I need a definition for "Schola Cantorum" please.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    I conduct a church choir. We rehearse once a week and sing at Sunday Mass. We sing motets in English and Latin and most Mass parts in Latin, though this is not exclusive. We also sing hymns (the "stuffed Mass"). So is mine a "Schola Cantorum"? Or is a Schola Cantorum a group of singers who only sing Gregorian Chant and solely in Latin. Thanks!
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Well, it seems that GIRM 103 gives it as the normal name for any liturgical choir. Translated into english, it literally means "School of singers."
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  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 338
    In my opinion, for what it's worth:

    "Schola Cantorum" carries connotations that "choir" does not. There is a history behind this term that goes back to a papal choir that created the Mass Proper. See the Catholic Encyclopdia entry for the term: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13547b.htm

    The average Catholic church choir is not a schola cantorum because it does not fulfill the liturgical function of a schola. Most Catholic church choirs exist to sing music that is, at least in theory, congregational. It is therefore a puzzling question why these choirs exist at all; if the congregation were singing this music robustly, as Protestant congregations traditionally have done, then the choir would serve no purpose.

    Nor is a group of singers who sing primarily Gregorian Mass ordinaries and chant hymns a schola cantorum, IMO. They are yet another Catholic choir singing congregational music (albeit Gregorian congregational music), not (yet) a schola. Singing motets gives the choir more of a raison d'etre, and a function similar to Protestant choirs, but motets are not core liturgical music.

    To me, a schola cantorum exists primarily to execute a particular function (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 28-29), which at Mass means to sing the propers from the Graduale Romanum--from an historical perspective, this is the essential raison d'etre of a schola.

    The GIRM additionally assigns the schola the role of alternating with the congregation during some of the Ordinary parts of the Mass (e.g. Gloria, Credo), presumably to assist the congregation with fulfilling their own particular function; it also provides for congregation alternating with the schola during some of the Proper parts (Introit, Communion). This does not take away from the fact that the Ordinary is primarily congregational music that should not be completely usurped by the choir (as happened for a significant chunk of history, and is still de facto the case today in many places), nor that the Proper is primarily schola music that should not be completely usurped by the congregation (as the dominant way of thinking today would deem desirable, although the practical result is usually that a choir performs congregational music for a mute congregation).

    I think it is very significant that the current translation of the GIRM refers to the "schola cantorum" throughout rather than simply to a "choir." There must be a reason for the choice in translation (or rather, the choice not to translate this term!) and the connotations and history of the term must have informed the choice.

  • I think that the current translation of the GIRM reflects not practice nor an ideal, but what the translators wanted to do to influence the church at its stage.

    If the ordinary of the Mass is ideally only to be sung by the congregation and not usurped by the choir, then there is a huge amount of chant composed and approved by the church that will never be heard again.

    A Schola is a school which implies that this is a group that is actively working to reach a higher level of competence, unlike a scola concreta....which is locked into doing what has been scribbled out in concrete quickly before it dries...with no intent but to sing the same music and way that they have always sung.

    There are a ton of choirs that still exist full of old people who do not and never sang well, who do not welcome young people or anything but some stuff from the St. Gregory hymnal...and the same chants over and over. Schola Concreta.
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  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 338
    If the ordinary of the Mass is ideally only to be sung by the congregation and not usurped by the choir, then there is a huge amount of chant composed and approved by the church that will never be heard again.


    Never say never...I dream of singing restored to the heart of culture. I read in Professor Mahrt's book that the congregation in his parish has learned five Gregorian Masses. With enough desire for it, and enough repetition, nothing is impossible.

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  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    The reason for this question is that there is some difficulty in my church because the choir director of another choir posted a pamphlet urging singers to join the "only Schola Cantorum" in the region (they sing a Mass at our parish).

    I know they sing some ordinaries from the new translation though they do sing the propers from the Liber Usualis. The pamphlet indicated that this Schola is the only place to learn proper intonation, Latin pronunciation etc. (I don't exactly remember b/c I don't have the pamphlet here.) This is not the first time this kind of one-upmanship has occurred and I'm finding it all rather childish, frustrating and certainly lacking in love. I think the groups can work in harmony as opposed to this terrible dissonance and I think good will would help the whole parish grow in faith.
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    The IGMR uses the term chorus (choir) only once, giving it as an alternate term for schola cantorum in n. 113. There is no intention to distinguish between a schola cantorum and some other group of singers. Any choir is a group of those who are “schooled” in singing and therefore capable of fulfilling the special and important role assigned to it in the liturgy. This is the sense of schola cantorum as employed in the current rubrics.

