Sunday, January 06, 2008

Primary Chorister

For the last year, I have the best calling in the world--I am the Primary Chorister. The benefits are many:
I get to know all the Primary kids, without having to deal with any one class for the entire year.
I get to play with the Nursery children.
I get to sing.
I get to devise, create, color, cut out, and improvise props to teach our songs.
I'm pretty autonomous--sure, the presidency has oversight, but they pretty much let me do my own things.
I get to buy handbells for our Primary this year.
I get to stand up, move around, fall on the ground, and generally act silly, especially during Junior Primary and Nursery.
All the Primary kids seem to like me, so I get hugs and waves throughout sacrament meetings and ward activities.
I don't have to worry about staffing teachers or finding last-minute substitutes (I used to be in Primary presidency).

Now, I know that being the chorister isn't for everyone. You have to feel comfortable with music and kids, and "performing" weekly. And there are downsides--my four-year-old son, for example, struggles with sitting with his own class, and not always being picked, during music time. I sometimes only get seven minutes for music time (the presidency is doing a lot better at letting me get my full 20 minutes). And my Senior Primary is almost all boys--I'm still struggling to find the best way to engage them while staying reverent.

I have learned a few things in my first year in this calling. Don't underestimate the children--they are capable of doing more than the (relatively) simple arrangements in the Children's Songbook. It takes more time and work, but they can pull of a few more complicated songs during the year. Do explain the dynamics and structure of the song, if you have time and want to. (My Junior Primary was fascinated that the "Tall, tall, tall" notes of "Once There Was a Snowman" go up, and the "Small, small, small" notes go down.) Do learn the songs yourself, and be enthusiastic about them. Don't just stick with showing pictures to help them learn the words--use props, drawings on the board (that you then erase), individual children to represent different lines, etc. Get the children up and moving, especially during wiggle songs (have them march around you, if you can). I'm excited to see what the next year will teach me--and if anyone reading this has ideas, feel free to add them!

The rewards of this calling are intangible but real, such as during the ward choir's Christmas sacrament program, when the children sang Sally DeFord's He is Born, The Child Divine. We'd only been practicing for barely a month, and yet they knew every word of both verses and sang so sweetly and clearly that everyone was in tears--especially me. To hear those marvelous children sing such beautiful words "Come good people, to the stable...", with the piano accompaniment and organ chime embellishments...It was beautiful and holy.


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  • Yes, you are right. It is the best calling in the church. I just went to church on my first Sunday after 18 months as Primary Chorister. I did NOT want to go to Sunday School. I did NOT want to go to Relief Society and have put myself on all sub lists for the ward, especially Primary. I used to think of myself as being a Relief Society-type person, but after the time as chorister and with all the things you mentioned--autonomy, creativity, the teaching and love of the children, art, music, general satisfaction--Relief Society seems like an incredible waste of time.

    I checked on the Primary between meetings and motioned that I missed it. When I turned around one of the senior primary classes was waiting in the hall and they all reached out to me and told me how much they will miss me. They are adorable. I feel like I have the best friends in the ward now--all the children.

    I am expecting a baby in the Spring and have suffered with some trying hip problems that are only while I am pregnant, so I need the break (very physical job, as Keryn explained) but I will look forward to future opportunities to be the chorister.

    By Blogger Carol F., at 1/06/2008 3:37 PM  

  • This is my favorite calling - one I haven't had in years. I miss it. I lvoed it.

    Loved hearing about it, brought back a lot of very sweet memories.

    By Blogger TheOneTrueSue, at 1/06/2008 8:46 PM  

  • Oh, Carol! I know that someday I will have to give this calling up--at the very least for someone else to have the experience--but I hate thinking about it right now. My aunt's been chorister for seven+ years, and loves every minute even still. And good luck with your baby!

    Sue, thanks for the comment. I've loved other callings very much, but I don't think I've ever had as much fun with as little stress as in this calling!

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/06/2008 8:57 PM  

  • Starfoxy over at Waters of Mormon has posted several ideas regarding this calling. I'll try and leave a link:

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 1/07/2008 6:40 AM  

  • Didn't work (I'm not very good at that)


    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 1/07/2008 6:41 AM  

  • I'm not the chorister, but the pianist. You are right, Primary music is the best place to be in the Church.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/07/2008 10:50 PM  

  • This is my favorite calling, too.

