Archive for January, 2006

Guidelines and Creativity

I just found the guidelines from the Church Handbook regarding choirs online. On the same page are guidelines about appropriate music for church meetings. Really, the whole page of guidelines is worth reviewing. It reminds me that the hymns are supposed to be the staple of the ward choir repertoire. This is something that I find that I tend to conveniently forget, probably because I have the potentially competing attitude that ward choir should inject something new into the meeting.

Of course there are ways to sing our traditional hymns in a fresh way. A colleague (and choir director of the ward that shares our building) arranges hymns for choir and also sets hymn texts set to alternate tunes. In my experience it seems that singing a well known hymn text, such as “He is Risen” to an alternate tune helps people pay more attention to the text.

Another good way to enliven hymns is by using some of the same arrangements the Tabernacle Choir sings from the Hymnals Plus series, arranged by some of the Tabernacle Choir organists. These books do require a good accompanist, preferably on organ. You only need a copy of the book for the accompanist and the director – you can either use the hymnbook or legal photocopies of hymns for the choir.

Commercial LDS composer Greg Hansen wrote an excellent article about ward choir for Meridian Magazine on this subject that is worth reading as well. Though I do take a little umbrage when he says, “There’s nothing worse than a music chairman always trying to sneak in a brass tune or fringe song” since I am at the core a trombone player. And I do think he exaggerates the requirement for “Hymns only”; to quote from the guidelines, “If other musical selections are used, they should be in keeping with the spirit of the hymns of the Church.” But he does have some excellent advice about building up a ward choir that I really intend to follow.

So what do you do to follow the guidelines, but still bring something fresh and creative to your repertoire?


31 January 2006 at 2:50 pm 2 comments

What did you rehearse?

Today we started by working on “Anchored to the Truth,” a two-part choir piece that my wife’s grandfather sent to me from California. It is written in neat manuscript, but has no composer or arranger listed. It makes me think it was done by someone in the L.A. music business because it looks like the copy was done by a professional arranger and engraver.

Next we read through Lindy Kirby’s tasteful arrangement of Hymn 127, “Does the Journey Seem Long.” I like this hymn because the verses, written by Joseph Fielding Smith, progressively give a lesson on turning to the Savior in trials. The tune has some unusual harmonies for a hymn; it briefy modulates from Eb Major to C minor and then back to Eb at the end of the verse. Kirby’s arrangement presents the words of the hymn as written while at the same time allowing the piano to have its own part. She also adds variety to the vocal textures by switching from unison to two-part, and four-part harmonies. The main challenge is helping the choir sing the four parts without the support of the piano, since it is playing arpeggios and counterpoint.

Finally, since it is the year of Mozart, we sang through “Jesus, Savior” from “The Choirbook.” It is subtitled as “AVE VERUM” though I would imagine Mozart probably wrote more than one Ave Verum. Although I have done this several times already in ward choir, I still enjoyed working on it again.

For anyone reading this, what did you rehearse?

30 January 2006 at 3:56 am 2 comments

Mozart’s 250th Birthday


In honor of Mozart’s birthday today, here is link to a free score of Dies Irae KV626. To perform it you will need a small orchestra. Maybe more realistic would be to sing God is our Refuge, or one of the other items on the CPDL’s Mozart page.

28 January 2006 at 4:18 am 2 comments

When are your rehearsals?

Our ward choir used to meet an hour before church started. Then, starting in January, our ward switched to morning meetings. I switched the rehearsal so that it is right after church. Unfortunately attendance has dropped. I don’t think people would want to rehearse at 8:00 AM, so I haven’t considered changing the time back to before church, but after church it seems people are ready to go home. Our ward boundaries are huge, so we try and meet at a time when people have already made the trip to the church building. Maybe this is a mistake though since people are already churched out by the time rehearsal starts.

My sister in Conneticut is in a ward choir that rehearses twice a week. Maybe requiring this kind of sacrifice makes people take it more seriously.

So when does your ward choir rehearse? Does requiring the extra trip to the church building make for higher attendance? Just what is the ideal time for ward choir rehearsal?

27 January 2006 at 3:34 am 11 comments

Ward Choir Directors, Unite!

I was a ward choir director in Bloomington, Indiana. I am now a ward choir pianist in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I want to share knowledge with those who fill these interesting callings. Hopefully this blog will provide a place for people to find out what is happening in the world of ward choir.

16 January 2006 at 8:21 pm 27 comments

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