The sixteenth annual BYU-Idaho Hymn Festival is a production run and founded by Daniel Kerr, the director of organ studies and the musicianship program. This event, originally scheduled in late February, is postponed for a later date in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Kerr, this move was made in order to prioritize the safety of students, as well as providing an in-person experience that values the power of worship and musical expression.
“The magic of the Hymn Festival cannot be fully captured in a virtual meeting,” Kerr said.
This reasoning solidified the changes made to the festival and how it will be run.
“Singing in a congregation like that is not a good idea,” said Levi Kelley, an editor for the Hymn Festival.
The safety of the students is essential to those running the festival.
While the Hymn Festival is still on for a later date, members of the BYU-I community were able to submit original hymn texts. According to BYU-I’s website, these submissions will be forwarded to BYU-I music students. They will then create a tune, and harmonization for the submitted text, as well as allow the text to be sung to an existing hymn tune. It is also possible for an original, additional verse(s) for an existing hymn to be submitted.
The music composition faculty member Sue Neimoyer stated that the texts being submitted must follow specific guidelines. The text must follow a common poetic meter for hymns that can be found on page 405 of the current hymn book for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
According to the University’s website, “Successful hymn texts also maintain uniformity in the number of syllables in each line from verse to verse, as each successive verse needs to line up with the same musical rhythm.”
The texts must be centered around a gospel topic such as covenants, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Restoration of the Gospel, the Sacrament, Sabbath Day, ministering and so on.
Only a small selection of texts can be used in the festival. This has been implemented, according to Kerr, to keep the festival shorter and more enjoyable for individuals to participate in. The challenge to work hard and create a piece of text that will move an audience is a goal that the Hymn Festival aims to uphold.
Kerr also explained that the music department reserves the right to make “minor edits” to submitted material to maintain the flow of text with music. Those who submit their work to the department will retain the copyright to their texts.
Students hoping to participate in the event in the future can email the Music Department Office at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any questions regarding the requirements of the event.