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A Majestic Setting for Wonderful Young Voices

— A Message From our Director on Performing at the Cathedral of The Madeleine

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On Dec. 2nd and 4th the Salt Lake Children’s Choir will continue its long tradition of performing in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.  It has been suggested that I convey a few thoughts of what this experience is like for me.  Inasmuch as I have been doing this for so long, one might think it may have become simply routine by now.  However, the reality is quite the opposite.

When I first made my proposal in 1984 to then Associate Rector, the Reverend Father, M. Francis Mannion, about a joint concert with my father’s Ralph Woodward Chorale, The Salt Lake Symphony and The Salt Lake Children’s Choir in the Cathedral of the Madeleine it did feel a little audacious. It was indeed a venture ‘into the unknown,’  However, following Father (now Monsignor [retired]) Mannion’s gracious approval and a very successful initial performance, each successive appearance of our choir in this lofty, inspiring space has had its own excitement, electricity and newness.  In fact, every time I and our eager young singers gather in the Cathedral, I am awestruck by the entire setting and the possibilities that await us and our audience.

Indeed, the combination of this majestic setting, with great music and wonderful young voices is something that never grows old for me–or seemingly, for our singers, past and present, or the audiences that return year after year.  As I interact with these young musicians during their singing, witnessing their accomplishment and somehow relating to what they are experiencing, I am inspired and often find myself asking, “How is it that I even get to be here doing this?” It seems the whole experience is a great gift all the way around–one which extends in many directions.  And most certainly, it is largely made possible through the decades-long kindness and support of officials and clergy at the Cathedral of the Madeleine who have so generously allowed us to be their guests.  My sincere appreciation and thanks go to all, young and old, who have allowed me, and so many others, to experience this wonderful tradition for so long.

Wishing all a wonderful Holiday Season,

Ralph B. Woodward, Founder-Director

Salt Lake Children’s Choir

Christmas Concerts 2016

Mark your calendars!

December 2 & 4, 2016:  The choir continues its three decade-long tradition of Christmas concerts in Salt Lake City’s beautiful Cathedral of the Madeleine on Friday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 4.  The concerts will begin at 8 PM with the choir singing from the loft, and following a processional to the front, will feature music ranging from Palestrina and Bach, to carols old and new from around the world, to music written especially for the choir.  Among familiar carols to be performed are “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Angels o’er the Fields,” Il e ne le divin Enfant,” and “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” Also heard will be “The Newborn King,” a soulful spiritual,  the exciting “Torches” by British composer, Elaine Hugh-Jones and  “Do You Know What They Sang? by the choir’s director, Ralph B. Woodward.  Following the performance of the sublime “Sleep of the Child Jesus”: by Henri Büesser, the program will conclude with combined choirs and audience joining in several carol favorites. Accompaniment for the concerts will be provided by harpist Lysa Rytting and organist Ken Udy. The public is invited at no charge but admission is limited to those over 6 years of age.

December 5-9, 2016:  Portions from last year’s Cathedral concerts will be aired Monday through Friday, Dec.5-9 at 10 AM and 4:06 PM on KBYU-FM (Classical 89).

December 18, 2016:  The choir’s two ensembles will perform in several less formal settings (including care centers) during the Christmas season and then its final joint  performance will be a Community Christmas Concert (all ages welcome at no charge) Sunday, December 18 at 7:00 PM in the Federal Heights LDS Chapel.–located at Fairfax Road and Virginia Street (across from Shriners Hospital).

Auditions:  The choir is scheduling new-member auditions and invites any interested individuals to take advantage of the above opportunities to hear the choir.

Program Notes – Spring 2016, part 2

More thoughts from Ralph B. Woodward about pieces on the program this weekend.  Please scroll down to previous posts, to find concert details).  Our Choir hopes to see you in the audience!

