Ward Music Chairman

LDS Living’s Top 100 Songs

Posted on February 2, 2013. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

LDS Living published a list of the top 100 LDS songs of all time, not including hymns. Okay, let’s rephrase that, what they probably meant to say was the top LDS easy-listening songs from the past 30 years. You have probably heard many of these in firesides, women’s conferences, and yes, even sacrament meetings. Using my strict standards for sacrament meeting music (aka Church Handbook 2), I put a * by music appropriate for a sacrament meeting performance. Music with ** could be appropriate if sung correctly, definitely not as performed on iTunes. Appropriate music includes songs that can be performed in the style of the hymns and primary songs, not music that were it given different lyrics, could easily become a love song played on the radio. Songs without a * are more suited for home listening, firesides, youth conferences, and background music for LDS-themed videos and LDS Bookstores. Enjoy.

1. “A Child’s Prayer,” Janice Kapp Perry *
2. “His Hands,” Kenneth Cope
3. “I Heard Him Come,” Jeff Goodrich
4. “You’re Not Alone,” Michael McLean
5. “He Hears Me,” Hilary Weeks
6. “Consider the Lilies,” Roger Hoffman *
7. “Line Upon Line” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
8. “We’ll Bring the World His Truth,” Janice Kapp Perry *
9. “Scripture Power,” Clive Romney & Sandy Freckleton Gagon *
10. “I Was Not His Father; He Was Mine” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
11. “Walk Tall, You’re a Daughter of God,” Jamie Glenn **
12. “Never a Better Hero,” Kenneth Cope
13. “No Ordinary Man,” Janice Kapp Perry **
14. “O Lord, My Redeemer,” Jeff Goodrich
15. “Together Forever,” Michael McLean
16. “A Window to His Love,” Julie de Azevedo
17. “Beautiful Heartbreak,” Hilary Weeks
18. “Angel Lullaby” from My Turn on Earth, Lex de Azevedo
19. “Love Is Spoken Here,” Janice Kapp Perry *
20. “The Greatest Gift,” Afterglow
21. “In the Hollow of Thy Hand,” Janice Kapp Perry **
22. “I Love to See the Temple,” Janice Kapp Perry *
23. “Let Him In” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
24. “His Image in Your Countenance,” Janice Kapp Perry *
25. “Hold On, the Light Will Come,” Michael McLean
26. “From God’s Arms to My Arms to Yours,” Michael McLean
27. “I Walk by Faith,” Janice Kapp Perry *
28. “Circle of Our Love” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
29. “The Olive Tree,” Felicia Sorensen**
30. “I’ll Build You a Rainbow,” Marvin Payne
31. “Greater Than Us All,” Kenneth Cope
32. “Homeless” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
33. “Like a Lighthouse,” Michael Webb
34. “I Never Stand Alone” from From Cumorah’s Hill, Steven Kapp Perry
35. “Face to Face,” Kenneth Cope
36. “Three Kings Found the Lord” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
37. “Emma,” Nashville Tribute Band
38. “It Passes All My Understanding,” Cherie Call
39. “Daughter of a King,” Jenny Phillips
40. “Warriors of Light,” Afterglow
41. “Do Likewise My Friend,” Brett Raymond
42. “Ninety and Nine,” Michael McLean
43. “Sisters in Christ,” Gladys Knight
44. “Captain of My Soul,” Afterglow
45. “Celebrating the Light,” Michael McLean
46. “He Came for Me,” Hilary Weeks
47. “Broken,” Kenneth Cope
48. “Mary Let Me Hold Her Baby” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
49. “My Story” from My Turn on Earth, Lex de Azevedo
50. “Women at the Well,” Julie de Azevedo
51. “I’m a Mormon,” Janeen Brady
52. “Let Me In,” The Osmonds
53. “Masterpiece,” Julie de Azevedo
54. “Another Witness,” Afterglow
55. “Come to Jesus,” Kenneth Cope
56. “Come Unto Him,” Daniel Carter *
57. “If I Only Had Today,” Hilary Weeks
58. “My Turn on Earth” from My Turn on Earth, Lex de Azevedo
59. “She Put the Music in Me,” Calee Reed
60. “The Rising,” Nashville Tribute Band
61. “Mercy’s Arms,” Julie de Azevedo
62. “Sometimes He Lets It Rain,” Katherine Nelson
63. “The Promise,” Afterglow
64. “Gentle,” Michael McLean
65. “Humble Way” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
66. “I Will,” Hilary Weeks
67. “Paper Dream” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
68. “He Was Here” from The Forgotten Carols, Michael McLean
69. “I Will Not Be Still,” Kenneth Cope
70. “Sailing On” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
71. “Taking It Home with Me,” Brett Raymond
72. “The Man with Many Names” from The Garden, Michael McLean
73. “One Voice,” Tyler Castleton
74. “Safe Harbors,” Michael McLean
75. “Shine On,” David Osmond
76. “Arise and Shine Forth,” Jenny Phillips
77. “Prayer of the Children,” Kurt Bestor
78. “Beautiful Life,” Jenny Frogley
79. “Go with Me,” Kenneth Cope
80. “Greater Love” from Women at the Well, Kenneth Cope
81. “Hands of Heaven,” Julie de Azevedo
82. “More Than Just a Boy,” Kenneth Cope
83. “Perfect Love,” Felicia Sorensen
84. “Be That Friend,” Michael McLean
85. “Born of God” from From Cumorah’s Hill, Steven Kapp Perry
86. “Feeling of Forever” from Saturday’s Warrior, Lex de Azevedo
87. “Just Let Me Cry,” Hilary Weeks
88. “Praise the Man,” Jenny Frogley
89. “Promises I Keep,” Cherie Call
90. “The Carpenter’s Son,” Kenneth Cope
91. “We Believe,” Bryce Neubert
92. “All My Days,” Hilary Weeks
93. “American Dream,” Nashville Tribute Band
94. “Bless My Son,” Nashville Tribute Band
95. “For Our Day,” Felicia Sorensen
96. “For the Love of a Woman,” Jericho Road
97. “How to Move a Mountain,” Cherie Call
98. “Keeper of the Flame,” Julie de Azevedo
99. “Let Him Heal Your Heart,” John Canaan
100. “Someday He Will Come,” Felicia Sorensen
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Familiar vs. Unfamiliar Hymns

