Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The fact that it turned out well... was not my fault!

Hubby told me the other day that he had mentioned to the Bishop that I was getting a bit burned out in my calling as ward choir director. Bishop responded that he had noticed.

What is it about that statement that BUGS ME SO MUCH!!! It is TRUE!

I know. It means that I am not faithfully serving the Lord in whatever capacity He would have me serve in. I had spoken to my husband about how hard it is becomming to get excited about my calling lately... but I NEVER asked him to pass that information on to the Bishop in the hopes of generating a change in calling. And, I never expected that I was doing so poorly in my calling that the Bishop would NOTICE!! AAHHHH!!! Recommitment needed.

And, enter last Sunday. I wanted to do a piece for Easter. We couldn't perform ON Easter, as there is no church that day. The Sunday after is Fast Sunday, no choir. The Sunday before was my choice, until I talked to the choir and half of them would be gone for Spring Break activities. So, the third Sunday in March was the day, if we were going to sing anywhere near Easter.

I wanted to do "What Wonderous Love is This?", but the Stake library didn't have the copies that I'd been hoping for. I searched the web for free music, and found a great arrangement with beautiful chords, written in hymn form. I chose the verses I wanted, and thought how nice it would be if we had a soloist for the first verse. If you haven't heard the music, it is an American Folk hymn that is very nice. Minor chords, but pretty. I wanted it A Cappella, but I wasn't sure how that would work, so I just arranged it simply - the first verse, solo. Second verse, duet, third verse, organ joins just playing chords in the bass cleff, the choir singing in unison. Fourth verse, organ repeating simple chords, choir singing in parts, Fifth and last verse, organ joining playing parts while choir sings parts. I saw it as building up in a simple way, matching the simpleness of the melody.

I talked to the couple in my ward that I wanted to sing the solo/duet, and they were excited to do it. I had the choir practice it. I never got the music to the organist! At least, not until the week before we were supposed to perform. AND, due to the man who I'd asked to sing the solo/duet breaking his ankle, they never actually practiced with the choir.

We planned on singing at the assisted living home the morning of, in place of practicing. They have their own Sacrament Meeting, and the home is part of our ward so the Bishop has asked that we go over there as often as we can as the ward choir.

When I got there in the morning, the organist wasn't there yet. I wasn't able to actually work the cell phone I borrowed - the call kept failing, like 3 times. I gave it back to who I'd borrowed it from, and he talked to her and she said she was on her way. Then, she called back and said that she wasn't going to be able to make it. So, it was A Cappella.

I had forgotten, as I always do, that the electronic keyboard they have over there is BAD. The soloist played his first note, and started singing... it was SO BAD, he couldn't keep on key, he was searching all over the place for the right note. HE appologized to me, and the only reason I can put this on the web site is because it was the fault of the piano, not the soloist. It had played a note way too low, so it was WRONG. The duet on the second verse was just as bad, way too low. They finally did figure out what key they were supposed  to be in, I guess, because the choir actually sounded nice, even in their parts.

We went over to the church with only 10 minutes before the meeting was going to start. I asked the soloist if he wanted the organ to play along with him, and he said he was confident that if he got the right note, he'd be fine. (He was right.) In the middle of the meeting, we got up to sing... and there was no organist. She was there, sitting on a back row, but she did not get up to play with us. I had prayed and prayed after the fiasco in the morning, and hadn't felt that we should just cancel and practice more. So, I shrugged and we performed. It was 10 times better than it was the previous performance, everyone on key and singing beautifully. I liked the music a cappella, and just missed the last verse climax that I'd heard in my mind. We sang the right notes, I hadn't practiced the choir enough in dynamics.

After, the soloist told me that after our conversation, he had told the organist that she didn't need to play... and all of a sudden I was afraid that she hadn't played because she'd felt uninvited! So, I called her the next day, and she just hadn't felt comfortable playing having never practiced with us, and she'd had no opportunity to talk to me before the meeting to let me know.

