Finding an error in your teacher's work...what to do?

Finding an error in your teacher's work...what to do?

Hymn #22 -- We Listen to a Prophet's Voice

Text: Marylou Cunningham Leavitt (b. 1928; LDS)
Music: Darwin K. Wolford (b. 1936; LDS)
Tune name: BRUCE

I owe a great deal to Darwin. He taught me SO much and gave me a solid footing that helped me as I went on to grad school. 

That's why finding a big voice leading error in his hymn has thrown me for a loop.

Our very own Mormon marching band

Our very own Mormon marching band

Hymn 21 -- Come, LIsten to a Prophet's Voice

Text: Joseph S. Murdock (1822-1899; LDS);
     verse four by Bruce R. McConkie (191501985; LDS)
Music: Joseph J. Daynes (1851-1920; LDS)
Tune name: CANNON

There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the tune or the harmony. But the hymn is successful. It arouses that sense of purpose, of duty, of getting to work. I can just see myself back on my mission, getting ready for the day, heading out for another long but happy day of marching up and down the slopes of the Andes mountains in the desert of Northern Chile. Good times!

How a funeral dirge became a peppy prophet praiser

How a funeral dirge became a peppy prophet praiser

Hymn #19 -- We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

Text: William Fowler (1830-1865; LDS)
Music: Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)
Tune name: FOWLER

When Caroline Sheridan Norton composed both words and music to "The Officer's Funeral March," she surely had no idea it would be used years later as a jovial hymn of praise to latter-day prophets.

Zion's poetess cries for vengeance

Zion's poetess cries for vengeance

Hymn #17 -- Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!

Text: Eliza R. Snow (1804-1887; LDS)
Music: Evan Stephens (1854-1930; LDS)
Tune name: WILLARD

Generally speaking, I'm a little disappointed with Evan Stephens's music. It's fine. There are no errors. But for me, it falls short of the text. It also gives off the wrong feeling. And then there's the issue with the missing soprano line for 4 bars. 

An interview with eminent professor of hymnology, Herr Daric Kirchenbank [16/341]

An interview with eminent professor of hymnology, Herr Daric Kirchenbank [16/341]

Hymn #16 -- What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold

Text: Anonymous (ca. 1840)
Music: Ebenezer Beesley (1840-1906; LDS)
Tune name: ABRAM

I'd like to introduce you to a dear friend and former mentor of mine, Herr Professor Doktor Daric Kirchenbank. I met Prof. Kirchenbank while living in Poland and engaging in post-doctorate studies at the Chopin University of Music. 

When I first met Prof. Kirchenbank, I was a bit intimidated. He's a large man with a gruff demeanor. His booming voice and heavy German accent make him all the more imposing. But what made me tremble in my boots while attending his classes was his absolutely harsh, acerbic, white-hot, wickedly brutal, zero tolerance for anything less than Bach-like perfection in voice leading. Writing a parallel 5th or 8va in his class turned him into a real life, short-fused stick of dynamite. 

Skydiving with the Angel Moroni [15/341]

Skydiving with the Angel Moroni [15/341]

Hymn #15 -- I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly

Text: Anonymous (ca. 1840)
Music: English melody; arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Tune Name: FOREST GREEN

It's curious that this hymn text, so perfect for LDS congregations who believe that the Angel Moroni led the prophet, Joseph Smith, to find and translate the Gold Plates into the Book of Mormon, would be by an anonymous author. One would assume that an early church member wrote it, but apparently, there is no evidence to support those claims, according to Karen Davidson (Our Latter-Day Hymns, pg. 44).

How 'mind' and 'heart' combine to make a great hymn

How 'mind' and 'heart' combine to make a great hymn

Hymn #14 -- Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings

Text: Mary Ann Morton (1826-1897; LDS)
Music: Alfred M Durham (1872-1957; LDS)
Tune name: CACHE

I think this is an excellent hymn from top to bottom. Several musical moments make it extraordinary. But perhaps my favorite element is the text and what it teaches.

