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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Methods Practice III
General Notes

Pipe organ used for instrumental accompaniment for congregational hymns. Piano used for choir number.
Female conducting the music. 30s, black dress with red belt and large necklace.
During sacrament hymn – 3 men at altar to left of rostrum, breaking bread. Sacrament prayer chant-like in recitation. Somewhat standardized oratory style – localized tradition?
Little boy walking quickly along hardwood floor behind last row of seats.
Choir – 7 men in back row, 7 women in front row. Conductor faces choir. All use sheet music. Male/female alternate verses, join on third voice for full harmony. All white performers, ages ~12 to 50, concentration of 20-to-30-somethings. No uniform worn, except that all were in the same kind of formal attire worn by majority of congregation.
Speaker after choir piece commented “What a beautiful hymn.” No comment on choir – just the hymn itself.
Most of congregation singing on congregational hymns. Less singing in the back – lack of hymnals?
Most singing melody. Some take harmony parts. Lack of musical training, laziness, preference for melody line?
Organization of organ pipes – three large clusters, center cluster tallest. In between, small pipes grow from center to meet either end. Symbolic of Trinity, or simply aesthetic choice?
Board on right for showing what hymn numbers will be sung. Empty. Why?

Hymnals green, numbered. Copyright 1985. 341 hymns.
Text and music of sung hymns follows. Four hymns in sacrament meeting, one by choir. One hymn sung in priesthood opening exercises, accompanied by piano (organ too powerful for smaller group? Or lack of an organist in the smaller priesthood body?)
Scatter Sunshine – Christian living, attitude

While of These Emblems We Partake – Sacrifice of Jesus, ordinance of communion, the life to come
Lead, Kindly Light – supplication, repentance
More Holiness Give Me – supplication, Christian living and values
Redeemer of Israel – praise, supplication (only in v. 4), the Christian condition and cause
Opening Hymn – Scatter Sunshine

Sacrament Hymn – While of These Emblems We Partake

Choir Hymn – Lead, Kindly Light

Closing Hymn – More Holiness Give Me

Priesthood Hymn - Redeemer of Israel

Omitted verses 5 and 6.

Analysis: The choices of hymns were very balanced. The core doctrines of the gospel were preached, and the opening hymn was a practical application typical of Mormon conceptions of how religion should be lived. In such a large ward, the back section having to go without hymnals is sad and rather expected, but many I noticed simply pulled up the words on their smartphones. The hymns remind me of the South Indian bhajan song form - the focus is in no way on musical performance, but rather on communal praise and solidarity. The choir song moved a little more toward being about perfection of performance, but was still focused on devotion through participation rather than devotion through technical perfection. Elders quorums usually just pick a song that everybody has memorized, which I actually appreciate because the elders sing out more, especially if it's a hymn they sang often in the mission field. The tempos are usually a little quicker, and using a piano rather than an organ contributes to the wonderful percussiveness of amateur all-male choirs. It would be nice to have a little more vocal training among the general membership - a 500 voice choir should be deafening, but experience in this and other sacrament meetings shows that many 25 voice choirs could easily out-decibel the typical sacrament meeting congregation. It is so interesting to watch the different degrees of obvious emotion displayed by singers of hymns, and even more interesting to realize that many who are being most touched by the sermons preached in that little green bible are not showing their involvement at all. It definitely made me more conscious of how I sound and look when singing the hymns, and also made me more emotionally connected to the beautiful words, melodies, and harmonies.

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