Choirs v Congregations

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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Copernicus
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Post by Copernicus » Sat Sep 25, 2004 2:26 pm

pews2 wrote:"a misguided conviction that the individual in question has a musical leadershp role that can be exercised from within the assembly. I know - I've stood next to someone like this more than once."

I am picturing somebody who actually bursts forth into a solo uninvited, from the pews during Mass. If that happened, what did you do, elbow them each time it happened? :D


Not a solo, exactly. But you occasionally find someone blasting away at a hymn as if they alone were responsible for the sound of the whole assembly. I don't think that's always productive - I've found that can simply discourage others by being destructive of a general sense of communal activity. And at worst the singer might have no idea that the sound they're making isn't all that, well, nice. I'm not by any means knocking the idea of that person joining in the singing - indeed an enthusiastic but not particularly polished singer can make a really good member of the parish choir, let alone a valued member of the singing assembly. But it can be better to lead by (quiet!) example than to lead by just leading, and I wonder sometimes at people who seem to withhold their services from the parish musical ministry and yet throw themselves into the role of self-appointed leader of the singing, with little awareness of whether their contribution is really helping.

I won't go on about it! To say any more about the one or two people I have in mind (who seem to be doing what I've described in our parish at the moment) would mean talking, and perhaps speculating unfairly, about individuals who aren't here to explain what hurts or good intentions led them to where they are now. People are a mystery!

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sidvicius
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...By two, by two, by two, by two....

Post by sidvicius » Sun Sep 26, 2004 5:13 pm

Perhaps my suggestion is seen as unduly harsh - sending one's meek, defenceless choristers out into the dark forest of mumblers to be scattered. Even the apostles (and disciples?) tended to go off in twos didn't they? So - fair enough; if X only sings well when backed up by Y, send 'em of together (like as not they'll pair up anyway), but I'm not happy with this 'high-visibility' choir, except for performance purposes.

I agree that a 'front row' choir is inadequate for all the reasons suggested, but a choir that is 'all in one boat' is still regarded as "that lot - the choir clique". Good leadership (in this case, that of the choir leading the congregation in song) should be invisible.

Steady on, Ben', dot is not 'knocking' your choir, merely making an observation - one which I agree with and Tsume doesn't. Let us agree to be 'interestingly divided' in our opinions. Hey - it might not work, but don't knock it until you've given it a trial period. Maybe your choir is servant, maybe it isn't, but I think the point Jesus was trying to make with all the feet scrubbing was more about sharing out the responsibilities, and most of all, HUMILITY in a leader - the virtuousness to respectfully defer, once in a while.

- and I'm sorry if I appear delusional. I too, am only human! (But hey, Copernicus, it got you to post, didn't it! - in spades!)

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Benevenio
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Post by Benevenio » Sun Sep 26, 2004 6:33 pm

sidvicius wrote:Steady on, Ben', dot is not 'knocking' your choir, merely making an observation - one which I agree with and Tsume doesn't.

I apologise that my reply is so terrible.

However, to have Dot say that we are not a servant choir is very hurtful personally to me because it is so very far from the truth. To add it to the posting added nothing to the arguments presented. To say that we stand at the front with our backs to the majority is also a half-truth, given the layout of the church and where the people sit and what instruments are being played. It would be truer to say that we sit at the centre of the assembly, but even that is misleading.

It is true that Dot has suggested that we disperse amongst the people. However, when I have sat in the assembly, at the back, when the 'other' choir are singing, then people do not join in with me, but rather turn to stare and see who is disturbing their silence. Also, there are only between 5 and 7 singers in the choir , on a good day, at least 3 of whom would not be confident soloists amongst such a sea of disapproval. To disperse and then not have confident singing anywhere would not, in my opinion, achieve the desired outcome of the assembly singing, merely in no-one singing.

There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone joining the choir to sing, nor leaving the choir again, nor taking time out and sitting to do what they suggest among the body of the assembly.

