Hortense Beers: Waving Us On

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“Hortense Beers: Waving Us On,” Ensign, Feb. 1990, 70–71

Hortense Beers: Waving Us On

Long before the Church started the consolidated meeting schedule, Hortense Beers was the chorister in her Ogden (Utah) ward. With her pleasant enthusiasm, she always considered being chorister more than merely leading the music. She was leading people—particularly the youth. Sister Beers had a way of getting them to participate as no one else could.

We did not always want to lead a song, organize a program, take part in a lesson, accompany the singing, or be in a quartet, but because of her we all did it. To this day, we remember the triumphs she urged upon us. If we were “reluctant dragons,” she never showed that she knew it.

For forty years now, Hortense has given her ward members the opportunity to lead the singing in Sunday School. At one time she developed what she called her “music staff” to teach us all how to lead a congregation in song. She turns ninety this summer and still teaches conducting.

Her “staff” has ranged from scared eleven-year-olds to returned missionaries; even a few mothers and fathers found themselves in front of the congregation with arm poised for the downbeat. Each week she trained as many as half a dozen or more boys and girls in her living room to lead with a firm upraised arm, to study a song so there would be no “surprises,” and to learn all the ways to be a graceful and successful chorister. Only when one was ready did she schedule his or her first performance.

It is anyone’s guess how many hours Sister Beers spent calling to make appointments and working with the boys and girls, teaching them all they needed to know before their debut. After that initial scary plunge into leading the music, there were always plenty of opportunities for them to gain experience. They gradually lost their fears as their skills increased.

Over the years, the reluctance of Hortense’s students changed to anticipation. The youth of the ward began to eagerly await her call to begin training. It became a status symbol to be on Hortense’s staff. Young people would telephone and ask, “Sister Beers, don’t you think I’m old enough to begin?”

Not one missionary went into the mission field unprepared to lead the singing. If President McKay taught us “Every member a missionary,” Sister Beers taught us “Every one a chorister.” Whenever a missionary left, Sister Beers gave him a telescoping baton and asked him to lead the singing one last time. When he returned, she welcomed him back with another “opportunity.” As he led us with skill and confidence, we realized that for the past two years his competency as a chorister had been used dozens of times, and a little bit of Sister Beers had been in faraway places.

She trained us well. What a legacy she has given to the hundreds of young people who dared to follow her teaching! What a gift she has given to all the Church! Her influence continues to spread.

Photo by Jed Clark