Proper Use of the Cope & Organist/Choir Vestments
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Can lay people vest in a cope? For instance, a cantor? I have heard of some Parishes doing this, but have also heard "NOPE. The Cope belongs to the ordained." Any thoughts on this?
  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    ...why?
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    As in, why am I asking? More out of curiosity than anything.
  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    As in, why would a cantor wear a cope? I'm as curious as you are.
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Yeah, I'm not sure. But I think I remember reading something about the cantor wearing a cope for various proclamations. Specifically, the Announcement of the Moveable Feasts on Epiphany....?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Bp. Elliott's "Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year" specifies that a cantor or reader wears an alb or cassock and surplice for this ceremony; a deacon wears a white cope, unless he is already vested in a dalmatic.
    (p. 43).
    Thanked by 2jpal CHGiffen
  • In some Benedictine monasteries (I'm thinking of Saint Meinrad Archabbey), on solemnities (and maybe feasts) you'll see Vespers being led not by the one cantor assigned for the week but by a trio of cantors in copes, huddled around a central music stand and microphone between the two sides of the choir. The cantors wouldn't always be priests, and at Vespers no distinction is typically made between lay and ordained monks anyway (although Solemn Vespers may need a priest and two deacons to be the sacred ministers; not sure).

    So I don't know if it comes from Benedictine tradition or not, but when I think of lay cantors in copes, I think of a solemn Vespers (I guess Lauds could be done similarly) on a holy day. I've also heard of a lay cantor chanting the Exsultet if no deacon or priest or bishop was capable, but I don't know the rules on that and haven't experienced it.

    I don't think a cope is as reserved to clergy as a stole or chasuble or dalmatic would be.
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  • In the Sarum Use alleluya was on great feasts chanted by choirboys (the number depending of the importance of the feast) vested in copes and singing from the rood loft. Obviously, we have lost all sense and sensibility in our advanced era.
    (And, Sarum was not alone in such liturgical niceties.) It is the custom at Walsingham for the thuribler to wear a rochet, a practice borrowed from Sarum. Crucifers also wear tunicles in many Anglican churches, no doubt an old practice which was never thought disposable. High Anglican churches also put their acolytes in apparelled albs and amices, not the later day and not-very-traditional cassocks and surplices (or even worse, those funny so-called cottas [chopped-off surplices]) that scads of Catholics seem to think are very very traditional and ancient. They're Not. Albs Are. I think strongly that in this and other liturgical praxes, we should restore, and even innovate, some of the diocesan uses and customs that were for most of the Church's history a fact of life. How burdensome and boring it is when every jot and title has to be codified and concretised into law.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Excuse me while I go look up what a tunicle is! :-)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Excuse me while I go look up what a tunicle is!

    That's the melody of a versicle.

    -----

    A Cope is just a Cape, which has been consecrated to liturgical use.
    (And, of course, its usually a pretty particular style of cape.)

    If it has been so consecrated, it should only be used for a legit liturgical reason. So the question isn't quite who can wear it, but when it is worn. The "when" limits the "who," but the "who" isn't primary: a Bishop doesn't wear a cope to go grocery shopping.
    (You know- unless he's Episcopalian or something.)

    Can a lay person wear a chasuble and stole? Sure: Any lay person who is qualified to consecrate bread and wine... oh, wait. There aren't any lay people like that.

    Can a lay person wear a chasuble-shaped bath robe with a stole-shaped scarf? Sure. But it would be really weird if that lay person showed up to Mass dressed that way.


    I saw a really neat video a while ago of some kind of Traddie fest or something (French, IIRC). The choir was mixed and "vested." But, since they were conservative traditionalists, the women did not wear cassock and surplice. Instead, the women wore an alb (I think), and a heavy cape in the same color/material as the men's cassocks (a sort of light Marian blue). It was a nice effect. One could refer to these as copes, if one was being weird.

    If the curiosity stems from a personal desire to wear a cape (I'm not joking- I can totally understand this!) - there is precedent for wearing capes in choirs. They aren't copes- but they are pretty awesome.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,418
    The use of copes by cantors on high feast days at Mass & Office is only licitly used in the EF (cf. Ceremonies of the Liturgical year; Fortesque, et. al), and is verboten in the OF (cf. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite; Elliott). There are other elements which have been lost.

    In the EF the choir and cantors (in choir dress, and cantors in copes) process with the clergy and sit in the stalls when going to sing the liturgy (unless they are already there from another function (e.g. Terce before High Mass). In the OF the choir and cantors (in choir dress, but withou copes) go to their places before liturgy begins.