Dancing Song”  (arr. Zoltán Kodály)

The “Kodaly Method” of music education is still taught world wide.  However, in addition to being a pioneer in the music education of young people, Zoltán Kodály, along with fellow Hungarian Bela Bartok, was an avid researcher and a great composer.  His masterful arrangement of the Hungarian “Táncnóta” (Dancing Song), with its tempo changes, dynamic shifts and electrifying ending, is always a big hit with our singers and audiences.

(For a sneak peek of a past year’s choir singing this number, please click here!)

Olha a Rosa Amarela”  (Brazil)

We have given this Brazilian folk song a Samba treatment–complete with percussion.  (The kids have trouble standing still.)

The Old Chisolm Trail

Not all so-called “cowboy songs’ are authentic (some of the best known actually been written by Eastern songwriters).  But this one really is authentic–and is complete with a fair dose of cowboy humor.  Our young “buckaroos” (especially the littlest ones) enjoy “saddling up” and singing this one.

Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume” (Vienna, City of My Dreams)

This extremely charming waltz by Rudolf Siecynski is much loved throughout the German-speaking world (and beyond) and is a crowd-pleaser wherever and whenever we sing it.

Calypso Loco

This piece, written in the Calypso style, just keeps piling on the parts until it arrives at a state of total “craziness.”

“Evening Prayer

This is a personal favorite–maybe because of the way it came about and the feeling it seems to convey.

A Day in Spring

Our traditional “finale,” when many former choir members come up and participate–always making it a sentimental “spring reunion” for everyone.

 

Spring Concerts 2015

Mark your calendars!

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The Salt Lake Children’s Choir, under the direction of Ralph B. Woodward, will celebrate its 35th Anniversary Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 PM in the First Presbyterian Church (South Temple and ‘C’Street).  The program will include J. S. Bach’s much-loved “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” the sublime “Laudate Dominum” of Mozart,” Franz Schubert’s immortal “To Music,” Benjamin Britten’s setting of the wistful Scottish “Ca’ the Yowes,” “Echoes of Armenia” by Karine Rafael, and traditional spirituals, “Deep River” and “Let Me Fly.” Also heard will be musical treasures from Russia, Switzerland, Namibia and Venezuela–along with Woodward’s own “Peasant Dance” and “Desert Eyes.”

Guest artists are Armenian piano virtuosa, Karine Rafael and jazz greats, Craig and Matt Larson–who will join the choir on the Duke Ellington standard, “I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So.”  The evening will conclude with combined choirs singing “Look to the Rainbow” (from the Broadway musical, Finnegan’s Rainbow), “The Lord Is My Shepherd” and the choir’s traditional “A Day in Spring” joined by choir alumni.

Choir on stage in church. Sunset through stained glass window.

Sunset during the Spring Concert 2013.

Tickets: $10 ($6 students/children).

Advance tickets available from choir members, at Day Murray Music or online here.  Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the nights of the concert.

Please note that admission limited to those over age 6.  Those desiring further information are invited to call 801-537-1412.  Please share this post to help us reach a wider audience.

* Also noted that the choir is currently scheduling auditions and a sign-up sheet for an audition appointment will be on hand at the concerts.

Christmas Past and Present

Our 2014 Christmas Cathedral Concerts (details here!) are just around the corner on December 5th and 7th.   Something else to put on your Holiday calendar is a week’s worth of broadcasts from our friends at Classical 89 (KBYU radio).  Each day from December 8th to 12th, at 10:00 A.M. and 4:06 P.M. (just after the BBC news), Classical 89 will broadcast three selections from the live recordings of our 2013 Cathedral Concerts.   The listings for these broadcasts are already posted on Classical 89’s website.   Check there if you had a particular favorite last year that you’d love to hear again.   (The link jumps to the current day’s playlist.  You will have to hit “Next Day” until you come to the day you are interested in.)

If you’d like to have reminders to tune in – follow us on Facebook!

