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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pews2
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Post by pews2 »

Perhaps amplification would help a choir or cantor who is not optimally located. We have a handful of singers to lead the congregation, sitting in one wing, with a mike to help their voices carry. Most people cannot see them. There has been talk of enlarging this cantor group, but that might be at the expense of the assembly which includes the usual proportion of strong singers. Some years ago the organ drowned out the people. Now it is the reverse. Even for the psalm response, which is usually learnt on the spot - cantor group sings it once and the people join in the second time. Always simple, by the second verse they are singing it as if it is familiar. Participation does flag here when the choice of music discourages participation. That has become rarer.

Dot
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Post by Dot »

With reference to "Mass at one of our northern cathedrals"

It does seem a shame that this choir has been moved behind the altar from a more prominent position adjacent to the organ, facing the congregation and within earshot of them. Having sung from this position in that church, I wonder at the move and question the need for amplification.

Another visitor to that northern cathedral

Catulus
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Choir verus Congregation

Post by Catulus »

As a daily worshipper at one of our Northern Cathedrals, I would suggest that instead of concentrating on the choir's post-communion motet, one should rather be contemplating the sacramental gift one has just received.

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estuaire
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Re: Mass at one of our Northern cathedrals

Post by estuaire »

As an infrequent visitor to one of our northern cathedrals, I would like to make my own contribution to the debate of the position of the choir. As an ardent traditionalist, I am of the opinion that the choir loft is the most suitable place of all. This would aid the amplification problem. Incidentally does Jubilate Deo by Lassus really aid full, conscious and active participation as posited by sacrosanctum concillium 14? Could Catulus really be right?

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contrabordun
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Re: Choir verus Congregation

Post by contrabordun »

Catulus wrote:As a daily worshipper at one of our Northern Cathedrals, I would suggest that instead of concentrating on the choir's post-communion motet, one should rather be contemplating the sacramental gift one has just received.

To be fair, I think Tsaume's original post was much more general - I think she was commenting about the positioning affecting the choir's ability to lead/encourage the singing overall (Ordinary of the mass, Psalm responses, Alleluia etc).

estuaire wrote:As an ardent traditionalist, I am of the opinion that the choir loft is the most suitable place of all

As a management consultant (and a traditionalist) I'm always curious to know why a particular practice started, why it became traditional, and whether that reason (or those reasons) is still relevant. Was the organ put in a loft (eg lots of practical and acoustical reasons for doing that) and the choir put there to aid coordination? Because the organist was the director of music and couldn't be in two places at once? Very practical, but if that is the criterion, then any other, more practical solution that appears in the course of time must beat it.

A lot of organists and choir members I know would say that being up in a gallery doesn't do wonders for their full conscious and active participation in what is going on downstairs.

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estuaire
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Post by estuaire »

I do believe that, music being at the service of the liturgy (action of the people) and not vice versa, that the full, active and conscious participation of the rest of the congregation deserves more attention. If the siting of the choir aids this then this is laudable. I take contrabourdon's point that the organist and director of music in the past has been the same person and thus coordination is important. However, I don't think that this is the case in the Northern cathedral that we are talking about. If the siting of the choir becomes a distraction to the concentration and participation of the people, then perhaps a position out of the way should be the norm. Perhaps the dictum, "choirs should be heard and not seen" is appropriate!!!!!!!!!!

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contrabordun
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Post by contrabordun »

but what are the choir if not a part of the people?

should the same apply to the readers? does the fact that they stand up at the front distract people?

I'm not familiar with the situation at this particular cathedral, in fact I honestly don't know which one we're talking about. But I'm struggling to imagine a plausible set of circumstances in which the siting of a choir might become a genuine distraction to the congregation and an impediment to their participation. I mean, were they doing the crossword during the sermon?

I still think that each individual member of the choir should be considered to have exactly the same (not more, not less) rights to consideration as each individual member of the congregation. Otherwise we end up on the road that says choir members somehow don't count as part of the congregation. And that really does lead to 'Them and Us'.

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Tsume Tsuyu
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Re: Choir verus Congregation

Post by Tsume Tsuyu »

Gosh! How spooky that so many of you know which cathedral I'm talking about. And I didn't mention Liverpool once!