Please, I know that you have not been to this parish, witnessed what is going on here, nor perhaps stopped to go back through Dot's posts (as I have) to see how many times she has praised what we do and how many times she has knocked it. I would humbly suggest that you do not agree with her until you have the full picture.
Benevenio.

Merseysider
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Post by Merseysider » Sun Sep 26, 2004 6:40 pm

Isn't this all about the right solution for a particular situation?
We have about 20 people who come to our music practice every Tuesday. Two out of three Sundays they're in the pews, leading the singing and it works very well. Every now and again, around 12 of them gather as one body at the front to sing the verses in an item or to offer an occasional motet. The nearest I've heard to an "us and them" in our parish is: "I love it when the choir sings". Don't think anyone's complaining.

pews2
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Post by pews2 » Sun Sep 26, 2004 6:49 pm

How does anybody know who a pseudonym belongs to? An advantage of pseudonyms is that we can focus on what is right rather than who is right. Even if a few do know who a pseudonym belongs to, it would be nice if this remained a mystery to the rest of us. Let us live in blissful ignorance without being able to identify individuals or connections, all the better to discuss issues freely without appearing to knock anybody. For all I know or care, Dot is the Pope or his sister, and Sidvicius is Mother Superior at a cloistered convent, or her brother. Ignorance is bliss in this case.

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SOP
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Post by SOP » Sun Sep 26, 2004 7:07 pm

As stated previously, I sit out in the congregation these days. Our final hymn this morning was Stephen Dean's Thanks Be To God. It has been sung before but it is not very familiar to the congregation. I am confident with it so sang out - not a solo, there is a difference between being a soloist and being a confident singer! Anyway, at the end people further along the bench came over to thank me for singing out so confidently as it enabled them to learn it much quicker than they would have done otherwise.

And that folks, is why I sing out in the congregation. I encourage others to sing too.

We do have someone in the congregation who sings very loudly but he has a learning disability, quite a good voice but in his own time and he can't stay still for very long so it sometimes seems to be a one man procession around the church. I truly believe God enjoys hearing him sing and it is not for me or anyone else to tell him to stop singing.

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Post by Merseysider » Sun Sep 26, 2004 7:33 pm

Hear! Hear!

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musicus
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Post by musicus » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:14 pm

pews2 wrote:How does anybody know who a pseudonym belongs to? An advantage of pseudonyms is that we can focus on what is right rather than who is right. Even if a few do know who a pseudonym belongs to, it would be nice if this remained a mystery to the rest of us. Let us live in blissful ignorance without being able to identify individuals or connections, all the better to discuss issues freely without appearing to knock anybody. For all I know or care, Dot is the Pope or his sister, and Sidvicius is Mother Superior at a cloistered convent, or her brother. Ignorance is bliss in this case.

Amen to that!

Friends, by focussing on "who" rather than "what", parts of this thread are generating more heat than light, and it is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt. May I suggest that specific local difficulties such as these are best discussed and dealt with locally?

Musicus

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Post by Merseysider » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:16 pm

Hear! Hear! Encore!

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Vox Americana
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Post by Vox Americana » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:20 pm

May I add that this particular thread seems to be more Dot v Benevenio than it is Choir v Congregations. That's become very boring. Keep your disagreements private, guys!

As you said, Musicus, Amen to that!

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contrabordun
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Re: ...By two, by two, by two, by two....

Post by contrabordun » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:27 pm

sidvicius wrote:I'm not happy with this 'high-visibility' choir, except for performance purposes

Why not?

sidvicius wrote:but a choir that is 'all in one boat' is still regarded as "that lot - the choir clique"

Well....even in the situations where that's true the fault doesn't necessarily lie with the choir. Why do something that may damage the ability of the music team to function as such, in order to assuage cricitism that may be completely unfounded? I find quite often the loudest complaints come from those not prepared to make the effort to participate (not just in relation to liturgy, either...)

