Choir procession at the entrance?
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    My choir director at Wednesday's rehearsal told us that we're going to begin processing in at the beginning of the mass, after the cross and before everybody else. He's "always wanted to do it" and has seen it at "every other church" he's been at. Even the choir at _______________ processes in, all 85 of them, he says.

    Our director is very talented, but he is Lutheran and seems less in sync with traditional Catholic liturgy with many of you all at this forum.

    My questions is, is this legit in Catholic churches?

    GIRM 47. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

    Who are the "ministers" referred to above? This seems to include acolytes/altar servers (who always process in), but might it be construed to include the choir? If not, is there anything to bar a choral procession at the entrance rite?
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    I think its a bad idea, but can't see that it's exactly forbidden.
    The ministers would be the instituted lectors and acolytes, priests in choir, perhaps EMHCs, etc., no?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • The schola at Gonzaga U, under the direction of Ed Schaefer, would process in while one of the schola members played a prelude on organ. As soon as the schola was finished processing, they began the introit, and the acolytes and priest began their procession. It "looked" good, made sense, and didn't create any awkward feelings, as far as I was concerned. As long as the choir can sing the introit when the priest begins his procession, why not?
  • If I recall correctly, the choir at Westminster Cathedral processes in while singing the Introit. I don't see anything wrong with it, particularly if the choir is housed in the sanctuary, although that setup is more often seen in Anglican churches.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,353
    If adding the choir to the procession gives you time to sing another verse or three of your dignified entrance hymn, it's a Good Thing (tm). It works out that way at St Paul's in Cambridge (the venerable Ted Marier's old parish), where the Archdiocesan Boy Choir and the Men's Schola are routinely in the procession.

    Does anyone know if it's still done at Corpus Christi in Manhattan?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd like to do it, but I don't see a strong point for it if the choir isn't in the sanctuary. At my last church, the choir was in the loft, which has very narrow steps. Why should I force the choir to climb up those steps for rehearsal, down for the procession, walk in circles around the church, and then back up again? It doesn't make practical sense.
  • true Gavin, true. There isn't much point if the choir has to turn around and wind their way back upstairs.
  • Clearly ordained and instituted ministers are ministers, as are EMHC. Are altar servers ministers? Are non-instituted readers ministers? Are schola member ministers? Official documents seem not to be using this language as helpfully as they could.
  • No, they're not helpful at all. That's because all of these functions got secularized. The "Schola Cantorum" used to be classified as ministerial, and the director could have been a Canon. I think that, now, you have to look at the schola/choir function in the particular local liturgy, including where they sit, and determine just how ministerial they are. If they ARE positioned in the front, then it DOES make more sense for them to process. They then represent the entire gathering entering with the ordained ministers. This is no longer covered, except maybe for the immediate family at funeral Masses.

    IMO, if the choir does process as "ministerial", they should be attired in Catholic ministerial garb, i.e. some sort of cassock/surplice, or at least and "alb" type of garment - NOT in "choir robes" based on academic gowns!
  • In the new church here the choir...eventually suitable garbed, and not in choir robes....will:

    Process in with the Celebrant...the sacristy is in the rear of the church on the second floor next to the choir loft...while singing. They will divide into the transepts, sing the Gloria, and the Psalm antiphonally, then after the reading of the Gospel retire to the loft in the rear down the side aisles.

    Then the will come forward for Communion while members remain in the loft chanting the Communio, divide into the transepts, chant BFW themselves, then retire after the Dismissal with the Celebrant, singing.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I vote we modify the GIRM as follows: "At the processions, all choirs shall do that cool thing Noel does at his church."
  • This morning I had to reorder choir apparel that had arrived in the incorrect my finger hovered over A for Alb and C for Cassock I thought, "What should I order?" was a moment of indecision. Should I follow the Church or the suggestion of STTL. Crystal balls being rather verbotten, I did this...I thought, "What would Gavin do?" So I pressed C and sent the order into cyberspace.
  • Hurray!

    Cassocks and surplices!

    Florentine surplices (square yoke with pleats) or "old English" (round yoke with pointed sleeves)?
  • I like the Anglican round yoke personally. And, if the rest of the ministers are in Roman square yokes, then the people can tell the difference!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,598
    I don't do choir processions of any kind. I have choir members in their 80s. All I ask is that they get up the stairs to the loft.
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    Wow. Thanks for all your input!

