Sacrament Meeting Music…Mediocrity or Excellence?
In the LDS church, sacrament meeting is our most sacred meeting of the week. We are encouraged to invite non-Mormons to attend. It is the meeting where we renew our baptismal covenants via the sacrament, the place where we teach, learn, share testimonies, and sing praises to God. Are those of us who are involved in the music for this meeting, presenting excellence or mediocrity. Are we throwing together a musical selection at the last minute so we don’t have to sing another rest hymn? Are we singing another rest hymn because we have procrastinated the organization of a special musical selection? Are we playing the organ or piano accompaniments with sloppy mistakes because we have failed to prepare and practice? Is our choir singing another free online song because we haven’t bothered to do our research and find a wonderful piece for them to learn? Are our efforts as musicians, living up to the sacred nature of sacrament meeting?
Last Sunday I rushed into the chapel to get to the organ for prelude music. I hadn’t prepared anything, thinking I’d just do the prelude I had prepared from two weeks prior (I play every other week). I opened the program to see that the opening hymn was one of the most difficult hymns in the hymnbook, with a ridiculous bass part that had my feet dancing all over the place. I took a deep breath as I began the opening hymn and started to play. The Deacons were sitting behind me (our Deacons who are passing the sacrament sit on the stand). They were talking and playing on their iPhones throughout the hymn. I could hear every word they were saying and could see them out of the corner of my eye. Then we had few random disturbances that distracted me, like the autistic 18-year-old who started having a very loud fit in the congregation as her parents rushed her out of the chapel. And to top it off there was the music director, a 16-year-old boy (our ward leaders thought it would be a good idea to have the youth take turns directing in sacrament meeting), who was completely off beat, using a baton that was impossible for me to ignore. By the time we finished singing the hymn, I felt like I had been through a war zone and had a splitting headache. Now, I had no control over the noise from the congregation and I had no control over the rowdy Deacons. But, I should have come better prepared by practicing the hymn ahead of time and I should have taken the time to practice with the Priest who was directing the music. With those two things under control, I would have had a far different experience that Sunday (although I might have still snapped at the Deacons following they hymn, which is what I actually did).
I think most of us are guilty at one time or another, of falling into the trap of complacency. Let us renew our efforts to make sacrament meeting music truly excellent, inspiring, worthy of the sacred meeting in which it is presented.