Schola vs. Choir
  • Anhaga
    Posts: 55
    Is there anybody who can explain the difference between 'schola' and 'choir'? Are they simply the different words with the same meaning?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I believe schola is short for schola cantorum.

    Schola Cantorum: A place for teaching and training in ecclesiastical chant, or a body of singers assembled for the purpose of rendering the music in church.

    Choir: an organized body of singers who perform or lead the musical part of a church service (there are a few more other def.)

    (from Modern Catholic Dictionary by J. Hardon)
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    My own admittedly off-the-cuff way of explaining the difference is that 'choirs' could be singing any type of music in any church. A 'schola' will pretty much be singing Chant and Polyphony (although they may sing other things, but that's their primary focus).
  • I say split the difference in Mia's definition, as long as the "ensemble" functions within liturgical rites.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I recently read (think it was The Bugnini Liturgy) that the schola emerged from the paid professional cantors who gathered together to provide the prescribed music for the liturgy. In the development of more complex vertical musical structures the natural formation of polyphony emerged. As the DoM here, I have both a choir and a schola. A number of musicians participate in both. However, the schola is exclusively devoted to GC.
  • Anhaga
    Posts: 55
    I was thinking along the same lines with Gregp. But I could not find much difference 'in definition' between them, I mean, in the dictionaries.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I go with Gregp. Also "schola" sounds more up-market to modern ears, especially after the bad reputation many Catholic choirs acquired over the last several decades.

    Use that name and you can turn down off-the-wall requests as being "uncomplementary to chant."
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I thought the term schola is almost always used in EF, but I just saw a thread with 'choir' in EF. So that 's out. I wonder schola is usually a small number than the choir, or is it possible in OF to combine choir and schola in a parish and have them sing latin chant, including propers, and other choral music that requires a large number of choir members?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I use the term schola in a Puritan fashion. If you sing in the schola you are only singing GC from the liturgical books.
  • There is also a marketing appeal with the word schola. It is nowadays what everyone seems to want but most do not yet have. the word alone carries status. And it is clear what the schola does. Sure beats "praise band."
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • MJB and Jeffrey,
    That you rightly cite the marketability and "upwardly mobile" implications in choosing the self-assignation of "schola cantorum" nonetheless is gladly what kept me from adding more to my original response. We cannot associate our endeavors with any such notions that signifies a "special" status in this lifetime, no matter how noble the cause.
    The choirs of angels and saints do have their rank.
    We should only aspire to be among the sheep, the elect, those whom He recognizes and in whose Presence we join those choirs.
    But, respectfully, I suggest that regarding the term in any fashion is an earthbound folly; there will be members of "Praise Teams" singing along side of schola chanters with those heavenly ranks.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    We may all come to visit you once in a while down the hall in the "praise chamber" in between the concerts of chant and polyphony in the great room! (all said in good humor!)
  • The first Schola Cantorum is reputed to have been established by Gregory the Great for the perpetuation and studious performance of the chant. The actual connection between this School of Singing and Gregory may be as tenuous and unlikely as his involvement with 'Gregorian Chant'; but, still, scholae have at least an ancient pedigree as chant scholars and are probably best understood today as being choirs and students of liturgical chant. That said, I have had mixed choirs (specifically in Walsingham's early days) which I consciously called scholas because I intended them to take their ministry with an uncommon seiousness which I believe to be implicit in the work of a schola and its liturgical tradition. However, that there is implicit here any tinge of superiority or 'uppitiness' in this concept would be foreign to its purpose and role, and, unworthy of the Lord whom it would glorify. Such would be to fall into the very trap of perceived superiority which causes many people not to like choirs. We should distance ourselves from any hint of being 'upscale', and, rather, emphasise with humility our ministerial calling whether we are a 'Schola' or a 'Choir' - either of which, in our day, may be scholars of chant AND polyphony, as well as of other worthy liturgical music past and present.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    I think you are absolutely right! "...worthy liturgical music."

    A 'group' of musicians does not claim to be superior because of its title. It is superior because it creates or performs a superior (or a better word might be 'purer') form of music that is fitting to the liturgy -- and the key phrase is 'fitting to the liturgy'. The church candidly states that the chant hold a place of honor to all other types of music because it is most perfectly suited and fitted to the words and actions of the liturgy. This is not a subjective argument; it is a clearly formulated and objective truth about liturgical music.

    It would be akin to saying that kindergarten art drawings should be put alongside the works of the masters that are displayed in the Louvre!

    "They should have equal prominence. They are created by the very hands of the children of God! Who are we to judge which is superior to the other!"

    Well, that is simply foolishness! We all know the difference between the refined work of a master to that of an elementary mind! Anyone who even dared suggest this argument would be dismissed as ignorant or naive.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I think the disagreement above is from having different concept of choir. I think in this discussion we are refering church 'choir,' as in the choir who sings, at least try to sing, liturgical music (for the sake of focusing on the subject, we shoud not include 'praise band,' here, that would be for another discussion.)
    But I'm wondering whether it is necessary or even 'practical' in OF mass in a parish to seperate schoa who focus on GC and polyphony, from a regular choir, if the MD wants the regular choir sings GC, inculding propers, but also sing other hymns in vernacular and 'modern' liturgical music, reagardless you call the group 'schola' or 'choir.'(which sounds appropriate).
    If you have a seperate schola and a choir (again, not the praise band) in a parish, do you usually have them sing in different masses, or sing differerent parts of the mass? It seems almost unnecessary to me, unless the choir is so big and hard to sing latin propers, which may require smaller number of people than the big choir?
  • If calling ourselves a "praise band" would protect the privilege of singing the propers and ordinary from the Gregorian books, I would gladly adopt it!
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,128
    I renamed one of my groups "schola cantorum" because that is what it really is, a "school for singing". That group is really learning to sing,read neumes and read staves. A portion(about half) of every rehearsal is used to teach those questions.