 

Choral music enriches a child’s life

Feeling strongly that the study of choral music was beneficial for my children, I wanted to see what supportive evidence was out there. So I Googled, “Why should children study choral music?” These were a few sites that caught my eye:

The Central Coast Children’s Choir web page listed a good number of benefits. I liked what I saw, but I wanted more . . . so I ventured to the Chorister’s Guild, which not only had some information to answer my question, but some helpful suggestions. Still not satisfied I had learned enough, I gathered some interesting insights on the Classics for Kids website. I’m sure there is more out there, but here’s what I learned:

First some benefits:

  • Music is Science, and is exact and specific. This is comforting to my children because it helps them to make sense of the chaotic, ever changing world around them. I think it is safe to say the music brings them peace.
  • Music is Mathematical with its divisions of time into fractions. Who couldn’t use more math practice? Learning a piece of music with its various dynamics is like deciphering a puzzle. It’s great brain exercise, as the mind figures out how all the parts work together to create the final piece.
  • Music is History; it reflects the environments and cultures from the time and place it was created. Any time we study the arts of a particular time period, we gain understanding and empathy for others.
  • Music is a Foreign Language, using symbols to represent ideas. And lyrics are often sung in foreign languages. My children have sung songs in Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish, Navajo and French, to name a few.
  • Music is Physical: it requires good posture, proper breathing, coordination, and muscle control. The body and mind, then, work together, responding to sound as it enters through the ears, interpreting that sound with the mind, and producing the notes their eyes see.
  • Music is Critical Thinking. It provides the opportunity to develop insight and requires thought to understand the lyrics and create the music’s dynamics.
  • Music is Emotional and it is Art: It involves all of our being. The child enters a creative zone as he focuses intently and puts forth concentrated effort, making it a good stress release. The musician has a passionate, whole body experience. And she gives a performance that serves self and the community as it heightens the life experience for both. Let’s just say, music is joy.

 The benefits go deeper

As you can see, the benefits go far beyond musical skill. The experience enriches many facets of a child’s life and opens doors to many other skills.

  • Studies prove that participation in choir, band, and orchestra raises student IQ and improves the ability to think and reason. The students also have higher SAT scores. And the longer students participate in musical programs, the greater the impact on their learning.
  • Music performance uses almost every part of the brain because a person must synthesize an array of skills and concepts.
  • The choral setting provides emotional and social growth. The individual and team work required provide members an understanding of self and others. This also translates to success in the child’s future workplace.
  • Students learn to make good judgments.
  • They learn that problems have multiple solutions; they do the problem solving and they realize there are unanticipated solutions to be discovered.
  • They learn to say poetically what cannot be communicated with standard methods.
  • Children learn what’s important. They learn to dig into the details, and then step back and get the big picture as well.

2013-14 Season Begins…

Choir on stage in church.  Sunset through stained glass window.

Sunset during the Spring Concert 2013.

The 2013-14 Season is upon us!  Last minute auditions are still being conducted through the first two weeks of September.  Scheduling is underway for Christmas events and beyond.  If you or a group you are part of wish to hire the Choir to sing this year, contact the director, Ralph B. Woodward at 801-537-1412.  More information about concerts and appearances coming soon on this website!

Helping My Children Enjoy Music

My husband is a musician. He plays various instruments and does some singing and composition as well. But he talks of a tragic moment in the past when he lost his passion for piano. He had enjoyed a feverish excitement with each new piece he played…until he began to discover other genres. His teacher was not open to having him play music in those other genres. When it came time to choose a recital piece, she insisted he play a piece he did not want to play. As he finished his piece at the recital, the audience laughed. In that moment, he thought, “That’s it for me. I’m done.

