New Rules for Church Music

February 8, 2008
By

My favorite part of any church service is the music.

Even when the music is poorly done — which all too often it is — it has power to inspire, teach, and heal.

That said, I would like some changes to the music section of the handbook. If I were in charge, here are the rules I’d implement:

  • Hymns must be sung at a decent speed. Listless tempos are absolutely forbidden.
  • Music directors who drag the hymns will be beaten with a conductor’s baton
  • People must sing. No free agency here – singing is required!
  • Love at Home cannot be sung on Mother’s Day. Ever. If sung, a ward will run the risk of mothers running screaming from the chapel during the guilt-provoking line about roses blooming beneath their feet. (I, for one, have always felt roses blooming beneath my feet would be painful, given the thorns.)
  • Tremolo needs to be turned off on the organ. Save the vibrato for sopranos over the age of 75.
  • O My Father must be sung at least once a quarter, since it is the most acceptable way to address one of Mormonism’s unique doctrines, that of Mother in Heaven.
  • One song per meeting must be about Christ. The sacrament song doesn’t count.
  • If the organ has chimes, they must be used when I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is sung.
  • All voices are loved and welcomed, even those that are loud, ugly, operatic, nasal, breathy, or absolutely out of tune on every note.
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing will be put back in the hymnbook.
  • Hymns need not be limited to the requisite opening, sacrament, and closing. Nobody would die if a meeting included four or five hymns.
  • Testimony meetings can contain musical numbers.
  • Hymns should be accompanied on occasion by trumpets, french horns, saxophones, guitars, and other instruments usually deemed unholy and inappropriate.
  • All verses of the hymns will be sung. Yes, all of them, even those verses written at the bottom of the page which are usually ignored.
  • Amazing Grace, the most beloved of all Christian hymns, will be added immediately to the hymnbook.
  • People who talk loudly during the prelude music will be assigned to scrub all the toilets in the building after the three-hour block.
  • All of the 29 official sacrament songs in the hymnbook should be sung, even the mostly ignored O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown (one of the best of the bunch).· Music-only sacrament meetings are not only allowed, they are highly encouraged.
  • All the hymns in the book should be sung, not just the old chestnuts. The only possible exception is The World Has Need of Willing Men, which never needs to be sung again.
  • If the choir director sees fit, and has a choir that can do it, motets by Mozart, Palestrina, or other great composers can be sung in church – in Latin. (Gasp!)
  • And last, let’s stand up when we sing.

Those are a few of my new rules for church music. What are yours?

  • David

    Hymns must be sung at a decent speed. Listless tempos are absolutely forbidden.
    Music directors who drag the hymns will be beaten with a conductor’s baton

    Let’s start with MoTab on this one. They are by far the most egregious violators of these two. Even the most upbeat songs they turn into a funeral dirge. My wife and I practically fall into comas when they sing at General Conference.

    A rule I would add:

    All songs harmonized for all voices must be sung by all voices. No more sopranos sing the first verse, tenors sing the second verse etc.

    MoTab is also an egregious violator of this as well.

    More rules:

    “All Creatures of Our God and King” must be sung at least once a year.

    Polyphonic singing by the choir is encouraged. However, the song must be originally written as polyphonic. No, singing primary songs in rounds does not count.

    All singing in rounds by primary children will be abolished. 95% of all kids can’t sing rounds. Violation will require beatings with conductor batons.

    Janice Kapp Perry will be forced into retirement. Not that her stuff is horrible, we just have too much of it.

  • http://thegooddemocrat.wordpress.com Dan

    I hate having to stand up to sing in church. That’s one rule I would utterly remove from any handbook!

  • David

    Lisa,

    By the way, I think all of your suggestions are great.

  • John Nilsson

    I love your rules. Our ward has a few musical testimony meetings a year on fifth Sundays in the month. People stand up and say a few words about a hymn which is meaningful to them at the time, and then the congregation sings it. I look forward to these meetings. It improves singing participation too.

  • Jason Moore

    I pretty much agree with everything.

    Good ideas.

  • Jason Moore

    Ok, maybe not standing up.

