Ward Music Director
- Obtains the sacrament meeting topics from the ward music chairman.
- Chooses hymns that correlate with the topics under the direction of the ward music chairman. The ward music chairman must then obtain the bishopric’s approval.
- Consults with the organist about the hymns that are chosen.
- Chooses appropriate opening, sacrament, and closing hymns, a good combination of well-known and lesser-known hymns (about 70% well-known and 30% lesser-known is a good rule of thumb,) and appropriate tempos and volumes of the hymns, i.e., not too fast, slow, loud, or soft, depending on whether it is for opening, sacrament, or closing.
- Learns and practices good directing techniques, i.e., knowing the hymn by heart and looking out into the congregation, directing the organist as well as the congregation, and directing with big arms and lots of enthusiasm.
I believe, next to the organists fantastic accompanying, that hymn selection will help a congregation to sing or not to sing. When I was Stake Music Chairman, my Stake President wanted only familiar hymns sung in Sacrament Meetings and he told me to tell all the Ward Music Directors. Needless to say it did not go over well and there were some pretty angry musicians. So, I created a list of the 75 most familiar hymns, according to Holly, and passed it out to the Music Directors. I suggested they use these hymns 70% of the time and use the other hymns 30& of the time (just at the beginning). Then, their jobs were to coordinate with Ward Choir Directors and Relief Society Music Directors to teach less familiar hymns to the RS and Choir. After a while those less familiar hymns would become more familiar and move into the 70% category.
How to program hymns into a Sacrament Meeting
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. 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.