I absolutely love music. It has a beautiful way of bringing the influence of the Holy Ghost into a meeting faster than almost anything else and in a way that everyone can understand and relate to.
Says President J. Reuben Clark:
I firmly believe this is true. Singing hymns in church helps me prepare for the spiritual messages I'll be receiving. In fact, it's one of my favorite parts of our worship services.
But what do you do when you're on the other side of the piano?
Throughout my time in the Young Woman's program, I have been blessed with opportunities to play the piano for congregations in a variety of settings. While I'm by no means an expert, here are a few tips that have helped me along the way:
It's the obvious command that makes every student cringe, but the most helpful thing you can do is practice the songs you are going to play. When you are accompanying a congregation, you're going to have a lot of distractions [think following the chorister, keeping up with the singers, etc.] that make it hard enough to play comfortably without worrying about missing notes or scrambling for the right key. So do yourself a favor and prepare in advance as much as you can.
I know in my Young Women's group, pianists often don't take advantage of playing the prelude music. Prelude is awesome because it lets you dip your toes [ahmm... piano fingers] in the water and get a feel for playing church songs in front of people without worrying about others singing with you. It's also a great way to warm up and get a feel for the piano.
Playing the introduction to a hymn takes congregational singing from a disorganized scramble to a classy event. But trust me, I know as well as anyone how hard it is to find those little brackets that tell you what measures to play and how choppy playing the intro can sometimes feel. One thing that has helped me a lot is making a habit to play the introduction every time I practice a hymn, even if I'm just at home and no one is singing with me. It feels a little weird sometimes, but it has made it a world of difference.
4. DON'T BE SCARED
When I first started playing the piano in church, my feet and hands would tremble uncontrollably because I was so terrified. The best and probably most difficult lesson I have learned [and am still learning] is not to be afraid. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, especially when they first start out. There is no shame in that. Just hold your head high, and keep going. Skip that note, just play the top line, or hit a few wrong notes, but do whatever you can to keep up with the congregation. They won't stop singing just because you missed a note, and chances are they won't even notice that you made a mistake.
5. PRAY FOR THE LORD'S HELP
Remember you are doing Heavenly Father's work. He himself has said:
You are on His errand. As you turn to Him and trust Him, you cannot fail. He can make all of our weakness strong-- even shaky fingers and stage fright. So fear not and play away.
To organists and pianists everywhere, I express my thanks, gratitude and appreciation. The work that you do does not go unnoticed. It adds a wonderful dimension to all of our meetings.