  • http://theuttermeaninglessnessofeverything.blogspot.com/ dpc

    Hymn #219 should be removed and never sung or mentioned again.

    Once sung, a hymn should not be sung in church again for at least six months

  • Jason Moore

    David,

    I totally agree with you about the MoTab!

    I usually much prefer to hear the MTC choir or a college choir at Gen. Conf.

  • Chris W.

    I attended a worship service with an Evangelical friend. They had loud guitars and a sitar. They sang folk hymns from around the world. Everyone stood up and clapped with the beat. In other words, it was in complete violation of accepted sacrament meeting reverence.

    And it was totally uplifting and enjoyable and I loved every minute of it.

  • Lisa Ray Turner

    We could learn a lot from other faiths on this. They are generally far less conservative than we are.
    And about the standing-up, how about if that’s not required, but people can stand if they want to? It’s great in a long meeting but would probably be too much for every song. David, I love your additional rules!

  • http://www.burningbosom.com Andrew Ainsworth

    Great post topic, Lisa.

    It’s funny, my brother and I were just discussing this topic the other day. We both expressed our wish to ditch all of the hymns that sound like funeral dirges in favor of more joyful, upbeat songs like “There is Sunshine In My Soul.”

    A couple months ago we had an interfaith holiday Sing-a-Thon and devotional at our Stake Center where we had representatives from just about every major religion and denomination under the sun: Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahai, etc. It was a completely unprecedented experience in my many years in the Church, and to my dying day I will remember the intense Spirit of God that was present as we all worshiped and sang together in our various languages and styles. When a black gospel choir got up and sang, the whole building “got down,” and I absolutely loved how joyous they were in their singing. We need to get that same “soul” into our hymns and singing.

    Worshiping God through hymns doesn’t need to be the equivalent of sullen, remorseful, auto-flagellation. Above all, our singing should be joyful.

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    Amazing Grace, the most beloved of all Christian hymns, will be added immediately to the hymnbook.

    I can scarcely conceive of a single “christian” hymn which is more antithetical to the teachings of Mormonism. No “child of god” is, or ever will be, a “wretch.” Perhaps some trends of LDS neo-orthodoxy lean toward a very protestant loathing of humanity, but this song teaches “total depravity,” a doctrine which real Mormonism repudiates in the strongest terms.

  • Jason Moore

    Nick,

    Don’t for the verse in the BOM where Nephi calls himself a wretched man.

  • Last Lemming

    A couple months ago we had an interfaith holiday Sing-a-Thon and devotional at our Stake Center where we had representatives from just about every major religion and denomination under the sun:

    The Suitland MD Stake had one of those (not quite so ambitious) about 10 years ago. A local gospel choir had agreed to participate, but only about half a dozen of them actually showed up. They went on anyway, and the Washington Post reporter (who was visibly getting into it himself) declared that getting all the Mormons clapping and swaying with them was the highlight of the evening. Then the Mormon Choir of Washington came on. They seemed to think it was their duty to undo everything their predecessors had done. Not only was their performance dirge-like, they delivered it sitting down. Not a good impression at all.

  • John Nilsson

    And the piper played AMAZING GRACE, DANNY BOY, and SCOTLAND THE BRAVE, er, I mean, PRAISE TO THE MAN, at President Hinckley’s graveside service.

  • http://www.burningbosom.com Andrew Ainsworth

    Nick said: I can scarcely conceive of a single “christian” hymn which is more antithetical to the teachings of Mormonism. No “child of god” is, or ever will be, a “wretch.”

    Nick, I understand the point you’re getting at. However, to be fair to Lisa, I think her recommendation of Amazing Grace is in harmony with LDS scripture. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi essentially refers to himself as a “wretch”:

    “Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” (2 Ne. 4:17.)

  • http://theuttermeaninglessnessofeverything.blogspot.com/ dpc

    The only problem with Amazing Grace is that it would seemingly violate the first rule, to wit,

    “Hymns must be sung at a decent speed. Listless tempos are absolutely forbidden.”

    Amazing Grace has got to be one of the slowest tempo songs out there, at least the version I have heard of it.

