“Singing a New World Record,” New Era, Oct. 2005, 39
The audience cheered as the large clock at the front of the stage neared the 22-hour mark. The teens in the Ottawa Ontario Stake youth choir were exhausted. After all, they had been singing for almost an entire day.
Finally, the clock read 22 hours and three minutes. The 53 young men and young women had just broken the world record for the longest concert performed by a choir.
Even though the record was officially broken, the youth didn’t stop singing. They had a hymn to finish. They filled the gym with the jubilant strains of the fourth verse of “The Spirit of God” (Hymns, no. 2).
The quest to break a world record began as an idea from Ben Lowater, a counselor in the Young Men presidency in the Riverside Ward. Brother Lowater gets the book Guinness World Records every year as a Christmas gift, and when he saw the entry for longest choir concert, he knew it was a record the Ottawa youth could break.
The youth were excited about his idea. Riley Jones, 17, says, “I always wanted to be a world-record holder. But before this activity, I could never figure out what record I could break.”
But in the end, the teens gained more from the activity than a spot in the record book. For their record-breaking concert, the youth sang all 341 Church hymns, and they even learned to sing some of their favorite hymns in parts. The choir began practicing for the concert two months in advance so they could learn the hymns they weren’t familiar with.
The youth were even given a CD so they could listen to all the unfamiliar hymns at home or in the car. Katarina de Savigny, 15, is a country music fan, but because of her experience with the choir, she has been switching her favorite country CDs for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Spring Pruner, 18, says she learned to love a lot of hymns that she hadn’t heard before. Of the new hymns she was introduced to, her favorite is “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close” (Hymns, no. 37). She says, “I sort of found hymns bland before, but as I got to learn them, I got to like them.”
Kenny Kyle, who plays the piano in priesthood meeting, says that learning all the songs in the hymnbook will help him on his mission. He also says the youth choir helped the youth in the Ottawa stake get to know each other better. “We grew a lot closer together because of this experience,” he says.
The Ottawa youth are different because of their experience with the stake choir. Some have cut down on the rock, country, or rap music they listen to. Many say they have a greater appreciation for the hymns of the Church, and several youth even joined their ward choirs.
What’s the reason for all of these changes? As chorister Rachelle Wride explains, “When you have taken part in a choir that sang hymns for 22 hours, you don’t look at the hymnbook the same way anymore.”