    There so many other little things that make a big difference that have been suppressed, that I wish would be brought back. Kissing items (cruets, biretta, etc.) that are handed back by the Priest/Deacon being one of them. It is a small thing, but it says "these items have been set aside for sacred use, they must be treated with care and respect."
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Adam, I know who you're talking about. Is it this pic?
    image
  • I would be more interested in what liturgical norms Elliott is citing than in his book, which is not an official one.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    That's the choir I was thinking of, yes.
  • That picture brings back many happy memories; thanks for posting.

    It was taken on August 10, 2005 at Ottobeuren Basilica in Bavaria during a Pontifical High Mass (EF) celebrated by Bp. Fernando Arêas Rifan—the opening liturgy of the International Federation «Juventutem» WYD delegation. One of the men in the front row is now an FSSP priest.

    Somewhat back to the topic at hand, I thought the capes for the ladies were fantastic (still do). The choir's dress code was all black (besides the blue cape for the women and the blue cassock for the men).
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Ben Yanke
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,002
    In response to MJO's post, I believe the monks of St. Louis Abbey have apparelled albs for their sets of vestments for the EF. They are gorgeous, and the connection makes sense as that foundation is from Ampleforth.
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Salieri confirmed my suspicions. I figured this stemmed from the EF when the cantor had a more prominent role. I was not, however, aware that it was not licit in the OF.

    The curiosity stemmed from a personal desire only insofar as to more visually set liturgical rarities apart. I am currently looking into, as the organist, vesting in C&S for holy week and solemnities (probably funerals and weddings as well, since it provides a visual cue to behave appropriately for unchurched congregations), but I am the cantor fire Good Friday since we don't use the organ and thought the visual of the C&S with a red cope would really open the congregation's eyes. I must confess, I would probably feel a bit silly, but this congregation needs the extra visual simulation, I think. However, if it's not licit, there's no question!
    Thanked by 1TheUbiquitous
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    I am the cantor fire Good Friday since we don't use the organ and thought the visual of the C&S with a red cope would really open the congregation's eyes.


    At first I thought "fire" was a typo. Then I got to "red cope."
    Hrmm...

    Please do not do this.

    Vest the choir in black cassocks, or don't. Don't you, on your own, vest separately from the choir.

    And do not, under any circumstances, put on a red cope. You are neither a cardinal, nor Superman.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Ask your pastor and do what he says. As far as any musician or minister is concerned, he is the lawful authority - plus, you have to live with him.
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Hahaha fire definitely was a typo.
    Aside from the laity issue, are copes not supposed to change color with the liturgical season? Is red reserved to Cardinals? Our priests wear a red cope for the first Gospel of Palm Sunday and also for Palm Sunday Vespers.

    No worries! I won't be donning a cope any time soon.

    There are a couple of threads on here about the organist vesting so I don't want to beat a dead horse or go too far off topic, but what is the reasoning behind the organist not vesting if the choir doesn't? Is it because it is all essentially the same Ministry and it would be akin to having some servers vest and others not on the altar? Because that does make sense.
    On the other hand, perhaps the organist and cantor are two distinct liturgical roles (or are the only two present). Could those two then vest even if the choir doesn't?

    I ask mainly because considering the direction like liturgy and music are taking, it feels a bit odd to me not to be vested. I very well concede to anyone else's knowledge on the matter, though, since it is still new to me. (Although, I was hoping to avoid starting a new discussion on this subject, hahaha.)
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Charles, you are correct. However, pastors are not always as aware of liturgical qualifications and requirements as we are. In fact, mine frequently defers to me for "what the documents say." I prefer to read up a bit before just taking a priest's word for it. :)
    Thanked by 1TheUbiquitous
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,418
    bk-XXVII.

    Red copes are not reserved for cardinals - don't get these confused with the red capes worn by cardinals as part of their habito piano ('street dress' i.e. cassock, fascia, etc.) when the cappa magna is not worn.

    However, for the Goode Friday solemn afternoon Liturgy of the Passion, the colour for the liturgy until holy Communion was black, and from holy communion the color was violet; red for Goode Friday (in the Roman Rite) is a Novus Ordo thing (I think borrowed from a Mediaeval source? Sarum? York?). I'd have to consult Fortescue, but I'd surmise that since the ceremonial for Holy Friday (like the Requiem Mass) is pared down, I'd suspect that cantors would not have worn copes at all at the afternoon liturgy - certainly at the Office only choir dress was worn and No-one, neither clerk nor boy, wore copes.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Choir dress does not change color with the season. If you are vested in choir, the traditional color is black. As discussed in another thread (probably the one about organists vesting) some specific places vest in another color for some site-specific reason (a dedication to the BVM, a cathedral, etc), but those are generally special cases.