    Custom gives us ways of distinguishing between the use of the terms schola cantorum and choir, but what a tragedy that it is used for snob appeal all too often, as would seem to be the case here.

    Musicam sacram captures a bit more of the traditional use, in nn 19-20, making a distinction between “large choirs (cappellae musicae)” and others; traditionally, a “schola” is used to describe a smaller and more accomplished group of singers.

    I would encourage every church “choir” to consider itself a schola cantorum, and take that very seriously for that is its proper liturgical title; however it should accept the challenge of living up to that name as a “school of continuing education.”
  • R J StoveR J Stove
    Posts: 302
    With discussions of this whole phenomenon there's an element, I think, of the old Emotive Conjugation game. (As immortalized by, among other TV shows, Yes Minister: "I have an independent mind; you are eccentric; he is round the twist.")

    Similarly, in a liturgical context, one could argue: "I am a member of a Schola Cantorum; you couldn't carry a tune in the proverbial bucket; she is Britney Spears."
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  • In my understanding a schola cantorum exists to perform the repertory of Franco-Gregorian chant as it pertains to a given mass. A choir's function is to provide leadership to the congregation in the ordinary, whether that be chant or other, and to grace the liturgy with anthems at appropriate points, such as offertory and communion.
    While the choir, or parts thereof, may at times sing chant as well as part music, the schola's sole raison d'etre is chant... in Latin, English, or Urdu as is appropriate to the chosen language for a given liturgy.
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  • Ruth Lapeyre
    Posts: 334
    Hi Canadash sorry to hear you have this problem.

    I can tell you the difference in Schola and Choir as it functions in my parish. We have two scholas and they both sing the propers in Latin at the EF Mass on Sunday morning. The choir also sings at this Mass and is the biggest of the three vocal groups. Indeed, as it works now you have to be a member of the choir in order to sing in one of the scholas. The choir sings a Mass setting, say Rheinberger or Gounod, except for the Credo which is sung by the congregation and choir together. The choir also sings motets at Offertory, but only after the proper is sung by the men's schola. At Communion, after the men sing the Communio and have gone down from the choir loft to receive the Eucharist and come back up, we sing another motet. So the function of the schola is to serve the specific Sunday and the choir is a liturgical organization that enhances the Mass on a Sunday, like a beautiful piece of art work.

    In July the scholas take over all of the work, first the men in the early part of the month and then the women. We sing the propers and add, especially at Offertory, a two or three part motet, we also lead a chant Mass. So, as it works in my parish the schola is smaller but has more flexibility in singing propers, ordinary and those added motets. The choir sings only the ordinary setting and the motets. Sorry for the long winded explanation but it demonstrates that "added" element or function of the schola. The schola, because we are also members of the choir, rehearse an extra 1 1/2 hours a week. Oh, the ladies schola sings the full Gradual and Alleluia/Tract. The men's schola sings the Introit, Offertory and Communion chants.
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  • Ruth Lapeyre
    Posts: 334
    One more thing, as mentioned in your post and others on this thread, there can be a "snob" appeal attached to singing in the schola. Nothing knew hear, Popes have complained about that for over 1000 years! Pride is certainly something all singers need to be cautious about. At our parish any women or man in the choir can sing in one of the scholas, but what they have to be willing to do are the extra rehearsals for the proper chants because some of these chants are quite complex and they change from Sunday to Sunday. The schola singers are not necessarily the better singers in the choir, they are just the singers who have the time and the desire to do the extra work.
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,677
    If somebody came to my parish and denigrated the choir in an effort to lure singers away to another church, I would ask the pastor to put a stop to that. It would be very improper.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    I would encourage every church “choir” to consider itself a schola cantorum, and take that very seriously for that is its proper liturgical title; however it should accept the challenge of living up to that name as a “school of continuing education.”


    Yes. My worry is that my choir will develop the attitude that "the schola" sings the chant and Latin. We don't have to learn and sing it. If you like that genre of music, attend "their" Masses and open the G&P at "ours". All of the Masses at our parish are in the OF.

    I wish I had the time to have a smaller schola in addition to the choir, to sing at least one of the Gregorian propers a week. My busy family life makes this impossible right now. This is something to consider for the future. I was told by a holy priest to pray for a resolution to this situation, something I have neglected to do, and to which I must attend.