Catulus wrote:.....instead of concentrating on the choir's post-communion motet, one should rather be contemplating the sacramental gift one has just received.

Of course! Must remember to bring my ear plugs and block out whatever is sung post-communion then. It's a little presumptuous to suppose that, just because I may enjoy what is sung post-communion, I might not also be contemplating the gift I have just received. My personal experience is that music aids prayer and contemplation like nothing else.

Estuaire wrote:Incidentally does Jubilate Deo by Lassus really aid full, conscious and active participation as posited by sacrosanctum concillium 14?

If we are still talking about the same Cathedral then, as I said in my earlier post, I felt this was a choir fully aware of its role. The music was all accessible to the congregation, both musically, and by virtue of the fact that the congregation had the words to everything and notes for the sung parts of the Mass. Some teaching was done at the beginning and there was an invitation to sing by the use of animation throughout. They did sing a 'choir piece' post-communion. I don't attend Mass at many cathedrals, but I understand this is what might be expected of a cathedral choir.

contrabordun wrote:I still think that each individual member of the choir should be considered to have exactly the same (not more, not less) rights to consideration as each individual member of the congregation. Otherwise we end up on the road that says choir members somehow don't count as part of the congregation. And that really does lead to 'Them and Us'.

Thank you for this, contrabordun. I think it applies whether you are a cathedral choir or a tiny group such as we have in our parish. To separate the choir from the congregation suggests that the choir is there to do something different from everyone else. They are there for the same reason; they just have an additional role - to try and enhance the liturgy through music and to support the congregational singing. I'm not saying the choir should be plonked slap bang in the middle of the congregation (although that may work in some parishes) but it should be close enough (a) to feel a part of the community and (b) to make a connection with the congregation.
TT

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musicus
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Musicians are people too.

Post by musicus »

estuaire wrote:If the siting of the choir becomes a distraction to the concentration and participation of the people, then perhaps a position out of the way should be the norm. Perhaps the dictum, "choirs should be heard and not seen" is appropriate!!!!!!!!!!

But the choir is part of the people. As GIRM 274 puts it:
In relation to the design of each church, the schola cantorum should be so placed that its character as a part of the assembly of the faithful that has a special function stands out clearly. The location should also assist the choir's liturgical ministry and readily allow each member complete, that is sacramental participation in the Mass.

So, any positioning of the choir that suggests that it is not part of the assembly is to be avoided, as is any location which either impedes the exercise of its ministry or prevents its full participation in the liturgy.

Seems clear enough to me.

Musicus

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Re: Musicians are people too.

Post by Chris »

reflecting on GIRM 274, musicus wrote wrote:any positioning of the choir that suggests that it is not part of the assembly is to be avoided, as is any location which either impedes the exercise of its ministry or prevents its full participation in the liturgy.

Seems clear enough to me.



If the Northern Cathedral refered to is indeed Liverpool as suggested in an earlier post, then it is clear the positioning of the choir is indeed the correct placement. It was a deliberate move on the part of the architect, and indeed with sound underlying theological reasoning, to have the choir behind the Cathedra and Altar, completing the 360 degrees circular gathering of the congregation, both as members of that said congregation, and as leaders of the ritual music. Also of importance to the architect was the importance of the musical leadership coming from the same location, choir and organ speaking from the same space in the building.

Chris

Catulus
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Choir verus Congregation

Post by Catulus »

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my comments concerning the post-communion piece, and yes music (and especially a good choir) does aid prayer and reflection - as does silence!
Perhaps the role of a choir is not only to facilitate and encourage the congregation to raise their voices to God, but also to facilitate silence and contemplation. What do you all think?

Regarding the position of the choir, surely the position must reflect how the choir is understood within the context of the faith community. Are they there to lead, or to guide, or even to encourage?
This surely determines the best position!

As a worshipper at a Northern Cathedral (not Liverpool), I wonder if I could invite comments concerning the following practice. Following the post-communion hymn, which is beautifully sung, the choir remain standing as if to imply that now they are finished, its time to get on with Mass and wind things up (I know I am probably misrepresenting the choir, but these are comments that have been shared with me). I have always believed that it is the priest not the choir that leads the people (choir included) in the liturgy - has something changed?

dunstan
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Communion Music et al

Post by dunstan »

Catulus wrote:Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my comments concerning the post-communion piece, and yes music (and especially a good choir) does aid prayer and reflection - as does silence!


