There were definitely many beautiful sights to see in Germany!
So enjoyed hearing the street musicians. It made visiting the towns so fun!
When is a song -- solo, small ensemble, or choral piece -- deemed too dramatic or long for Sacrament Meeting?
I noticed a thread going around about this question. They were talking about having a professional singer sing "O Divine Redeemer" by Charles Gounod for Stake Conference. There was an opinion that it was too long and too dramatic for use in that service even though it was expressly requested by the Stake President.
Years ago, I sang that piece at least once a year for some worship service or another. Always by request. I think nowadays that the "public" is used to very simple Christian "pop" songs that don't take too much preparation or ability to perform. On the other hand, "O Divine Redeemer" takes a lot of skill and musicianship not to mention a voice with an expanded range to be able to sing it well. If done well, it is beautiful and powerful. If done poorly, it is very painful to listen to.
Yes, that piece is dramatic and yes it is over 3:00 minutes long. Yet, if it is sung well, it is a masterful sermon and testimony served with gorgeous music! Too bad that we have fewer and fewer trained singers and accompanists who could pull off a good performance of such a magnificent piece.
As far as it being too dramatic for Conference goes, it doesn't seem any more dramatic than singing "Master the Tempest is Raging," "I Stand All Amazed," or "I Know that My Redeemer Lives."
As far as it being too long? It isn't longer than singing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" -- all 7 verses, or even shortened to only 4 verses.
I for one, would rather hear a beautiful rendition of "O Divine Redeemer" than any number of the Christian "pop" songs we hear so often, usually done poorly.
Another dramatic hymn we sing regularly is "The Lord Is My Light." This has been a favorite hymn of mine since the day I heard my uncle John Thompson give a testimony about it, then sing it. He was visiting our ward one Sunday while I was in high school. He had the most marvelous heroic tenor voice. This arrangement is a salute to my wonderful uncle John who always said that some of the most powerful sermons are taught through sacred songs and hymns.
"A picture is worth a thousand words."
That saying is true -- and it is also true that any picture can have many meanings. That is the trouble with ONLY using picture clues to teach a song in Primary.
The song leader introduced the new song using just "picture clues" that she put up on the board. The children were supposed to master the song by simply following the "picture clues" while they sang through the song - both verses -many times. And they only had the piano for support because the song leader's small voice couldn't model good singing.
There was actually no effort made to help the children learn the melody, rhythms, rhyme schemes, singing techniques, or how to sing on pitch, let alone help them have lasting experiences with the song.
No wonder the children never actually sang that one song while acting bored and fidgeting for the entire Singing Time - for the last two weeks.
There is more to being a Song Leader in Primary than just showing pictures you copied off the internet and waving your arm in front of the children!
A good song leader will use teaching strategies in at least 4 of these 7 Learning Styles each time they teach a song BECAUSE the children have many different learning styles.
Auditory/Musical – Listening, singing, playing musical instruments, rhythm games
Visual/Spatial – Pictures, word strips, keywords, object lessons, pitch
Kinesthetic – Hand motions, tapping rhythm, large muscle movements (marching, hopping, twirling, waving arms, bending, etc.), manipulating objects such as scarves, shakers, drums, rearranging word strips, conducting the music, bouncing balls, rolling dice, throwing bean bags, building a puzzle or stacking blocks
Linguistic – Telling stories, explaining the meaning of the lyrics, looking up scripture references, asking and responding to questions
Intrapersonal – Working in groups, playing in teams, judging the group’s performance, boys sing/girls sing, taking surveys
Interpersonal – Individual study, individual opinion, individual report on topic, Playing a solo or showing one’s individual talent in some personal way
Mathematical – Games of strategy, keeping score, solving puzzles and riddles, ordering things
When a High School Chorus concert has a lot of energy, variety, and fun music, it is sure to be enjoyable -- even for us older folks. My granddaughter's school is quite big. It seemed like the large wide stage was filled at some points with at least 200 hundred kids! The choral teacher had five different choirs including Men's Chorus, Women's chorus, Jazz Choir, Concert Choir, and A Cappella, plus a Bell Choir. That's a lot of kids!
