Washington SALSA: Linda Wells

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

Linda Wells from Longview Washington loves playing the organ. So far in her 63 years of life she has served as organist in three different wards. And that’s fine, but more would be even better because, as she says, “Ward Organist is my favorite calling.”

Take a moment to get acquainted with Linda, our newest member of the Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists, then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

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Linda Wells—Washington

What was the first musical calling you received? When I was still in high school, I was called to be the pianist in Primary. (Primary was during the weekdays back then.) I was very nervous and hadn’t taken piano lessons, only organ. I made it through however.

When did you start playing the organ?  I always wanted to play a musical instrument. My sister and brother were given the chance to play the piano and accordian but they both bombed out. I don’t think my mom and dad wanted to risk the time and money on me. Finally, close to my 15th birthday, my dad said I would get the chance to take organ lessons. My mom and I shared the same birthday. We were getting an organ for our birthdays. I never did figure out if I would get the lower and upper manual. I got to take lessons for three years and I loved the lessons. I dove right in and really enjoyed it. I’m so thankful that my parents let me take lessons.

Do you play any other instruments?  Let’s see. I play AT the piano. I’ll play in Relief Society if the regular pianist is absent. I dabble at the harmonica. I can play a comb with tissue paper on it. I can play the kazoo.

Which instrument do you prefer? I think, yep I know, I prefer the organ.

What is your favorite hymn?  Did You Think to Pray

What is your favorite prelude or postlude piece?  I like to play The Lord is My Shepherd. This is the prelude. For postlude I like to play Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing. I like that one because I can play it by heart.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy playing with my grandchildren and helping out in the kindergarten class where my son teaches and going to movies with my family.

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? I have never been taught how to use all of the pulls and knobs on the big organ at church to make various sounds. I just play what sounds best to me.

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist? This is the third ward where I’ve been the organist. I’ve learned how to play for the congregation without getting nervous. I know if I pray before I practice and play on Sundays, I do a much better job. Heavenly Father has called me to this position for a reason and He trusts me to do my best. As long as I try to do my best, He will bless me with more ability. I can only hope and pray that I’ll always be able to play.

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Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Linda!
Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

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Nevada SALSA: Delightfully Lemmon

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

PreludesSACDouglas Lemmon made his church organist debut at age 15. He’s written several organ, piano and choral books. One of my favorites is Preludes SAC—a great late beginner/early intermediate organ collection. Great stuff! (Thank you, Douglas, for providing the LDS organist with arrangements that are accessible (aka degree-in-music-not-required) and sound great!)

He also published a book about JJ McClellan, Tabernacle Organist called “Sweet Is The Work.” (I haven’t read that one, but I’m sure it’s good too.) Douglas and his wife Kathleen reside in Henderson, Nevada, where he teaches private and group organ lessons.

Take a moment to get acquainted with Douglas—our newest member of the Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists, who claims that playing the organ is easy—then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

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Douglas Lemmon—Nevada

What was the first musical calling you received? How was that experience? Before the “block-program” in the church, I was the Junior Sunday School pianist at age 12, then the Sunday School organist and ward organist at 15. Stake Organist at 17. I loved the Junior Sunday School book and its music. Playing the hymns has been a great experience through the years.

How long have you been playing the organ?  I began piano lessons at age 6. Organ lessons began at about 12. I barely reached the pedals. My parents purchased a Baldwin organ for our home when I was 15. I think they got tired of taking me to the church every couple of days. I was always interested in the organ and was always watching the Tabernacle Organists in their noon recitals and conference. They were and are the inspiration that taught me much more than most of my teachers.

Do you play other instruments? Piano and organ are the only instruments today. I tried flute, guitar and percussion, but stayed with the keyboard instruments.

What is your favorite hymn?  There are about 341 hymns in the hymn book. Each has something special for any specific occasion. I love them all, but especially love the hymns of the restoration.

What about a favorite prelude or postlude piece? I love playing arrangements of the hymns. I have many arrangements in my books I’ve written, and love playing any of the Darwin Wolford and Robert Manookin arrangements.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I love yard work and puttering!

