Sep 142006

A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of thinking that visiting this year’s Parade of Homes would be a fun thing to do. I came home, looked at my surroundings, uttered a hearty “Blech,” and started painting. So this morning while the putty dries in a few nail holes seems like a good time to rant on one of my favorite subjects: the ward choir.

IMHO (if any of my opinions are really humble) the purposes of a ward choir don’t necessarily include putting on stunning performances. It’s a good thing too. Realistically speaking, even the best choir I’ve ever directed or sung with hasn’t come close to the elusive Mormon Tabernacle Choir standard. How could it? We don’t audition, we practice once a week if we’re lucky, and most of our chapels don’t have choir seating for 360. So what’s a ward choir really for?

First and foremost, a ward choir should be about bringing participants closer to Jesus Christ. If you’re a choir director, go back and read that sentence again. 😉 In a choir practice we have the opportunity to pray together for an hour or so, through the song of the heart that is literally a prayer to the Father. If a choir were to practice every week, and never perform, it would be time well spent provided practice time is a time for drawing nearer to the Savior. Everything we do as choir directors needs to be planned with that end in mind.

After that come some wonderful side benefits. A ward choir can be an invaluable tool for helping new members feel welcome. Practicing inspiring music together can help choir members feel and understand the doctrine of Christ in ways they may not have experienced before. And yes, choir members can also improve their musical skills along the way.

Do we still work to present the best possible performance? Absolutely. But I believe that when drawing nearer to the Savior is our number one priority, the rest will follow. With the Spirit’s participation, even the simplest performance will uplift and strengthen both the hearers and the choir members, but especially the choir members.

I’m working on a new Christmas song at the moment. It’s nearly finished, and I’ll post it after I figure out which voicings to include. So far it’s just solo and Alto/Tenor duet… we’ll see what else materializes.

Aug 032006

It’s August. August means time to divide the iris. It means scout camp and canoe trips. It means school starts in two weeks. It means… BYU football’s fall camp starts on Friday. That last one gives me shivers. They just better be good this year.

I realized the other day that I really don’t like some of my own music. There are very few songs with which I am satisfied, and even fewer with which I am both satisfied and happy. My music divides itself into three lists in my mind: the “Fine, Not Bad and Serviceable” list (which I shall ignore in this post); the “Blah” list; and the “Wow. Who Wrote That?” list. Unfortunately for me, the “Wow” list is the shorter of the lists by a rather wide margin.

My “Blah” list tends to include songs that are more than a few years old. I guess that’s typical isn’t it? You change (hopefully for the better), you progress (or regress, as the case may be), and what pleased you once doesn’t necessarily please you now. I hesitate to name specific songs, lest I tromp on someone’s favorite, but… after all, this is just a blog, and what’s my opinion worth anyway? So here are a few from my “Blah” list:

“No Room, No Room.” Difficult parts, too high, and it just doesn’t sound right to me. Maybe one day I’ll revisit it and revamp it. Maybe not.

“If I Have But a Moment.” I still like the message, but I don’t care for my melody.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Blah introduction. The rest is okay. I guess.

Enough of that. It’s depressing.

There are actually a few pieces that make me remember who is in charge of the pen when a good song hits the paper. A few from my “Wow. Who Wrote That?” list:

For Me Alone.” I re-read this the other day, and realized it says exactly what I wanted to say. That’s a minor miracle, and I’m thankful for it.

I Have Not Seen, Yet I Believe.” Ditto.

My Grateful Spirit Sings.” Okay, ditto again.

I guess that’s the real test for me–does the song say exactly what I wanted to say, in both text and music? Of course, these are more recent compositions. They may or may not stand the test of time. We’ll see.

One of the things I try to do (with varying success) is to keep from falling into the same old patterns, same old rhythms, same old melodies, same old chords, same old same old… and that should (hopefully) make the songs different enough that, for each individual, some will appeal and some won’t. I’m always amazed to get notes from people that say I love everything you’ve ever written. I assume what they really mean is I love everything you’ve ever written that I love. That would make much more sense.

May 142006

16 more days of school. 16 more days of getting up at 4:15 in the morning. 16 more days of spending hours a day researching and preparing to teach bleary-eyed teenagers. (The best teenagers in the world, but still… it’s 5:30 a.m.)

There is a new hymn arrangement languishing on my piano rack.

Maybe in June.