Asking a beloved Apostle to change his text, just a bit

Asking a beloved Apostle to change his text, just a bit

Given the challenge of setting Pratt's text, I think Tullidge probably made the right choice. But if I had been him, this would not have sat well with me.

I would have sent a telegram to Elder Pratt.

"Hey, Elder Pratt...could we, like, um, maybe think about changing the 'Lo! in'? It's kind of messing me up 'cause you put a kinda weak beat where a strong beat should go. Whada ya think? I was thinkin' maybe we could change it to the word 'within.' That kinda works, don't ya think? I hope you don't take this the wrong way. I'm not questioning you or anything like that, it's just not jivin' with the rest of the beats in your excellent, beautiful, revelatory hymn text."

First in line for the chopping block

First in line for the chopping block

Hymn #12 -- 'Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky

Text: G. William Richards (b. 1918; LDS)
Music: H. Walford Davies (1869-1941); altered
Tune name: SOLEMN MELODY

Up to this point, I've discussed a few hymns of questionable quality. But I've yet to see a hymn that I feel, without reservation, should get the chopping block in the new go around…until now.

How Yoda snuck into the LDS hymnal

How Yoda snuck into the LDS hymnal

Of course, I love the topic and the message of this verse.

But a line of text like "He in these latter days did raise..." makes me wish he'd have sought some help from a poet friend.

It sounds like Yoda talk. Actually, what it really sounds like is he wrote the music first and then, not wanting to change it, he sort of forced this text into the meter of the melody. I'm totally speculating, but that's what it sounds like to me.

Do the words come first, or does the music?

Do the words come first, or does the music?

Hymn #9 -- Come, Rejoice

Text and music: Tracy Y. Cannon (1879-1961; LDS); adapted
Tune name: HINCKLEY

I've never written my own hymn text. Whenever I've noticed that a hymn's text and music were written by the same person, I always wonder which came first.

Whenever I compose vocal music, whether it be opera, cantata, choral anthem, hymn, art song, whatever, I can't write a note without first having the words fully formed. This is easy enough when it's a pre-existing text. But it gets a little more interesting when working with a poet. 

I was interested to read what Tracy Cannon said about the creation of this hymn. 

Hitting the high point in the first bar, does that work?

Hitting the high point in the first bar, does that work?

Hymn #7 -- Israel, Israel, God Is Calling

Text: Richard Smyth (1838-1914; LDS)
Music: Charles C. Converse (1832-1918)
Tune Name: ERIE

Like Hymn #6, this hymn is very basic harmonically, only 1 chords, 4 chords, and 5 chords with a couple of chromatic lower neighbors at the start of line 3.

Two question marks remain in my mind with regards to the music. 

Phelps's fantastic method for coming up with a new hymn text

Phelps's fantastic method for coming up with a new hymn text

Hymn #6 -- Redeemer of Israel

Text: William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS); 
      adapted from Joseph Swain (1761-1796)
Music: Freeman Lewis (1780-1859)
Tune Name: DULCIMER

This hymn reminds me of President Monson. Some members complained about his talks in General Conference, that they were always kind of the same. Pretty basic doctrinally. He focused on a few core topics in almost every talk. Some expressed boredom. I confess I remember thinking that as a teenager. But when he became the prophet, that all changed for me. I think a lot of my perspective changed because of some things going on in my life. 

A 'great' hymn by my 4th great grandfather-in-law

A 'great' hymn by my 4th great grandfather-in-law

I grew up in a musical family, and one of the sets of cousins who lived near us in San Jose, CA were the Beesley family. We always loved talking about how my cousins were 4th great grandchildren of the hymn writer, and former Tabernacle Choir Conductor, Ebenezer Beesley. 

Later on, when I met my wife, and we were married, I learned that she had the same connection to Ebenezer. She is one of his 4th great granddaughters on her father's side. And you've probably heard of her father too. His name is Greg Hansen. He's an excellent LDS composer, arranger, producer and now hosts "The Sounds of Sunday" on KSL.