May 5, 2008

Deseret Debacle

I direct the hymns for the congregation at church every Sunday. Our incredibly fabulous organist happens to be the mother of one of my best friends, and we've known each other so long that I call her my "other mother".

She and I are of the same mind when it comes to the hymns. I am fond of many of the "familiar" hymns we sing in church, but I think there are way too many unsung heroes as well. Well, Janet finds places for them every week, and I can't recall the last time our congregation sang "Count Your Blessings" or "Choose the Right". Let's just say it's been a LONG time. And I admit, I like it that way. Janet refuses to play anything from what she calls "the sunshine section", and there are several more she won't touch because of their hokey factor. Instead, we get all the great and grandiose hymns that sound awesome on that full pipe organ: "All Glory, Laud and Honor", "All Creatures of Our God and King" "Praise to the Lord the Almighty", etc etc. Spreading the love is totally our bag, baby.

But then Janet went on a trip for her youngest daughter's graduation, and she left Kelly in charge of the pipes. Ohhh.....Kelly. Kelly is getting his DMA at USC this summer; he's an incredible musician, he's been living at my parent's house for the past several years, we've become good friends, and he knows just how to get under my skin.

He was allowed to pick whatever hymns he wanted while Janet was gone, so he took the liberty of choosing one he knew she and I wouldn't have: "In Our Lovely Deseret".

If any of the readers of this blog like/love that hymn, either accept my apology for what I'm about to say or...leave and come back after I've posted something else.

I can't stand the lyrics of that hymn. I made such a stink before the meeting started that Kelly, laughing the whole time, said he would change it if I REALLY wanted to. Well, I REALLY wanted to, but the meeting had already begun, numbers were already up, and Ted said it would be good for me to direct a hymn I couldn't stand. He even went as far as to say he'd be really mad if I changed it.

I should have changed it.

I get up to the podium and start directing away. I had a smirky smile on my face during the first verse, but got through it fine. And then the second verse started - you know what I'm talking about. That infernal verse with the lyrics that go:

That the children may live long
And be beautiful and strong,
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,
Drink no liquor, and they eat
But a very little meat;
They are seeking to be great and good and wise.

What was Eliza R. Snow THINKING??? I let out a bit of a giggle at "despise" because it seems so awkward to me that the word is present in any of our sacred hymns, but I had totally lost it at "very little meat". I would have composed myself within a few seconds were it not for seeing my mom in the congregation just giggling uncontrollably. Her face was red, her shoulders were shaking, and she was half-hiding behind her hymnbook. I tried to look away, but the damage was already done. I had two and a half verses to go! I'm in front of the whole congregation! I'm not allowed to lose it! But there I was, laughing away, arm waving (on beat, I might add) and Kelly at the organ, just grinning away. I saw people near guffaws in the congregation, and one usually classy, reverent woman admitted she laughed out loud.

See???? I told you not to choose that hymn! This is what happens!!!

In researching this most recent embarrassing moment, I realized I had little to be upset about. It turns out lots of people don't like the hymn and have even made up alternative words to it. In fact, people have made up LOTS of alternative lyrics to well-loved hymns. I may laugh profusely during Sacrament Meeting, but changing sacred lore is something I'd never do. (My tongue is securely stapled to my cheek)

But come on! This hymn was written in the latter half of the 1800s! It's time for an overhaul (read: throwing out) of that hymn and several others. I went down the list of hymns Sister Snow has penned, and you know what else was in there? "Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses" - that's right - the ultimate backwoods southern hymn. We used to sing that at district meeting in Georgia with our best drawl and would just giggle our whole way through it.

My full justification of yesterday's Deseret Debacle, however, came when I found the origin of the tune itself. It's from Civil War times and the tune is called "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp." 'Nuff said.


The Facks of Life said...

I didn't know the background story to why you were laughing. I saw you laughing and it made me laugh. I couldn't control were laughing so hard. I looked over at Dana and mouthed, "Why is she laughing?" She told me, because of the song. I'm amazed anyone could sing at all. Everyone I looked at was busting up with laughter. I loved it! It's now in my top 5 best sacrament meeting moments. Thanks!

curg said...

I recall having a similar uncontrollable laughing meltdown in a sacrament meeting once when my younger sister found herself singing those ridiculous lyrics. OH, how we miss the Pasadena Ward. The real question is, who is the really "classy" lady you referred to? Don't tell -- Christy & I will have a good time guessing.

dana said...

From the congregation, we fully enjoyed your jovial face. It definitely made Sacrament Meeting lively! I haven't enjoyed music in a meeting that much since the single's ward, when Michael McLean's son sang a song in his testimony from the pulpit and ended it with a dramatic "and I SING these things in the name of..." etc.
Good times, good times.

Ted said...

In hindsight I probably shouldn't have encouraged you to just direct that song, but it was one of the more memorable Sacrament Meetings we've had in a while!

Jana said...

This totally had me laughing out loud. We were just telling someone a few days ago about Janet the Hymn Nazi refusing to sing any sunshine songs! And who knew Kelly had such a wicked streak?! I love him! (If he REALLY wanted to get your goat, he would have dragged the tempo, too. Did he do that?)

Oh, to see everyone, including said classy lady, in that congregation cracking up! Too wonderful.

I miss you all!

Kizzycakes said...

it's stories like this that make me loooooonnnnnnnng to sit in the pasadena ward congregation again. yes, definitely time for an updated hymnal. although my issue these days is with some of the primary songs -- 3rd verse of "tell me the stories of jesus", the random articles of faith songs, and anything else that has 4 year olds singing words they can't pronounce, much less understand. crazy mormons.

Kathleen said...

Amen brotheh! I am also in the league of don't likes when it comes to that hymn. I just think it kinds of skips over doctrine and goes right to goody-two-shoes mode. Plus Peter doesn't like the "very little meat" phrase for obvious reasons. Too bad no one got video footage to post on the blog. I would have been lovin' that.

Michemily said...

I love that song because of its upbeatness and especially the hilarious lyrics. It's not that we don't believe those things anymore, it just seems funny to sing about them. Can't we appreciate the faith of new Saints?

Kristen V. said...

Ha ha. I loved this story. I wish I could have been there! The only thing I think you left out of this post was how you and Janet made a secret pact to sing "Sons of Michael He Approaches" at least 3 times a month. I have never sung that hymn anywhere but Pasadena. But hey I'm not complaining. We really miss Pasadena ward for many reasons, and the music is one of them. We don't even have a ward choir in Ventura (!), and we are Scattering Sunshine pretty much every week out here. (Bless the heart of our 80 year old chorister.)

La La Land said...

The speaker in the mother's lounge didn't pick up any of the laughter. I'm pissed I missed it...

Alison Wonderland said...

But please tell me you sing all the verses. One week sing all the verses to "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" Just do it once for me (I know you don't know me but still) And maybe "If You Could High To Kolob".
My personal favorite is when we only sing the fist four verses of a sacrament hymn that has six or so but then the priests aren't done with the bread so we listen to the organist play through the hymn twice more. When we could still be singing!
But there's nothing like cracking up when you're in front of a group like that.

Alison Wonderland said...

PS I'm not even sure how I got here but I think I saw your name on someone else's blog and I always checkout my fellow Allisons.

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