Mike Terry, Deseret News
Ralph Woodward has molded the Salt Lake Children's Choir.

Ralph Woodward is excited about the upcoming concerts with his Salt Lake Children's Choir. "I feel it's going to be a special event," he said in a phone interview with the Deseret News.

The choir will give two concerts this coming weekend in the First Presbyterian Church, and true to tradition, the choir's program will be wide-reaching and varied.

"It's going to encompass an enormous amount of music," Woodward said. "We're going from Scandinavia to the rarefied reaches of the Andes, with a lot of places in between. What makes it special is that the program has real stature, and it's also fun. The kids have been having a lot of fun with it, and I think the audience will have some fun, too."

Woodward likes to progress chronologically, and the program will open with the Italian renaissance, with music by Palestrina, one of Woodward's favored composers, before moving on to Elizabethan England. "I like to do English madrigals and let the choir discover that a madrigal is a composition and not the name for the best choir at school."

The piece they'll sing is Thomas Morley's "Now Is the Month of Maying," one of the most famous pieces from the period.

From there, the choir will sing three German art songs. "The kids love it, and they revel in the sonorities of this great music."

One of the concert highlights is Howard Hanson's "How Excellent Thy Name."

"I've wanted to do it for a long time, but I've never found a place in the program to do it," Woodward said. "It's such an evocative, powerful piece that expresses the awe and wonder of creation."

Woodward will couple the Hanson with Randall Thompson's "Frostiana." "They fit together really well in terms of tonality and when they were written."

Folk songs have also played an important part in the spring concerts for years. This year, the choir will sing pieces in Slovakian, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Danish, Portuguese and Spanish. They will also sing an Andean piece in Quechua, the language of the Incas. "We're going all over the world," Woodward said. "We've expanded our palate this time more than typical."

And, of course, a concert by the Salt Lake Children's Choir wouldn't be complete, or seem right, without some of Woodward's own pieces. Among these are "Canto," a samba, "Calypso Loco" and the always popular "A Day in Spring," a song that has become the choir's signature piece.

Besides pianist Roberta Shimensky, the choir has also invited pianist and accordionist Steve Keen to join them on a few pieces. He'll accompany the children on "On the Sunny Side of the Street." "We've done that piece before and the kids always have a lot of fun with it. They even sing a little scat on it."

Woodward knows that he throws a lot of material at the children. "I want them to experience all this great music as much as they can.

"There is always a feeling of urgency, because I don't have these kids for very long, and I want to travel the world with them musically and have them explore it. They enjoy it, and it's a real joy for me to go on this journey with them, however short it might be."

And Woodward hopes the audience will enjoy the concert, too. "We have a lot of great stuff this time. It's the product of a lot of years of treasure hunting, and we have the kids who can present it."

If you go . . .

What: Salt Lake Children's Choir, Ralph B. Woodward, director

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 12 C St.

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

How much: $8 general admission, $5 students (at the door; children younger than 6 years not admitted)

Phone: 537-1412

E-mail: [email protected]