Aug 08

With God, Nothing is Impossible…Except Choir

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I am our ward choir director. If you knew me in real life you might find this shocking—I am no great musical talent, I have no formal training, and most importantly, I sport no distinguished-looking facial hair—no mutton chop sideburns or flamboyant goatee—the true mark of a virtuoso conductor.

What I can do is read music and play the piano passably well, and that is about it…which apparently qualifies me as choir director. I am a warm body who can keep a beat and carry a tune. Praise the Lord and pass the earplugs! Continue reading

Sep 18

Behold! A Little Fact’ry!

It’s almost Conference time again, and although it has only been six months, I can hardly remember what was said in April. Perhaps Conference talks would be easier to remember if they were set to music. It seems appropriate to set them to the music of hymns, since Conference talks and hymns both inhabit that space of being sorta kinda but not really completely scripture.

I’ll start with an easy one. Here’s a singable version of then-Elder Boyd K. Packer’s classic “To Young Men Only,” given in the Priesthood Session of October 1976 Conference. Sing to the tune of “Behold! A Royal Army.”

Behold! A little fact’ry
Is in you; it begins
To make a sacred substance,
But opens you to sins.
Your fact’ry will run slowly,
And when it makes too much,
It opens a release valve:
This valve you must not touch!

Tamper not! Tamper not!
Do not touch that release valve!
Tamper not! Tamper not!
If tempted, sing a hymn!
Tamper not! Tamper not! Tamper not!
Your fact’ry lights keep dim.

 

Jan 14

Carefully! Carefully with the plates!

I like to think that if J.R.R. Tolkien had been Mormon, he might have written a book about the hassles of getting the Book of Mormon translated. Such a book might have included the following song:

Chip the peepstone and break the plates!
Melt the sealed portion down!
That’s what Joseph Jr. hates—
Wave the sword of Laban around!

Cut the top off of the hat!
Lose page one through 116!
Smash the Urim and Thummim flat!
Refuse to put your farm to lien!

That’s what Joseph Jr. hates—
So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

Mar 28

Blessed Are They That Mourn

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Who goeth forth and weepeth, and beareth precious seed, shall doubtless return with rejoicing, and bring his sheaves with him. –Brahms Requiem, 1st movement

As I lay curled in a ball on my bed late Friday night, trying to quiet the sobs that shook my body and had the mascara pooling in dark circles under my eyes, it was difficult to remember the words from a few hours earlier: “blessed are they that mourn…” When the emotional pain envelops you and leaves little room for rational thought, the blessedness of mourning is merely an attractive idea. And comfort is very far away. Continue reading

Jun 02

Dona Nobis Pacem (some late Memorial Day thoughts)

Beat! beat! drums! — blow! bugles! blow! / Through the windows — through doors — burst like a ruthless force… (Walt Whitman, “Beat! Beat! Drums!”; Dona Nobis Pacem, second movement)

In 1937, Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote Dona Nobis Pacem. The piece emerged from his feelings on the rising tide of Fascism and Naziism in Europe in the late 1930’s as well as his experiences as an ambulance driver and artillery officer in the First World War. The title of the piece means “grant us peace,” and it is a compelling musical journey that borrows texts from the Bible, Walt Whitman (“Beat! Beat! Drums!”, “Reconciliation,” and “A Dirge for Two Veterans”) and John Bright’s famous “Angel of Death” speech, and which runs the gamut of musical colors and emotions–from the frenetic representation of war in the second movement to the weary calm of the third movement to the somber death march of the fourth movement to the despair and emptiness of the fifth movement and to the eventual joy and hope of the final, sixth movement. Continue reading