    The reason not to vest as an organist/cantor/director unless the whole choir is vesting has nothing to do with rules and everything to do with not making vestments about you, the wearer. If the whole choir vests- then the whole choir vests and there is nothing weird about it. If one person over (up) there vests, then its an affectation.

    Liturgy is not theatre, and vestments are not costumes.


  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,418
    Liturgy is not theatre, and vestments are not costumes.


    Though there are certain vestments that look more like costumes and churches that look more like theaters.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Back on a computer, so hopefully fewer typos will work their way in....

    bk-XXVII

    I'm stealing this. Forever. FYI, the 27 happens to be my birthday (January 27).

    Red copes are not reserved for cardinals - don't get these confused with the red capes worn by cardinals as part of their habito piano ('street dress' i.e. cassock, fascia, etc.) when the cappa magna is not worn.


    Okay, thanks. That's what I thought.

    Choir dress does not change color with the season. If you are vested in choir, the traditional color is black. As discussed in another thread (probably the one about organists vesting) some specific places vest in another color for some site-specific reason (a dedication to the BVM, a cathedral, etc), but those are generally special cases.


    Right. My question about "red" pertained only to the cope which, thanks to the folks that have responded, I now understand is not part of choir dress, especially in the Norvus Ordo.

    The reason not to vest as an organist/cantor/director unless the whole choir is vesting has nothing to do with rules and everything to do with not making vestments about you, the wearer.


    An excellent point. I can see how it might read to a congregation if no one else is vested. I hope you understand, though, that that isn't so much the place I was coming from. If I could, I certainly would want the entire choir to vest... but it gets costly. I suppose, too, that there are bigger issues within the liturgy that need to be worked out so we're not polishing the doorknobs while the church burns behind them. :)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,016
    That's the melody of a versicle.

    THIS.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    It's nice to be noticed.
    Thanked by 2bkenney27 Ben Yanke
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    Re:Use of Copes on Good Friday. Both the Caeremoniale Parisiense and the Missale Sarum ask for copes to be used on Good Friday (in black [Popule meus] and red [Agios] for the Parisian Use [which uses black for the Celebrant] and in black for the "Agios" Cantors at the Impropreria for the Sarum Use [which uses red for the Celebrant and Ministers of the Altar]).
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Interesting! I love the color distinctions in the Improperia.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Every time I hear some new detail about the Sarum use, I think... now THAT was a Mass and a half, for real, yo.
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Resurrecting for a tangent. I am beginning to talk to people about various music ministers vesting. How would you introduce this to a staff and congregation that has perhaps never seen it before?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Do you have an idea for what sort of attire you want to propose? Would it apply to all music ministers, or only those in the sanctuary? Would the same attire apply to men and women?
  • BK-XXVII,
    (Benedict-Karl XXVIII?)

    There's nothing inherently evil in the choir vesting, but you'll have quite a fight on your hands if parish staff and congregation are completely unfamiliar with it. I don't know your particular parish situation, but you want to avoid the appearance that the choir is trying to draw attention to itself: the purpose of the uniform cassock for a choir, in a litugical setting, is to remove distinction, not bestow it (unlike at an academic setting, where the hood is distinctive and intentionally so). If the purpose is to bring greater sense of discipline to the choir and reverence to the liturgy, dress simply. Otherwise, you're likely to set off a chain reaction of "me-too-ism", so everyone under the sun will suddenly need distinctive dress for Mass......

    Thanked by 2chonak Gavin
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    Black really? I know it is not supposed to be about theatre, and I don't want it to be about theatre. My choir is in the loft, so except for communion, no one sees us. But black is so dull and depressing. That blue was stunning. We wear gowns to look uniform and to draw attention away from those who insist on not dressing modestly (a problem).
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Black has the advantage of neutrality, both religiously and visually: it's not associated with any season, and it won't especially clash with anyone's own color (hair/eye/complexion).
  • One of my choirs wears black academic robes, but that is because it is the college choir. At a few masses I have been to, we've had the men in cassock and surplice with the women wearing black academic robes. There are those who object to women wearing cassocks as it is traditionally considered clerical attire.

    I believe that Acolytes may wear a tunicle, but it is a tradition which seems to have fallen out of use. There was a permanent deacon that I knew who only wore an alb - never even put on his stole let alone a dalmatic.
    Thanked by 1TheUbiquitous
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    There are those who object to women wearing cassocks as it is traditionally considered clerical attire.

    This deserves highlighting.
    Thanked by 1TheUbiquitous
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Academic robes is not a good solution to "women can't wear choir cassocks."

    Academic robes are an evangelical Protestant thing. I can hardly believe any Catholic would think them appropriate for liturgy in any context.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    I've seen academic robes on non-evangelical Protestants: e.g., UCC ministers.

