Brady Allred promised his audience a musical trip around the world this Christmas, and his Salt Lake Choral Artists delivered a jam-packed program with 30 selections from more than a dozen nations and in almost as many languages, representing every continent except Antarctica. (Allred even enlisted the audience at one point; the large crowd followed his direction unusually well in an impromptu rendition of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.")
The singing was energetic and polished, but perhaps the most striking thing about Saturday afternoon's performance was the efficiency with which the five constituent choirs of SLCA moved on and off the Libby Gardner stage. Organist Heidi Alley and pianist Laurel Hendriksen Enke played familiar carols to bridge the entrances and exits.
The 166-voice Concert Choir is the heart of the organization and was onstage most of the afternoon. The singers produced a pleasant, rounded blend, noteworthy for such a large ensemble, and their diction was clean and smooth, especially when singing in English. They seemed particularly energized in the up-tempo numbers, such as "Maringa Krismes" from Sierra Leone.
The Chamber Choir joined the Concert Choir on several numbers, highlighted by the lively "El Cielo Canta AlegrÃa" from Argentina and an all-too-brief "Stille Nacht" from Germany (the latter featuring particularly charming accompaniment from violinist Leslie Henrie, guitarist Daniel Young and bassist Jim Thompson). Soprano Deborah Neerings had a lovely solo on Ireland's "Wexford Carol." Salt Lake Vocal Artists, the organization's recording and touring arm, sang three carols with precision and radiant tone.
The two dozen children of Young Choral Artists charmed the crowd with three selections, including a Brazilian carol and the familiar Polish carol "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly." Their rendition of the CatalÃ¡n carol "One December, Bright and Clear," an ambitious arrangement for a children's choir, showcased the group's educational mission. Allred announced the forthcoming debut of a choir for singers ages 15-21 as well as a men's choir; SLCA already has a women's choir, which contributed stirring carols from Latvia, South Africa and the Dominican Republic to Saturday's program under the direction of Jane Fjeldsted.
The choirs joined forces for several numbers, including the crowd-pleasing finale "A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas." The high-spirited arrangement included nods to Vivaldi, Saint-SaÃ«ns, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Sousa and many other composers, making it the ideal conclusion to this eclectic program.
Salt Lake Choral Artists
The organization's five choirs sing Christmas music from more than a dozen lands.
Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah.
When • Reviewed Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22; repeats Saturday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m.
Running time • Two hours, including intermission.
Tickets • $20; $10 for students.