Posted on April 22, 2012. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

Recently I asked my Ward Music Chairman if we could please sing Hymn #197  “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown” for a sacrament hymn. After all it is listed under the topic of “Sacrament” and it is one of my favorite hymns, the only one in our hymnal by J.S. Bach. Due to the changing harmonies I love playing it on the organ. My Ward Music Chairman told me we can’t do it because it’s not familiar. What??? I told her that was ridiculous, that it’s been around since the 1700’s and if it wasn’t familiar to some it ought to become familiar. Then we proceeded to sing a sacrament hymn that Sunday, one that was new to the 1985 hymnal. It too was unfamiliar just a few years ago until someone decided we should sing it once, twice, then it became familiar. That’s how it works.

Occasionally local leaders request that only hymns that are familiar to the congregation be sung in sacrament meeting. The problem is which are the familiar hymns? What is familiar to one may not be to another. To me, “O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown” is very familiar. It’s the main chorale in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The music is in every Christian hymnal I’ve ever browsed. The hymn text describes the sacrifice of our Savior. It is a message central to our religion. Why then can we not sing it or any other hymn for that matter?

On the LDS Church Music website and in the hymnbook it states:

  • Achieving Balance in the Selection of Hymns: In addition to using hymns already known and loved, members are encouraged to become acquainted with new or less familiar hymns. Try to achieve a good balance between familiar favorites and less well-known hymns.
  • Hymns for Stake Conference: Standard, well-known hymns are often the best choice for stake conference, particularly if hymnbooks are not available for the entire congregation.