    In our church, the choir sings from the a small side chapel area to the right of the nave, basically next to the people in the front section of pews. We face sideways towards the people. A cantor will sing the introit from the choir area while the procession begins (english introit, plainchant arrangement by our choir director with organ). Once the introit is finished THEN an entrance hymn begins (this is our common practice) as the choir finishes processing. We will bow by pairs toward the tabernacle in the center of the santuary before turning right and going into the choir area. It's definitely not in front as part of the sanctuary, but doesn't require much backtracking along the side aisle.

    I'm glad that is doesn't appear to be forbidden and is done well in some parishes. Personally, I'd rather not shine such a spotlight on the choir at the beginning of mass. Many choir members are nervous about trying to sing the opening hymn SATB while all spread out. Plus, at least 2/19 altos are elderly ladies for whom walking far is tricky business. I'll see how it goes, but I fell better doing it now. Thanks!
  • I've been up Charles's stairs and they are STEEP...and we have an elevator and a standing permission for anyone to just come up and procession at will.

    Old English set them off from the Square, when my wife shows up in her Roman with lace one people admire it, but is interesting to see high heels under all of that garb....

    Dan, sounds just right....keep it up!
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    Dan F: "Many choir members are nervous about trying to sing the opening hymn SATB while all spread out."

    In my parish, the choir sings together the melody while in procession. The parishioners on the center aisle are strengthened to sing out more (this will ripple outward to their pewmates); parishioners are not distracted or derailed by the ever changing section notes (alto, tenor, bass). As soon as the choir gets to their seats they can start singing their parts (decide ahead whether the rule is SATB at the next hymn phrase or SATB at the next hymn verse).

    If SATB is really desired while processing, then some weeknight choir rehearsal time should be devoted to preparing so the confidence grows. Learning to walk together as a group (pace, spacing), walking and speaking the text, walking and singing the melody, all while improving peripheral vision. It is an exercise in the Christian life (growing in attentiveness to your neighbor, growing in unity).
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205

    We do spend a few minutes rehearsing the hymn parts, but not in procession. With all the hubbub during a hymn, I never feel compelled to really sing the part and may just sing the melody when processing to save me the stress. I'll mention the favorable effects of singing in unision while processing to our director.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 512
    Traditionally, the choir did not process at the introit. this may have been that the paradigm was a situation in which the divine office was being sung in choir, terce just before Mass, so the choir was already in place. In the middle ages, there was a procession before Mass, in which the choir went out of the choir stalls after terce to process around the church and then returned to the stalls to begin the Mass.

    If the choir sings in the sanctuary, it makes sense for them to process with the clergy, if they can manage the singing of the chant well as they process; it certainly works well at Westminster Cathedral in London. If they sing from the loft, however, the procession could be quite artificial; I have seen this, where the choir processed in the the clergy and then turned around and up the side aisles and into the loft; it seemed to me to be much ado about nothing.
  • "If they sing from the loft, however, the procession could be quite artificial..."

    Not to mention exhausting, as any (middle-aged) schola member can attest, who has sung in the Palm Sunday procession, dashed up to the loft, and immediately sung the Introit (which I have never rendered as anything but breathless).
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I like processions when they're done well and everybody looks sharp and sings well. Unfortunately, most people don't process; they shamble (or trot quickly if they want to get this over with quickly). Obviously if the choir's in the loft, leave them there unless it's Palm Sunday and they need to clamber up and down at the start.
  • Ordo Romanus Primus indicates that in the eighth-century papal mass the members of the schola were already in place when the pope arrived at the church. The began to sing the introit when a minister gave a signal that the procession of acolytes, subdeacons, deacons, and presbyters was about to begin.

    In medieval England the singers took their place in choir before the ministers entered for Mass.

    I have heard that the choir's entering with the ministers was an 19th-century Anglican innovation. Purists (e.g., Percy Dearmer) decried it. The practice was abolished in my parish church (Grace Church in Newark) early in the 20th century. In 1990 our choir moved from the chancel to the west gallery. Before the change the members of the choir took their places (as individuals) during the organ voluntary that preceded the liturgy, or earlier. At Transfiguration in New York a verger, carrying a mace, leads them (collectively) to their places before the liturgy begins.

    I have seen the choir enter with the ministers at Westminster Cathedral in London. Whether the practice is a post-Conciliar innovation I do not know. I marvel at the choristers' ability to stay together when they sing introits while walking up a flight of stairs to their stalls in the apse behind the high altar. I also fail to see the point. At the Roman Catholic Cathedral here in Newark (Sacred Heart) the practice was introduced after Vatican II, when the choir was moved from the west gallery to the chancel.