I can’t take credit for the joke in the title (tempo markings in order of decreasing speed) (shout out to LSD, who first shared this with me in the kitchen of her Heritage Halls apartment in 1995), but I can, most unfortunately, bear solemn witness of its veracity.
So I’ve known many Sacrament Meeting organists who seem to believe that singing hymns slowly helps one feel them more. Our current organist, a very kind and giving sister, is one. I want to say right here that she is a WONDERFUL person. But…
Feel them I do. Excruciatingly.
You try singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at 68 peats per minute (recommended speed in the hymnal: 88-104), or “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” at 50 (recommended: 72-88), or “Carry On” at 81 (recommended: 96-116). (No, really. Download a metronome app and try it. I’ll wait.) The first and third of these should inspire, if not ebullience (which is necessary should one try for the high G at the end of “Carry On”), at least a degree of adventurousness; the second allows ample time for reflection when sung at the recommended speed. Sung too slowly, hymns are interminable.
Thus I was excited yesterday morning when the Relief Society opening hymn was “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”—I’m the pianist,* so I can not only play the hymn at the listed speed (48-58 bpm [and it should surprise NOBODY to learn that I skew fast]), but I can also say something about why it needs to be sung at that speed. (Going where the Lord wants one to go should be an occasion for joy, not martyred resignation.) So I did. And we sang the song joyously. I looked around to see if <Organist> appreciated the suggestion I was kind enough to make for her benefit.
And she wasn’t there.
She came in halfway through the lesson, so she missed what in my humble opinion was the most important part of the meeting (for her, anyway). I sat, rankled, elbows on knees and head in hands.
And then, in Sacrament Meeting, the closing hymn was—wait for it—
“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.”
At THIRTY-TWO BEATS PER MINUTE.
I’ll go where you’ve forced me to go, dear Lord, but only if under duress / With weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeeeeeeeeth… and cursing, and most sorely vexed.**
Now, I’m fully aware that, had the backhanded Relief Society lesson I so desperately wanted to teach been of vital importance for <Organist>, God could have made sure that she arrived on time. She always does.
That she didn’t this one time, AND that the very song I took such pains about was then the Sacrament Meeting closing hymn, would seem to imply that the lesson to be learned here is not for <Organist> at all, but for someone else.
*I firmly believe this is God’s (or at least a leader’s) way of getting me to church on time. When church begins at 9:00 AM, with Relief Society first, ‘tis tempting for those of us with nocturnal dispositions to skip the first hour or two.
**If “heaven” and “given” can be forced to rhyme, so can “duress” and “vexed,” which (in addition to capturing my feelings perfectly) are awesome words.