Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Ward Music Guild: Part 1 (of 6)

The Ward Music Guild: Part 1 (of 6)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 20, 2013

In the summer of 1943, in response to a plea for help in choosing suitable worship music, Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner wrote that “… Very helpful also would be for some person in the ward or stake to motivate an occasional social gathering for the musicians. Part of the time of such an occasion could then be given over to the discussing of plans for the perfecting of our church music. All persons present should be given an opportunity to express themselves in turn, so that the various viewpoints and all phases of the work may be considered. A concrete plan for such meetings will soon be announced by the general music committee.”

That “concrete plan” appeared within weeks: a “music guild,” where ward and branch musicians and other officers responsible for Church music could discuss problems and propose solutions.

Six sessions were planned for the fall and winter of 1943-44:

1. Music Program for the Year
2. Congregational Singing
3. The Functions of an Organist
4. What Is the Matter with Our Choral Singing?
5. Music for Worship
6. Tempos for Hymn Singing

As those programs are reproduced on Keepa, I’ll add live links to the above titles. The first one is more administrative than anything, but beginning with part 2, they go into the actual musical problems facing wards and branches. Let’s see what the musicians of the modern Church think of these pieces, and whether you all would support a training program in your own wards, whether like this one or very different.

The Ward Music Guild 1: Music Program for the Year

Announcing The Ward Music Guild

By Alexander Schreiner
Tabernacle Organist and
Member, Church Music Committee

A month ago a promise was made of an early announcement of extraordinary concern to our church musicians. Here it is.

The general music committee of the church has completed plans for the setting up of a music guild in each ward and branch of the church. The activities of the guild are outlined in the following paragraphs, and plans for the season will continue to appear. It is the purpose of the ward music guild to give consideration to the ward’s music problems and provide for their solution. The plan calls for six democratic, sociable meetings during the season, the first of which should take place in the third week of October. The member of the ward bishopric who is in charge of music activities will set the time and date and be responsible for getting the guild under way.

What It Is

The ward or branch music guild will consist of the ward music chairman (a member of the bishopric), the choir leader and choir organist, and all the choristers and organists of the various auxiliary organizations and priesthood groups. Any others interested in music may also be included. The guild provides in reality an expansion of the activities of the ward music committee.


The functions of the guild as at present visualized may be enumerated as follows:

1. To meet once a month for six successive months beginning with the third week in October for the consideration of lesson material
2. To take complete responsibility for improving the quality of music in all church gatherings
3. To dignify the work of choristers and organists
4. To set a time for choir rehearsals that will not be infringed on. This must be done with the aid of the members of the bishopric
5. To arrange the music plans of the various organizations for the season
6. To hear reports on the reading of books about music
7. To give every person present an opportunity to express himself concerning the needs and ambitions of his organization


At the monthly session, the ward music chairman will preside. The meeting should last one hour and a half.

The order of business is as follows:

1. An opening hymn
2. Prayer
3. Minutes
4. Announcements and assignments
5. Class period
6. Benediction

The leader of the class period may or may not be a member of the guild, i.e., hold a ward music post. The class leader will see that the lesson material is well presented, and will open a period of discussion. The procedure should be democratic, with everyone encouraged and given opportunity to express himself.

The general music committee will be pleased indeed to hear from the guilds concerning their work. Especially will it be pleased to hear reports of improvements in church music as a result of the activities of the guild. Constructive suggestions will always be welcome.

First Guild Meeting: October

During this class period, plans will be considered and outlines made for the music program of the year. Representatives of the various organizations will be asked to express themselves on matters pertaining to their work. The secretary of the guild will make a note of all problems raised and will see that they are all kept before the guild until they have reached satisfactory solution.

The procedure may be something like this:

Chairman: “The purpose of this meeting is to make up a calendar of the ward musical organizations for the year. We are going to ask each representative of the organizations to give us an outline of the program he has in mind.”

Ward chorister: “I desire to organize a choir according to the suggestions of the church music committee as found in the ‘Choir Organization’ folder. I think we should start with carefully selected voices and add new members as we are able to balance the various parts. I would also like to have a rehearsal time designated with which no other meetings will interfere. We wish to present a special music service of the music contained in the new book Chapel Anthems.”

Ward organist: “Our organ needs tuning and repairing. I also suggest that we begin the raising of a fund to purchase a new organ later on. I understand the presiding bishopric will contribute a like amount, so that we can purchase a $400.00 reed organ if we raise only $200.00.”

Sunday School: “Our work is confined largely to Sunday morning. We desire to give special programs on Christmas and Easter mornings.”

Relief Society: “Outside of the regular singing in our meetings, we wish to encourage our Singing Mothers group, and to co-operate in maintaining a ward choir.”

Primary: “Our objective is to help the child have an appreciation of good music through our Primary songs, church hymns, and other material. We have boys’ glees, girls’ choruses, and combined choruses.”

M.I.A.: “Our program includes small group singing, and the opera Erminie. This latter will take considerable work, and we shall have to ask for singers outside our organization.”

Chairman: “Our assignment of the dates for the various musical programs is as follows” (dates to be arranged by ward committee):

Primary conference
Easter cantata by choir
Priesthood anniversary
Choir music service
Ward bazaar program
Primary festival
Sunday School evening service
M.I.A. opera

Questions to Be Considered

Attention should be given during the first guild session to the following questions:

1. When was the organ tuned last? Does it need repair?

2. When does the ward choir sing on fast days?

3. Does the ward choir have the latest publications of our church music? For example, does it have copies of Chapel Anthems, and the recordings of them made by members of the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir?

4. Do the bishopric, the Sunday School superintendency, the choir leader, and choir members cooperate to further devotional spirit during the rendering of the organ prelude?

5. How can the Junior Sunday School be furnished with a reed organ to take the place of the piano which is now used? The organ is a church instrument, while the piano is not.

6. What is the date and time of the next guild meeting? Would the guild care to have light refreshments? Who will take the responsibility of inviting those who should attend?

7. Would those present enjoy visiting a nearby ward, to inspect its musical instruments?

8. Announcement: The subject for consideration at the second meeting will be “Congregational Singing.” Be prepared to voice your opinions.



  1. I look forward to any reports on the hymn tempo subject :) As a freshly-released chorister after 11 years, I can tell you no one agrees on that one! I don’t like the too slow dirge of my childhood in the Intermountain West and the Southern Saints do like it a little on the faster side (especially Baptist converts!) A few Utah transplants would then ask us to slow it down which tickled me. Sometimes I obliged a little if I thought I had gone too far to the quick side.

    Very intersting as always, Ardis. Thank you!

    Comment by Allison in Atlanta — December 20, 2013 @ 8:26 am

  2. Allison, my Facebook friends will know that *I* look forward to that hymn tempo subject, too, since every Sunday I complain about the ssssllllllooooooooooooooowwwwwnnnnnnnneeessssssssssssss of the music in my ward! I never would have guessed I had kindred spirits among the Baptists!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 20, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  3. Hating on pianos, eh? Well, based on how that turned out, I have hope for one day seeing brass instruments used in church…

    Comment by E. Wallace — December 20, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

  4. My previous ward heard several times each year from a bell choir (those are brass) and we often had trumpets with choir numbers. I guess it helped that the bishop’s number 1 son was first chair trumpet in the high school band . . . .

    Comment by LauraN — December 20, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

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