In some wards sacrament meeting is held first and in others it is the last meeting of the 3 hour block. There is always that time when everyone is coming in to be seated, greeting those they haven’t spoken to yet that day, chatting amongst themselves and the accompanist for the meeting, be they organist or pianist should be playing prelude music.

“Quiet prelude and postlude music creates an atmosphere of worship that invites the Spirit into Church meetings. The organist or pianist usually plays hymns or other appropriate music for five to ten minutes before and after a meeting. Playing hymns can help members review gospel teachings in their minds.” (CHI2 14.4.3)

It is a common complaint of an organist or pianist is that the congregation don’t listen to the prelude music, and that many members sit or stand around chatting, apparently oblivious to the music. I am of the opinion that the prelude music is not there to be listened to for itself. It doesn’t matter if the congregation are not aware that a particular hymn or piece of music is being played. Although it is true that “hymns can help members review gospel teachings in their minds”, I think we are missing the primary purpose of prelude music if we believe that to be it’s function.

“Members should be taught to make the time before sacrament meeting a period of prayerful meditation as they prepare spiritually for the sacrament.” (CHI2 18.2.2)

Of course many do not, and that’s up to them. I’m not convinced that some aren’t better served speaking to that person they really need to speak to, before they are able to achieve a more peaceful frame of mind, unhindered by thoughts that they must catch so and so before they leave, for example. We aren’t all the same. I believe prelude music is there to facilitate prayerful meditation and spiritual preparation for those that want it. Background music can help us to filter out the distracting sounds and conversations around us. As someone who sits in quiet contemplation, prelude music works for me. It doesn’t matter that people are still coming into the chapel. It doesn’t matter if the members across the aisle are talking. Quiet prelude music means that I can sit in quiet contemplation unhindered by the preferences of others.

Sometimes I am the person playing the prelude music, and in previous wards I have been the principle accompanist and did so regularly. Perhaps I am unusual in not being concerned to have everyone listening. For those I do know listen I try to play hymns I know they like. I don’t regard prelude music as a performance. And really, I prefer it that way. Having the attention of an audience can result in a serious attack of nerves and exponentially increase the likelihood of mistakes in playing. I’m no soloist.

I have been in wards where musical items are placed as prelude music before the meeting. This isn’t a practice I like, for several reasons. Possibly it stems from having a choir perform musical items before our General Conferences, and often times our Stake Conferences. However, our General and Stake conferences are not sacrament meetings and do not include the sacrament ordinance. There is no requirement for prayerful meditation and spiritual preparation for taking the sacrament in those meetings. In wards where I was required to participate in musical items during the prelude music slot, I did not find the environment conducive to that preparation. On the contrary, there was always the breathless panic of everyone getting assembled, the ensuring that other family members were appropriately seated and my own seat with them reserved, the waiting for the signal to start, to have the meeting begin immediately afterwards. All very pretty for those listening rather than taking part, but at a price for the participants. My personal view is that musical items are best placed within the structure of a sacrament meeting after the ordinance has been completed. I have been annoyed by those who seemed to regard musical items as the only legitimate form of prelude music, and that anything else was simply the accompanist practising hymns.

You might be wondering if time for spiritual preparation isn’t also an issue for an accompanist playing prelude music. I can’t speak for everyone, but I haven’t found it to be the case. Playing hymns of my choice, one following from another, absorbing the words as I play, and not being required to follow a chorister in accompanying a congregational hymn or musical item is for me a calming experience that does in fact lend itself to spiritual preparation.

Every now and then I’ve seen and heard folk get twitchy about people chatting together in the chapel before sacrament meeting begins, complaining about a lack of reverence, and a lack of respect for the chapel itself. Periodically announcements can be made to that effect. I find this hard to sympathise with. It comes across as stuffy, and seems to work against fostering friendships and unity within a ward. It’s all very well saying we should be doing that chatting outside the chapel, but the chapel is where the seats are. And really, those who think our chapels can get noisy before our meetings begin need to try sitting in a packed cathedral before the start of a service. Nobody around you is speaking particularly loudly, but the sound builds and builds nevertheless, for the echoes to die away as the service begins.

  • How does your ward prepare for sacrament meeting?
  • Do you have regular prelude music?
  • Do you appreciate having prelude music or would you prefer silence?
  • Have you had musical items as prelude music?
  • Do you like or dislike having musical items for prelude music and why?
  • How do you feel about chatting in the chapel?



NB. Because we now appear to be required to log in to access some portions of CHI2, I have not provided links for the music: section 14 in the post text.