Confessions of a Primary chorister

By Margaret Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Sept. 19 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Oh, how can I get those 11-year-old boys to sing!?

This is what I ask myself every Saturday night when I sit down to pull together my next day’s tactic. Nothing is beneath a Primary chorister. I employ the help of costumes, spray bottles, spinning office chairs, ridiculous looking sombreros, you name it. Anything to get those kids to sing loud and strong.

It’s the best calling in the church.

My mother says the “Singing Lady” is the Gospel Doctrine teacher for the Primary. Each verse in "The Children’s Songbook" is simply dripping with doctrinal wisdom and truth. (OK, so maybe not “Popcorn Popping” but you get my drift.) These songs are so much more than rudimentary call and response chants. If the kids learn the songs, they will learn the gospel.

The songs are the one part of Primary we can all remember and are able to recall with perfect clarity, so I take my calling seriously. It’s unfortunate I have no true musical ability to help me out from week to week. I don’t play an instrument despite years of lessons, and I have an irrational fear of singing a cappella, but I do have a testimony of those songs, so I try to compensate with spunk. My calling is the perfect fusion of Gospel Doctrine teacher and game show host. I can do those.

But when I see that back row of Blazers too cool for school, so ready to be out of there and in with the big boys in Deacon’s quorum, I feel like shouting,

“Just sing, and one day you’ll thank me! When somebody asks you a question about what we believe, think of these songs and you’ll know the answer. And one day you’ll be serving a mission in an area that’s completely tone deaf, and I mean tone deaf, and it will be up to you and you alone to hold on to that melody with both hands and belt it out loud and lovely for the sake of the entire congregation, and you will be so thankful you took the time to learn the words and practice the songs right now. So sing, dagnabbit! Sing. (And by the way, the Deacon’s quorum sings every week, too.)”

But I don’t. Instead, I just comb through dollar stores looking for bedazzled, fluorescent sombreros and over-the-top Carmen Miranda-esque headdresses to put on the teacher of the class who sings with the most gusto.

Instead, I fill up spray bottles with lemonade and tell the kids how professional singers use honey/lemon water to soothe their strained throats, set the nozzle to “stream” and walk around the room looking for children crooning like pros.

Instead I make up games, hide clues, assume alter ego identities, and learn sign language. Instead, I roll in my spinning office chair to make human spinning arrows and hope no one suffers from motion sickness.

Week after week I do this, swallow any sense of pride I have and make a fool of myself up there because I know the songs are one of the few things they’ll take away from their nine-year tenure in that room. And if they remember those songs, they’ll remember their Savior loves them. And that’s worth wearing a funny looking hat any day of the week.

And twice on Sundays.

Margaret Anderson blogs at at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com.

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