About a month ago, I was extended a release of my calling as ward choir director. I've been in a choir calling for five years. Well, first I started as just a choir member, but then I became choir accompanist, then I was choir accompanist AND music chair (more power over the choir mwahaha) and then ward choir director for the past two years. And now I'm just a choir member again. How things come full circle.
Last week my sister was also released as ward choir director (though a much shorter stint) and she made a blog post of all the music she had her choir sing. She recommended that perhaps I do the same.
Thing is, my choir performed over 30 songs that I specifically chose. (Not always with me as the director, since I also took it upon myself to suggest music to directors every ... few months.) That's a daunting list. (I do have the list. It's just not going to be helpful to anyone as just a list.)
So I'm going to talk about some favorites that we did over the years, as well as some resources I used to find music.
One thing I tried to use was the ward music library (and especially the stake music library, when I could bribe my way in). I wasn't much of one for buying 25 copies of music (yes, we sometimes had 25 people show up to choir!) so I liked when there were already multiple copies. Sometimes there's a bunch of stuff that's just not good (the stake library had an extensive collection of music for women, which just wasn't what I was looking for) but there's the occasional gem, so it's worth looking through. My favorite that I found from the library was "Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort." I was blessed to have a wonderful accompanist who was willing to play at the organ. She also arranged the accompaniment for viola, flute, and organ in such a way that maintained a lot of the beauty of the original without having to find instrumentalists we didn't have. It was a beautiful song for Halloween.
(That's another thing, I loved theming the music to holidays. Songs about love in February, more haunting melodies in October, one notable June when I made my choir sing for Father's Day (My Heavenly Father Loves Me, from the lds.org website) one week and Joseph Smith's martyrdom (My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee, from the ward library) the next.)
I also used a lot of music that I already had around. Songs that previous directors had done (long enough ago that no one would remember them), songs I learned in college, even songs from high school choir. You never know when a piece will feel right, so I was glad I kept everything and had the opportunity to re-use some of it. I loved "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Follow the Light" from my BYU University Chorale days. (No link, sorry. I can show the music to interested persons if they want.)
We also sang stuff straight from the hymnbook! Some of the stuff in there is beautiful, but can never be sung in sacrament meeting because it's too hard. We did "The Wintry Day Descending to its Close" and "Lean On My Ample Arm" just completely as written (like in the recordings linked to), without getting fancy on the verses. I fancied up "Oh May My Soul Commune with Thee" just a tad (exactly following the recording linked to -- listen, if it's good enough for MoTab, it's good enough for my choir that didn't have a lot of notice before ward conference to sing this one). I was blessed to have a pretty balanced choir for these numbers, where I could count on the sopranos to hit the high notes and the other parts to ... also hit their notes. They were "from the hymnbook," yeah, but they were complicated, and my choir stepped up.
My favorite resource was the internet. Well, scratch that. My favorite resource was the 2016 Church Music Submission Concert that my sister's piece was featured in. I used a TON of music from that concert. It's sadly not available right now, but I know the website will be back again someday. I had the choir do "Let the Glory of the Lord" (this was pre-my direction. I would've loved to do it again but time ran out), "Wonderful," "O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown" (more than once), and "Love at Home" (also more than once). The very last piece I directed was from the 2018 concert, this beautiful rendition of "More Holiness Give Me" (I guess just look at the sheet music and imagine how beautiful it is. Or I can come play it for you).
But besides that one concert, I often used the library at music.lds.org to find pieces. There is a good variety there of "so difficult I can barely imagine doing it" and also "this is pretty simple". That fun rendition of "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise" is on there. Plus a lot of other stuff. I also would occasionally check out freeldssheetmusic.com and various composers' websites. You really can put together a choir just using the free resources that are out there, if you have access to a copy machine.
As I was putting together the five-year retrospective, my access to the ward music document where everything is listed got revoked (so I put together the retrospective just in time!). Things really do come full circle.
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