  • http://blog.youngbloods.org Carl Youngblood

    Why is everybody picking on MoTab? They do a great job, and can sing the blazes out of a song if that’s what the arrangement calls for. I just plain don’t think you know what you are talking about. They sing fast, slow and everything in-between. Just because one of their numbers happens to be arranged differently that you would like does not mean that they are not good musicians, because I really think they are impeccable.

  • Mark N.

    If the organ has chimes, they must be used when I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is sung.

    Our ward/stake organ has chimes, but I’m convinced they put them on the wrong manual. They’re connected to our Great manual, but as I see it, they ought to be up on the Swell manual where the main solo voices are located.

    They might as well have designed the organ so that the 32 foot sub-bass pedal voice can only be played from the highest octave of the Swell manual.

  • Mark N.

    And the piper played AMAZING GRACE, DANNY BOY, and SCOTLAND THE BRAVE, er, I mean, PRAISE TO THE MAN, at President Hinckley’s graveside service.

    When I go, there had darn well better be someone who’ll do a bangup rendition of “Into The West” from LOTR at my funeral.

  • http://www.mormonmatters.org Clay Whipkey

    I have never gotten into LDS hymns. I only enjoy MoTab when they have a full symphony accompaniment. I even think our peppier numbers like There is Sunshine In My Soul and Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel are kind of boring. Maybe that’s because I really enjoy the fun and passion of Southern Baptist gospel music. Oh Happy Day is probably my favorite.

    Since Baptists don’t have a lay clergy, I think the singing time might be their vehicle for individual worshipful expression in the church. Maybe that is why Mormons are so listless in singing. They already have plenty of outlets for contributing to the religious community through callings, so the songs do not represent a unique opportunity. Add to that the extremely buttoned up, Victorian, white background of Brigham Young, who basically authored Mormon cultural worship standards back when members of the church were called to leave their country and peoples to migrate and build up the kingdom.

    • Melanie

      a lot of the hymns move me. I feel the spirit so strong through music and a lot of the hymns during sacrament just feed my soul. It’s not just the song or how it’s sung, it’s the spirit of the words I sing/read.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen Marsh

    And may they play Come thou font of every blessing at my funeral.

  • John Hamer

    Listening to hymns like “Sunshine in Your Heart” sung up-tempo, reminded me of my Uncle Douglas’s Deseret Blue-Grass albumn of hymns. You can listen to his version of that hymn here: http://www.fxsupply.com/music/doug_song1.mp3

  • Nate

    # Hymns must be sung at a decent speed. Listless tempos are absolutely forbidden.
    # Music directors who drag the hymns will be beaten with a conductor’s baton

    When my wife subs for the current organist, we have all up-tempo hymns regardless of the conductor. People like the change so much they’re thinking about breaking our organist’s fingers. Just joking. Mostly.

    # One song per meeting must be about Christ. The sacrament song doesn’t count.

    I think my ward is actually pretty good at this one. Very few pioneer-song or sing-about-the-church hymns, at least.

    # All voices are loved and welcomed, even those that are loud, ugly, operatic, nasal, breathy, or absolutely out of tune on every note.

    I would ask that these people not sit directly behind me, or I may punch them. Kindly and with brotherly love.

    # Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing will be put back in the hymnbook.

    /me sustains this.

    # Hymns need not be limited to the requisite opening, sacrament, and closing. Nobody would die if a meeting included four or five hymns.

    Check; my ward does 4 all the time, and sometimes 5 if you include a solo voice or instrumental number.

    # Hymns should be accompanied on occasion by trumpets, french horns, saxophones, guitars, and other instruments usually deemed unholy and inappropriate.

    Hmm. That might be good. We did have a bagpipe duo once. We regularly have flutists, oboists, and violinists, though. We need more brass.

    # All verses of the hymns will be sung. Yes, all of them, even those verses written at the bottom of the page which are usually ignored.

    My ward does this. Sweet!

    # Amazing Grace, the most beloved of all Christian hymns, will be added immediately to the hymnbook.

    Not if you want to avoid dirges.