Notice that well-known hymns are suggested for stake conference but no such statement is made regarding sacrament meeting. However, achieving a good balance is suggested. I like the 80/20 rule I heard someone mention years ago, 80% familiar and 20% less-familiar hymns. When choosing a less-familiar hymn it is helpful to have the organist play the entire hymn for the introduction. Have the organist play it for prelude music. Have the choir perform it or ask the Relief Society sisters to sing it in their meeting the week before. Then, by the time the ward is introduced to this hymn in sacrament meeting is is no longer unfamiliar.

The Latter-day Saint hymns teach great doctrine. Each hymn is meaningful and sacred. We should strive for familiarity with all of these inspired hymns.

See also How to Choose Hymns for Sacrament Meeting

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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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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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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:




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Unfortunate LDS Music Stories

Posted on July 30, 2011. Filed under: Music in Sacrament Meeting, Organ Music, Primary Music, Ward Choir, Ward Music Chairman |

sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes embarrassing, always 100% TRUE

  • Arizona: a man sings Michael Jackson’s, “Man in the Mirror” for a Sacrament Meeting musical number
  • Idaho: Sacrament Meeting on the 4th of July, Opening Hymn, “God Save the King”
  • California: for a musical number in Sacrament Meeting a member of the bishopric puts a boombox on the podium and pushes the play button so the congregation can listen to Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American”
  • California: a girl accompanies herself on the piano while singing into a boom mic a pop-style version of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”
  • Utah: in a 2006 Primary Program Presentation in Sacrament Meeting the children go retro singing a Mormon pop favorite from the 80’s
  • New York: the dress rehearsal for a Stake Christmas Fireside revealed one of the musical selections as “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (The Stake Pres. caught wind and canceled that song in the nick of time)
  • Utah: a girl sings an emotional “His Hands” by Kenneth Cope (a capella), using dramatic hand gestures, as a part of her testimony during a BYU ward fast and testimony meeting.
  • Pennsylvania: A woman has the congregation join in with her, swaying and holding their pointer fingers up as they all sing “This Little Light of Mine”
  • California: a congregation is confused when they can’t reach the notes of a hymn. The organist failed to see that the transposition knob had been turned to sound a 5th higher.
  • Utah: an over-zealous choir director convinces a struggling ward choir of 12 that they can perform Wilhousky’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. The performance left the congregation wishing for ear plugs.
  • Arizona: an over-populated ward fails to provide hymn books or print hymn text in the programs leaving 50% of it’s members (all those packed in the cultural hall) unable to sing the Sacrament Meeting Hymns each Sunday.
  • California: an organist leaves town with the key to the organ leaving a congregation without accompaniment for Sacrament Meeting.
  • Arizona: a woman sings the solo “The Wind Beneath My Wings” in Sacrament Meeting
  • Utah: July 24th (Pioneer Day), sacrament meeting opening hymn: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

Each of these little errors really happened, although I don’t think it’s appropriate to embarrass the wards/stakes so I’ve chosen to keep the exact location/date confidential.


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Solos in Sacrament Meeting

Posted on July 20, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

On Sunday I attended a ward in Southern Utah. The musical number was “O Divine Redeemer” sung by a young soprano. It was lovely, reverent, memorized, obviously well rehearsed. The congregation seemed to be moved by that musical experience. Contrast that to some solo musical performances I’ve witnessed that made me want to run for the door. What makes a good solo performance for sacrament meeting?

1. Before asking someone to perform a vocal or instrumental solo make sure they are good at what they do. Sacrament Meeting isn’t the place to make the Saints suffer through an off-key screechy violin solo, or an older soprano who’s vibrato is so thick you can’t tell which notes she’s singing. Always remember the purpose of a musical number is to add to the spirit of the meeting, not detract from it.

2. Using the hymns and primary songs as a guide, choose a piece that will add to the spirit of the meeting. Stay away from music in a pop style, secular classical music, opera, etc. For a list of my favorite solos appropriate for sacrament meetings click HERE.

