Why I Like to Sing

My favorite part of Church, by far, is the singing. That probably keeps me coming back more than just about anything else. How did I come to love singing so much? After all, it’s not like it’s exactly common among the grizzled old men of priesthood meeting to actually enjoy singing that opening song…

I don’t recall whether it was the end of my Primary years or the beginning of my Mutual years, but somewhere in that tween kind of territory a new family moved into our branch. This family had a girl my age, and I thought she was cute. I was crushin’ on her a little bit. But I was too young and immature to really do anything about it.

During Primary/Mutual, whichever it was, she almost always sat behind me. (You know how we’re creatures of habit and sit in the same pews all the time.) So the one, admittedly nerdy, way my little brain could think of to try to impress this young female thing was to try to sing really well. Somehow I thought that if I sang well she’d notice and be impressed.

I don’t think it had ever occurred to me in the past to try to actually make an effort to really sing well. I’m pretty sure prior to that point I had just gone through the motions, pretty much like every little boy does. And I have no idea whether my early efforts were very good at all.

I don’t know that I ever actually impressed the girl; she probably never even noticed my little effort. But something tangential to all of that happened. As I really tried to sing well, I gained confidence that I could sing (pretty) well. Well enough to contribute to a choir, anyway. I ended up joining the branch choir, even though I was still so young, and I really enjoyed it. I learned to sing parts, which I thought was fun.

Ah, the things we men do to impress the ladies. But from my childhood crush came a lifelong love of singing, and for that I’m grateful.


  1. Little boys have done sillier things to impress little girls — I’m impressed by your choice.

  2. I don’t remember when it was, but I remember sitting in the pews one Sunday and deciding to actually sing. Incidentally, I also remember the day that I decided that I would actually pay attention to the speakers in Sacrament meeting (I must have been in middle school) and then after the meeting thinking that I quite enjoyed it – much more so than not paying attention.

  3. Any path to a love of music is a good path. Pursuing a crush is high motivation, indeed.

    I can’t remember when I fell in love with singing. I just know my first public solo was at the ripe old age of 8 – at a cousin’s farewell. My mom claims I entered the world singing instead of crying, but I think any sound at that moment is music to a mother’s ears.

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    I love to sing. Unfortunately, my range extends from the Eflat above middle C to the C an octave above middle C. So, I just kind of mouth along until the melody enters my range, then I sing until it again falls out of my range and I go back to mouthing.


  5. I would have been impressed, too. I’m still impressed by men who sing.

  6. sister blah 2 says:

    Aw, you’dve won my heart, Kevin.

    Singing and the music generally is my favorite part of the church experience as well. (PS: my favorite hymn is way better than your favorite hymn! :-))

  7. Mark B. says:

    I’m going to break a stereotype.

    I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with a whole herd of stake and district presidents and a few mission presidents and an area authority seventy.

    We sang “High on the Mountain Top”, a capella, to open the meeting. And, if I do say so myself, we sounded terrific. There were some strong baritones on the melody, and others singing the tenor or the bass lines in harmony. No milquetoast mumbling, but strong, purposeful, joyous, musical, singing.

    So, this bunch did care about singing–now we just have to let the rest of the church in on the secret. And get people to start singing to impress the cute girl/guy on the row behind them.

  8. We have a guys quartet in our ward, and I love it! A man who sings is a lovely thing.

  9. Jacob M says:

    Yeah, Kevin. Didn’t work for me, either. :) But I still love singing, too.

  10. I still close my eyes and sigh whenever a really great men’s choir or male soloist sings. That stuff touches soul-deep.

    My husband took the fast road into my heart with his singing. He’s the chorister now, but back when he used to sit next to me, I used to love to listen to him sing the parts. A glorious treat that I hope I get to enjoy again. Soon.

  11. Last night I went to Evensong at Christ Church, Oxford, sung by men’s voices. They sang Lugebat David Absalon.

    Lugebat David Absalon, pius pater filium, tristis senex puerum:
    Heu me, fili mi Absalon, quis mihi det ut moriar,
    ut ego pro te moriar, O fili mi Absalon!
    Rex autem David filium, cooperto flebat capite:
    Quis mihi det ut moriar, O fili mi, O fili mi!

    David mourned for Absalom, a pius father for his son, a grieving old man for his boy:
    Ah me! my son Absolom, would God I had died for you,
    O my son Absalom!
    Kind David wept for his son with covered head:
    Would God I had died for you, O my son!

    The sound of “fili mi!” echoing around the cathedral was one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking things I have heard in years.