    # If the choir director sees fit, and has a choir that can do it, motets by Mozart, Palestrina, or other great composers can be sung in church – in Latin. (Gasp!)

    If the choir director or choir were any good, I’d agree. As long as you include all the breathy, atonal warblers you’re so fond of, I’d leave this one out.

    # And last, let’s stand up when we sing.

    Check (not always, except in stake meetings where we always stand for at least 1 hymn), but we could stand more often.

    I’m pretty gratified that I sing to live in a ward where these (I believe) common desires about music are making decent headway. If only more local leaders understood they have the power to make most of these changes, we wouldn’t need the handbook alterations (except for those who need explicit permission to do anything remotely different).
    -N

  • Nate

    “Listening to hymns like “Sunshine in Your Heart” sung up-tempo, reminded me of my Uncle Douglas’s Deseret Blue-Grass albumn of hymns.”

    Where, whom can I shower with piles of money in exchange for the whole album?

  • Jeff Spector

    Lisa,

    I totally second all of your suggestions. One other one. All the standard Protestant hymns must be labeled as such. When we sing them, I always lean over to my wife and say, “welcome to the Protestant hour, brothers and sisters.” She always hits me! For reference, those are “All Creatures of Our God and King” and “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” And that old perennial, “Onward Christian Soldiers” (I’m surprised no one protested that one!)

    I love the idea of singing 4 or 5 hymns during a sacrament meeting. Once, when I was on the High Council, the Stake President dispatched me to a Ward that he heard was “holding an illegally run sacrament meeting.” (my words, not his). I went to the Bishop and said, “I heard you are messing around with the Sacrament Meeting format and the Stake President is hopping mad!!!!” I liked yanking his chain a bit.

    So, he tells me that on the 5th Sunday, they sing about 5 or 6 hymns and only have one talk. I tell him I think that sounds wonderful and then I go back and tell the SP that everything is just fine.

    On another note, I played drums for a black gospel quartet and we preformed around South Central LA and in Las Vegas. It was a ball. Those churches were rockin’. Not only was I usually the only white guy, but I was Jewish to boot! But I was in heaven there.

    Our sacrament meetings are like a funeral by comparison.

  • http://www.thediaryofananarchist.com/ Stephen Wellington

    I like your suggestions Lisa. I think that giving each ward the autonomy to work with the music would be a nice thing. I would like to see more guitars and modern day music too. But that is a bit unrealistic me thinks.

  • Melinda

    I went to a Pentecostal church for a few months, and the music was so lame I started deliberately coming late to miss it. People waved their arms and got into it, but the lyrics were literally just repeating “Jesus loves me; he’s my savior” over and over and over and over with the most boring melodies. I found myself missing the beautiful and poetic lyrics of most of our hymns.

    I agree with speeding up songs. I had a friend who was an organist, and a very good one. Yet she played funeral dirges because that was the tempo the director set. She was the musician; the director had no musical experience. The director would have followed her if she’d sped up the music. It drove me crazy that she wouldn’t play faster.

    • Melanie

      I am the director and I just follow the pianist. I don’t start conducting til it’s time to sing. So, the pianist has already set the tempo at that point.

  • John Hamer

    Re #25: Nate, my uncle’s name is Douglas Erekson & his album is called Back Porch Believer. You can find the details and ordering information here: http://www.ereksonentertainment.com/

  • http://notapostate.blogspot.com Bored in Vernal

    I second the tempo suggestion. As my voice ages, it’s getting harder and harder to try to speed up the organist, chorister and congregation simply by singing loudly and a beat faster than everyone else.

    I love beautiful classical preludes. These should always be encouraged.

    I’d like to bring back music during the passing of the sacrament.

  • Heather Brown Martin

    While we are at it, can we get rid of that awful version of ‘Away in a Manger?’

  • TJM

    I 2nd Heather’s comment.

    Lisa, if your new rules were implemented sacrament attendance would go up. I think once a quarter or twice a year a percussion instrument should be added to the ensemble.

    Drums would rock in Book of Mormon Stories!

    It would be inspiring to seem some of the old codgers boogie.