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies.
  • Are you at a church with multiple choirs and directors?? perhaps under one DM??
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    Yes, we are Michael. There is no DM though. Just many groups working rather independently with our Pastor guiding us.
  • Ohhh.... doesn't that get a bit caotic when you guys get to major solemnities and feasts? Does the priest act as the DM in the sense that he doles out the orders, and plans the music???
  • Ruth Lapeyre
    Posts: 334
    When it is up to one person to get all of the liturgy together it is very difficult, believe me I know. Chonak is correct that this sort of thing is just awful and I will pray you have a good resolution. I too worry about the snob appeal of Latin and the chant because I think this is the sort of thing that may have contributed to its neglect these past 50 years, and even before. Those of us who love the Latin liturgy need to be especially careful not to fall into this sort of prideful trap.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    canadash… similar situation at my parish (multiple independent groups, no DM). Curious how common that might be.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Anyone know what to make of the Wikipedia entry for Schola cantorum (papal choir), which contains this passage:

    Between the years 876 and 1073, the prior of the Schola is recorded to have performed a curious dance with clearly pagan origins known as Cornomania, on the Saturday following Easter, on the Lateran Square in Rome. He would wear a wreath with horns on his head, swing a rattle with bells, scatter laurel leaves, and cry out in an unknown language, "Iaritan, iaritan, iariariasti; raphayn, iercoin, iariariasti".
  • I am curious as well. I have heard of this happening, and in fact saw it happening at one parish down where I am at. Then I heard they finally went and got a DM, as the music became quite a mess.

    How many other's out there are suffering from this same scenario? Does it work? How is everything coordinated, especially for major feasts and solemnites? The latter, I am very curious about, as I know working between two cultures, american and hispanic, it is tough alone trying to coordinate liturgies, especially with multiple choirs. So please fill us in on how working without a central DM, is?
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    MichaelM, I would prefer not to discuss my exact situation on a public forum like this, but if you are interested PM me and I'll tell you how we organize our parish. If you wish to know the answers to your queries, it may be advisable to begin a new thread. I am also interested.
  • I know it's probably just me, but reading:

    Between the years 876 and 1073, the prior of the Schola is recorded to have performed a curious dance with clearly pagan origins known as Cornomania, on the Saturday following Easter, on the Lateran Square in Rome. He would wear a wreath with horns on his head, swing a rattle with bells, scatter laurel leaves, and cry out in an unknown language, "Iaritan, iaritan, iariariasti; raphayn, iercoin, iariariasti".

    MichaelM 1:19PM Thanks
    I am curious as well. I have heard of this happening, and in fact saw it happening at one parish down where I am at. Then I heard they finally went and got a DM, as the music became quite a mess.

    In order....was...really funny.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,677
    @Mark M. The reference provided in the footnote to that passage does check out: i.e., the Moss book does state that information about an old pagan-seeming practice surviving on the Saturday after Easter.
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  • @frogman ah yes, very funny ! :O)

    I am glad we finally got you laughing about something
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 982
    My current parish has multiple choirs with no DM. Yes, major feasts get chaotic when groups can jockey for position.
  • who runs the program for such feasts? do they delegate someone in particular? or does everyone try to elect themselves the DM?
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 982
    In our case, it seems to depend on the poor priest trying to make everyone happy.
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  • hmm,,, I imagine that must drive him nuts. Are they in a financial situation that prevents them from employing an individual to run the program, or is just to cut corners?

    I know of a parish South of me, that did it in an effort to cut corners. Eventually they figured it out, and hired a DM. It seemed to be that they were like chickens with their heads cut off, everytime something major came around.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 982
    I wouldn't be able to guess; I don't know the history.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 663
    Mark M. - What I make of it is that we can clearly deduce that the Schola Cantorum was expected to sing all the liturgies of Easter Week during the years 876 to 1073, in addition to Holy Week. :)
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  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,394
    No chickens or head rolling here. Our choir takes care of everything that is outside of regular Sunday Mass except for a couple of Confirmation Masses (we have 3) and the First Communion Masses (thanks be to God). Every group gets a Christmas Eve Mass too. So the church music runs fairly smoothly. It's my pride being hurt and I don't want my choir music to be considered less true to church teaching.
  • Yes, properly speaking what you have is a Schola Cantorum. As a former member of the schola at Holy Cross Abbey, Va, a Trappist monastery, what you describe is what we did. We got together and learned the music for the office and mass and anything that required leading the singing in the liturgy. It didn't matter what type of music. That was our job. That is your job. Yes, your group is a Schola Cantorum, but as a trappist we used fewer words and were just the schola.
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