Placement of choir in church
  • Dove
    Posts: 16
    We have a very small chant group and we sing a capella. Is it appropriate for us to sing from a location other than the choir loft? What do other groups do? I am only interested in groups that sing the EF Mass. Novus ordo groups may have more liberty.
  • If you are all men in cassock and surplice, you may sing from the sanctuary.
  • Dove
    Posts: 16
    We're a mixed group. May we sing from the front of the church, in front of the first row of pews on the Epistle side, or somewhere else?
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    We've been singing from the choir area, which is to the side of our sanctuary. Just recently, we tried singing from behind the congregation and it worked beautifully.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021

    If it's "music during the Mass", then it's a visual distraction to be visible near the Sanctuary.

    If it's the music of the Mass, and the congregation is listening rather than singing along, then from the rear of the church makes it feel as if the congregation is a silent partner in the singing of the Mass, without the visual distraction.

    If it's the music of the Mass, and the congregation IS to sing along, then that is always more effective from the rear, especially above the main floor. They can hear the leadership singing (and instruments if used) better, and that leadership is not visually adversarial.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,184
    What Steve Collins said.

    Why do you think you should be up front? If your church has decent acoustics, you WILL be heard if you sing from the loft.

    And that's where the organ is, right? (Just in case you use it for pitch).
  • BGP
    Posts: 215
    well, the choir loft was invented when mixed choirs began to become used for liturgical music. If you have one then that's the best place, if it cant be used for some reason then I don't know what I would do.
  • Dove
    Posts: 16
    dad29 I suppose you are right. We are a choir that sings the Requiem Mass and the attendance is probably always going to be pretty small. So if we sing the Agnus Dei and then clatter downstairs for communion, by the time we get back up there to sing the Communio probably the priest is going to have to wait for us. It seemed to me that if we were downstairs it would work better.
    Steve: we don't sing anything except the chant, and we don't need the organ for pitch. I doubt that there will be much participation from the congregation when we sing for a funeral. For votive masses we will definitely sing from the loft.
    I was just curious to see if there was any prohibition against singing in different locations.
    Thanks for your comments.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,690
    Place them in the best place acoustically outside the immediate confines of the sanctuary. That place will vary according to the design of the church and its furnishings. It might be the loft/gallery, but it might not be. It really is an empirical question to be determined by observation (of course, acoustics might even vary somewhat according to the number of people wearing sound-absorbent clothing....)
  • I would go with the loft for a mixed group. We've done this and it's a nice way to have everyone facing the same way.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    If your church is built in the traditional cruciform pattern, you can put the schola in one or the other "wings" formed by the crossbar of the cross. I've seen that done.

    If not, behind the congregation works just as well as in the loft, as far as I've heard.
  • In Baltimore, the men's schola sings from the loft most of the year. During the summer we sing from the sanctuary. This is because there is major air conditioning equipment in the loft that sounds like we're singing in the Boeing jet engine plant. Congregants say they can hear us fine, but it's very distracting to the singers (or at least the director)! In the sanctuary, we gather in front of one of the side altars and try to behave very well.

    For Holy Saturday, by local custom, we sing the vigil part of the liturgy from the sanctuary in the dark, then move to the loft for Mass.
  • Dove
    Posts: 16
    Thank you for all of your comments. We decided to sing from the loft, though we were pretty far from the sanctuary. We recorded the Mass and I was interested to find that although we responded very promptly to the priest's Dominus vobiscum, etc. there was a noticeably lag in time. The sound had to go both ways. I have always that the choirs were kind of slow responding.
    There were only 6 people at the mass but we decided that we would be a distraction to them. So thanks again for the input.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    "there was a noticeably lag in time"

    I taught myself how to overcome this when I'm playing the organ. I anticipate everything by a fraction of a second. If you're not using the organ, then your schola needs to adopt the same concept. To you, it might sound like the "dove-tailing" is overlapping, but you just have to get used to it.

    It would also be important to imitate the priest's tempo in your responses. (Maybe you're already doing that - no offence intended - just thought others might like to hear that also.) It personally drives me nuts to hear the "Amen", after a very pregnant pause, be 1/3 the tempo of the "per omnia saecula sauculorum."

    While on the tempo tangent, Agnus Dei XVIII: let's, please, get closer to speech rhythm and tempo. Some places it sounds literally operatic. And it is not etched in stone that the Cantor/Schola must intone every Agnus Dei. Congregations are universally capable of chanting all the way through. That style in itself tends toward the operatic.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    At my place, after the first Agnus Dei, everyone sings the rest of the chant