Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Ralph Woodward leads the Salt Lake Children's Choir during rehearsal exercises at the South Salt Lake Columbus Center on Wednesday.

Ralph Woodward is continually on the lookout for new material that the Salt Lake Children's Choir can perform. But the choir's founder and director says it's inevitable that some of the same pieces will crop up every year.

"It's always a challenge to explore the vast musical landscape I like to cover and condense it into a program," Woodward said. And despite his extensive library of choral works and songs that he's arranged for children's choir, he says it's impossible not to keep harking back to some familiar pieces. "There's always a certain amount of predictability, because I feel that we should explore the rich choral tradition that we have."

Truth be told, audiences have come to expect some well-known songs to reappear in between newer pieces. And that will be the case when the Salt Lake Children's Choir presents its annual spring concert Friday and Saturday. "It'll be a rewarding program for the audience," Woodward promised. "It's multifaceted and covers such a vast array of styles and cultures."

Along with short works by Palestrina, Handel, Antonio Lagri and Thomas Morley, the choir will also sing songs by 19th century composers, including Grieg. "It always seems that I have to do art songs," Woodward said. New to the choir's repertoire this year is Grieg's lovely "To Springtime My Song I'm Singing." "I went through all of Grieg's songs. This one is vocally quite challenging, so I'm very gratified how well they're singing it."

In February, Woodward took the choir to Las Vegas to perform at the American Association of Choral Directors' Western division convention. "They were very, very well received there, which was gratifying to see."

At the convention, the choir sang a large selection of the pieces they'll be performing at next weekend's concerts. "I'm excited to be doing these here," Woodward said. "The audience in Las Vegas responded so well to the program. They really appreciated it, and I think everyone here has something to look forward to."

One of the songs that Woodward found particularly successful was Zoltan Kodaly's "Mountain Night." "That's such an evocative piece. It's well known in the choral world, and everyone who heard it in Las Vegas enjoyed the way the kids sang it."

For Woodward, a favorite part of the choir's concerts revolve around folk music. "One of the challenges we face is to explore global music and make it work. And I think we've got some really captivating pieces."

One of Woodward's beloved regions of the world is South America. A number of years ago, he spent months traveling around the continent and brought a good deal of music back home with him. And one of the songs on this part of the program is from the Andes. "It's poignant and wistful and reminds me of the remoteness of the Andes when I was there." The choir will sing it in Quechua, which was the language of the Incas and is still spoken in the area.

Also on the program will be African songs from Namibia and Zambia.

True to tradition, the concert will end with Woodward's own "A Day In Spring," which the choir has performed almost annually since 1984, and which has become its signature song.

Woodward said that his guiding principal in choosing a program is to find pieces that are melodious and appealing. "I really always want to have music that's outright beautiful. Our programs aren't just a survey of music per se. They show off the unique instrument that is the voice."

  • Audition applications are currently being accepted by the Salt Lake Children's Choir; children must be at least 8 to audition (537-1412).

  • If you go . . .

    What: Salt Lake Children's Choir

    Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall

    When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

    How much: $10 general, $7 students

    E-mail: [email protected]