Appreciating Music the Way God Appreciates Music

I was asked to speak about “Appreciating Music the Way God Appreciates Music” in church today. Since my initial desires to be an organist stemmed from a less than God-like desire (See A Defining Moment) I decided to share some examples of others in my life who have given me what I consider glimpses of God-like appreciation of music.

•••

Mom

My mother enjoyed music and desired to give her children the opportunity to explore this wonderful gift. One way she did this was to insist that all seven of us had at least one year of piano instruction. After one year we could choose if we wanted to continue with piano, switch to another instrument or stop music lessons altogether. It seems to me that in this aspect of parenting she reflected God’s desire to have us, His children, discover and develop our talents.

Dad

My father appreciated music also. But in a much different way.

As I was growing up our family moved about every two years. In all the homes that we lived in Dad let Mom decorate, furnish and arrange the house as she pleased. She was given free reign….mostly. All Dad asked was that he be allowed to choose where to place his two music speakers. Now these were not little iPod-sized units. They were not even microwave-sized units. These were 1960’s-jumbo-sized-stereo-floor-speakers. Dad liked his music. Mom liked having a living room. Dad explained to her the beauty of true stereo sound. Mom was deaf in one ear. It never really worked out well. The thing that is amazing to me though is what would happen when I wanted to play the piano and Dad was listening to his music in the same room. Without hesitation he would turn off his music and enthusiastically assure me that he would rather listen to me play. Wow! Who would want to listen to a kid practice piano? To me, that was truly a God-like way to look at music.

Sue and the Choir Director

My friend, Sue, enjoys a great musical talent. She can sing alto. Strong. On key. Even when no one else around her does. Not everyone in her ward choir has that ability. Though it may seem a small thing, her unique talent kept the ward choir together when one sweet sister’s enthusiastic off-key offerings threatened to disintegrate the alto section. After complaints from a few of the women in the choir, a wise choir director strategically placed Sue so as to run interference between this devoted, tone deaf sister and the rest of the alto section, thus allowing all to sing their hearts out in praise the best they could. I think if God had been the choir director He would have done the same.

Richard Elliott

As you probably know, the organ not only has a place for your hands, but also has pedals so your feet can play music too. Mormon Tabernacle Organist Richard Elliott is a wonderful musician and has recently become known for his amazing footwork at the organ.

Several years ago he had some shoulder problems and had to keep his hands off the organ keys for a few months. After recovering, Richard was talking with some friends who asked how his shoulder was doing. He cheerfully explained that all seemed well. His arm was finally out of the sling and he was glad to have mobility again.

“Rick, what did you do during those months you couldn’t use your hands?” a fellow organist inquired.

“Improved my pedal technique!” was his quick response.

I love Richard Elliott’s example of making the best of life’s circumstances.

•••

Adam S. Bennion, a general authority in the 1950’s is credited with saying that: “What we need in this church is better music and more of it, and better speaking and less of it.”

In keeping with that bit of counsel I stopped speaking and concluded my talk with a musical number. Though formally known as Richard Elliott’s arrangement of “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth” I offered it as my testimony that God lives and cares very deeply about each of us and the way music affects our lives.

Wisdom from Our Leaders

When a co-worker learned that my organ solo scheduled for sacrament meeting last Sunday got ‘rescheduled’ one minute before I was to perform in order to allow the final speaker his fully allotted time, he kindly shared this quote and suggested I share it with my bishop:

What we need in this church is better music and more of it, and better speaking and less of it.

Adam S. Bennion
Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Well said, Elder Bennion!

Janet shares her secret to keeping the congregation engaged

A fun contribution from one of my reader friends:

Organ with speakers greeting card

I think I’ll send this on to our church facilities Management Group. 🙂

Thanks, Janet!

Why I Like Being Ward Organist

Every church calling has its positives. Even the most-often-turned-down-assignment of Nursery Leader boasts perks of playing with toys, no shoes required, and mandatory snacks. The only thing better than that, in my opinion, is my current assignment as ward organist. Here are some of things I like about this calling:

• sitting in the comfy seats

• being able to stand up and move during the meeting

• job security—no one’s bucking for my calling

• observing the congregation’s reaction to the announcement of a new Relief Society president

• watching parents wrestle with their young ones and being grateful that somehow my kids and I all made it through that stage

• sharing the majesty of the reeds, the power of the 32′ stop and the warmth of the strings with people I love

• feeling the strength of the congregation singing with me

• catching smiles in the congregation after a playing an awesome last-verse arrangement

• playing a 30 minute postlude, just because it feels good and I don’t want to stop

• praising God—without saying a word

What do you like about being an organist?