Three Sarahs from Tooele County — Sarah Hughes and Sarah Hamatake, both 13 and both from Grantsvile, along with Sarah Maloy, 14, from Tooele — are members of the prestigious The Salt Lake Children’s Choir. What’s more, all three girls are home-schooled, all have numerous siblings, they are all beautiful and talented, and they all hope a lot of Tooele County residents will take the opportunity to hear them sing with their prestigious group in Salt Lake City concerts planned for May 7 and May 14.
It isn’t easy to become a member of The Salt Lake Children’s Choir that is under the direction of Ralph B. Woodward Jr.
Tryouts include reading music and singing a capella. Would-be choir members must compete with other youth from throughout the state for one of the 40-orso seats in the choir.
“The tryouts were very difficult,” said Sarah Hamatake. “I learned about the choir from Sarah Hughes who was already a member. I love to sing, but I didn’t expect the tryout to be as hard as it was.”
Sarah Hughes smiles as she says she has taken voice lessons for years but doesn’t consider herself a great “sight reader” when it comes to music. “I can hear and feel the music,” she said, “but I’m not the best sight reader.”
Currently a voice student of Debbie Moss, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sarah Hughes, daughter of Ed and Karyn Hughes, said she felt good following her audition for The Salt Lake Children’s Choir three years ago. “Even though I’m not the best sight reader, I felt good about my audition,” Hughes said. “Obviously, Mr. Woodward felt good about it too because I was chosen as a member of the choir.”
Sarah Hamatake feels comfortable with reading musical notes. She has never taken voice lessons but she plays the piano and the violin. And as for singing, Hamatake said she feels she has a “natural talent” because her mother, Jeanene is also an accomplished singer. Sarah’s family, which includes dad, Brett Hamatake, have restored the former LDS chapel that stands on the corner of Clark and North Cooley streets in Grantsville, into a home.
Sarah Maloy, daughter of Angela and Michael Maloy, says her “gift of music” comes from her grandmother, Colleen Maloy. “My grandma is an excellent pianist,” Maloy said. “I’ve taken piano lessons from her and feel good about my sight reading abilities.”
While Hughes and Hamatake sing soprano in the prestigious Salt Lake Children’s Choir, Maloy is an alto. She said she picked up the ability to harmonize while still a young girl. “When I went to church, I would always sing the alto part of the hymns,” she said. “That helped me learn to harmonize.”
All three Sarahs said they have been involved in singing and performances since they were very young. Sarah Hughes’ dad is one of the mainstays of the annual Benson Gristmill Pageant. Along with her dad and siblings, Hughes has had numerous opportunities to perform in musicals throughout the county. Maloy and Hamatake have taken advantage of those same opportunities. In addition to the upcoming concerts in Salt Lake with the children’s choir, the three girls are also preparing to present Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. They are currently scouring the Tooele Valley to find a suitable place to present the program.
The girls all believe that home schooling is an absolute blessing in their lives. Sarah Hughes went to public school during her kindergarten and first-grade years, but hated every minute of it.
“I just didn’t like school,” she said. Her mom, Karyn, confirmed that going to a public school caused extreme stress for her daughter. Hughes’ three older siblings attended public school, “but I had to literally drag Sarah to school,” Karyn said.
When Karyn noticed that a couple of Sarah’s younger siblings also seemed to be “falling through the cracks” in the public school system, she decided to home school her younger kids.
Jeanene Hamatake said she has home taught all three of her children. “I just didn’t feel that one teacher could take care of [a classroom full of] children,” Jeanene said. “We’ve seen the benefits of home schooling in our family — especially in the way our children have developed their talents.”
Sarah Maloy and all three of her younger siblings are home-taught “because it felt right for our family,” she said.
Sarah Hughes said being at home during the day gives her lots of opportunity to practice singing. The other two Sarahs agree.
“Mr. Woodward is very strict about practice,” Maloy explained. “He asks each choir member each week how many hours we have practiced at home.”
Indeed, being a member of The Salt Lake Children’s Choir requires dedication and tons of practice. All music must be memorized before performances.
That means choir members sometimes memorize literally dozens of songs, sometimes in less than eight weeks.
What’s more, many if not most of the music sung by The Salt Lake Children’s Choir is in languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, German, Slovakian, and even Zambia, a prevalent language in Africa. During an interview with the Tooele Transcript- Bulletin Wednesday, the three Sarahs sang, Kapusi Kali Longo in the Zambian language. Their harmony was flawless and even though they don’t understand the language of many of the pieces they perform, they learn to pronounce the words impeccably.
“I’m sure our singing in other languages will help us in learn to speak those languages,” Sarah Hughes said. “Our director tells us what the words mean and what the songs we sing are about. It’s a lot of fun to sing in other languages.”
The Salt Lake Children’s Choir was organized in October 1979 after Woodward returned home after spending three years in Europe. Woodward’s mission statement for the choir indicates he wanted to extend Salt Lake City’s “already rich musical heritage into the area of fine choral singing by children — long a highly cherished art form in many cultural centers of the world.”
Celebrated artists who have sung with The Salt Lake Children’s Choir include: Marvin Hamlisch, Grant Johannesen, Igor and Vesna Gruppman, Kurt Bestor, and jazz musicians Steve Keen and Lars Yorgason. The children’s choir has also performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony. Their performances have been broadcast on American Public Radio, Public Radio International, CNN, CBS, and NBC. The group has also recorded on compact discs which are sold commercially.
This year the group was one of three from Utah invited to perform at a convention in Los Angeles. Maloy said that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and BYU Singers were the other two Utah groups to perform in this year’s choir convention which was a by-invitation-only event.
“The Tabernacle Choir sent us a note and a huge basket of cookies before our performance to wish us luck,” Sarah Hamatake said. “It was so fun.”
As is traditional, The Salt Lake Children’s Choir offered several Christmas performances this year including their annual songfest at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. They also recently sang for Utah’s governor and at an awards ceremony honoring Gov. Jon Huntsman’s mother-inlaw as a distinguished citizen of the state.
The Salt Lake Children’s Choir upcoming performances have been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at Libby Gardner Hall. On Saturday, May 14, also at 7:30 p.m., they will perform at Abravanel Hall. The three Tooele County members of the choir extend an invitation for all friends, family, neighbors and residents of this area to come and hear their performances.
Tickets are available at Kingsbury Hall, Abravanel Hall, Art-Tix outlets and Day Murray Music. Seats are $10 or $7 for students for one concert. Those who would like to attend both concerts can do so for $15 for adult seats or $12 for student seats. However, if local residents contact any of the three Tooele County Sarahs, tickets can be purchased directly from them at a reduced cost.
“We would love to have a lot of support from Tooele County during next month’s concerts,” Sarah Hughes, Sarah Hamatake and Sarah Maloy said.