The Salt Lake Children’s Choir was established to extend the community’s already rich cultural heritage into the realm of fine choral singing by children–long a highly cherished art form in many cultural centers of the world. Combining the inherent beauty of carefully guided young voices with the world’s outstanding vocal literature, the choir strives each year to be an increasingly worthy example of the children’s choral art and a source of enrichment and growth for a broad range of audiences and for its young singers.
Founded by Ralph B. Woodward in 1979, the Salt Lake Children’s Choir has long been regarded as one of the finest ensembles of its kind in the nation. It consists of boys and girls, generally between ages 8 to 15, from the Salt Lake Valley and adjoining areas who rehearse once a week. It emphasizes correct vocal development and the works of the immortal masters, as well as outstanding folk and contemporary music from around the world. Its major concerts are given in the area’s prominent venues, but it also reaches out to school children and care center residents, and performs at community and corporate functions (such as the recent visit of Sir John Major).
A prize-winner in international competition, the choir has appeared with many internationally celebrated artists and organizations–including Grant Johannesen, Frederica von Stade, Marvin Hamlisch, Pete Seeger, and on numerous occasions with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony, with whom it has also recorded. It has been featured at several conventions of the American Choral Directors’ Association and its singers have performed on multiple film soundtracks and on promotions for CBS, NBC and Walt Disney Productions. It can be heard on local classical radio broadcasts and was heard nationwide on 260 public radio stations during four of the last five Christmas seasons. Two former choir members are now appearing in leading operatic roles on the major stages of the world–with others pursuing a variety of careers in music. However, most choir alumni simply continue making singing an on-going compliment to their lives. The choir doesn’t explicitly seek fame for itself or its members, but merely to fulfill its educational and artistic mission.
The son of an internationally renowned choral conductor, Ralph B. Woodward is an accomplished singer, horn player, composer and an authority on the care and development of the young voice. He has played with the American Wind Symphony, the Utah Symphony and various German orchestras, toured Central and South America for the U. S. State Department, performed with jazz greats, Chuck Mangione and J. J. Johnson, studied and recorded with horn virtuoso, Hermann Baumann, and worked in close collaboration with pianist Grant Johannesen and folk singer Pete Seeger. Much of his own considerable writing for the choir reflects his extensive multi-cultural/lingual background in Europe and Latin America.
In October of 1979, three years after returning from Europe, Ralph B. Woodward held auditions for a formal children’s choir in Salt Lake City, with plans to help children learn to sing correctly. The first performance of this new ensemble, originally named The Wasatch Children, was given that December in a library auditorium. Subsequent concerts were given in fairly small, acoustically suitable locations, usually churches in the area. Finally, against the advice of some, the choir staged a major concert in Salt Lake City’s beautiful Symphony Hall (now Abravanel Hall) in June of 1983. Despite the earlier cautions and the transportation difficulties caused by a flood, this concert was a milestone in making the case for outstanding children’s choral singing and served to establish the choir firmly in the cultural fabric of the community.
That winter the choir was featured on the Christmas concerts and broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — as well as a Tabernacle Choir Christmas television special that was distributed worldwide. This was the first of several collaborations with the Tabernacle Choir. The next year Mr. Woodward approached officials at Salt Lake City’s prominent and historic Cathedral of the Madeleine about a joint performance of the children’s choir with the Salt Lake Symphony and the Ralph Woodward Chorale — Directed by Dr. Ralph Woodward, Mr. Woodward’s renowned father. The featured work was to be Arthur Honegger’s Cantate de Noel. The idea was welcomed and the event was such a success that a long and rewarding relationship with the cathedral was begun.
In the spring of 1986 the Salt Lake Children’s Choir was particularly gratified at the resounding ovation it received from an audience of choral professionals following its performance at the Western Division Convention of the American Choral Directors’ Association in Santa Clara, California. It has since appeared at five subsequent conventions of this organization.
The choir has performed with numerous celebrated artists, including Marvin Hamlisch, Frederica von Stade, Pete Seeger, Grant Johannesen, Kevin Kenner, Igor and Vesna Gruppman, Kurt Bestor, Sam Cardon; and jazz musicians Steve Keen, Craig Larson, Matt Larson and Lars Yorgason; and has recorded with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony. It has been heard on American Public Radio and Public Radio International and its singers have sung for CNN, CBS, NBC and Walt Disney Productions. The choir’s first commercial compact disc,Beside Thy Cradle, was released in 1995 and a second, A Day in Spring, in June 2000. Both were recorded in Abravanel Hall. In 2007 the choir released Noel, a compilation of live Christmas performances from the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and on May 15, 2010, Sweet Is the Song, a 2-disc compilation drawn from past Spring Concert performances was released.
Through its many years and varied activities, the Salt Lake Children’s Choir has maintained as its primary focus the artistry of its young singers. Its two ensembles rarely exceed 100 participants total, and are all taught personally by Mr. Woodward.