    Anyway, the local Anglican-use congregation uses them for Evensong, but in the general Roman-rite context, I agree they're not used.
  • I endorse black baccalaureate robes for a choir. There's no conflict with liturgical colors. There's no confusion with the clerical cassock. It covers a multitude of sins with its looseness. It shows the dignity of an educated laity. Like the puppeteers in Bunraku, the black robes hide the singers; unlike children, they are to be heard, not seen.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Chonak -
    WHERE is this Anglican Use church that wears academic gowns for evensong? They must be reported immediately to our Vestment Police. This is unheard of!

    Seriously: which Anglican Use church is near you?
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Thanks for the feedback.
    I asked our pastor about women (and, specifically, girls) in cassocks and he didn't have a problem with it. As some of our female altar servers vest in cassock and surplice, I don't really see that as my issue to correct. I'm not the Director of Liturgy; however, I don't necessarily see it as ideal. I DO think that it would be a good stepping stone since the congregation is already accustomed to seeing the C&S.

    This is where it gets a bit tricky. It would not be possible right now (financially or with regard to willingness) to have the choirs and cantors vest. So, (although I know there are many here who will disagree with me) I decided to start with myself so they can become used to the idea that ministers OTHER than Altar Servers can indeed vest in C&S. This, I'm hoping, will dampen the sensitivity to the vestments so that, eventually, we will be able to have the choir vest. (We'll probably start with the Children's Choir.)

    I feel it important that choirs vest to reaffirm their identity as a group of people exercising a ministry... not simply performing. Whether they are in the loft or not I think is irrelevant.

    So, going back to the fact that I am starting with me: this is why I want to educate the staff and congregation that it is an act of humility and, though it may not appear so, it is simple dress intended to remind the minister to be humble in their place as such.

    This is also not going to be a weekly custom for now. Many of the Directors of Music in my area will vest for more solemn occasions which is what I plan to do. Sacramental/Ritual celebrations, Christmas, Triduum, etc.

    Any other thoughts?
  • All your ideas are spot on, faultless.
    Godspeed in implementing them.

    (Except that vesture is worn at all liturgy, not just on special occasions. Every single liturgy is a special occasion.)
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I would also say that while women in cassocks isn't your issue to correct, I also wouldn't spread the practice either by doing it in the chjoir as well. That could only make things worse if a future pastor ever tries to correct the practice.
  • frankb
    Posts: 2
    I do agree with bkenney27. Back in my Anglican days, black cassock and surplice were standard for the organist and choir, women included--I was once asked to play a service as I walked into the church in a brown suit, and felt very undressed on the bench. In Gerre Hancock's time at St. Thomas's, NY, Fr. Andrew introduced red cassocks and long surplices for the choir. Here in western Mass there are no vested choirs and organists in the Catholic churches I know, and music is generally neglected. To my mind, vesting a choir implies that it's a real choir, and serious about its musical and liturgical business, but getting the congregation I sit in these days to understand that wouldn't be easy.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    We aren't Anglicans. They "ordain" women too.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597
    My suggestion would be for you to begin wearing C&S at every single Mass and liturgy and have your choir and cantors begin wearing all black at all times. Then raise funds for C&S for the gentlemen of the choir and male cantors. Then either leave it as is or add some plain blue choir robes for the women.
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    @Ben, the vesture used in Anglican liturgy has nothing to do with errors that have arisen since the 1960s. It's the same vesture prescribed for Catholic men's choirs in the sanctuary by Pope St. Pius X. They've kept their choirs in the sanctuary more than we have done.

    @MJO: Occasionally Steve Cavanaugh of the Anglican-use community in Brookline, MA (St. Athanasius, Archdiocese of Boston) invites my old cathedral chant-group buddies for Evensong; he has mentioned that academic robes are welcome there.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I think Ben was specifically referring to the Anglican practice of C & S for choirs, women included.
  • bkenney27bkenney27
    Posts: 444
    Thanks, everyone!
    The all black suggestion is an excellent, practical one. And I agree about the "every Mass" comment. We've got to ease them in. :)

    I "debuted" the vestments at our monthly baptismal liturgy today and received very positive feedback. Not only that, I made a last minute decision to step away from the piano (I inherited this structure and music from past DMs...) and chant the alleluia and Litany. Suddenly, the silent congregation became a partially singing congregation! All around, a much better atmosphere.

    I'll post what I plan to publish to the staff and congregation when I finish it. I'd appreciate input.
  • Here's what the U.S. Bishops' document, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship says about choir vesture:

    (33.) Choir and ensemble members may dress in albs or choir robes, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as choir vesture.