SO - the story above demonstrates maybe what the Bishop has noticed about me being burned out. Procrastinating, not being that energetic at choir practices... The question I face - settle back and wait to be released, or work on getting back to a place that I am magnifying my calling instead of just going through the motions. Of course, I'm trying to choose option B. If I can just get healthy, happy pianists...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ward Choir Mission Statement

A comment/question was recently posted on the LDS Choir group that I am a member of. I wrote an answer, included below, and as I wrote, I taught myself! Which means I wasn't doing the teaching at all, I know, but it is still a fun way to learn. I had been struggling a bit at "just" being the ward choir director. I had held three callings, and through this year the other two were given to other people who needed them more than I. I especially missed the teaching calling I had held, though at times it was a bit tough to teach every week and do choir, especially the weeks I taught, we sang in Sacrament meeting, and then had choir practice after church. So, it is better for my mental health to hold one calling, but it made me question my worth - just a bit. So, as I was answering this question, I was told the deeper meaning of my calling as choir director. The deeper meaning of the hymns that I choose to use, and the goal I should have in mind whenever I try to arrange music for Sacrament meeting. I feel so much more depth to my calling than I had, and got a little of the teaching bug into this calling.

The question was, "There's been an interesting discussion going on in another Church music group about what a "hymn" is and about what music is appropriate for sacrament meeting. I'm curious to know what the members of this group think."

My Bishop LOVES music, and is pretty liberal when it comes to music selection - perhaps even more liberal than I am! But, he taught me exactly what music is appropriate for Sacrament meeting. I had arranged a medley of Primary Children's Pioneer songs, and I submitted it to him for approval. He looked through it, and gave it back to me. He said he liked it, and it would be great for something else, but it was not appropriate for Sacrament meeting because it did not testify of Christ. I had known it was a light-hearted medley, but it was about the Pioneers so I didn't think that it wouldn't be acceptable. Once he told me why, it clicked into place exactly what we are doing with music.

Sacrament meeting is for one purpose, and one purpose alone. To partake of the Sacrament, and to worship Christ. This purpose is not always perfectly met, through thank-imonies and such, but anything the General Authorities have taught about Sacrament Meeting tells us that it is a time to testify of Christ, and for us to worship (ie: emulate) Him.

Since that singular experience, I've not had any troubles choosing music for Ward Choir. As I was writing this, I think I caught a greater vision of my calling. However frustrated I may get with others not quite getting the message about what we should be about during Sacrament meeting, especially Testimony meeting, I have the opportunity and responsibility to bear pure testimony of Christ through music.

This also applies to the arrangements of the music we choose. It should not be chosen based on performance, but on how well it testifies. If a piece turns simply into an impressive performance of music, it immediately is inappropriate, no matter what the words are about. The joining of words to music can become a pure expression of love and faith in Jesus Christ, and that is our main purpose and goal.

My new mission statement for Ward Choir: In everything, bear pure testimony of Jesus Christ through music. I needed that. Thanks for the question that prompted it.

The other benefit of only choosing music that testifies of Jesus Christ is, it doesn't matter what topic the speakers have been assigned, if we are singing of Christ, it will always fit. I have struggled with getting topics soon enough to choose music to perfectly go with the topic - it hasn't happened yet in the two years I've been in the calling - but I never feel it detracted from the topic if it was purely about Christ.

And though it was understood by me, simply not stated, another comment fits as well:

While testifying of Christ is one good measure of sacrament meeting-appropriateness, it cannot be the only one. There is a whole lot of testifying of Christ going on out there in Christian Music Land, and most of it would not be appropriate for our services. There must be a reverence for the subject in the music as well. (Posted by another group member)


For me, I prefer stillness and peace in my Sacrament music. I want to feel the holy Ghost and receive revelation. This is a sacred service, not one for showing off abilities, nor talent, nor for drawing attention to the performer, composer, or anyone else. We are not idol worshipers. We don't worship the creation or the art itself, but rather good art should be invisible and allow us to see beyond the art. It is a vehicle to help us see something better. Art that draws attention to itself, for me, has no place in Sacrament meeting.

The application of this mission statement is far-reaching (as most mission statements are). Another site I was looking at recommended having the members of the choir share a spiritual thought at the beginning of choir. I thought that was a good idea, and planned to implement it. Now, I will have them use the hymn book and the music we are singing in choir, and answer the question, "How does this testify of Christ?"

Jesus Christ is the Root of All Christian Doctrine - learned from a talk by that name - and we should make Him the center of all we do in the church. If He is lost, then we are. Bringing everything back to Him is essential for what we do to live, to have the saving power. If we lose sight of Him, nothing we do can make up for the lack of it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who Would Send a Baby?