  • Ann

    Mostly good rules, except for the O My Father recommendation. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I suppose it would be OK if I knew in advance when those meetings were, so I could skip them.

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    Don’t for the verse in the BOM where Nephi calls himself a wretched man.

    In the Book of Mormon, Nephi essentially refers to himself as a “wretch”: “Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” (2 Ne. 4:17.)

    I understand the point both of you make, but honestly, I see a big qualitative difference between “a wretch like me” vs. “O wretched man that I am”. The first is a noun, and the second is an adjective about behavior. Nephi is being rather had on himself (we’ve all been there), and stating that his behavior is “wretched” in comparison to the standard he expects of himself. Nephi is not, on the other hand, saying that he, himself is a “wretch.”

    Even if our behavior can be “wretched,” that does not make us, our very nature, a “wretch.”

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net Jim Cobabe

    While I admire the good intentions, I disagree with the idea of further regimenting music policy with more “rules”.

    I think we need to repeal a whole raft of arbitrary informal “rules” that constrain our worship services within established ruts. I disagree with any blanket policy regarding music tempo, for example. Let the conductor and accompanist regulate these parameters. Sometimes a very slow rendering is quite appropriate and expressive. The problem is with never changing.

    Today I heard the Tabernacle Choir singing “What Was Witnessed in the Heavens?” in the most energetic and upbeat tempo, men’s and women’s voices ringing out point/counterpoint. Very stirring and powerful.

    I really cannot see bringing in Whoopi Goldberg to jazz up the music.

  • Kristine

    Nick, you may be right on theological grounds, but Emma Smith included Amazing Grace in one of her compilations of hymns, so there has been a counterargument around since before AG became an American cultural icon.

  • Kristine

    Carl (#18),

    The singers of MoTab are all very good musicians, and the choir sounds a lot better under Jepson than it has in a long time. But there are just too many singers–a choir that big inevitably loses some of the vigor and energy of good choral singing. If you want overwhelmingly lush sound all the time, then 300 singers is fine, but if you want a little more nuance and nimbleness, you just can’t work with more than 80-100 people or so. There’s a reason that most of the great choral literature is performed by choirs that size. There’s really no reason to have 300 singers, unless you’re outside or in a really crappy acoustical space, or performing the Mahler Symphony of a Thousand.

  • http://bmo-web.com Benjamin Orchard

    I am certain that some people need more guidance on what is appropriate and what is not. I am also certain that EVERY chorister needs an electronic metronome bolted to their stand that shocks them when they conduct too slowly. It should be aware of the slowest recommended tempo for a song, and if they reach as slow as 10% faster than that, they get a jolt. Organists/pianists as well.

    Before I was married I dated mostly deaf girl who HATED the organ–she said it made sacrament hymns very difficult for her as she couldn’t feel the beat. But a piano had just enough percussion to it that she could feel/hear the beat and sing along. I recommend more piano usage in the hymns.

    I think a wider selection of hymns would be good, but also making sure that people actually USE them would be nice. I swear, if I am ever in a position to make it happen, people will be learning some new songs, and ALL OF THE VERSES WILL BE SUNG. I happen to think it is flat criminal to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” LESS than once a quarter. That song has more power to it than almost any other song I have EVER encountered. Ditto for “Be Still My Soul”, and it’s a shame we don’t have better copyright claim to that one. I may not sing perfectly, but I try.

    I don’t always like to stand, and having four kids sometimes makes that hard, but I think it’s a good idea. Not EVERY week, but I think once in a while. Four hymns: absolutely! Five, six or more? Maybe. It depends, but the speakers need to be braced for it. I am a stickler for schedules and despise it when meetings run over–especially when it means that the bishopric then decides to mangle the closing hymn because of time interests.

  • Melody Manwaring

    I know Lisa and I think her point was GET RID OF RULES! or at least most of them. And Nick, lighten up. Diagramming sentences does not change the fact that millions of people the world over find “Amazing Grace” a very moving expression of their own feelings of wretchedness before the Lord. Look at the history of the man who wrote those words. I think given that and how I feel sometimes the words chosen are an apt description of who he felt he was and who I feel I am. As a convert to the church I miss the beautiful hymns that I learned in the various churches I have attended before and since my conversion. Welcome to CHRISTIAN hour! And right on for music only sacrament meetings!!!

