In another thread, docmattc wrote:Without a confident choir or cantor to lead the singing, will the congregation sing the Latin, or the English, both, or neither when led only by the organ? There's no way of knowing unless you know your congregation well (and even then its a bit of a lottery).
Some of us here are lucky enough to have a choir which has been rehearsed beforehand and can (usually) be relied on to sing even if we've misjudged it and the congregation don't join in. The congregation are also more likely to join in if there is a vocal lead. In a parish without such luxuries (and would that be the majority of them?) how best can we keep the music from getting stuck in a rut, but avoid the organist playing an embarrasing solo? The Ash Wednesday liturgy Contrabordun describes would not have worked without a choir to lead and/or sing on their own.
Its happened to me when I've assumed a congregation knows one of the old favourites, only to launch into it from the organ loft and discover from the stony silence that the parish doesn't have this one in their repertoire. Its a very uncomfortable experience and if anyone has found solutions to this it would be good to hear them.
Well now, I'm feeling provocative, so let me give my answer to this.
There are only 2 ways for a member of a congregation to learn a piece of music well enough to sing it. A] by reading the notes or B] by repetition and learning by ear. (B can be a great aid to A).
If you pick something that the congregation don't know and the publisher hasn't printed the dots, the congregation are out of options. They simply have no way of joining in, whether they want to or not. (This applies equally to Latin as to English and to old as to new music.)
My answer is that if you want congregational singing, and you want to be able to ring the changes on the repetoire, you have to consider a rehearsed choir to be a necessity, not a luxury, precisely because, as
Instruments are fine, but when the congregation don't know the music, instrumentalists tend to be more valuable for their voices than anything else. (For the same reason, whilst choir members like to sing hymns in harmony, if there's any uncertainty about the melody, they should be giving a strong unison lead to the congregation).docmattc wrote:The congregation are also more likely to join in if there is a vocal lead.
A choir is preferable to a cantor for 2 reasons: 1 - a choir can have one person missing without being wholly absent and 2 - it's more comfortable for a member of the congregation to join in as an additional member of a large group, a chorus, then to sing along with a (usually amplified) soloist.