Not only do directors have to choose the songs, but also keep in mind how the individual choir members will perform the song and how the audience will react to the performance.
Along those same lines, the songs need to be surrounded by other songs that will add to the flow of the set list.
"There is a three-legged stool of the audience, the singers and the placement of the pieces, that keeps things in balance," said Dr. Brady Allred, director of the Salt Lake Choral Artists. "It's like being a director for a movie or TV show. You have to put the story in a certain order to draw attention to it."
That's what Allred did when he selected the songs that the Salt Lake Vocal Artists, the touring group of the Salt Lake Choral Artists, will perform in Park City tonight, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Park City Community Church, 4501 S.R. 224.
"The selections also help the singers themselves become better at their craft," Allred said. "They have to learn to adapt and to find the right kinds of vocal sounds for a piece."
Allred also picks the songs that appeal to him personally.
"I like to challenge myself as well," he said.
The Park City concert will feature 15 songs that have been divided into four different groupings "Music and Nature," "Latin Motets," "Two Hymns" and "American Folk Songs and Hymns," Allred said.
"We have a program of a wide variety of music," he explained. "The Vocal Artists are preparing for a tour to Bulgaria and Turkey in May, so some of the pieces we will present will be on the program."
The title of the concert is "Jubilate Deo," and the title piece, which will kick off the "Latin Motets" section, was written by Ko Matsushita, a Japanese composer.
"Ko is a friend of the choir and has written music for the vocal artists before," Allred said. "This work is a very exciting piece for an a cappella choir."
Another Latin-flavored work is the Utah premiere of Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia."
"Eric has been a very popular composer for the past 10 years or so and this piece was just released," Allred said. "Like 'Jubilate Deo,' 'Alleluia' is another beautiful setting."
The "Music and Nature" section will feature excerpts from Ola Gieilo's "Sunrise Mass" and Samuel Barber's "To Be Sung on the Water," and the "Two Hymns" selections will be Stephen Paulus' "Little Elegy" and Ronald Staheli's arrangement of "More Holiness Give Me," Allred said.
The "American Folk Songs and Folk Hymns" will close the concert and will feature an arrangement of "Cindy" by Minnesotan composer Carol Barnett and a setting of "Amazing Grace" arranged by Daniel Brinsmead, who hails from Australia.
"We'll also do a version of 'She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain' arranged by an American, John Carter," Allred said. "So, you can see that the concert features quite a variety of styles and I think it will be attractive to the audience."
Allred said choral music suffers because, as with other performing arts, it competes with multi forms of entertainment and sports events. And there are times when a choral program can be detrimental to itself.
"As a lover of choir music, myself, there are times when I've been to choral concerts that have been quite boring, so I know how an audience member feels," he said with a laugh. "I don't like that any more than anyone else.
"When I'm designing a program, I want to take audiences through wide ranges of emotions and experiences and tempos," Allred said. "There is nothing worse than going to a concert and it's all slow music, so I try to make our concerts attractive to even people who are weary of going to a choir concert."
Doing so, Allred features works by international composers and arrangements that many people have never heard before.
"Many times we do pieces in foreign languages to get the diction to a level where the audience can hear the textures of the words, without having to print the words in the program," he said. "Also, when we sing in English, it's important for the audience to understand the words, because if they can't hear the words, they tune it out and start texting their friends on their cell phones. If we can draw them in, we can get a few more choral converts."
Allred, a former vocal professor at the University of Utah, has always loved music and became a church choir director when he was 14 while living in Memphis, Tenn.
"I loved it so much that it took me on a path towards music," he said. "My greatest love is doing choral and orchestra repertoire together."
Throughout the years, Allred had developed strong relationships with composers all over the world.
"They like what we're doing and offer to write music for us," he said. "The audience in Park City will hear some of these pieces before anyone else in this region or the country."
The Salt Lake Vocal Artists, the touring group of the Salt Lake Choral Artists, will perform tonight, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m., at the Park City Community Church, 4501 S.R. 224. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students at the door. The Salt Lake Choral Artists season opener, which will be a reflection of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic will be on Oct. 20, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Libby Gardner Concert Hall on the University of Utah campus. For more information, visit www.saltlakechoralartists.org.