Our Primary program is finally done. I'm the chorister, and I’m a guy. I was called to this position under a new Primary president and counselor, six weeks before the scheduled performance. And two of those weeks were used up by stake and general conference!
It was a crazy, chaotic few weeks, but we made it through. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Yes, you can totally pull it off with only four Sundays to prepare. But it's gonna be really stressful. Turn up your patience dials . . . you’re gonna need them.
2. The kids seem to respond very differently to male adults in musical and emotional spaces. Some really needed more of that kind of attention.
3. Parents with little or no faith will still dress up and show up on a Sunday morning just to hear their munchkin say, "I am thankful for food.” Make sure each kid has a chance to say something—anything—even if they’re just reading from a script.
4. Kids are gonna wiggle and squirm and miss the cues to stand up, sit down, begin, or cut off, forget the words, wave obnoxiously to their parents, pick their nose, mess with their hair, refuse to say their lines, breathe loudly in to the microphone, and it will be 150% okay. In fact, it’ll be more than okay—it’ll be beautiful.
5. When all of that happens, the best thing I can do as the chorister is give the kids a huge smile and thumbs up to let them know that they're doing great.
6. Making a digital song board was a fantastic idea. Lyrics displayed on a digital slideshow via my laptop on a music stand facing me, wirelessly streaming to a library TV on a cart next to me. In my left hand, I held a remote clicker to advance the slides, while I conducted with my right.
The slideshow was large and legible so all the kids on the stand could read it and was peppered throughout with colors, symbols, and pictures to help them remember the song and keep their attention. I stood in the right aisle very close to the front, with the TV on my right. It only impacted the crowd's visibility a little bit, and mostly just the two rows on the right, so I warned the people in those rows ahead of time and they moved so they could see better. This kept the kids' attention on me and screen right next to me.
7. Kids will sing louder if they know or can read the words.
8. There are no medals or trophies awarded for having all the words memorized. And there are no penalties or shame for reading the words from any kind of helper.
9. Give the kids a heavy, emotional song (like "Gethsemane") to sing, but teach them why it's heavy—and their hearts will let it out. And people will bawl.
10. Give the kids a light-hearted, fun, fast-moving song, (like "Follow the Prophet," with an animated GIF of Super Mario walking along) to give variety and spice to the program, and it'll be totally fine if they wiggle their arms, move around, and even dance.
11. It is impossible to sing "A Child's Prayer" with teachers + kids singing their respective parts, and not cry.
12. Being the chorister is especially great, because when you start to ugly cry during "A Child's Prayer," the crowd won't see you and the kids are just far enough away to not see it either. Let it out!
13. Once the program is over, a party in the Primary room with videos, donuts, popcorn, and blankets on the floor is completely appropriate.
14. In said party, it is also completely appropriate to blow off remaining steam and stress by energetically singing "Popcorn Popping" at the top. of. their. freaking. lungs. Some might call it screaming. I called it a "joyful noise."
15. At the end of the day, the program is a microcosm of life: We have big goals and great plans, and we'll try our best to somehow pull it off, we'll stress out about it, but we're still gonna mess up and things won't be perfect. But if we are honest and humble and pure, the Spirit will be there and convey the message we are trying to sing and it will all be beautiful.