    Just wanted to point out that the correct name of the calling is "Primary music leader," but just like making the change from "Homemaking" to "Enrichment," the old name tends to stick around for a while.

    I actually found that thinking of myself as part of the Primary "leader"ship (as opposed to thinking of myself as an adjunct) made me feel more responsible for the spiritual growth of the Primary children (i.e. my goal for each week was for them to feel the Spirit through the music, rather than just having them learn and have fun through the music).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/08/2008 11:28 PM  

  • Anon at 11:28pm--I didn't know that the name was changed! Primary music leader is a lot easier for me to spell than chorister. :)

    It's funny you should mention being part of the leadership, because this realization has been slowly dawning on me--I've started going to Presidency Mtg once a month as per our stake leadership, and it's really starting to change the way I look at my responsibilities. Thanks for making a comment that crystallized this feeling into words.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/09/2008 10:22 AM  

  • Oh, and Eric N--I went to those posts by starfoxy and LOVED them. I can't wait to try a few of those ideas.

    And CS Eric, that's my husband's favorite calling. I know my primary presidency would LOVE to call him to be pianist (I'd love it too!), but the Elders' Quorum won't let him go. Sigh.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/09/2008 10:25 AM  

  • I flunked music in 8th grade and for many years, thought I couldn't sing. But I love to, absolutely and am usually not even embarrassed about my voice, which makes people laugh. Which although I have a sense of humor, I don't get, because I think I have a pretty voice.

    Anyway, when I was in the RS presidency years ago, I had a chorister who consistently and without notice just didn't show up. And one day I got up and let the music. All wrong, as I found out later, but what I discovered is that I have a killer sense of rhythm and can lead music.

    I've been the sacrament chorister, ward music leader, and RS chorister (one of my favorite of all time callings). But I couldn't do primary. And I'm really really glad to hear Carol say she thinks RS is a waste of time because then I won't feel so guilty that I don't enjoy serving in primary. Something for everybody here!

    Now, being the primary chorister takes special skills. If you can do, and you write about it like you do---Carol, anonymous, Sue, and Keryn----never underestimate what you accomplish, for it is a real accomplishment. I'm in awe of the talent required.

    By Blogger annegb, at 1/10/2008 6:58 PM  

  • Thanks, AnneGB. You bring up a good point--there really is something for everyone. And while it'll be hard when (eventually) I have to give up this calling, hopefully I'll love or grow to love whatever new calling I'm put in.

    Although it would be a test of faith and prayer if I'm called into the Scouts. With two boy-children and being a stay-at-home-mom, I feel it will be inevitable.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/10/2008 9:05 PM  

  • Me, if I got called to the young womens, I would probably throw my scriptures and temple recommend at the bishop and say, "Hell, no! I'm joining the Catholic Church and/or entering into plural marriage with Clark Johnson (my celebrity crush)."

    It sounds awful, but it's better than saying yes and then driving my car off a bridge to get out of it.

    By Blogger annegb, at 1/11/2008 2:10 PM  

  • AnneGB--hee, hee! I know it's just tempting fate, but I wonder if anyone else would comment on what their most dreaded calling would be. Maybe I'll have to write a post on that.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/11/2008 10:56 PM  

  • Keryn, I'm so glad to hear you are enjoying your calling as chorister. I think it is an important job that takes a special person to do well. I like to call it the 'Primary Gospel Doctrine Teacher' as this is truly what you are doing. While the presidency (myself included) likes to believe their lessons are leaving an impression, we all know that the real lessons the children are taking away are the ones they sing. I can still remember the chorister from the Mesa 20th ward-Sister Palmer-a pretty redheaded mother of 6 boys. She was the chorister thru all of my primary career and I can still remember the posters she made of different songs. I have no idea what other adults served in Primary! Hats off to you for taking your calling seriously! :)

    By Blogger ShelleyG, at 1/16/2008 2:31 PM  

  • Thanks, Michelle! I agree--I can remember my Primary choristers far better then the presidencies of my youth.

    As an added note, we got a new Bishopric on Sunday (our former Bishop has been called up to Afghanistan), and the new Bishop is the current Relief Society president's husband. Our ward is big enough that this situation is not likely to remain. So change is in the air...and I hope it all leaves me ALONE!!!!!

    By Blogger Keryn, at 1/16/2008 3:40 PM  

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