
Folk songs have always been a staple at the choir's spring concerts. Woodward has traveled extensively throughout the world, and one of his many interests is collecting folk music. And for this concert, he's programmed music from Scotland, Central Europe and South America. "We're singing the Scottish 'Ca' the Yowes,' which Benjamin Britten arranged, and pieces from Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Slovakia, and a couple of songs from the Humahuaco area of Argentina."
The children will also perform a couple of spirituals, "Deep River" and "Ain't That Good News." "I've always known these songs and liked them," Woodward said. "And I finally got around to doing something with them."
Woodward arranges most of the songs the choir sings. "A lot of what we do is derived from works for solo voice." Adding a second and sometimes a third part to these pieces makes them more appealing and gives them a new dimension.
As a composer, Woodward has written numerous songs for his choir. And these seem to be among the most popular selections at these concerts. A particular favorite for the children, as well as audiences, is Woodward's "A Day in Spring." "I never intended it to become our signature song."
One of the choir's traditions is to ask former choir members in the audience to come onstage and join in the encores. " 'A Day in Spring' is always the one they want to sing."
Accompanist will be pianist Laurel Enke. But Woodward has also invited jazz pianist Steve Keen to accompany the choir on a few selections. "Steve is really a fine musician. I've used him in the past for some other things. He's versatile and easy to work with."
Besides being a pianist, Keen is also a talented accordion player. And when he's not performing jazz, he can be heard locally playing the accordion in a klezmer group. "He likes to play accordion," Woodward said, "and he's been doing more of that lately."
Keen will accompany the choir on accordion in several pieces, including the French round "Vole l' Alouette" and the Italian song "Fiorellino." On the piano, Keen will keep things swinging with "On the Sunny Side of the Street." "It's hard to find standards that work with kids," Woodward said. " 'On the Sunny Side of the Street' works really well, and with Steve playing, it'll be snappy and have a lot of bounce."
Woodward admits that it's difficult putting a program together for a children's choir. "It's as demanding as writing a piece of music." Fortunately, Woodward has a library full of music to draw on. "For the spring concerts, I have countless pieces in my file. I have ethnic music from virtually every corner of the world."He said it's important for him and for the audience not to have the same music performed too often. "Sometimes, the kids will ask to repeat a piece. But oftentimes, I have to steer them away from these pieces and toward something new. Certain works that have a certain stature can be repeated more frequently, and there are some pieces that I keep returning to more often than others. But the important thing is, the repertoire has to be fresh, and I think that this year it will be."
What: Salt Lake Children's Choir
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
How much: $6
Phone: 581-7100, 355-2787 or 1-888-451-2787, or 266-3537