  12. Randall says:

    I really enjoy the hymns based on old English melodies (If you could hie to Kolob, All creatures of our God and king, Praise to the man, Praise to the Lord). The latter song was so beloved by the locals in my mission that they instituted a ritual of always standing when it was sung.

    Despite my cheery disposition, I have no liking for any song that has the word “sun” in its title. I also don’t care for most hymns that were written in the first half of the 1900’s, but love hymns that have the dissonances and rhythms of more recent composition (Lead kindly light, Each life that touches ours for good.) In my high school years I was thrilled by all the military hymns, but now find them less inspiring.

    My current stake presidency is decidedly by (beyond) the book and will not allow any song that is not found in the hymnal to be performed during a church service. Our choir makes do with nice arrangements of the hymns, but our services would be much more inspiring if we could integrate the vocal canon of other faith traditions.

  13. Singing is contagious: sing out and the people around you will, too. Mumble or mouth, and the people around you will, too.

    [I also hate the sunshine songs]

  14. Left Field says:

    I don’t have any delusion that I sing well, but that doesn’t stop me from singing. I’m a bit annoyed by the common practice of singing only one verse in priesthood or when a meeting is running overtime. We had to listen to long talks; why does that mean the closing hymn has to get cut too? And why do choristers so often end the singing when the priests are still breaking bread and there are more verses printed under the music?

    In general conference broadcasts, I’ve noticed that people often use the congregational hymn as a time to leave the chapel to stretch their legs, use the restroom, etc. If I have to step out for a few minutes, I always wait until after the congregational hymn. The way I figure it is that if the prophet had assigned me to speak in conference, I wouldn’t choose the time of my speaking assignment as the moment when I have to leave the room. I’m never asked to speak in conference, but the one thing I am asked to do is to sing. Why would I get up and leave for the one part of conference I’m specifically invited to participate in?

  15. Ranbato says:

    I hate it when the choir gets to sing most of they hymns and the congregation just has to sit and listen. I want my closing song!

  16. Mark B. says:

    Amen, Left Field.

    And, I’ll start calling it the “rest hymn” as soon as we start having “rest prayers” in our services.

  17. Mark IV says:

    I don’t see why we need rest hymns since I get plenty of rest during the talks.

    I enjoy singing too, even though I’m atrociously bad at it, and most of the men in priesthood meeting are even worse. Still, I like being there and hearing us croak our way through Ye Elders of Israel, a capella.

    I don’t mind the sunshine hymns, but I wish we would ditch the work hymns. I already know I have work enough to do ‘ere the sun goes down, and I don’t feel like singing about it.

  18. Regarding “sunshine hymns:” I had a set of the hymn tapes on my mission, and on particularly gloomy days I would always put on the tape that had four or five sunshine songs in a row. (I think they are around hymns 226 – 230.)

    And more relevant to Kevin’s original post: I vividly remember the day I learned what singing parts was all about. I was 17. It was worth it — several years later I met my wife while singing in a choir.

  19. Martin Willey says:

    Although many who know me would be surpiresed to learn it, singing is my favorite part of church too, even though I am not particularly good at it. In fact, singing is often the most (or only) spiritual part of the meetings for me. That is why I agree with Left Field and and Ranbato about skipping verses or the closing hymn. SHould never happen.

    For me, stumbling along with others, some of whom are good singers and some of whom are not, with each trying to sing his or her part, has always been sort of a “type and shadow” of my/our participation in the kigdom generally. I may not always be the best, but I get strength from the group.

  20. One of the few times I argued with my bishop publicly, during sacrament meeting, was when he wanted to sing just one verse of the closing hymn. Battle Hymn of the Republic. Near July 4th.

    Normally I would have let it go. He’s the bishop, and it’s his meeting. But Battle Hymn? The first Sunday in July? Dude must’ve been high. We sang all the verses.

  21. Left Field says:

    Come on, Mark. Put your shoulder to the wheel. Push along. Only he who does something is worthy to live. The world has no use for the drone.

  22. Martin Willey says:

    Ann cracks me up.

  23. Singing is the one disappointment I have with the Church since my family converted three years ago. With a few exceptions, most of the hymns are either dirge-like or incredibly difficult to sing with thier funky arrangements and melodies, etc.

  24. Researcher says:

    In regards to #20: I was playing the organ a few weeks ago and the meeting went over. The bishopric member stood up and announced that we would sing one verse of “Thy Holy Word.” (The whole song takes about a minute and a half for those who may not be familiar with it.) The chorister and I gave each other that “can they be any dumber look.” Hopefully the congregation missed it.