    Ask me how its going in three to five years, because that is how long it will take to get somewhere.

    Patience, patience,patience. (But it is fun to be on the journey)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    " CommentAuthorJeffrey Tucker CommentTime1 hour ago
    If calling ourselves a "praise band" would protect the privilege of singing the propers and ordinary from the Gregorian books, I would gladly adopt it!"

    Amen! A rose by any other name... Call me anything you like, just spell my name correctly.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    This is not about who has the best looking book cover it's about the title of the book aptly representing it's content.
  • What M. Jackson Osborn says.
    And with equal mirth, CW, if being abled to beautifully sing Qui habitat, the Allegri Miserere AND Chris Rice's "Come to Jesus" relegates a Christian singing soul to the PRAISE CHAMBER in the many mansions, I'm okay with that.
    Now without mirth, CW, I vehemently disagree with the contention that a superior repertoire de facto doth a superior performing ensemble make. To borrow your metaphor, there have been and likely still are "scholas" whose audible output is analagous to the scribbled drawings of a toddler.
    And Kevin's point also addresses my contention- a "school" can only be regarded as successful when all shareholders in that school regard learning as a serious, lifelong endeavor and apply themselves towards consistent excellence in their achievements. When we were children, we thought like children. We aren't singing Carey Landrey anymore, I would hope.
    Lastly, Jeffrey, we are the protectors and guardians of that privilege. And you are a splendid captain in our band of soldiers. I just can't see much that advances the cause by a sophistic (or solopsistic?) autopsy of a "name."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    The performance of chant is completely separate from it's objectve content. Any music can be poorly executed but that does not lessen it's superiority. And I would further wager that my fourth graders singing GC are creating superior liturgical music to professionals singing On Eagles Wings. In other words, grade C music performed excellently will only ever attain a C. And kindergartners are quite able to produce superior musical performances, especially when the ellegance of GC is sitting on their music stands.

    Charles. The scribble analogy was mine.

    PS. I also lead and perform with a praise band so I speak from experience not just theoretically. The musical CONTENT of our praise band liturgies are pathetic at best. (content found here- top 25 at very bottom of page)
  • Yes, I'm having some difficulty tracking who is whom today;-), much less the dialectic of the thread! Sorry, Francis et al.
    I don't quibble at all over your sensibilities regarding superior musics. I just don't recognize an implied necessity to link GC as superior to the term "schola cantorum."
    Good news, tho', I GOT MY CHANT INTENSIVE CERTIFICATE TODAY!!! Now the hunt for a worthy frame....
    PS. In describing the CI in San Diego to my choristers and some chanters up here, I offered as how I'd taken far-less demanding coursework for my MA! And also, I shared the pure joy of having the smallest brain pan among the 50 souls there (which is pretty much evident here as well.) It's an honor for anyone who loves God, and His Gift of Worship thereof, to associate with the people that are CMAA.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577

    No apology needed. I really appreciate the cerebral gymnastics that we exercise in hammering out our issues on this great forum. I only wish I hadn't been stuck in a musical vaccuum for decades. CMAA has been like getting a new lease on life. Congrats on your scholastic endeavors.
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    I'd like our *future program* to go: Schola Cantorum (or something with schola). "More than a choir, we should strive towards musical catechesis."

    A School for Gregorian Chant.

    *sigh* Dreams
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    That is a good term... Musical Catechesis
  • Over at NLM, Shawn asked what sorts of Lenten disciplines might be adding this season. My wife and I are doing the Divine Office hours as much as possible. I picked up a copy of Kathleen Norris' THE CLOISTER WALK for some edification and this hit me like a ton of bricks:
    (From pg.41)
    "The theologian John Cobb, in commenting on the history of art from the Byzantine age to the present, says that 'the power that can transform, redeem, unify and order has moved in a continuous process from a transcendent world into the inner being of the artists themselves.'
    This is dangerous for artists to contemplate, that the culture that trivializes and spurns them them would also, paradoxically, look to them for hope of transformation. Walter Brueggeman, in a book on the prophets entitled _Hopeful Imagination_, suggests that 'a sense of call in our time is profoundly countercultural," and notes that "the ideology of our time is that we can live "an uncalled life," one not referred to any purpose beyond one's self." I (Norris) suspect that this idol of the autonomous, uncalled life has a shadow side that demands that we resist the notion that another might be different, might indeed experience a call. Our idol of the autonomous individual is a sham; the truth is we expect everyone to be the same, and dismiss as elitist those who are not working through a call to any genuine vocation. It may be that our culture so fears the necessary other that it has grown unable to identify and name real differences without becoming defensive about them.
    I (Norris) think this explains our mania for credentials, which allow us a measure of objectivity in asserting differences. Credentials measure what is quantifiable; they represent results. A call, on the other hand, is pure process; it cannot be measured, quantified, or controlled by institutions."

    Isn't that an amazing insight into how we often behave by default?