Junior Primary Pianist

Today is the day that Son1 will play piano in Primary. He’s been working on Book of Mormon Stories for a couple of weeks now, and he’s got it down, cold. He’s ten years old, and it will be his first time playing piano in public.

I play the closing hymn in Sacrament, then a few postlude pieces, and then rush off to Primary. M and I sit in the back. The second counselor, conducting, announces that Son1 will play the opening song: Book of Mormon Stories, and they’re going to do all eight verses.

The chorister gets out the visual aids, since most of primary doesn’t know all 8 verses. Son1 plays an intro, then launches in to the song. The chorister and the kids are doing hand motions. He’s playing it perfectly. Lamanites are meeting others. In the back, we smile.

A few verses in, we notice a trend. Son1 is nervous, and he’s speeding up slightly with each verse. The pause between verses is shrinking, too. He’s not looking at the chorister, he’s concentrating on his playing. Six verses in, he hasn’t missed a note, but the Primary is getting more and more out-of-breath as he goes faster and faster. The chorister is trying hard not to giggle. M and I, too.

Verse seven proceeds at breakneck pace. “SamueltheLamanitehighonthecitywall,
Cametowarnthepeopleandrepentancewashiscall.”

Suddenly, at the end of verse seven, Son1 slams on the breaks. The instructions say to play verse 8 slowly and reverently, and that’s exactly what he’s doing — and so, he drops from 80 mph to 35 in about half a second.

The chorister and Primary kids are totally unprepared for the tempo change. The kids are still at 80 mph, hitting the first line of verse 8 before Son1 has played a measure. They realize the shift, and slow down haphazardly. It’s a rough transition, to say the least. Chorister is doing all she can not to burst out laughing.

The rest of verse 8 proceeds relatively smoothly (other than suppressed giggles from the teachers and Son1′s parents), and the children end by singing softly, “and they lived, in the land, righteously.” Son1 returns to his seat. M and I tell him that he did great, and he grins from ear to ear.

*

A few weeks later, Son1 plays I am a Child of God in primary. He misses a few notes on the third verse. Other than that, the kids have only one complaint. He kept speeding up the song, and by the last verse, everyone was out of breath.

At the moment, he’s planning on what to play in a few weeks. The current plan is Teach me to Walk in the Light. Piano teacher and I are going to go over it with Son1, stressing that he needs to keep an even tempo and not speed up.

I don’t know how successful we’ll be. I hope the kids are prepared to do the last verse at march tempo, with no breaths.

Comments

  1. Kaimi – it’s great he’s playing in public! I didn’t even learn til I was 12. Early performance experience is important for confidence, so good for him!

    (maybe a metronome in Primary to help with the tempo for a little while?)

  2. Gosh, that reminds me of how I used to play at that age. I know because we have video evidence. Makes me cringe every time. But really I think it’s probably very natural for a young player.

  3. This brings back memories. I would have been stifling laughter, as well, but I would have been so proud.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Our Primary has children play the prelude music. It seems to work well; it buys the pianist a few extra minutes to get there and gives them some experience playing in public, although not in playing while other people are singing. They rotate weekly.

  5. I wanted to avoid words like “precious” and “adorable,” but I can’t!

    Son1 remembered and performed verse 8 as planned. Maybe you could come up with a phrase to describe how each of the verses in Teach Me to Walk in the Light should be played — they may all boil down to the same thing, but if “thoughtfully” and “reverently” and “like an adult walking up the aisle to say the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting” get him to think about his pace, you won’t be singing “Teach Me to Do the 100-Yard Dash in the Light.”

  6. Another post by Kaimi at BCC? I had a dream about blogging (shows I do it too much). T&S shut down and everyone from T&S had their own blog. Julie’s was called Sys with a pink background (a variation of Sis.). I don’t remember what the rest were called, just visiting Nate Oman, Julie’s and some other blog. So am I prophetic?

  7. Steve Evans says:

    mmiles, was that Sys as in Sisyphus?

  8. No, sister.

  9. And Julie’s blog–it used a slanted fancy, very girlie font.

  10. Matt Thurston says:

    Next time just pass a bowl of Skittles around the room prior to singing time. Each kid can grab as big a handful as their grubby hands can carry. Get the kids all hopped up on sugar and they should have no problem keeping up with Son1.

    (Just keep Son1 away from the Skittles bowl.)

  11. Matt Thurston says:

    Or better yet, Easter Peeps.

    (BTW, Kaimi, I still have the Peeps you gave me last year… or was it the year before last? I refer, by the way, to the 1 Peep in my stomach, totally unchanged, as well as the 5 Peeps still in the packaging.)

