The Priesthood of Our Lord

August 30, 2004 | 25 comments
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I speak not of the actual priesthood, but of the hymn. Number 320, set for men’s voices, is (I believe) the only hymn in the current book which is “approved” (i.e., has a notation at the bottom) for singing in rounds. Which we did today, in Sacrament Meeting. Logan Bobo led the first group. He took about a third of the priesthood; I had about two thirds for my group. (The numerical superiority of my contingent didn’t come close to hiding the fact that Logan has, by far, the best male singing voice in the ward.) I thought it sounded pretty good, though. It was especially nice for our heavily-convert ward, where the music tends to be extremely plain-vanilla.

The Priesthood of Our Lord is a fun hymn with a catchy tune, and it’s too bad that it is exiled to a relatively unused part of the hymnal. It capability for singing as a round is a cute added bonus. I suspect that other hymns could be sung as rounds, despite the lack of “official” approval, which might also be fun. That might require a bit of tinkering, but is probably doable. (I know I’m no expert, and setting up something as a round might take a little work for me; I suspect that given 5 minutes, a pro like D. could probably arrange any hymn in the book as a round, The Wintry Day not excepted). Perhaps I can sit down with Logan and try it some time. I wonder what other hymns would work well as rounds.

25 Responses to The Priesthood of Our Lord

  1. Kevin Ashworth on August 30, 2004 at 1:06 am

    A few candidates (some melody-only or slight mod. to accomp.)

    9 Come, Rejoice
    28 Saints, Behold How Great Jehovah
    29 A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
    163 Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing
    237 Do What Is Right

  2. Kevin Ashworth on August 30, 2004 at 1:10 am

    A few candidates (some melody-only or slight mod. to accomp.)

    9 Come, Rejoice
    28 Saints, Behold How Great Jehovah
    29 A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
    163 Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing
    237 Do What Is Right

  3. Silus Grok on August 30, 2004 at 2:05 am

    You sung it in Sacrament meeting? How’d it go over with the sisters (let alone the Bishop)?

    I’m Sacrament chorister, and I’d love to give this a go…

  4. D. Fletcher on August 30, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for the nice compliment, Kaimi!

    And now for the bad news. Music theory teaches us that hymns, in their original context of neat 4-part homophonic harmony, are the very antithesis of rounds, technically known as canons. Canons are polyphonic by their very nature (separate lines that work together). In order for a canon to work well, the underlying harmony, say, I and V, must be pretty simple.

    Of Kevin’s list, only A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief works at all as a true canon, and it isn’t really a hymn anyway, but a folk song. It only uses two chords, I and V.

  5. Logan on August 30, 2004 at 1:20 pm

    Silas, to answer your question, it was more of a “special musical number” type thing, even though we did it for the closing hymn. We had practiced for a couple weeks in priesthood opening exercises, then for the closing hymn we had the priesthood brethren come up to the stand and sing it to the remaining ward members.

    It was fun, a little bit different, and the men seemed to really enjoy it. I think it was a success.

  6. Kaimi on August 30, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    Hmm, simple harmony, I’s and V’s (how about a few IV’s?). So might any of these work?

    O My Father
    Lord Dismiss Us
    We Thank Thee, O God
    Now Let Us Rejoice
    Count Your Blessings
    Choose the Right

  7. Kaimi on August 30, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    Hmm, I just realized that Lord Dismiss Us was on the first list, which D. said probably wouldn’t work. Perhaps a IV is too much then, because that one only uses I, IV and V. Drat.

  8. Kaimi on August 30, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    Not to argue music principles with D., (talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight), but now I’m confused. 320 (which is an approved round, as noted above) is definitely _not_ a I-and-V-only hymn. As currently arranged, it’s got a IIm, a IIIm, a VIm, plus the IV and V — pretty much the entire range of normal, major-key chords.

    Did the powers that be (Michael Moody, I presume, another person whose musical knowledge is eons beyond my own) employ some other trick to make this one work as a round? I.e, how were they able to violate the “simple I and V” rule that D. articulated? (And could an amateur like myself also find a way to violate the I and V rule, without ending up sounding like a dying cat?).

  9. D. Fletcher on August 30, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    “Lord Dismiss Us” works through the first two lines. But when you get to “Oh refresh us, OH refresh us” there’s the IV chord, right on “OH” which kills it. You can play that chord as V, as long as everyone is singing unison melody. But I and V alone make an already boring hymn even more boring.

    A better hymn-singing activity which will freshen up bored hymn-singers, is to sing familiar hymn-texts with other hymns’ music.

    My particular favorite is “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” sung to “I Saw A Mighty Angel Fly,” #15.

    Also, it is rare, but some hymns work as counterpoint to others. I have arranged “Amazing Grace,” with “Tis Sweet To Sing The Matchless Love” (#176) underneath, as counterpoint. They work well together.

  10. D. Fletcher on August 30, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    OK, I’ve just played through #320.

    It works OK as a round, when singing the melody in unison, and delaying the counterpoint for two measures.

    Though when singing it as a round, the harmony which is presented is slightly different than the harmony as a hymn.

    If you’re doing a round, technically, the harmony, whatever it is, must repeat for every section of the round.

    This one works this way: I, IV, V7, I, repeat. Of course, when you actually do it as a round, that D in the third line on “But” is really outside the chord, but oh well.

    It works well enough, though note — it was created to work. This is very different than most hymn tunes.

