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The Ward Music Guild 5: Music for Worship

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 20, 2014

Fifth Guild Meeting: February 1944

By Alexander Schreiner,
Tabernacle Organist and
Member, Church Music Committee

The responsibility for the appropriateness of music on the Lord’s day rests with both musicians and the presiding officers. Those directors and organists who officiate regularly at our meetings may consider themselves as responsible for all the music which they themselves present. However, when presiding officers invite individuals and outside choruses to present special members, then those officers are responsible for the suitability of the music which they have invited into the service.

Only sacred music is acceptable on the Sabbath day. While this statement is self-evident, carelessness is ever near to bring some popular, frivolous tune into church services. The excuse sometimes given is that these secular, non-religious tunes are pretty. But God requires that which is truly beautiful. there is a difference between that which is pretty and that which is beautiful; that which tinkles, and that which lifts our hearts to God.

The church encourages a great deal of activity of a recreational nature which is to be undertaken during the ordinary days of the week. Sometimes such recreational music slips, by devious ways, into the worshiping hours of the Sabbath day. This, of course, must not be. The Lord’s day is his holy day.

The church presents liberal opportunities for young and inexperienced musicians to participate in the church program. Both the executives and the experienced musicians should give a kindly and helping hand in guiding these young performers in the choice of suitable music for worship.

Music must fit the doctrines of the church. for instance, we pray to God, the Father, and to him alone. We do not pray to Jesus, nor to the Mother Mary. Therefore all Ave Marias are inappropriate in our services, no matter how good the music itself may be. Again, pretty love songs occasionally find their way into Church services either as vocal solos, or as organ solos. We know that God is the author of all love, but it will be remembered that the love of God, and faith in him, is a greater matter than mere romantic love.

The most desirable instruments for music of worship will always be the voices of the congregation or the voices of the choir. This is because the voice is very close to the emotions, and also because all the congregation has the opportunity for participation and emotional response in congregational singing. But next to singing comes the music of the organ. It really would be well if we could gradually dispense with the use of the piano during Sunday services. The music of the organ, with its sustained sounds, suggests the spirit of prayer. On the other hand, the music of the piano suggests the lilt and accents of the dance. The melodious strains of the humble reed organ have touched the hearts of devout worshipers in many times and places, and, moreover, out of all proportion to its meager cost. Used reed organs can sometimes be bought for as low as twenty-five dollars, and new ones, with electric blower mechanisms, may be purchased with financial assistance from the office of the presiding bishopric.

Help and advice for new directors and organists is always freely available by writing to the general music committee of the church. The address is 200 North Main Street, Salt Lake City 3, Utah. Suggestions in the purchase of instruments may be had, and help in the selecting of books for pipe organ, reed organ, and the electronic instruments. Just off the press is a new [line of type dropped?] will be of interest to know that though the selections in this book are easy to learn, they are used by the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir in its famous radio programs over the Columbia Broadcasting System.

The organ prelude need be neither too soft nor loud. Musicians should unite in their efforts to get the cooperation of presiding officers to be in their seats quietly during the playing of a short prelude. Otherwise the music of the organ will be only an addition to the general confusion preceding our holy services. Of course, not only should the presiding brethren be in their seats quietly at this time, but also the choir director and all the members of the choir. Such a devotional attitude will lend dignity and beauty, and character, to the worshiping service. Let music be exalted to its merited high place in the house of God.

Questions for Consideration

1. Differentiate clearly between music of worship and music of recreation. What are the characteristics of each?

2. How may our music be made more effective emotionally, and thus touch the hearts of our worshipers?

3. Appoint one person to write to the general music committee by way of brief report concerning the progress of the ward music guild. Give number of meetings held and average attendance, etc. This is a roll call of all the ward music guilds throughout the church.

4. The subject for consideration at the sixth and final meeting will be “The Interpretation of Music.”



5 Comments »

  1. Was it at one of these “Guild Meetings” that they determined that the hymns in LDS meetings would always be played at a “Funeral Dirge” tempo? ;)

    Comment by andrew h — February 20, 2014 @ 7:12 am

  2. Now that’s a good, clear explanation of the music culture in the church. (Except for the subject of tempo!)

    Comment by Amy T — February 20, 2014 @ 7:47 am

  3. I do like Schreiner’s focus on making music worthy of being part of the worship, and not just a diversion or entertainment. I like his distinction between the “pretty” (or as he says, “that which tinkles” – ha!) and the “beautiful.” Of course, these distinctions are often in the ear of the hearer. But having as a goal attaining beauty and worshipful music is a good thing. Music as worship is good. Music as muzak/background noise or merely a diversion is no good.

    Oh, and this line? “It really would be well if we could gradually dispense with the use of the piano during Sunday services.” I’m not so sure. It’s true that the organ (and not the piano) is best-suited to accompany a congregation, but to dispense with the piano altogether? I don’t buy it, says this fellow organist.

    Comment by David Y. — February 20, 2014 @ 9:39 am

  4. Five or six years ago our ward’s several great organists were all of a sudden gone or called away on other Church business during sacrament meeting time. Our accompanist for several weeks was a pianist, a really good pianist. While I think organ is probably best — whether because it is objectively better or just more familiar to me — I really enjoyed those weeks with the piano. I also thought it was wise on the part of the pianist, and whoever approved it, that rather than struggle along on an organ when that really wasn’t his instrument, he chose to play the piano where he could do a much better job.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 20, 2014 @ 10:24 am

  5. I’ll tell ya, that first paragraph about the people with the callings being responsible for the music…that’s how it should be. And really, those people with the callings should really be a resource for the choice of music being brought in. Most of the time the music people know more about good taste than yer average bishopric member.

    Of course, I think that if your music people are doing their due diligence, musical numbers from outside the ward should be rare. The chance for young or inexperienced musicians to be encouraged is lost when anyone brings in the outside “talent”. Plus, it starts looking like a performer is going pro, touring the stake, getting roadies, t-shirts, stuff like that.

    Comment by JeannineL — February 20, 2014 @ 10:43 am

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