  12. That’s awesome, Mmiles. I’m, um, flattered. I think. Though really, if anyone gets to open up shop at a new, pink-background, slanty-font blog, I do hope it’s me. Or perhaps Nate.

    Rebecca,

    I should have thought of that. :)

    Ardis,

    Good ideas. We’ll have to try them — they might even stick. :)

    Matt,

    I’d have to try the Skittles first, of course, to make sure they hadn’t gone bad.

    And speaking of candy going bad, and peeps, have you taken a look at this? The Peeps of Mormon.

  13. Kristine says:

    Awww, Kaimi, tell Son 1 I’m proud of him, and might even forgive him his appallingly misplaced baseball loyalties :)

  14. Mark B. says:

    Frankly, I’d take an accompanist who had a slight case of accelerando in exchange for 100 who are severely ritarded. Well, them’s the brakes.

    I wandered into the primary room in the branch I was visiting Sunday, asked the primary president who showed up 3 minutes after starting time if I could borrow her songbook, and started playing as prelude the two or three songs I know. Bad idea. A minute later she plopped something in front of me that I had never played, and asked me to play as the kids sang.

    So, with one finger, joined rarely by a second, I accompanied the primary children as they sang. A first. Not nearly so memorable as your son’s.

    To whom: Congrats. Without error, and fast, and all the notes!

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m envious; I never learned, but like lots of old people now I wish I had. Your son sounds terrific.

  16. Book of Mormon Stories was my first public performance as well. I was little (don’t exactly remember how young), accompanying my littler brother in sacrament meeting. Good times. Give Son1 props.

  17. Got derailed by #12. My kids are still laughing.

  18. kenjebz says:

    he will be an American Idol soon… hehehe. Its really exciting if we talk about our kids and families. By the way, can you guys tell me how can my blog, http://jbsolis.blogspot.com be added to the LDSelect.Org List? Thank you, kenjebz@gmail.com

  19. matt w. says:

    kaimi, why did you switch from t&s to bcc?

  20. I was 17, and it was my last day in the ward; priesthood meeting. I volunteered to play for the first time. I guess I figured I wanted to leave with a bang. I did “The Spirit of God,” which you can have breathing difficulty with even when it’s played normally. Of course, I ended up playing it about as fast as I possibly could. By the end of the song, the bishop turned slightly and revealed his face, which was a shade of red roughly matching the power tie he was wearing (he was also bald, and had a really saucy smile where his eyes would turn into tiny slits, if that helps you picture it). He turned around quickly to face the assembly and just lost it (which, of course, was contagious). We had to wait to say the invocation.

  21. kaimi, why did you switch from t&s to bcc?

    Wayne Rooney, why did you switch from Everton FC to Manchester United?

  22. My ward just lost our Sacrament meeting accompanist; she only knew one tempo. Didn’t matter if it was “Reverently, Quietly,” or “There is a Green Hill,” it was played Vivace! I always just about lost it. It was so funny to me. I swear she must have practiced with the metronome a good 6 or 7 clicks too fast.

    Of course,she probably played like that because she’d sat through meetings where people like my teenage-self had accompanied every song so slowly, due to lack of preparation, that the speakers didn’t have any time at all. And the poor bishop was a narcoleptic, so he always had to get jabbed in the ribs to let him know I’d finally crawled to the finish of the hymn.

  23. CS Eric says:

    I’m a few years older than Son1 (well, okay, a few years older than Kaimi, too), and while I’ve managed to control the tendency to start playing faster while I’m accompanying a congregation, I still find myself having to hold back while accompanying soloists and when playing my own piano solos.

    I’ve had varying degrees of success getting my students to actually play the primary songs and hymns they have learned. What’s the secret to getting them over the initial stage fright?

  24. Kaimi,

    I wish I could have seen this in action! Many, many times I’ve almost engaged the flux capacitor on my piano as I’ve increased speed from verse to verse.

    Do you have a metronome? They helped me learn to keep an even tempo as I practice.

  25. Wayne Rooney, why did you switch from Everton FC to Manchester United?

    The easy answer to that one is money. The only two English teams that could afford Rooney are ManU and Chelsea.

    Is this an oblique way of telling us that BCC has a payroll now and it’s trying to poach bloggers?

  26. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, BCC has always had a payroll. We’re enormously wealthy from our heavy site advertising and the thousands we make daily from Dialogue. As for trying to poach bloggers, well, we’ve done that since day one.

  27. Kaimi, your son is awesome! When I play primary songs, I speed up, miss notes, and pause when I’m not supposed to.

  28. I wish most ward organists would play faster.

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