Music Style for Sacrament Meeting

Posted on August 5, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

Music in sacrament meeting is inspirational, or at least it should be. But what is inspirational to one may not be to another. Where do we draw the line? What style is the church looking for exactly?

The tradition in the Church is to sing in a conservative classical style, without scoops, licks, heavy vibrato, twang, and nasal tone.  The style preferred by Church leaders is best described as the manner in which one would sing a Brahms art song, or an art song of the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.  So, none of the styles we hear on American Idol are appropriate, neither is the style we would hear at the Met.  We are a church where choral music dominates our style, so the soloists’ style is expected to match the style of choral music.  The choral style has been passed down through the centuries, from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary eras.  This style can produce a worshipful, reverent, and respectful sound that is not overly dramatic, nor overly sentimental, does not call unnecessary attention to itself, and allows the listener to contemplate the text without the performer showing off his/her skills.

This is particularly difficult because contemporary religious music is headed in a different direction, away from the choral and art song tradition, to pop, soul, and rock styles.  On the LDS scene, the music of Lex de Azevado, Kenneth Cope, Michael McLean, Jericho Road, and Cheri Call are some of the many examples of religiously oriented music heading in the direction of so many rock/soul/gospel artists.

So what does this mean for LDS musicians? As we are choosing music for Church meetings, particularly sacrament meeting, we need to keep in mind that our music choice cannot simply be the latest EFY song or a song from a best-selling album at Deseret Book. Music selections must be within the following guidelines outlined in the church handbook.

“Secular music should not replace sacred music in Sunday meetings.  Some religiously oriented music presented in a popular style is not appropriate for sacrament meetings. Also, much sacred music that is suitable for concerts and recitals is not appropriate for a Latter-day Saint worship service.”

Music in Church meetings should not draw attention to itself or be for demonstration.  This music is for worship, not performance.”

For specific music titles that are appropriate for a sacrament meeting performance:

VOCAL SOLOS/DUETS

PIANO SOLOS

CHOIR MUSIC

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2 Responses to “Music Style for Sacrament Meeting”

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There is a reason why we do music in sacrament meeting the way we do, and this reason should be obvious to anyone who has served in a missionary calling.

In 2003, I attended a gathering for LDs musicians held at BYU, and one of the sessions was presented by Dan Carter, who at that time was a member of the Church Music Committee. He said that the reason we focus on music from the hymnbook is because it is all doctrinally correct, and he went on to say that if you think of it, the first meeting that very nearly every nonmember attends is sacrament meeting, so it is important that we get the message right in that meeting, whether it be by way of the speakers or by way of the music.

As to why we use certain instruments, that has been in almost every version of the Handbook that I know of, including the current Handbook 2.

I also recall that Elder Nelson spoke to leaders in 2003 at a Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, and after quoting extensively from the Handbook as it existed then (it being revised extensively last year) said: Brethren, we are depending on you, do not let the sacred music of this Church slip away’.

Thanks. Elder Nelson’s talk was written up as an Ensign article, “Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting” and can be found at http://lds.org/ensign/2004/08/worshiping-at-sacrament-meeting?lang=eng


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