If you have a favorite Primary song, you have probably memorized all the words and you like to sing it often. Ask your mother or teacher to sing a favorite song that they learned when they were children. You might be surprised at how well they remember the words. If you were to visit Primary anywhere in the world, you would feel right at home because the boys and girls would be singing the same songs that you sing in your Primary.
A person who writes the lyrics (words) of a song is the author, and his name is printed in the upper left corner of the song sheet. The person who writes the music for it is the composer, and his name is in the upper right corner. Sometimes an author and a composer work together to write a song. Other times a composer will use the words of a poem or a scripture for the text of a song and write an accompaniment for it. Occasionally the same person writes both the words and the music.
In 1957, Sister Naomi Randall was to make arrangements for a new song to be written for Primary general conference. She called Mildred Pettit, a former Primary General Board member who had written songs and operettas for children, and asked Sister Pettit to help with the music. Sister Randall said she would write the words for the song, then send them to Sister Pettit.
Before retiring that night, Sister Randall prayed for help in finding the right words for the song. Some hours later she awakened, got out of bed, and wrote the words for three verses. Then she thanked Heavenly Father for helping her. Later she mailed the lyrics to Sister Pettit.
Sister Pettit also wanted to have the music the way the Lord wanted it. She felt that she knew how the melody was supposed to go, but she worked on the closing phrase over and over and had her children sing it many times until she was finally satisfied that it was right. The two women worked on the chorus together, and within a week the song was completed.
Later Elder Spencer W. Kimball suggested that “Teach me all that I must know” be changed to “I must do.” He explained that “to know isn’t enough, … We have to do something.”
Sister Randall believes that “we can learn the gospel through songs,” and that “the truths that are sung into our hearts will help us at critical times in our lives.”
Elizabeth Fetzer Bates, a piano teacher and the mother of six children, became totally blind in 1951. She accepted her blindness as a challenge and decided that she would learn to do everything that she could. She said, “I wrote ‘Pioneer Children’ because we are all pioneers—we’ve never been in today before.”
In 1969, she wrote “Book of Mormon Stories” because she loves the Book of Mormon and is grateful for America.
She thinks that children like this song because it is simple and true.
Sister Bates still teaches piano lessons, and she believes that everyone should write a song. “Heavenly Father has created so many lovely things that we should sing as we walk along! We can always be happy if we remember to be grateful.”
When Spencer Cornwall was only four years old, he learned to play music on a pump organ. He couldn’t reach the pedals, so his brother pumped them for him. Spencer was so eager to learn that he would have a lesson in the morning, practice in the afternoon, and then go running back the next morning for another lesson.
When Brother Cornwall was older and had become an accomplished musician, he became music supervisor of the Salt Lake Elementary School District. He also directed the Tabernacle Choir for twenty-three years. He thought making music was a wonderful reason for people to get together. He said, “My greatest pleasure was in teaching children to learn to sing and to discover the joy of making their own music.” Music was his life, and he was still composing when he was ninety-five years old.
When The Children Sing was being compiled, there was a need for songs with specific Mormon themes. The compilers contacted Rose Thomas Graham, a poet, for possible texts. “The Golden Plates” was selected from a collection of her poems. Later Brother Cornwall was asked to write music for her words.
Clara McMaster was the eleventh child in her family, and she learned to love music at an early age. She sang and accompanied others on the piano as she grew up in Brigham City, Utah. For twenty-two years she was a member of the Tabernacle Choir. Today she and her husband sing together for numerous church occasions. “Music is a rich gift of God, and it is in the world to make the lives of His children happier and better,” Sister McMaster says.
While serving on the Primary General Board, Sister McMaster was asked to write a song for the first reverence program. She worked hard and prayed that she would be prompted to write what would be best for the children. One day as she was looking out the window and pondering her assignment, an idea came to her. She went to the piano and quickly wrote it down. The new song was “Reverently, Quietly.” “I felt very humble, she said. “If you prepare and do all that you can do, then Heavenly Father will help you.”
Sister McMaster has written other Primary favorites such as “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” and “Teach Me to Walk in the Light of His Love.”
1. Read about the people who wrote each Primary song listed here, then sing it.
2. Cut out the pictures of the author and the composer and place them on the music staff of the song they wrote. These “note pictures” can be above, below, or on top of the song title note.
3. Play, or ask someone who reads music to play, the melody you have composed with your added notes. Move the notes around and decide where you like them best.
4. Put words with your melody. For example, “I can write songs” would fit the melody created by the song title notes. Try other words to fit your music arrangement.
1. Make large music staff on blackboard or poster. Cut out nine circles for notes. Write one song title, author, composer, or author-composer on each note.
2. Featuring one song at a time, place notes in proper order on staff for start of selected song. Have children or teachers give previously assigned talks about it.
3. Arrange notes to form beginning of one of published songs. Let children look at notes and try to recognize it with their “inner hearing.” Then sing song.
4. Have children randomly place notes on staff. Then have pianist play melody made by notes. Invite children to hum it. See of they can think of words for it.
5. Have a “song search” by asking children to look through songbook for songs by same composer or author. Sing more songs by that person.
6. Invite local composer or lyricist to share experiences with children.