• canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,500
    Our parish has choir gowns and we may be ordering new ones. So, what does a Catholic choir gown look like? Suggestions. This is a choir of men and women.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,188
    Alb or cassock and surplice?
  • agreed, must look catholic....not institutional or protestant...
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    See: papal midnight mass 2011
  • I prefer the Choir Alb from C.M. Almy. They are simple in design with single color and an enclosed zipper front and button neck. We have them in Blue, a neutral liturgical color so they can be worn year round. Almy also sells surplices or cottas to accompany the robes if that is your desire.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,992
    Yes to albs. (No to cinctures for folks who are not obliged to celibacy, however.)
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 756
    There's a lot to be said for west galleries, casuals and the Telegraph crossword during an an over-long homily.
  • Choir habit is cassock and surplice.. stress='surplice', NOT the so called cotta, which is a funny-looking chopped off surplice.
    Choir gowns are just that - gowns... they are not choir habit in any Catholic sense... they tend to be some variety of academic gown, such as one would find on Presbyterian or Methodist choirs... although High Methodists would much prefer actual choir habit and be proud to be seen in cassocks and surplices (NOT cottas!)

    One sees Catholic choirs vested in 'monk's robes', academic gowns, none of which are choir habit, plus varieties of albs (which are DEFINITELY not choir habit); but one rarely sees Catholic choirs actually vested in real choir habit.

    And, what was said above about west galleries is precisely why choirs should not be in galleries, west or other. If they are, their choirmasters should hold them to the exact decorum to which he would hold them if they were down front, Anglican style. When one separates the choir, it loses touch with its mission to lead not only in singing, but by every example of worshipful comportment and prayerful involvement in the liturgical action. If I saw someone in my choir working a crossword during any part of the liturgy that person would be given one more chance and then asked to resign. Such people do not begin at all to comprehend what a real choir is; they cheapen its esprit do corps, and its singleminded offering of mind, body, soul, and voice.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,500
    Now I'm getting an education. We are in a gallery. I'm afraid I love it. We have good decorum as a group. It isn't perfect, but no crosswords, although, sometimes I hear humming.

    I'm in Canada. What is a high Methodist? Is that similar to High Anglican/Episcopal?

    In our gallery it gets VERY warm. I've been dripping with sweat on a number of occasions. Cassock and surplice would be very uncomfortable.d

    We've always had "gowns", a cotta, I suppose, though I couldn't find a picture of one. There doesn't seem to be anything similar to our current attire online (probably because it is so ugly).

    I'm becoming more confused. I would rather we did not end up looking like a Baptist/Pentecostal choir. I like gowns. It adds formality and unity to the choir.
  • Several points: First, cassocks and surplices are great, but problematic when there are women in the choir (as there usually is).

    The choirs gowns (Example: https://www.murphyrobes.com/index.cfm?event=category.display&catid=203) are not Catholic and are generally worn by the choirs of protestant congregations. Some even have stoles, which should absolutely be avoided, as stoles are a sign of the ordained.

    I would recommend a white alb, which is proper for all the baptized (it represents the baptismal garment), if women are in the choir (which I assume there are)...something of this sort, perhaps: https://www.murphyrobes.com/index.cfm?event=product.display&catid=23&prodid=6217 Otherwise, cassocks and surplices are most appropriate. In reference to the cincture (the rope around the waist), it is a liturgical sign of chastity, not celibacy. One can be a chaste married person (relations only with one's spouse) or a chaste celibate person (unmarried with no intention of getting married...such as being a priest or consecrated person) or a chaste single person (an unmarried person who is open to getting married). Hence the propriety of a married deacon wearing a cincture.

    And, if all else fails, especially if you're in the gallery, there isn't any real requirement that the choir be vested at all. Sure, it's nice, but I'd rather have folks in decent Sunday clothes who are hidden away, rather than wearing inappropriate liturgical attire.

    Adam S.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,072
    Am I correct in remembering that in the GIRM, the default for any "minister" is an alb? Just wondering...

    I second IanW's suggestion as the best solution. Unless you are literally "in choir", no choir dress is needed.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    Several things:

    1) I agree with Mr. Osborne regarding west gallery choir lofts, but only to the extent that they seem to encourage an easing (or a downright abandonment) of decorum. Indeed, I find myself easily distracted, and others who have sung in the choir for many years have no sense of decorum at all.

    That said, acoustically, I would prefer the choir (and organ for that matter) in a rear gallery than in an Anglican-style chancel arrangement. (I have sung at Westminster Abbey and York Minster, and in those cases the choir is nearly fully-enclosed, thus creating a feeling of intimacy that I fear is lost in most American churches constructed in the Anglican manner, because the chancel and choir stalls are open rather than behind a solid screen. Yes, there are exceptions, but they prove the rule, I think.)

    2) It seems to me that the whole choir habit debate has been thrashed out to the point of having the appearance of a cadaver trial.