    One final note, we certainly should not limit our music in any church meeting to hymns. There is so much beautiful, worshipful, moving music from a number of sources of which we do not avail ourselves. :-)

  • Terry

    I think y’all are a bit hard on the choristers. I had been a chorister for a year and our wards realigned, and I got a new organist. An older sister came up to me and begged me to “speed things up”, which I had been trying to do but the organist couldn’t play them any faster. I told her that and she said, “but our organist is a professional pianist.” My arm would ache from trying to pull up the tempo. Anytime I would have a sub the hymns would be up to tempo. This was 14 years ago. Whenever I have led since I have a tendency to rush the hymns.
    A funny side note, I moved away 12 years ago and then returned to the same area in a different small town. I was substituting as the choir director for a practice, and the same woman was the accompanist (which we figured out after a year in the same ward). She can sure play incredibly well and up to tempo now.

    On “Oh, My Father” talk about a slow, drawn out song! I can barely handle that once a year!

  • Lisa Ray Turner

    Good point, Terry, about being hard on choristers! You’re right that often the organist sets the tempo. In our ward, a 93-year-old woman plays the organ every fast Sunday. She’s a fantastic woman and I give her kudos for being able to even make it to church every Sunday, let alone play the organ once a month. Her tempos aren’t the fastest, but as far as I’m concerned, she can set any tempo she wants and when I’m leading I follow!

  • Carol Brant

    I am a 75 year old ward organist, and have been playing for many years. Also played in the temple for 10 years. I see several references to “older organists” many of whom struggle with up-tempo hymns. I think the main reason there are so many of us elderly types serving in these positions is the lack of young people who are available to play. Over the years, I have personally trained 9 young people as organists, free of charge, with the only stipulation being that they be willing to learn the hymns and serve in church callings. I am perfectly willing to move off the bench and let someone younger have the joy and blessings that come with the job.

    • Melanie

      AMEN! our sweet sister in our Ward. She is the ONLY one who can play. She plays for sacrament, then in primary and runs into RS to play for us there too.

      I wish I could play more. I need to get to practicing so I an learn how to play with both hands…(i can play treble clef only!)

  • Alison

    I like the idea that those who talk loud during the prelude music be assigned to scrub the toilets. That music sets the tone, mood and reverence of Sacrament meeting. It is not meant to catch up on what happened during one’s week. that can wait after services or take it up elsewhere out of the chapel.

  • Betty Butler aka: Sister Friendly

    Once played all Jewish tunes on my harp FOR TWENTY minutes…all our ward members were squirming and muttering, “doesn’t she know anything else?” However it was one of those Cultural nights our ward sponsored quarterly for our little humble burrough. The guest speaker was a Rabbi who had survived the holocaoust and was still enroute and lost….. I’m sure he was a little reluctant to come to Bernalillo Ward … not knowing anyone. He was cheered by my droning on and on and the fact I was dressed in all black up next to the podium, he thought I was “one of his.” The activities director was very young, she had bagles and cream cheese for refreshments. Rabbi thanked me and said, “I half expected Amazing Grace and I Am A Child of God.” When I gasped. He countered, “see, we can make a joke!” The organist’s husband commented later that we ought to have more cultural nights of just great religious music of the ages. Rock of Ages? mmmmmmm

  • http://www.ontario.k12.or.us/district0607/oms/gilman.htm Matt The Band Guy

    Hi everybody! Let me chime in on a few points.

    1. I don’t think anyone here mentioned (in reply to Nick L.)that the author of Amazing Grace, John Newton, was at one time a slave ship captain who had a rebirth of spiritual interest after a storm at sea. Myself, I would feel pretty wretched if I had come to a realization that I helped shuttle human beings in horrifyingly filthy conditions into the utter depravity of slavery in the “New World.”

    With that being said . . .