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? I’ve never faced any challenge as an LDS organist. My students are taught to play appropriate music for the service and I think in the church that can be a challenge for organists. I’ve been playing for such a long time that I’ve seen many bishops and stake presidents come and go. I always meet with the new ones and ask them for their suggestions. None have ever told me to only play hymns. I think that would be a challenge for me, but it hasn’t happened because I play appropriate literature for the occasion. Somewhere I try to include Bach!

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist?  I’ve met many wonderful people in and out of the church as an organist. I’ve also learned that the Spirit can be strong. An organists needs to listen to those promptings.

Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your experience as an organist? Even though I’ve played for many years, there is still much to learn. I practice the organ and piano daily and encourage those holding an organist position in the church to do that also.

Organ playing is easy. Many musicians dodge playing the organ because they think it’s too difficult, especially playing pedals. I’ve maintained that playing pedals is the easiest part of organ playing. The manual technique is more difficult which will come with practice.

Want more of Douglas? Check out his website at douglaspublishingcompany.com.

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Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Douglas!
Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

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Kentucky SALSA: Victoria

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

Sometimes playing our ward organ can be a little frustrating. It seems I am always dealing with out-of-tune pipes or new ciphers or lost piston settings or, well, you know…all the irritation that come with playing the King of Instruments. But no complaints. Not since I read this latest SALSA and realized that some ward organists don’t even get to play an organ. Serious.

Victoria, a ward (or branch, maybe?) organist is consigned to play Sunday hymns on a digital piano. Yikes! Between that and the other musical challenges she deals with she is in for a big reward in heaven for sure!

Take a moment to get acquainted with Victoria—originally from Arizona, a BYU graduate, former student of John Longhurst, and loves the majesty of Bach—our newest member of the Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists, then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

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Victoria Taylor—Kentucky

What was the first musical calling you received?  Primary pianist.

How was that experience?  I loved it! I was in high school at the time and  had a wonderful, talented music director and learned so much from her. My piano teacher had always included hymns in my repertoire since I was a child (she was LDS, also) which was a great help.

How long have you been playing the organ? Why did you start?  I’ve only had a few months of lessons, but have played for about 40 years. Long enough that I actually remember the hymns from the last hymnbook—hymn numbers and even keys. Occasionally, I begin playing a hymn in the original key!!

Originally, there was a challenge when I was young, that if you could play a hymn (pedals and all) you could go to the Tabernacle and be allowed to play. This was one year only. I could play a hymn, but was too short to reach the pedals (I think I was about 4’6″ at the time—just a bit too young). It was the only year that ever was made available churchwide.

As a teenager I had the great fortune to take organ lessons from John Longhurst, who traveled and trained organists. It was wonderful! But other than that, I am self taught. I have mainly have focused on piano—teaching, accompanying, etc.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?  Singing and playing to myself now that the kiddos are grown. Still love to sew, craft, and read. I love to cook specialty items for holidays. I exercise diligently 1/2 to 1 hour a day—have lost 90 pounds this past year and feel better every day!

Do you play any other instruments?  I played violin in high school and the piano since age 8.

Which instrument do you prefer?  Piano is my favorite. It soothes my soul.

What is your favorite hymn?  For All the Saints. Every time I play it I am transported to a beautiful cathedral filled with majestic voices. And I love the words. It is truly an anthem. So glad it was put into the “new” hymnal. I’d never heard it before (and truthfully, our director has never chosen it) A close second is All Creatures of Our God and King.  I have loved the harmony and flow since I was in high school.

And two more, please! O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown. The majesty of Bach! I would love more “high” hymns in our hymnal. Last, Reverently and Meekly Now. It is one of the few hymns written in first person. It really makes me think about the Savior. It’s as if He were speaking to me.

