Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News</i>
Ralph Woodward leads the Salt Lake Children's Choir in rehearsal last year. The group turns 25 this year.

This year, the Salt Lake Children's Choir will be celebrating two significant milestones — chiefly its 25th anniversary, which will be celebrated in May with concerts in Libby Gardner Concert Hall and Abravanel Hall.

But before that, the children will be traveling to Los Angeles to perform at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association. The convention runs Wednesday through Saturday this week,, and the choir will perform three times at three venues in downtown Los Angeles.

Even though this marks the sixth time the choir has sung at an ACDA convention, this will be the first time it's been invited to the national convention. According to Ralph B. Woodward, choir founder and director, being invited to perform is no easy matter. "You have to submit an audition tape to be considered, so you need to show your best side."

Some 95 vocal groups have been selected, ranging from children's to adult choirs. These ensembles come from all over the United States. Choirs from Canada, Indonesia, Japan and Finland have been invited as well.

Utah will be represented not only by the Salt Lake Children's Choir but also by the Brigham Young University Singers, under Ronald Staheli. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir with director Craig Jessop will also put in an appearance, giving three short concerts Saturday, including one in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new Disney Hall.

According to ACDA rules, programs are strictly limited to 25 minutes. Woodward said that presents its own set of challenges. "It's enough time to present the choir, but it's really a challenge to put together a good program that's interesting and rewarding."

However, Woodward feels he's done just that. "I think we have a strong program. It's very engaging, and I think it will be satisfying."

The choir will open and close with music by the director: "Alleluia," and what has become the choir's signature piece, "A Day in Spring." In between, the children will sing music by Monteverdi and Kodaly, Antonio Russo's demanding "Exsultemus Domino," folk music from Europe and South America, and the spiritual "Good News."

"This is all music we've sung before," Woodward said. "It's really a good program, and the kids love it." Woodward said the ACDA requires choirs to sing at least two of the songson their audition tapes. "They also asked for ample representation of earlier works." He added that in recent years choirs have tended to program newer music. "Recently, the emphasis by choirs in their concerts has been on modern things. But I've always felt that we need to draw on the great legacy we have. And I've always programmed music from the great masters."

The Salt Lake Children's Choir will be singing for a discerning audience, Woodward said. Performing for hundreds of choral directors can be daunting, but Woodward said that it has a positive side as well. "These choral conductors are very positive. Sometimes they're verbal in their response."

In the years that Woodward has taken his choir to ACDA conventions, the reaction from those in attendance has been nothing short than overwhelmingly supportive. "We've received a lot of encouragement whenever we have performed at these events."

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One of the venues where the choir will sing is at the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Woodward said he went to Los Angeles last summer to take a look at the venues where the kids will perform. "When I walked into the cathedral, it took my breath away. It's a beautiful, huge, open space that seats 1,900, but there's room for 3,000."

He admitted that he's not sure how the choir will sound in such a voluminous building. "I think our sound will be too small for the cathedral, but we'll see." He said that each choir gets a 15-minute sound check in each venue on the days they're performing. "That will give us a chance to hear what we sound like."

But despite pre-convention anxieties, Woodward has a great deal of confidence in his kids. "I know they'll do great, and everyone's excited about going."


E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com