  11. Logan on August 30, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    I think the point, Kaimi, is that the chord progression has to be more or less periodic. That is, it must repeat the same chord progression over and over again, so there aren’t conflicts as you progress through the piece. I imagine that if you’re really good at it you can play with the melodies and produce cool different harmonies as the tune progresses, but the basic idea is for it to stay the same the whole way through.

    D.’s right about the harmony as written in TPOOL being different than the harmony produced by singing it in a round. I don’t think it claims to be a round when not sung in unison though. I imagine someone just put a more interesting harmony to it in case it isn’t sung as a round.

  12. Kristine on August 30, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    “A better hymn-singing activity which will freshen up bored hymn-singers, is to sing familiar hymn-texts with other hymns’ music.”

    I like doing this, too. “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” is very nice with the tune of “A Poor Wayfaring Man”

  13. Kevin Ashworth on August 31, 2004 at 1:51 am

    Try also singing #2 Spirit of God to the music of #3 at a nice upbeat tempo, approaching one measure per second. Convert rhythm in 2nd measure of chorus to all quarters, and enjoy.

    (Furthermore, this was very probably the original melody sung at Kirtland dedication as mentioned in footnote to #2. Melisma wasn’t much the fashion back then, says an expert friend of mine, and #2 has melisma in every measure. Also, caretakers of Kirtland temple say so.)

  14. Kevin Ashworth on August 31, 2004 at 1:53 am

    Try also singing #2 Spirit of God to the music of #3 at a nice upbeat tempo, approaching one measure per second. Convert rhythm in 2nd measure of chorus to all quarters, and enjoy.

    (Furthermore, this was very probably the original melody sung at Kirtland dedication as mentioned in footnote to #2. Melisma wasn’t much the fashion back then, says an expert friend of mine, and #2 has melisma in every measure. Also, caretakers of Kirtland temple say so.)

  15. Kevin Ashworth on August 31, 2004 at 1:54 am

    Do other Safari users have troubles on this site? Why do I post twice? I’m an internet-savvy user….

  16. D. Fletcher on August 31, 2004 at 3:16 am

    Here’s what I do — I post my post, and then wait. I might open a second Safari window, and surf elsewhere while I wait.

    When I get the little dialogue box saying that Safari has timed out, I know that the post has been completed. I close one of the windows, and in the other one, I go to Times and Seasons.

    It works.

  17. Clark Goble on August 31, 2004 at 3:37 am

    I don’t get anymore trouble with Safari than I do at work with Firefox running on XP.

  18. Jack on August 31, 2004 at 12:31 pm

    D. Fletcher, the non-harmonic “D” that you speak of actually serves as the root of a vi chord thus creating a nice little deceptive cadence. (that is, if I’m constructing the round correctly)

  19. D. Fletcher on August 31, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, Jack. I agree, this song serves as a round.

    Oh My Father doesn’t. Try it and see.

  20. Chad Too on August 31, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    For an interesting juxtaposition of theme, sing #338 – America, the Beautiful to the tune of #207 – It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. I use this when an early-morning choir rehearsal warrants a little wake-up exercise. Since both songs are so familiar, the singers really have to pay attention to keep the “right” tune with the “wrong” words.

  21. Jack on August 31, 2004 at 11:12 pm

    D. Are we on the same page? I was talking about the note “D” that goes with the word “But” in hymn 320. You said that it was outside the chord – which would be correct if it were an F or a “I” chord. I said that it could be the root of a d minor or “vi” chord which would have the feel of a deceptive cadence. And yes I agree, Oh My Father doesn’t work as a round.

  22. D. Fletcher on August 31, 2004 at 11:36 pm

    I understood your point about the D perfectly, Jack. I had already made the point that this hymn works as a round, but the harmony created by the round doesn’t match the harmony of the hymn. The D isn’t part of the I chord, and if you really want a round (meaning a new part starts every two bars), the I chord should appear in the same place every time. Yes, I might call it a deceptive cadence, except that if you have 3 parts of the round, that D minor chord (VI) will appear in every instance in place of the I.

    A round works best by having the parts come together in thirds, making neat triads. When they don’t do this, the round can’t work. #320 does work as a round, but I don’t think it’s quite as intended.

  23. Jack on September 1, 2004 at 1:09 am

    D. Yes, I suspect that it’s probably a rather quirky round – not so neat as “are you sleeping brother john” are something to that effect. My main point was that I don’t think you’re going to hear the “D” as a non-harmonic tone. While your are correct that the typical harmony for a round doesn’t usually venture outside of I V, this one seems to have a little vi ii V I turn around after you’ve cleared the first for measures. At any rate, the SATB harmony serves it much better, though singing it as a round would certainly be fun as rounds are – fun.

    PS. It’s nice chatting with you about music. I heard a rumor that you have some sort of “arts” blog of your own. Is this true?

  24. D. Fletcher on September 1, 2004 at 1:18 am

    I host a board. It’s called Sondheim And Us, and we post about everything there, musicals, music, movies, and more.

    There’s nothing LDS about it. I’m the only LDS person there, though there is a suspicious member named NYAttorney (could this be Kaimi?)

    Anyway, it’s open to the public to read, but you have to register to post anything.

    http://p069.ezboard.com/bsondheimandus

  25. Jack on September 1, 2004 at 2:23 am

    Thanks D.

    Musicals, music & movies. Three of my favorite subjects!