Good leadership should be invisible

Don't agree with this at all. It's certainly true sometimes, but in many situations, clear visibility is a prerequisite of good leadership.

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mcb
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Post by mcb » Sun Sep 26, 2004 11:24 pm

SOP wrote:We do have someone in the congregation who sings very loudly but he has a learning disability, quite a good voice but in his own time... I truly believe God enjoys hearing him sing and it is not for me or anyone else to tell him to stop singing.


Couldn't agree more! It's a tussle sometimes whether our friend or I (the choirmaster) have more of a hold over our organist, but my steely glare occasionally brings our organist back into line. I wouldn't change things!

M.

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Tsume Tsuyu
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Post by Tsume Tsuyu » Mon Sep 27, 2004 12:40 am

pews2 wrote:Let us live in blissful ignorance without being able to identify individuals or connections,

I've always subscribed to this. However, I've felt for some time that my parish/choir situation was being wrongly portrayed, and so how do I deal with this? PM every forum member and talk to them privately? I'm sure you're not remotely interested. If something's been posted, publicly, then I should have a right of reply, surely? If not, then the 'poster' should be moderated. Up to now, I have deliberately chosen not to become embroiled in what Musicus describes as "local issues", but I felt unable to keep silent on this occasion.

And before I'm moderated, this is all I have to say Musicus. I agree these matters are best discussed and dealt with locally.
TT

Dot
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Post by Dot » Mon Sep 27, 2004 10:46 pm

I apologise publicly to my fellow parishioners for what they tell me has offended them. In the context of the statement, I could not predict the effect it would have. The offending phrase could, and would, have been edited out by private request.

I will re-iterate that we have an amazingly talented leader and many processes in place that make the group indispensible to me. That I sit rather uncomfortably within it is something that causes me a lot of pain. Not being involved would leave a big hole.

I shall now retire to lurk in safety and take a vow of serenity.

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Tsume Tsuyu
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cathedral visit

Post by Tsume Tsuyu » Wed Oct 20, 2004 9:21 pm

Sorry to bring this debate to the top of the forum again, but I wanted to write about my experience of Mass at one of our northern cathedrals last Sunday.

First impressions were that the cathedral seemed to be alive and buzzing with activity. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly. There was a children’s liturgy and a huge number of children and parents/helpers disappeared after the opening song and reappeared at the offertory. The walls and alcoves revealed lots of signs of things happening within the cathedral community and I very much enjoyed being a part of the worship there.

The only thing that disappointed me was the choir. And that’s not to say that they weren’t good, because they were excellent! However, they were situated what seemed like miles from the congregation, behind the altar itself. The congregation were taught the response to the psalm from the ambo before Mass and people seemed to join in with that. The choice of music was good and everyone had all the words (and notes) printed on a sheet which I assume is produced every week. As soon as Mass began, however, I realised that the choir was fighting a losing battle if it was trying to lead/encourage the singing. The intention certainly seemed to be to encourage the congregation because the choirmaster was animating the parts of the Mass, the Gloria response, the Alleluia etc. (although I have to say that, without my specs, it was quite difficult to see him at all from where I was sitting!), but the singing from the choir sounded so faint, it was hard for the congregation to follow. Rather like my own choir, I’m not sure where would have been an ideal place for this particular cathedral choir to sing from (if, indeed, there is an ideal place), but behind the altar, so far away from the congregation, didn’t seem to work at all. The choir sang a post-communion piece and it sounded beautiful, but I had to strain very hard to hear it, instead of sitting back to listen and enjoy it.

My visit was a very happy one and I met with a lively, welcoming congregation, but few of them joined in with the singing which was very sad, especially when the music seemed to have been carefully chosen with participation by the congregation in mind. My only consolation is that we’re obviously not the only ones with a problem when it comes to the positioning of the choir and encouraging congregational participation.
TT

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