3. The ward music chairman should listen to ALL musical numbers before they are performed in sacrament meeting to make sure the music is appropriate and performed in a manner that would not take away from the spirit of that sacred meeting.

4. Vocal solos should usually be performed using a microphone, unless the singer has a really strong well-trained voice. The congregation has an easier time understanding the words when the microphone is used. A soloist should NOT self-accompany at the piano (Stevie Wonder style).

5. Instruments should tune with the piano prior to the beginning of sacrament meeting so they don’t have to take so much time tuning right before the performance. Hymns and primary song arrangements are the very best choice for instrumental performances. When an instrumentalist performs something familiar to the congregation, like a hymn, members are able to review the words of hymn in their minds while listening to the beautiful musical arrangement. When piano solos are performed the lid on the piano should be all the way up (using the longest pole). Click HERE for music ideas for piano solos.

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How to Choose Hymns for Sacrament Meeting

Posted on March 20, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Music Directing, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

Opening Hymns…

If you really want to get the congregation singing choose an faster tempo hymn of a familiar nature like “Redeemer of Israel” or “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today”.  If you choose a slow unfamiliar hymn you’ll lose the congregation before the meeting has even begun.

Sacrament Hymn…

Not much to say about this one.  The back of the hymnbook lists appropriate hymns for the Sacrament…#169-197 and 146.  The sacrament hymn “should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior” (Handbook 2: 14.4.4). Use all the sacrament hymns on a rotation; they should all be familiar.

Rest Hymn…

I have definite opinions on this one.  You should be singing about one rest hymn a month, so make it special.  This is the one time a month that the congregation gets to participate in the musical number.  I don’t like singing rest hymns sitting down.  The handbook says we can stand, with Priesthood approval, so get approval and STAND.  Standing a congregation is a sure fire way to get them to sing. They know they’ll look silly if they stay seated or if they stand and keep their mouths closed, so they sing.  If you are standing it better be a rousing hymn like “Israel, Israel, God is Calling”.  Those types of hymns are best for rest hymns anyway.  There was something going around the church a few years ago, a rumor I assume, that we weren’t supposed to stand anymore for rest hymns.  This is false.  We do it in General Conference and Stake Conference, and they handbook says we can, under the direction of the presiding authority.

Closing Hymn…

Choose a hymn that goes along with the spirit and theme of the meeting.  But, watch it.  Many directors get so caught up in thinking the hymn has to match the theme exactly and we end up singing “In Fasting We Approach Thee” every Fast Sunday and “Called to Serve” for every departing missionary.  For Fast Sunday you would probably want to choose a hymn like “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” that matches the spirit and reverence of the meeting as opposed to something like “For the Strength of the Hills”.  Use the theme of the meeting as a guide, but make sure the congregation is singing a wide VARIETY of hymns.  I once went 6 years in a ward without singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “O My Father”, two of my favorites.  Yet our ward faithfully sang the fasting songs every single month.

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A Model of Sacrament Meeting Music

Posted on January 6, 2011. Filed under: General Church Music, Music in Sacrament Meeting, Ward Music Chairman |

A couple of years ago I visited a ward in New York that became a model in my mind of how music in a Sacrament Meeting should sound.  The organist played appropriate hymn arrangements for prelude.  The congregation sang with gusto and the organist accompanied with a full and strong sound, varying the registrations  with each verse.  The opening hymn was a faster tempo hymn, one of strength and conviction.  Between the talks was a musical selection, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”, performed by two violinists and a pianist, perfectly executed.  The Sacrament and closing hymns, although slower in tempo than the opening, were sung with no less strength and volume.  The organist’s choice for postlude complimented the spirit of the meeting and I left feeling spiritually uplifted.  It was that day I truly understood this…

A person can get nearer to the lord through music than perhaps any other thing except prayer ~J. Reuben Clark
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