What is your favorite prelude?  This is a sore spot. There’s no pedalboard on the Kawai, so it’s incredibly hard to do organ preludes. I have many prelude books for organ that I can’t use. My fingers don’t have a 4 octave spread haha! and piano books aren’t much better  because I can’t use proper smooth finger technique! Even when I try to invite the Spirit, it seems like no one listens—just talks.

What are some of the challenges you face as an LDS organist?  Our organ. It’s not one. It has 5 presets, one keyboard, no pedals. Need I say more? Oh, and we sing basically the same 30 hymn repertoire all year. It’s very disheartning because there are so many wonderful, spiritual and uplifting hymns in the book. Oh, and I must keep my own time, because the chorister conducts everything in 2/2. When a song is in 3/4, I tap my left foot and never look at her—it would throw me off! I must set the tempo, decide how long to hold the fermata, etc. I have no guidance. I have tried everything in the book, but to no avail.

We sing songs about Christ, but not about his Atonement for sacrament. Every song has to be about the theme of the week (which leaves out 80% of the hymns and we repeat the other 20%). We’ll stand to sing an intermediate hymn that’s slow and solemn….an opening hymn that’s more suitable to closing, and vice versa. No one pays any attention to the Using the Hymnbook section at the back!

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist?  Well, I’d say patience, but I’m still having trouble with that one! At least it has made me more familiar with the hymnbook and that provides me with spiritual sustenance. I am a pretty good sight reader, too – since I usually don’t know what I’m going to play until I get to church.

Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your experience as an organist?  I wish I were better and had availed myself of more lessons. But then life too over and I developed other priorities.

Editor’s note: Victoria, you may want to check the LDS Church website for a free download of the Manual-Only Hymns and Transformations. The booklets are a collection of hymn arrangements for congregational singing and preludes for the pedal-less organist. The arrangements keep the fullness of the four-part hymns while eliminating four octave spreads and other organ gymnastics!

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Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Victoria!
Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

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SALSA with a Healing Touch: Dorothy Jensen

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

I am pleased to introduce you to this week’s SALSA—Dorothy Jensen. Not only did she fulfill a career in the healing arts, but Dorothy continues to bring healing and comfort to others through her music. What a blessing to have an organist serve her fellow ward members in this way! Do they have any idea how lucky they are??

Take a moment to get acquainted with Dorothy as she share memories of Junior Sunday School, love for her sister and some of the challenges of playing prelude music. Then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

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Dorothy Benson Jensen—Idaho

Tell us a little about yourself.  I’ve lived my life in Idaho with the exception of three years of nursing school in Salt Lake City. My formal music training includes 10 years of piano lessons and a 6-week organ course at our stake center when I was 15. It was a good time for me to learn to play the organ because I could play all the hymns and Primary songs by that time. Now, as a retired RN, I’m giving piano lessons one day a week and serving as ward organist and choir accompanist.

What was the first musical calling you received? Junior Sunday School organist in 1957. It was great as my girlfriend led the music. The next year in Senior Sunday School, we alternated as the organist and music conductor until we graduated from high school and my sister took over.

Do you play any other instruments besides the organ?  Piano, clarinet and then bass clarinet in band for 7 years. I love both the piano and the organ.

What are some of your favorite hymns? O God the Eternal Father, Our God Is a God of Love and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

Do you have a favorite prelude or postlude piece? How Great Thou Art for prelude, and God Be With You Till We Meet Again for postlude.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Camping, four wheeling in the mountains, embroidery, making quilts, reading.

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? Setting the tone for Sacrament Meetings and Stake Conferences. There is not much reverence in the chapel. I call it “music to visit by.” It doesn’t matter how loud or soft anyone plays. Though it’s better if a general authority is visiting.

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist?  I feel I can bear my testimony each week with well chosen hymns for prelude.

Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your experience as an organist? My youngest sister was a music major at BYU and a great organist who passed away suddenly at age 26 in 1971, and I always feel as if I’m playing for her too. I’ve always prayed for the inspiration of chosen pieces to be able to touch or soothe someone’s troubled heart as music has done this for me.

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Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Dorothy!

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Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!

btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

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