Some children continue to develop their musical talents and grow their passion for music. Others have experiences where they lose interest. Still others fall somewhere in between…maybe they are exposed to music but do not choose to pursue it. I began to ask myself a few questions, “What’s the difference from one child to the next? What do parents do differently? How can I help my children to grow their talent and their passion?” I don’t have all the answers, but I came across a few ideas to encourage my children to practice more regularly and willingly. And that seems to be the first step to developing a passion. After reading several articles and learning various strategies, I compile here a few favorites. I hope this helps you, too.

  1. Try, try, try: Praise effort, not intelligence. We just need to make sure we are using every opportunity to praise. And we need not wait until a piece is mastered, but give plenty of praise for each small attempt. Instead of saying, “OK, now let’s do this,” we need to say, “Good job. That was great the way you kept your eyes on the music. Next, let’s try…”
  2. Mistake = Opportunity: How many people see failure as a path forward? As musicians, we must. Our children need to understand that their mistakes are the wonderful fuel for improving and learning. They are not setbacks and they are not something to be embarrassed about. When children make mistakes, they need to challenge themselves, “How can I sing this better?” Just think – if they learn this concept with music, they will be able to apply it in other areas, like academics and sports.
  3. Effective Practice: Practice makes perfect, right? Not if the child is just playing his pieces through twice and moving on. Effective practice has two criteria: first, the musician slows the piece down, even to an unrecognizable tempo, to promote a deep practice where the musician is able to fix errors as he goes. This is a method taught at Meadowmount, a classical music school attended by Yo-Yo Ma and others. Second, he needs to focus on something specific, a few lines in the song, for instance. Some parents help the child set goals for each practice session until the piece is learned. Others sit with the child as she practices and call her attention to a section to work on. The goal is to reach a point when the child is able to find his own mistakes and identify on his own the sections that need work, understanding that what he puts in is what he gets out.
  4. Fun: Practice needs to be fun and rewarding. That means families need to be creative and find positive ways to practice. I read about teens that placed their music pieces on their left and moved them to the right as they finished them so they could easily see their progress (and the light at the end of the tunnel). I learned about parents who took the time to create a game board on which the kids moved a piece along to see their progress toward a predetermined reward. Another parent gave their children magic beans that counted for $1 each. They could save up five and choose one type of reward, or save up 20 and earn a trip to the symphony.
  5. Go and see: Finally, mimicry is an important step in learning and igniting passion. When Jackie Evancho saw “Phantom of the Opera,” at age seven, she decided she wanted to sing ‘like that.’ Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, found one study that showed a child learned 400% faster when he saw himself as an adult musician. One of my sons decided he wanted to learn to play the cello when he saw Cello Wars on You Tube. We just need to help them find opportunities that enable them to see possibilities and bring their potential to life. I remember vividly a point in my childhood when I would have put forth any amount of effort to become like Nadia Comaneci.

We, as parents, can help motivate our budding musicians, but what do we do when the child poses that nagging request because he would rather ride his bike or play his favorite video game than practice music? Recently, one of my sons voiced his desire to quit the choir. First I told him to make a list of pros and cons, and let me know what he decided. He just said, “Oh, never mind.” Then I suggested we Google “Should I quit the choir?” We did so and came across a blog by Matt Hanson titled, “Why I Can’t (Won’t) Quit the Choir.” When my son read it, he agreed with Matt:

First, he loves the feeling of being on stage with fellow choir members before hundreds of spectators, performing the numbers they each and all diligently practiced for four months; and he enjoys the time they spend together as ‘family’ backstage before the performance.

Second, he feels that he is part of something historic and unforgettable. (My son added that he feels he is part of something important, larger than self).

Third, Matt admires his choir director, who is part of a group of people out there who care enough to take the time to share their knowledge and their passion with others.

Finally, Matt mentions the doors of opportunity that are open to him, such as the trip to Italy his choir was planning.

So, good luck to all of you child musicians out there and the parents trying to help you find the motivation to move forward on your road to success. May you find the passion in the music you perform, the inspiration from those you see in the world around you and the love of music in your very own beautiful heart.

– M. Cantwell