    2. My wife and I are both musicians–she with a degree in Music Therapy, and myself with a Masters in Conducting. We both have to look at each other and smile (or grimace) when we hear some of our beloved hymns played/sung at dreadful tempi. For us, we are saddened when someone gets up in sacrament meeting and sings with poor intonation and a halfhearted effort. We also have commented on the lack of variety in our worship music. We both have taken a “sabbatical” from singing in our ward choir because, and this may sound selfish, we would like to sing some of the great “classics” of sacred choral literature.
    When my wife was ward choir director several years ago, we included the “Candlelight Carol” of John Rutter in the program. We changed some of the words to fit with LDS doctrine, but it was well received. It hasn’t been done since, except for my programming a band arrangement with my community band. No one will be brave enough to even suggest it or anything like unto it.

    3. I just heard a trombone choir on “Music and The Spoken Word.” We would also like to see more of a variety of instruments/styles in our worship services. Why not a brass quintet, or a popular rendition of well-known primary songs? OK, maybe not in the style of Viking Death Metal, but I think you know where I am coming from. Our ward eats it up when my wife and I get up and play “Come Follow Me” as arranged for two clarinets and piano. The win-win solution would be to add more variety, but to do so in a way that lets the Spirit in.

    4. And if I may be brutally honest, part of the problem that I am seeing is that many of our children are being raised in homes that don’t place much value on music. The overall level of music education among the North American members of the church is fair, at best. It is seen as just a formality in our meetings. I taught for two years in a school district where the biggest whiners in my band program were LDS kids. They were great athletes, though. Perhaps, if we as members will not only encourage our children to play/sing in their school ensembles (Band/Choir/Orchestra), but seek opportunities for ourselves to do the same in community groups, maybe . . . just maybe, the overall quality of our music will go up. Although I feel I could be just preaching to the choir on this issue. (I just had to say that.)

    5. I learned when I was an undergraduate, attending the Logan LDS Institute, that it was common a long time ago to sing the words of “Oh My Father” to the tune of Stephen Foster’s “Gentle Annie.” Try it sometime–it works.

  • Joyce

    What ever happened to the clapping in Sacrament we were allowed to do if the Bishop started it? I remember this being read over the pulpit in the 80′s or early 90′s but have yet to witness it. Also, Sometimes the songs are so slow in Sacrament I want to bring a metronome in and set it on the organ!

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “What ever happened to the clapping in Sacrament we were allowed to do if the Bishop started it? I remember this being read over the pulpit in the 80’s or early 90’s but have yet to witness it.”

    To my knowledge, such instructions have never been issued by the Brethren. I would be VERY surprised if it did happen.

  • Dave

    I’m the organist in my ward. I got so tired of glacially-paced hymns that now I bring in a metronome, set it to the exact center of the recommended tempo range for each hymn (it’s at the top of each hymn), and play it at that tempo. I use a blinking light only, so people don’t have to listen to a “tick tick tick” from the metronome. :-)

    It ends up almost always being faster than the hymn tempos to which ward members are accustomed, which makes some a little uncomfortable. I’ve actually had people complain I’m playing the hymns too fast (insert eye roll here).

  • Mark

    Love the rules:

    I’d add,

    * Opera man or Lady get’s a calling during sacrament.

    * We re-institute Sunday School songs after Sacrament and play a primary songs and sing with the kids.

    * If our favorite Football team (BYU) just won a game the day before, we have to sing the school fight song during Priesthood or Relief Society… Go Cougars!

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  • Melanie

    I got a good one.

    Anyone who complains about the selected music to the Bishop, Pianist or Director will volunteer to select the next 2 week’s hymns and conduct them…and they HAVE to match the theme for that sacrament meeting.

    The Bishop has asked me to pick out non-familiar hymns periodically and when I do, there is this one lady in the ward who always has a complaint. It can even be a song that I, at the age of 32 am familiar with. But if she doesn’t happen to know the song, then we should never sing it!

    I am sorry, but the songs in the hymn book are there for a reason. Reading the words alone give an astounding lesson and should be sung. If it’s not familiar, then sing it til it is!