    I imagine it can be agreed that cassock and surplice is the accepted vesture for a choir of men. The problem becomes what to do with a womens' schola or section of a mixed choir. The designated use of albs for all "ministries" seems to be a weak compromise coming out of the VCII, borne of a desire on the part of liberals to completely blunt any show of clericalism. Vest everyone, regardless of station or degree of participation, in an alb and pretty much everyone gets to wear one. I've even heard of EMHC's wearing them on Sundays. The use of anything else for choirs (Wesleyan-style robes, monk-style robes or cucullas or academic vesture) seems to rise out of the Protestantization of the Church. There is one exception, and that is the Anglican Ordinariate which has as a part of its culture the use of some academic elements (hoods, mainly), and deals with the vesting of mixed choirs differently. I have observed Anglo-Catholic churches with mixed choirs vest the men in full choir habit, while the women dress in cassock only (and wear some kind of head covering such as a zucchetto), and the men who are serving as cantor also wear a cope.

    I recently served as organist/cantor/chantmaster for an OF Nuptial Mass where the choir was in the rear gallery, men and I vested in cassock and surplice and the women dressed in all black, but not a cassock or alb. And, from start to finish they were quiet, attentive and reverent . . . almost to the point where I was concerned they weren't going to be ready for their next musical cue.
  • Cassock and surplice (I agree, cottas look silly) are great for men. The right fabric shouldn't make them too hot.
    For women, I like the capes worn by European groups like the French branch of Juventutem.
    We do have more than the Anglicans to look to for example.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    Sleeveless surcoat would be a nice look for women in choirs. (Not a voluminous-skirted, long-hemmed one.) No sleeves means easier to fit and harder to get hot.

    Tabards would work, if they were neutral-colored. Easier to deal with than albs. Stick it on over your clothes and go. You could negotiate over what lengths to use -- maybe short ones for men and longer ones for women.

    [looks for good examples, only finds scary ones at cheap Renfaire clothing sites, sighs a lot]
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    On an exact right angle... the tunic-length Anglican/academic chimere is right out, but you could possibly go for a Hogwarts sub fusc academic look.

    But nobody is going to be confused if women wear a long Italian zimarra over their clothes. A very gracious, formal look that could be cut very simply for all women, and easier to fit because open. (Here's a plain black version, but with sleeves and more closures.)
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    Why not something like this for the women?


    (From Our Lady of Walsingham [Roman-Anglican Use] Catholic Church, Houston, TX)

    I find the collars beautiful and dignified for the women, and it doesn't blur the role between the lay person and the ordained. Heck, as a man, I would be happy to wear that kind of collar. :)
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,500
    Thank you for your comments and ideas! Wow! So many thoughts... I like the idea of cassock and surplice for the men. Then, for the women I found this: http://www.gaspard.ca/brahms/ but there would be no colour differentiation between the front panel and the rest of the gown (a little too Baptist/Pentecostal for me). I like blue for the whole gown. Our loft is dirty, and dusty. I'm not sure why but this is the reality. White will not be a good idea b/c the gowns are not in a closet during the week. Floor length is also a no-no because we meander up and down the stairs and we're all getting older (even the young'uns are getting older)! I'm thrilled that my first post has encouraged this discussion! :)
  • Whilst cassock and surplice is the preferred choir dress, this is problematic when you have a mixed choir since women really must not wear cassocks. I believe that it is expressly forbidden for women to wear cassocks, but I do not know off-hand where it is so stated. Unfortunately, it is difficult to procure sufficient numbers of trebles and counter-tenors to have an all-male choir these days.

    A reasonable compromise can be had in a type of robe which appears like the academic robe, but zipped at the front and in that fuschia-colour. The choir-master then wears cassock and surplice (as well as the organist). The advantage of these robes is that they do not need to be a precise fit like the cassock, which really does need to be tailored for each individual, becoming a rather expensive exercise. I always wear a collared shirt, tie and trousers when wearing my choir robe.

    Of course, my other schola is a college one, so I wear academic dress when singing in that!

    I believe that women in choirs have also worn a type of ankle-length cape in the same colour as the choir cassock, but I have only seen photos and never seen them in real life. In a warm climate like Australia, many choirs dress in white shirt and dark trousers if they wear anything other than street clothes anyway!
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    After a bit of searching, I found a picture depicting Juventutem Polyphonic Choir, vested the way MaryAnn mentioned. It looks very dignified to me. One could perhaps opt for a fuller english surplice, but that is secondary.
  • "Sing to the Lord" (USCCB 2007) says choir members and cantors may wear albs or choir robes, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. "Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended."

    My own preference is for the choir to be in a gallery. If not, let them be dressed in plain black baccalaureate gowns. The black doesn't introduce another hue to the congregation's view, and avoids a possible liturgical clash. It minimizes the choir's visibility. I want the choir to be heard, not seen.
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    I think STTL also assumes a mixed choir. And idk, but maybe the USCCB just didn't want to get into the "cassocks are for men only" wording...idk...not to mention it carries no force of law
  • If the "Black Baccalaureate Gown" is the undergraduate gown that I wear at college, I say that this is a good choice because they are readily availalable and don't need to be tailored for specific individuals. I would strongly encourage a dress code of say white shirt and black trousers and perhaps a common tie colour (get a special choir or parish tie made - not expensive, I wear my college tie).