"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss
Question #92381 posted on 06/20/2019 12:06 a.m.
Q:

Dearest 100 Hour Board,

I am my ward's organist, and I like learning some of the more difficult, less common hymns for fun and practice. The most recent of these is 'For All the Saints,' which I really, really like playing in a very dramatic way, crescendoing up all the last verse is as loud and brassy as possible. I hesitate to actually schedule it for sacrament meeting though, because I don't want to pull attention away from the speakers/the Spirit to me, the organist. But also, I really like it, and I think it would be fun for the congregation to sing too. What do you think? Ward conference is coming up, is that enough of an occasion to pull out all the stops (both figuratively and literally)?
Sincerely,

-just a humble music person

A:

Dear Music,

I'll just say that as a member of the congregation, it has never been fun to sing a song that nobody knows. It's confusing and hard, and instead of being able to think about the lyrics, or enjoy the beautiful harmonies, everyone is just trying to figure out what the heck we're singing. And while your organ abilities sound really impressive, they might just confuse people even more on a song that they don't even know the basic melody of. If this is something you're really passionate about, though, talk with the ward choir director about accompanying the choir for that song. That sounds like it could make for an amazing performance, and the congregation would probably love it (especially because they wouldn't be put on the spot to sing a song they've likely never heard before).

-Alta

posted on 06/23/2019 12:49 p.m.
I've been the ward organist off and on for the last 15 years. I'm by no means a professional, but as far as ward organists go, I do ok. I have found that without exception I have had nothing but positive feedback any time I have "spiced things up" on the organ. Obviously, you can go too far with just about anything, but go for it. Add those reeds! The more mixtures the better! And then ask someone you trust out in the congregation what they thought of it afterwards. (Forgiveness, not permission!) We've all suffered through so many people playing too quietly, too timidly and too slowly. Even if you err on the side of too wild once in a while, there are still going to be plenty of congregations out there turning "I stand all amazed" into a 7-minute ordeal. Specifically, I have found that when I make a registration change for the last verse of a song, the congregation nearly always responds by singing louder, and it sounds great.

Now, the other part of the question (and much of the response) was about playing less common hymns. While it is true that people prefer to sing songs they already know, there's also value to branching out and learning something new. Otherwise, what's the point of having 341 hymns in the book? Why not just sing the same 3 every Sunday? Wards should absolutely be branching out to less familiar songs on occasion; there are many wonderful hymns (both musically and lyrically) that so many people are missing out on because we never sing them.