Most Brass Instruments

Posted on December 26, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Stake Music, Ward Music Chairman | Tags: , , , |

Which instruments are appropriate for sacrament meeting and which should not be used?  The instruction we have received is:

“Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church)

What are those “most brass and percussion” instruments anyway?  Yesterday I visited a sacrament meeting in a Rexburg, Idaho where two French horns played with a violin, cello, and an English horn as part of the Christmas day program. It was very reverent and worshipful. I didn’t find anything inappropriate about the French horns even though they are brass instruments. I think there is a reason for the “most” in “most brass and percussion” instruments. There are exceptions. When played well French horns have a very worshipful sound. And what could be more festive in a Christmas Day sacrament meeting then the beauty of French horns?

Generally, it is my opinion that the brass and percussion instruments most appropriate for sacrament meeting are French horn, piano, harp, and organ. I happen to think trumpets can be worshipful too, but I believe most bishops would disagree, so it’s best to leave them off the short list.

When determining what is and is not appropriate in sacrament meeting, we need to always keep in mind that it is our most reverent meeting of the week. We should keep the music as sacred as is the ordinance of the sacrament. If there is ever even a question as to the appropriateness of an instrument or a musical selection always rule on the side of caution and don’t do it. For me, there wasn’t ever a question over the appropriateness of a French horn. It’s lush sound was a welcome and worshipful sound to my musical ears on Christmas Sunday.

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7 Responses to “Most Brass Instruments”

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I have really been enjoying reading the content in As to the appropriateness of certain instruments there are situations to consider. I have heard over the many years (62) in many meetings, some incredible renditions of hymns using not so customary instruments. Namely, a solo trombone, a musical saw, and accordion, vibraphone and water-filled glasses using the rim. In each case the player (or artist) was a truly accomplished musician and was very in tune with the Spirit and conveyed great reverence in taking the entire experience to the next level.

flute appropriate in Sacrament meeting?

In my opinion all woodwinds, except for maybe saxophones and piccolos, are appropriate in sacrament meeting.

I had a visiting missionary who played the penny whistle of all things super well. Truly it sound so pure and sweet. He played Come Thou Fount with myself on the piano. It was very lovely!

Acoustic guitar can be very lovely as well on the right song. Did “Lo Like a Rose E’er Blooming” with a delicate soprano at Christmas program. Beautiful.

The idea of an instrument being banned from playing in sacrament is archaic at best and pharisaic at worst. If there’s a question about the reverence, listen to the song they want to play and make a decision from there.
I’ve seen wonderfully appropriate numbers from brass and percussion instruments, and highly inappropriate ones from piano or voice. It shouldn’t be about the instrument, but about the music.

I volunteered my teenage son to play an oboe solo in church a few weeks ago: More Holiness Give Me, (It was actually Ron Staheli’s vocal arrangement for medium-high voice, substituted with oboe). The Ward Music Chairman was a little worried about oboe being appropriate for sacrament meeting. Seriously? We’ve had oboe obbligatos in General Conference for heaven’s sake! I assured her it was certainly appropriate. He and I are still receiving compliments on his solo from ward members who say they were touched by the song, the arrangement, and the instrument.

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