clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Obituary: Ralph Woodward

Ralph Woodward 1918 ~ 2005 Ralph Woodward, Professor Emeritus of the Brigham Young University School of Music, died at 7:28 a.m. on Tuesday, September 6, 2005. A resident of Provo, Utah since 1955, when he joined the faculty of the then Brigham Young University Music Department, his contributions to the arts of the area have been significant, and have brought not only great enjoyment but aesthetic enlightenment to thousands of concert-goers and students since that time. He was born in Shelley, Idaho, on November 21, 1918, and his family moved shortly afterward to Moreland, Idaho, where he completed high school. In 1940 he graduated from the University of Idaho at Moscow, Idaho, and two years later he married Margaret Barclay, an outstanding singer who was later to become a highly sought-after and successful vocal instructor at Brigham Young University. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following Ralph's conversion 11 years later. From that union were born three children, who survive him: Ralph Barclay, Salt Lake City; Bruce Gregory, Salt Lake City; and Polly Jean Tingey, Fort Collins, Colorado; 10 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. Margaret preceded her husband in death in early 1987. In late 1988 he married Mary Brown Firmage, who survives him. In addition to Dr. Woodward's Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Idaho, he earned the Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the Cincinnati (Ohio) Conservatory of Music, and the first Doctor of Music Arts degree in Choral Music to be granted by the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His professional experience began as a high school music teacher in Idaho, and continued as he was pursuing graduate studies in Cincinnati following two years' service as a Special Services Officer in Japan after World War II. He subsequently taught voice and choral music for seven years at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, before coming to Brigham Young University, where he remained until his retirement in 1984. During much of this time he served as Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Voice and Conducting. It was during these years that Brigham Young University became recognized as having one of the preeminent schools of music in the United States, and Dr. Woodward felt deeply privileged to be a part of that developing reputation. Although it was with the BYU A Cappella Choir that Dr. Woodward developed his most well-known persona, he also conducted the Chamber Choir, Schola Cantorum, Oratorio Choir upon occasion, and established the Male Chorus as a permanent offering in the curriculum. In 1965 a highly selected area choir was organized to perform significant major repertoire, and it continued producing exciting performances as the Ralph Woodward Chorale until 1994 when the Woodwards served an LDS mission in Nauvoo, Illinois. He also guest-conducted choirs throughout the United States and several parts of the world, including Austria and Israel, and served as guest conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. His BYU A Cappella Choir made nine trips abroad, performing in many of the great cathedrals and concert halls, and was featured in music festivals both in the United States and abroad. (It was the first non-Roman Catholic choir to be invited to sing in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and was invited back twice more, as well as to such localities as St. Peter's in Rome and the Duomo in Florence. It also gave command performances for Queen Sophia of Spain and the American Ambassador in Paris, and opened the Monaco Festival under the direction of Princess Grace.) In addition, the choir won several international choral competitions, including, on its first overseas tour, the prestigious International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. It was also the only United States musical organization to perform at the International Society of Music Educators' Convention in Warsaw, Poland in 1980.

Listed in "Who's Who in Music" and "Who's Who in the West," Dr. Woodward was the recipient of a number of other honors during his career. Twice selected for the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Teaching award, he was also chosen for the Utah County Arts Council award for significant contributions to the arts of the area, was named Utah Music Educator of the year, was the recipient of the Utah State Chamber of Commerce "Total Citizen" award, and in 1992 was privileged to be the honoree of the Western Region Convention of the American Choral Directors' Association held in Honolulu "For a Life and Career Devoted to the Choral Art." An active member of the LDS church, Dr. Woodward served in several ward and stake music, teaching, and administrative positions, and for several years was also a member of the Church General Music Committee and the Sunday School General Board. As a member of the former organization he authored several church music guidebooks. Dr. Woodward and Mary have loved and participated actively in the arts of this area-musical, dramatic, and graphic-and have traveled extensively, both nationally and abroad. In addition they have been enthusiastic supporters of BYU football and the Utah Jazz. Throughout his long and exemplary life, Ralph Woodward has been a source of inspiration and has exerted a powerful and enduring influence on family, students, and friends. Funeral services will be held Saturday, September 10th at 1:00 p.m. at the Edgemont Stake Center, 303 West 3700 North, Provo. Friends may call at Berg Mortuary, 185 East Center Street, Provo, on Friday evening, September 9th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Provo Edgemont Stake Center. Interment will take place at Eastlawn Memorial Hills Cemetery. It is requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Ralph and Margaret Woodward Scholarship Fund for Advanced Choral Conducting students at the BYU School of Music.