    That was also the same meeting that the bishopric member stood up to start the meeting right as I went into a ten measure transition from one key to another in a hymn arrangement. There was no way with my level of expertise that I could just play a final chord since I didn’t know what key I was in at that point. I wrapped it up as soon as possible but afterwards pulled a martyred face at my husband — I hope the congregation missed that look too.

    It violated the number one rule of playing the piano or organ for the congregation that I learned from my piano/organ teacher as a kid: always keep a poker face, whatever mistake you make.

    And by the way, Ardis has an excellent post on keepapitchinin.org right now about church music.

  25. Ann, thanks- your comment made me chuckle (mainly because my wife would have done exactly the same thing).

    I too love the hymns. Not only is the music itself often beautiful and uplifting, they also teach many doctrinal truths.

    Our stake seems to have a ban on “rest hymns.” We might have one a year, and that’s when the musical number fell through. The leaders believe there is enough talent in the ward that we can have “special musical numbers” every week (except fast Sunday, of course). Those are nice, but an additional congregational hymn now and then would be nice too.

    I remember well a sacrament meeting where something happened to the speakers, so we had an impromptu musical meeting where individuals went to the podium, introduced a favorite hymn, and then we all sang it. It was a wonderful meeting.

  26. Music has always been my favorite part of church meetings too. There are so many lessons to be learned from congregational singing (the metaphors are endless). I am no longer able to attend church meetings due to my chemical sensitivities, and the music is what I miss the most.

  27. Tony,
    It may be partly where you are. Where I am (and, occasionally, when I play), the hymns are anything but dirge-like; my only problem is often (but not always) the bass part is dull.

    Back when I was a music major at BYU, our dictation prof suggested that, in order to practice hearing four-part harmony, that we sing all four parts, one per verse. It was fun, except that I have no range, so a tenor part can kill me. (Of course, so do all the songs in Primary.)

    Our poor kids may never learn hymns’ melodies, at least not at church; I sing bass, croak tenor, or sing alto, and my wife is consistently an alto. (In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a ward where there was any significant number of people not singing, or even where the majority of the congregation wasn’t singing parts. I think, though, it might be a generational thing, although it may be locational.)

    But amen; the best part of church (except for teaching Primary) is singing (especially when D. Fletcher is your organist).

  28. Mark B. says:

    I guess you’re singing alto an octave lower than it’s written, Sam.

    When I’m feeling fine (which is rare these days), I can sing most of the alto parts (G and up are really rare), and, frankly, don’t do too bad. But it usually gets me a dirty look or an elbow in the ribs from my wife.

  29. Chad Too says:

    Mark B:

    I do this too. I’m a 1st Tenor (though advancing age has moved my once-perfect treble B to a sometimes warbly treble Bb) and my mother is a contralto. Growing up seated next to her meant always hearing the alto line sung strongly on every hymns. To this day I hear alto parts most clearly and if I’m just vamping tend toward alto line notes.

  30. Sorry, Sam B., but it’s the same here in New England as it was in our ward in the St. Louis area! LDS music is just…different. I still enjoy most of it and love listening to the MoTab, I just find it difficult to sing many of our hymns.

  31. In our ward, they’re called “intermediate hymns.” For a few weeks, the bulletin person’s spell checker rendered it “intimidate hymn.” Sort of gave a whole new meaning to Choose the Right…or else!

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s great, Ann! When the “unwritten order of things” outlaws rest hymns, just call them intermediate hymns, and transmogrify that to intimidate hymns. I love it. The law of unintended consequences by bureaucratic decision makers in action.

  33. I’ve always considered sacred music a gift of the spirit.

  34. I was part of a group of guys my freshman year at BYU that would serenade impressionable freshman girls with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (with or without the piano, down on our knees, for you-u-u). We’d get invited to birthday parties and such. And boy did they love us…

  35. “Music is the harmonic mathematics of the universe – the universal language of the soul.”

    I can’t remember where I heard that years and years ago, but it has stayed with me for decades. It is one of my favorite quotes.

  36. Ditto, I hate the Sunshine songs.

    As a pianist and organist, I can understand the difficulty of playing the songs fast enough (some of them). This is especially true for pianists who really aren’t good enough to play for a congregation. However, I do think that pianists should try to practice to get the songs fast enough that they aren’t funeral dirges.

    Just remember, many people are trying hard, even if not everyone is trying hard enough.

    I love to sing.

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