2009 Ward Christmas Program

Choir: “Sing We Now of Christmas”

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” Jeremiah 23:5

“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” Zechariah 14:9

“I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.” Psalm 89:3-4

“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9

“Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” Psalm 149

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates: and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and te King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.” Psalm 24

Choir: “Baby, What You Goin’ To Be?”

“The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6-7

“But thou, Beth-lehem, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel. Micah 5:2

For those who were watching, the signs of Christ’s birth were all fulfilled. The Wise Men saw it, and set out to find the child born under the star. The shepherds had the event proclaimed to them by an angel, and heavenly hosts. The Nephites and Lamanites knew of the coming of the Lord to the earth through signs prophesied to them. But not all were watching. Not all saw.

Choir, Were You There on That Christmas Night?

The Jews wanted their Redeemer to come and save them from the sins of others. They themselves saw no need to change. They dreamed of the glorious coming of their Savior who, like Moses, would lead them out of captivity, and set up a nation unto Israel, with a King of Glory at its head. How to reconcile that dream with the other scriptures, describing a humble man, suffering himself to be wounded, pouring out His soul unto death?

Choir, Congregation, Flute, Piano, Organ – What Child is This? Arr by Sallie DeFord

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand… Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:4-6

Choir, Who Would Send a Baby?

Do we sometimes think like the people of Christ’s time? When we think of our Savior, do we think only of the role we want him to play in our life?

Do we truly accept all Christ has to offer us?

“And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.” Matthew 9: 28-29

“[And the father said unto Jesus], if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” Mark 9:22-24

“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Matthew 9:20-22

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Choir, “Shine for Me Again: STAR OF BETHLEHEM

Closing Hymn: Choir and Congregation, “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”

Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful

So, I have the Christmas Program done, and approved! :) Lots of music, so we're already practicing. I've only arranged one piece, the rest is "commercial" sheet music. I am always tempted to start with "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" to set the tone, to invite everyone to come and worship with the choir. This year, I'm ending with it, and I like it!

I've arranged a women's descant for verse two and verse three, with a bit of a piano arrangement to spice it up a bit. I'm not the best at piano, and as I'm sure anyone who has used my pieces knows. Just a bit more flavor. The music shows only the women's part - congregation and descants. The men can just use a hymnbook, or perhaps sing an octave down? Interesting thought... though my basses would not like the high notes. The descant for verse two is different than verse three.

As always, if you do use one of my pieces, I'd love to know if it worked for your choir, and especially if you had any problems, made any changes/improvements. Leave me a comment telling me where you're from, and which piece you used.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me

We are working on Christmas in Ward Choir. I pulled out our first piece of Christmas music in June! I have a Bishop who loves music, and that has been a dangerous thing for me - six pieces that the choir will learn, plus the congregation singing "What Child is This?" from Sallie DeFord, and an arrangement for choir and congregation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" that I'm working on. I'm really looking forward to the program.

Ward choir is not just Christmas, though, and we are doing a WONDERFUL arrangement of "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" by Linda Pratt. The link to her web site is on the sidebar. I chose it because I like the hymn, and not being too talented on the piano, the first time I heard it was at ward choir. Awful, I know!!! I was BLOWN AWAY by the chords in the piece, the way it develops. I looked at the choir and asked them if they heard that! And we sang it again, and there it was. I'm tempted to put an .mp3 file on my page, because she doesn't have that on her page, just so you know how great this piece is! It is beautiful! So gentle, so lilting, with chords to die for. The piano arrangement is beautiful just by itself, something I am NOT talented enough to do. So, my recommendation to you is to go to Linda Pratt's web site and download the sheet music - one of the best free pieces you could find!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Often Go Walking

This is a Mother's Day arrangement of the Primary song. It is simple, with the choir singing parts on the second verse. The Piano plays right out of the Primary songbook - you can get copies of the Primary songbook songs online at Click on "Serving in the Church", "Music".

Pioneer Children: A Medley

This is a light-hearted Pioneer piece, combining some of the pioneer songs from the Children's songbook. It doesn't teach much, but I like the way the songs meld together. Songs included are "Pioneer Children Sang as They Walked", "The Handcart Song", "Little Pioneer Children", and "Whenever I Think About Pioneers". It is two part the whole way through the piece, but for the last 2 measures.