Monday, April 29, 2013

Music Callings In The Church: Ward Choir

Being a Ward Choir Director was by far the most challenging calling I have ever had. I agonized over everything I did.

"Did I choose the right song?"

"Is it too difficult?"

"Is it too easy?"

"Can the pianist play this?"

"Should we do parts or just sing the melody?"

"Should I encourage my one Tenor to learn his part or let him sing with the sopranos?"

"Are we rehearsing too often? Not often enough? Is it a bad time?"

"If I bring food will they come sing? Should I really have to pay people to participate?"

"Why aren't the good singers coming? They hate must me! They know I am not very good at this and they are snubbing me. They are judging me. They are sending me a message that I am unacceptable!"

I don't think I have ever felt so much self-doubt about anything...except maybe motherhood!

I tried very hard to push these thoughts out. I focused on those who did come. I trusted that their willingness to be there would bless our efforts. And we were blessed.

I learned a lot from this calling, more than I ever expected.

Lesson 1: ALL callings require faith in the Lord.- Somehow I had come to the conclusion that I only needed to rely on the Lord if I "needed" help. Being choir director taught me that I ALWAYS need help! I needed to pray and ponder and study to do this calling well.

Lesson 2: No calling is an island.- This was actually not a new concept to me. It was just reaffirmed in ginormous flashing neon letters. It didn't matter how hard I worked or how much I prepared if no one showed up to sing. (Which actually happened more times than I care to remember!) Most callings in the church require participation from other ward members. When someone is called to serve in the church they are providing a service to others. The only thing they ask in return is support. As members we show our support by showing up to classes and meetings, activities and practices. Is that really too much to ask?

Sometimes I got the feeling that "good" singers didn't like to come to choir practice because they weren't getting anything out of it. I could say something about that but it might not be appropriate so I will let you draw your own conclulsions.

Lesson 3: Music is important!- I don't have all the answers but I do know that our Heavenly Father loves music. Music is a precious and powerful gift. Music can change our moods. Music can invite the Holy Ghost to comfort, inspire, and protect us in times of need. The scriptures are filled with references to singing. By disregarding music we cut ourselves off from a beautiful, sacred blessing.

Lesson 4: There is beauty in simplicity.- I know that there are many accomplished musicians in the world.  If I spend much time looking at their work I start to feel pretty crappy by comparison. The little choir I was responsible for had limited abilities. With time and experience, trial and error, I found the balance between beauty and simplicity. We weren't the MoTab so why try to be?

Lesson 5: The Lord blesses the righteous not the gifted.- A gifted person can be blessed also, of course. But the scripture actually says

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.." (D&C 25:12, emphasis added)

When we sing from the heart, we are blessed. I saw it often in our little choir. The members became confident in their abilities. They always sang better in the actual performance than in any rehearsals. The congregation felt the Spirit. When we sang for the Lord, he blessed our efforts.

I know that callings like this one can be frustrating. It is part of the learning process. But it can also be very rewarding. Never in my life did I understand Ether:12:27 better than I did as a choir director.

"I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

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