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Friday, July 08, 2005 

One voice

I am a mediocre singer at best. I am something of a baritone (meaning that I can neither hit the high notes or the lows). I was a drama geek in high school, so I can sing loud, but usually I don't.

My ward is very musically blessed. Almost every week we have a musical number of some sort. They range in quality from the two women who got up recently and sang like muppets to the various BYU music majors who blast us out with their operatic chops. My in-laws are all very musical. They are always game for impromptu sing-alongs (with harmony). I am nowhere near their league (you probably find me near the muppet women).

But I love the hymns. When I was a kid, I didn't. I hated the things. Too slow; too sleepy; too minor. Sacrament hymns in particular were torture. Our ward organist understood what the sacrament was celebrating to be important, so she played each hymn as if it were a dirge. There were occasionally upbeat hymns (question: can a hymn be upbeat? Discuss), but most were played in a solemn, dignified, undead manner.

I should restate, it's not that I love the hymns now (although I do), its that I enjoy singing them in the congregation. You have no idea how well life in the church prepares you musically. The new members in my mission simply had no singing experience prior to church. Most were off-key, off-beat, and off somewhere else. The Russians were not used to singing in public or in unison and it was easy to tell.

Every week, you are in a great big ward choir (assuming that you are in church). You sing relatively near the right note and relatively on beat. Nobody listening would necessarily know what you were saying, but you do because it is right there in front of you in the book. And what are you singing?
D&C 25:12
For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.
Apparently, we are praying when we are singing. We are communicating, as a congregation, our need for God, our love of Him, our worship. And we do it as one (usually).

I do believe that singing in church is for everyone. Our unified voices drown out the individual vocal weaknesses in the same way that Christ's love can overwhelm our individual shortcomings. We sing in unison because we are trying to be one in Him and in our devotion. So, that's where you'll find me each week, sitting somewhere near the muppet ladies, wrestling with a kid, singing with my whole heart.

In conclusion, my favorite hymn (a sacrament hymn, no less):
#171 With Humble Heart

With humble heart, I bow my head
And think of thee, O Savior, Lord.
I take the water and the bread
To show remembrance of thy word.

Help me remember, I implore,
Thou gav’st thy life on Calvary,
That I might live forevermore
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.

To be like thee! I lift my eyes
From earth below toward heav’n above,
That I may learn from vaulted skies
How I my worthiness can prove.

As I walk daily here on earth,
Give me thy Spirit as I seek
A change of heart, another birth,
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.

I love that hymn.

My parents live in a MUSICAL ward. I have never heard a choir sing like they do. They have original arrangements and stuff. Nothing fancy (OK sometimes fancy) but just really well done. A good choir director can do WONDERS!

The other Sunday, the ward after ours had a musical number for sacrament meeting. I could hear them rehersing with a flute AND a HARP. It was a beautiful song (one BYU sang on their CD of American Folk Hymns). I actually left Sunday School to go and listen...it was THAT compelling and lovely...

I have a problem with church singing. It's always too slow, or at least the vast majority of the time it is... If you look in the top left hand corner of the music, above the notes, you will see a little quarter note = a number. This tells the organists, the music director, and the congregation how fast to sing the song. The number indicates how many quarter notes per minute...or if you prefer...the general amount of beats per minute. Most songs have a range of beats that are somehwere near 60 beats per minute. We mostly sing at 30-45...too slow.

Now I have to give props to the organist...I couldn't play a hymn and have people sing along, it's just not possible, so I try to be patient, but I think that sometimes we are singing slow for "artistic" reasons, and are not singing to the tempo the author intended. YES, some hymns were written to be UPBEAT!

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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