“Relief Society Spurs Creativity with Song Contest,” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 71–72
“There comes to Relief Society through its music program esthetic richness, enjoyment, opportunities for the development of talents, as well as for cultural and missionary service.” (Belle S. Spafford, Report and Official Instructions, Relief Society Annual General Conference, 1968.)
Part of that music program is the annual Relief Society Song Contest for lyrics and music, conducted each year since 1968 to further promote music by encouraging creativity and excellence in the art of composition and in the general field of music among women of the Church.
In approving the proposal for the contest, the Relief Society general board expressed its feeling that the contest would be an appropriate Relief Society activity, inasmuch as music and art had been incorporated into the Relief Society cultural refinement lessons.
The first and second prize-winning compositions are sung at the Relief Society Annual General Conferences each year.
They are available for purchase from Pioneer Music Press, 975 South West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101.
The first prize of $100 and the second prize of $75 come from the generosity of Sister Cleone R. Eccles, now deceased, who served on the Relief Society General Board as a member of the General Music Committee. An accomplished musician herself, she felt frustrated because the board frequently received excellent compositions but had no means of publishing or distributing them.
This year’s contest, underway since September 1, closes at midnight on February 1. Any Latter-day Saint woman except members and employees of the Church general boards or the Church Music Department may submit a composition.
Only one entry per contestant is allowed, and entries should be submitted without identification on the song sheets but accompanied by a 150-word biography and a signed statement certifying that the composer is a Latter-day Saint, and that the composition is original and is not being considered for publication elsewhere.
The music should be arranged for soprano, second soprano, and alto voices with occasional use of unison or two or four parts for special effects. The accompaniment should be suitable for piano or organ, and the recommended performance length is between two and five minutes.
Entries should be sent to Song Contest, Relief Society Building, 76 North Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111.
The first contest six years ago received enthusiastic support when 222 songs were submitted. The winning combination was a family project: Mary D. Safsten of Bellingham, Washington, composed the music and her mother-in-law, Ranghild L. Safsten, wrote the lyrics.
Marilyn Jacobson of Orem, Utah, won the 1973 contest as a teaching bonus. She needed a song to illustrate how scriptures could be used to find answers to personal problems, but couldn’t find a hymn that said what she wanted. In frustration, she thought of the 143rd Psalm, which expressed the feelings of her father when he had turned to prayer to overcome the unpleasant feelings he felt toward someone who persistently ridiculed him for keeping Church standards.
The Psalm was exactly the message she wanted, so she decided to compose her own music. Then the members of the ward encouraged her to enter the song in the contest, and she had the thrill of being present for its performance during one of the Relief Society General Conference sessions.
Gayla Kirkham, second-place winner in the 1974 contest, won’t be able to hear her composition performed. She is currently serving a mission in Germany in fulfillment of the message of her song: “O, That I Were An Angel.” The words for her song, taken from Alma 29:1, describe “exactly how I feel” about both the gospel and music, she said.
Gayla has a lot in common with the 1974 first-place winner, Diane E. Rogers. Both are Young Adult women; this is the first time representatives of this age group have won the contest. Both Gayla and Diane are graduates of Ricks College and both were honored for their musical compositions there when Diane won first place in the hymn division and Gayla first place in the composition division of a music contest.
And the 1975 winners? They’re still trying to meet that February 1 deadline.