Piano Music

Honest LDS Musicians

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Choir Music, General Church Music, Organ Music, Piano Music, Stake Music, Ward Choir, Ward Music Chairman |

It’s embarrassing to write a post on this topic. By nature Latter-day Saints are people of integrity. The problem is, when it comes to obeying copyright laws, sometimes we’re not.

Someone moved the music in my ward building from a closet to the library. It was done carelessly and without order or organization so for the past few weeks a couple of us have been spending about 30 minutes each Sunday reorganizing the choir music. I came across some photocopied (illegal) music, the composer of which I’d heard through the grapevine had just lost his home to foreclosure. It made me sad to think how much had been taken from him in part due to LDS musicians who were too cheap or lazy to order legal copies of his music. Over the past several weeks I have destroyed hundreds of pages of photocopied music (illegal) in the meetinghouse library. I did the same a couple of years ago to an entire file box full of illegally copied music that was in my stake center library. The Church policy is “Church members should strictly observe all copyright laws”. The Church Handbook has specific instructions on following copyright procedures.

In the United States the following are expressly prohibited:

  1. Copying to avoid purchase
  2. Copying music for any kind of performance (but note the emergency exception below)
  3. Copying without including a copyright notice
  4. Copying to create anthologies or compilations

The fact that a work may be out of print does not mean that permission is given to copy and distribute that work. The music publishers’ trade associations have prepared a simple form for use in the procurement of out-of-print works. The form is available at www.menc.org

  1. Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course
  2. Printed copies, which have been purchased, may be edited or simplified provided that the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics altered or lyrics added if none exist

I happen to know several LDS composers and even the most talented are not getting rich off of their compositions. Composers get paid for each piece of music sold so photocopying their music is no different from stealing money right out of their paychecks. I believe as people of integrity it would be wise to avoid illegally photocopying music, especially for church use.

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Accompanying a Hymn

Posted on May 13, 2011. Filed under: Organ Music, Piano Music |

Hymns are the basic musical element of our Latter-day Saint meetings.  “The hymns invite the spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.” (First Presidency preface to the hymnbook)  Good piano and organ accompanying techniques will help the members sing the hymns with ease, with enjoyment, and with the spirit.  Below are some helpful suggestions and examples for accompanists.  These exerpts come from pp.379-386 of the 1985 LDS hymnbook.

Mood and Tempo Markings

“The mood markings, such as “Prayerfully” or “Resolutely,” suggest the general feeling or spirit of a hymn, although the mood of some hymns may vary according to the occasion or local preferences. Metronomic markings indicate a tempo range (such as  = 69–76) and are also given as general guidelines; the locale and context in which a hymn is used may suggest greater flexibility.

Introduction Brackets for Pianists and Organists

“Brackets     on each hymn suggest a suitable piano or organ introduction. Before playing a hymn, scan it to make sure you see the complete introduction. You may want to highlight the brackets in your personal hymnbook, especially if the final phrase of an introduction does not happen to be at the end of the hymn.

“You may also wish to shorten or lengthen the suggested introduction. If the hymn is unfamiliar, playing it completely through as an introduction can help the congregation feel more comfortable with it. If the hymn is well known, the last line or phrase may be a sufficient introduction. When using a short introduction, you may want to slow the tempo at the end to express a sense of completion.

For Beginning Organists and Pianists

Adapting Hymn Accompaniment

“Some hymns may have notes or passages that are difficult to play. Feel free to adapt such passages to your own ability by dropping less-important notes from chords. You may want to mark your own hymnbook for this purpose.

“Hymns frequently have a space between the tenor and bass notes that is too wide to reach with the left hand. Often the right hand can include the tenor note quite easily. You may want to mark such notes with a bracket to remind yourself to play them with your right hand:

“Some hymns and children’s songs are written with the piano in mind. If the organ is used for these songs, it is sometimes preferable to use manuals only, without pedals.

“A cue note, or small note, means that the note is optional. Following are examples of how cue notes may be used:

1. A cue note may indicate that the notes are to be played and sung with some verses and not with others, depending on the text of each verse:

2. Sometimes the music is complete even if the cue note is left out:

3. Cue notes may also indicate music to be played by the pianist or organist but not to be sung:

Some Hymns That Are Easy to Play:

Come, Follow Me; Do What Is Right; God Be with You Till We Meet Again; How Gentle God’s Commands; I Stand All Amazed; Keep the Commandments; Let the Holy Spirit Guide; Now Let Us Rejoice; Redeemer of Israel;Sweet Is the Work; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Teach Me to Walk in the Light; We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

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Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Organ Music, Piano Music, Primary Music, Relief Society Music, Ward Choir |

Listed under the responsibilities of just about every calling on this site is “PRACTICE REGULARLY TO AVOID MAKING MISTAKES”.

I have two little LDS piano students, sisters, who were just telling me yesterday about the many changes in their Primary Pianists.  Apparently they’ve gone through a few just this year.  The first, they told me, was fabulous.  She never made mistakes and she was able to speed up or slow down if the director wanted the kids to sing the song different ways.  The other pianists, the girls reported, had lots of pauses and note mistakes.  So why am I writing this?  Well, because it was apparent to a 7 and 10 year-old that these other pianists were not able to play the songs correctly.  The girls could hear pauses and mistakes.  Maybe these pianists had practiced and this was the best they could do, maybe they didn’t practice, I don’t really know.  I think if they hadn’t put in the time and effort, perhaps they should have.

When I was first called as the ward organist I used to drop my little boys off at preschool and my infant daughter and I would go to the chapel for a couple of hours to practice the organ.  We did this 2 or 3 times a week, more when I was preparing for Stake Conference.  I worked hard at this calling because I wanted the organ to sound good.  I practiced regularly to avoid making mistakes.  Not that I played perfectly all the time, I wish.  I do think it’s important for pianists, organists, and directors to understand that they shouldn’t just get up there and wing it, no matter how extensive their training.  Your prelude, postlude, hymn playing, choir directing, etc. will go so much better if you practice.  And now that I’m writing this I realize how relaxed I’ve become over the years in my organ practicing.  I should take my own advice and get to the chapel regularly to practice.

I believe when you practice and prepare well you will be blessed.  So many experiences have taught me this.  Years ago I was accompanying my husband singing “O That I Were an Angel” for his brother’s missionary farewell (back when we used to have farewells).  I had transposed the piece to accommodate my husband’s bass voice and I practiced so I could play it perfectly. The week of the farewell I got very sick.  It was all I could do to drag myself to sacrament meeting.  I knew I had to go because who else was going to transpose music on the spot like that?  When it was our turn to perform, I looked at the music and to my horror the notes were moving around on the page, I was obviously very dizzy.  I said a silent prayer asking for guidance as I accompanied my husband.  I felt confident I would receive help because I had put in the practice time.  I was guided through that piece.  The notes were still swimming around on the page, but I played without a single mistake.

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