Swerving off topic here, that's why in my small parish I find the best time for communion music (hymn, or incidental) is for the second half of the procession (so the choir have received and are ready to sing) and the first half of the oblutions - it then allows a period of silence while the oblutions are finished and celebrant has his own thanksgiving. It is only when we (rarely) have a motet that we have to wait for the procession to finish coz otherwise the choir would be in the way.

Back on topic, while I get the choir out in front if they're singing a motet, they stay grouped together in the body of the congregation (and near enough to the organ to see me [it's placed to the side at the front]) when singing, for example, a dialogue mass setting.

excathedra
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Re: Choir verus Congregation

Post by excathedra »

This is going to be another grumpy post in a grumpy thread. :(

Catulus wrote:As a worshipper at a Northern Cathedral (not Liverpool), I wonder if I could invite comments concerning the following practice.

I couldn't possibly comment, given that I have only your own account to go on.

(I know I am probably misrepresenting the choir, but these are comments that have been shared with me)

Translation: "I am fully aware that this is only my interpretation and it is probably wrong, but I will proceed anyway". And what is the next step? The tired old "people are saying" con.

I have always believed that it is the priest not the choir that leads the people (choir included) in the liturgy - has something changed?

No.

Please address local problems locally, by talking with the people concerned. Don't drag us into it.

Dot
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Post by Dot »

No, hang on. This thread has turned spiky more than once, but how do you air these things in a totally hypothetical way without reference to real situations?

Merseysider said:
Isn't this all about the right solution for a particular situation?

Yip, and it's not easy for one to comment on another's situation without direct experience of it.

BUT.......

I found it very valuable to hear other people's experiences that were different from my own. These different points of view would be very useful to me if we were ever to discuss how we do things in our parish (off the forum, I hasten to add). They would never have been aired if I had not mentioned my own situation in the first place. We should be able to discuss real situations without things getting nasty. What about a PM at the point where someone feels like retaliating angrily, followed by editing of the message that has inflamed the anger?

Dot

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Vox Americana
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Post by Vox Americana »

Dot wrote:editing of the message that has inflamed the anger

I'd rather folks didn't edit their messages brutally - else we get posts like those elsewhere in this forum where everything is, in effect, deleted. That's no use to me - I wanna know what was said in the first place! Let the moderator moderate...

Catulus wrote:the choir remain standing...
And you'd complain just as loudly if they were to sit down, the clattering disturbing the post-communion silence! :roll: I'm feeling really sorry for the choir and its director in your cathedral...

Anyhow, I reckon you're not quite right: whilst the priest presides, that doesn't mean that he has to lead at a given moment. (Heck! You could have GW as your president - would you wanna follow his lead? :wink: ) The lead comes from whoever is ministering to you at that particular moment: bishop, deacon, priest, cantor, lector, choir, person next to you, child on your lap...

Dunstan wrote:best time for communion music

The GIRM makes this clear:

GIRM n. 56/57 wrote:...
i. During the priest's and the faithful's reception of the sacrament the communion song is sung. Its function is to express outwardly the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to give evidence of joy of heart, and to make the procession to receive Christ's body more fully an act of community. The song begins when the priest takes communion and continues for as long as seems appropriate while the faithful receive Christ's body. But the communion song should be ended in good time whenever there is to be a hymn after communion.

An antiphon from the «Graduale Romanum» may also be used, with or without the psalm, or an antiphon with psalm from «The Simple Gradual» or another suitable song approved by the conference of bishops. It is sung by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the congregation.

If there is no singing, the communion antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the people, by some of them, or by a reader. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received communion and before he gives communion to the faithful.

j. After communion, the priest and people may spend some time in silent prayer. If desired, a hymn, psalm, or other song of praise may be sung by the entire congregation.

k. In the prayer after communion, the priest petitions for the effects of the mystery just celebrated and by their acclamation, Amen, the people make the prayer their own.

57. The concluding rite consists of:

a. the priest's greeting and blessing, which on certain days and occasions is expanded and expressed in the prayer over the people or another more solemn formulary;

b. the dismissal of the assembly, which sends each member back to doing good works, while praising and blessing the Lord.

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