The closing hymn at church today was "Master, the Tempest is Raging" ("Mestari, myrsky on suuri"). I've not been the hugest fan of this song, even though it is one of the few in the hymnbook that you can easily imagine singing as a sea chanty, swaying in place, with your raised fist around a mug of ale. And today, the kiss of death: it started out at a slow tempo, which is my pet peeve with hymns (pro tip to music leaders: always play/conduct them faster than you think you need to).
But then something amazing happened, something I haven't seen happen very often in a Sacrament Meeting: people sang the chorus with feeling! With actual, somehow coordinated feeling! The "winds and the waves shall obey thy will"s were collectively hopeful. The "peace be still"s were hushed. The
"wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies"
built steadily, and then
"The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies!"
was sung slowly, with pauses at the commas (that aren't there in English, but are in Finnish, so I added them above), with great conviction. Finally came the additional "peace be still"s, and they were even more hushed than the earlier ones. It was like a prayer.
If I could ask for one thing as an accompanist or chorister, it would be for a congregation to sing a hymn, any hymn, like the people at church sang that one today. (I would have been happy with the pauses at the commas alone, to be honest.) Too often when we sing at church, we're singing the same old songs in the same old ways without even thinking about the words or the music or the relationship between the two. Today I saw our congregation singing the words of a familiar old song with feeling, and it was marvelous in my eyes.
And mind you, I don't know the explanation. Maybe they sang this as a ward a few years ago, so they all remember the phrasing. Maybe Finns always sing with great emotion and it came through especially in this song. Maybe it was all in my head today (but no, it wasn't). Regardless, it was marvelous.