At BYU’s Education Week, world-renowned pianist Marvin A. Goldstein didn’t just teach about selections from the LDS “Children’s Songbook” — he played them.
During a Wednesday morning session in the de Jong Concert Hall, Goldstein and his long-time performing partner, Vanessa Joy ditched the podium, instead treating their class to over half an hour of song.
Goldstein discussed music’s unparalleled ability to transcend culture barriers and reach the hearts of all who hear it. “It’s a unique way to speak every language on this earth,” he said. “The Lord can communicate easily between his children with a simple song.”
As an example, he cited an experience he had while performing abroad at a church event in Chile. More than 10,000 people were in attendance, including 6,000 people who were not affiliated with the Church. He identified music as one of the most effective methods of missionary work, and voiced his belief that church members should be more anxiously engaged in the spirituality of song.
While acknowledging the beauty and power that religious music can hold, Goldstein called the church culture as a whole “way behind” when it comes to musical administration and performance. Music, he said, is capable of providing the influence of the Spirit in a way that is vastly different than the spoken word. Too often, the level of enthusiasm surrounding it seems lackluster and weak, Goldstein said.
Goldstein recognized the church’s “Hymns” songbook for its variety and depth, but gave even more credence to another church collection — the “Children’s Songbook.” He applauded the book’s elegant simplicity, stating his opinion that it “is perhaps the closest thing we have to approach the Lord.”
As a new convert from Judaism in the mid-1980s, Goldstein marveled at the power that LDS children’s hymns hold. Citing prolific LDS songwriter Janice Kapp Perry as a remarkable example of music’s immense capacity to inspire, Goldstein praised many of her works as “some of the most beautiful hymns ever composed.”
Then, recognizing the irony that would come from an entirely non-musical presentation on the power of music, Goldstein concluded his remarks, left the podium and took his seat at the piano bench. He began his performance by accompanying Joy’s rendition of “To Think About Jesus,” then played a solo medley of Primary songs.
From peaceful selections like “I Love to See the Temple” to rousing ones like “Follow the Prophet,” Goldstein captivated his audience with his performance. After playing about a dozen selections from the “Children’s Songbook,” he transitioned into an improvised medley of non-spiritual songs ranging from a traditional wedding march (“Here Comes the Bride”) to “Linus and Lucy.”
“That was random,” Goldstein said after the performance, acknowledging the unplanned nature of his musical tangent.
After a few brief remarks, Goldstein and Joy once again collaborated, this time on all three verses of LDS favorite, “I am a Child of God.” Of the beloved hymn, Goldstein remarked, “I’ve done work with a man (Grammy-nominated country singer Billy Dean) who is not a member of the Church, yet tours the world and talks about this hymn, which he calls his favorite song ever.”