The teacher announced that the concert would be about "Movin' On," so all of the songs were about moving or traveling. "Life is a Highway," "Route 66." "Fly Me to the Moon," "Moon River," "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," and plenty more. We heard such a variety from many decades and genres --- from pop to county to folk songs to Barbershop to jazz. This was anything BUT a formal concert. They started out with all of the singers lying down on the floor of the stage and waking up to sing "500 Miles." Getting a bunch of kids to dance together on stage is quite a feat. It was entertaining to watch how some kids are very coordinated and some NOT, but the amazing part was that they were all trying!
By the Finale, they were all "Dancin' in the Streets" as well as out in the aisles of the auditorium. Such a fun show!
This weekend was between semesters for the college professors who live in our ward. We live very close to campus, so it is understandable that many in our Ward Family are associated with the University. It was still a surprise, though, that for Testimony Meeting we barely filled half of the chapel with a very few in the gym. (We usually fill up most of the chapel and the overflow into the gym.) At choir practice we had five singers. We usually have between 20-25 singers. In Primary we had about half of the children, and only two regular teachers and the Primary President. The other teachers were substitutes.
The Chorister in Sacrament Meeting picked three unfamiliar hymns. Usually, our congregation, that is packed with Music Professors and other people who love to sing, does rather well singing the hymns, familiar or not. But this Sunday, we were quite weak. However, we did have something fun happen. Our organ was just refurbished, and after weeks of only having a piano, it was exciting to hear our fabulous organist play "coronation" music as we left the chapel for Sunday School.
In Primary, we sang "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" which was a favorite song for all of us older teachers and subs. So we were sad when the music leader told us not to sing for one of the verses. She wanted to hear just the children --- all 13 of them --- sing. That didn't go over very well because the kids didn't know the song as well as we older folks did. We loved singing a Primary song we actually knew!
Then in choir practice, we had 2 sopranos, 1 tenor, and 2 basses. I am still scratching my head wondering why our choir director decided to hand out an SSAATTBB piece for us to sight-sing through. I went ahead and sang alto so we would at least have four parts.
It was such a strange day at Church!
Perhaps the Choir Director should have had a plan in place to let us sing something we could have managed better with just 2 parts. Here are some options for those strange days that happen from time to time.
Easy 2-Part Mixed Chorus
Sometimes disasters happen! Seasoned musicians can usually turn their lemons into lemonade, but what happens if an inexperienced person is faced with the same challenges?
My daughter was in charge of Stake Conference music last weekend. They live in an area where distances are great and Stake-wide participation in choirs is very difficult. This go around she decided to try forming a Women's chorus.
She hoped that she could bypass the problem of not getting enough men to sing SATB and hopefully get support to do some nice SSA pieces. The two rehearsals garnered enough support to balance the sections, but they still were a small group. My daughter usually leads the choirs but this time she needed to accompany. She found someone else to conduct who fortunately was also a trained musician.
The problems started at the Saturday night adult meeting. Unbeknownst to her, the audio/visual equipment for the Zoom was set up in between the piano and organ right where the choir conductor usually stands. That meant that during the meeting the conductor would have to stand right at the knees of the Stake Presidency to lead the choir, but what else could she do? The men even took out one of the pews for the choir. They also left some stacked chairs and equipment debris in place of the pew that made it awkward for the choir to negotiate getting into the choir seats and impossible for the organist to gracefully get from the organ to the piano without walking in front of the General Authority visitor!
My daughter did not know about all of these problems because the Leadership meeting had gone 30 minutes over time. She was faced with trying to address these issues in the same 10 minutes that she was supposed to be playing prelude. And as if these troubles weren't enough, the Visiting Authority also decided to change the hymns that were to be sung and wanted to use the big screen for a video during his talk. Well, the screen when dropped would fall right into the laps of the choir!
When she finally got things on the way to being dealt with, she hopped onto the organ --- only to be surprised that the organ bench had been replaced BACKWARDS! As she was playing, she realized that there was no place to rest her feet! She had to carefully dangle her legs during rests so she wouldn't accidentally play unplanned pedal parts!
Imagine if an inexperienced musician had been faced with these challenges! My daughter was able to deal with these problems because she was a seasoned musician and very capable. But it wasn't fair! Obviously, the people setting up the Zoom equipment did not think about how their "efforts" would disrupt other people's efforts down the line.
I'm sure my daughter made everything look like things were normal, but the heightened anxiety didn't allow her to enjoy the meeting!
My name is Betsy Lee Bailey. I enjoy singing and writing all kinds of music. I have performed and directed or taught music all of my life. This blog is dedicated to all of the people who have been encouraging me to write about my experiences.