Who Can Sing in the Choir?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    It's so easy to fall in love with your choir director. You look in his eyes, watch his hands... He's so nice, he explains things so well... It's one of those relationships that has a strong illusory element. I wouldn't bring romance anywhere near it.
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  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Haha well I'm glad I didn't listen to either of you two. My alto and I have been married almost 5 years, with 2 kids.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I'll admit it has happened more than once that I've ended up dating guys who were in my choir. (Or perhaps they joined the choir once they already had a crush on me? hmm...)
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    Haha well I'm glad I didn't listen to either of you two. My alto and I have been married almost 5 years, with 2 kids.


    There are definitely success stories. But I think, if the choir director does decide to date a choir member or a parishioner, s/he should disclose the relationship to the clergy and the whole choir.

    Is the pastor aware of this?
    He should set her straight or you should invite her to consider another ministry.


    The pastor is aware of this, but I don't think he wants to get involved given the complexity of the situation. The relationships were carried out "in secret" and the church tries not to interfere with employees' private lives. People wouldn't notice anything unless they have been singing in the choir for a long time.

    The pastor should probably be made aware of the relationship, "I think I know why, at least in part, our choir is not growing, and I'm concerned...". He may well want to meet with the soprano (volunteer? paid?) and the choir director (volunteer? paid?). It's totally inappropriate, volunteer or paid, and their relationship (and other relationships he has had with his choir members?) may well be sabotaging the parish choir.


    The choir director and the soprano section leader are paid. The other women whom the choir director has dated were volunteers. The dysfunction is definitely affecting the demographics of choir membership. As I mentioned, there is no member under age 50 in the soprano and alto sections. In fact, the majority are retirees. Younger sopranos and altos have come and gone over the years.
  • melofluentmelofluent
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    I am happy about the success stories where happy marriages resulted from dating choir members. I still think, however, that choir directing and other fields require an amount of professional detachment. This is just good business practice. There probably are as many or more horror stories out there as happy outcomes.
    Thanked by 1Theo
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Stories of troll-ope adventures find no purchase here, folks.

    I have no idea what this even means. "troll-ope?" "find no purchase?" I must just have a different vocabulary.
    Thanked by 3Gavin lmassery Spriggo
  • expeditus1
    Posts: 480
    As I mentioned, there is no member under age 50 in the soprano and alto sections. In fact, the majority are over age 65.


    Then it is no mirage! An oasis does truly exist for geriatric female singers, where performance opportunities increase with age.
  • Troll - ope
    could this, perhaps, be an allusion to the novelist Trollope?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    We had some interesting events here some years ago. The choir director at the oldest church in town (1792 or so) had impregnated a choir member. He was fired. At another church, a relationship blew up publicly and was known all over town. At a local Methodist church, the organist was so enamored of a choir lady that he plotted with her to kill her husband. Organist hid in the closet and came out at night to knife the husband - burly construction worker type. Needless to say, he swatted the small, wimpy organist aside with minimal damage done to himself. It was in the newspapers and on local TV, embarrassing the Methodists greatly.

    About that time (1996 or so) I applied for a position with a local Protestant church. There, and all over town, churches were suddenly requiring background checks and character references. I just chalked it up to something in the air causing all these passionate musicians to act like over-sexed adolescents.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Cindy, he may have meant "trollop," as Webster says, "A vulgar or disreputable woman." LOL.
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    I think background checks are important if part of the job is to work with minors. On the other hand, I question the usefulness of character references.
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Don't you people know a pun when you see one?
    And also a request to scale-back on the scandal mongering.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I assumed it was a portmanteau of "trollop" and "elope".
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • expeditus1
    Posts: 480
    And I had assumed that it was referring to ugly old trolls who approach fair maidens, with archaic pick-up lines like, "Wilt thou not ope thy heart?"
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Too funny!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    I've come to expect that when Charles writes, each word means many things at once.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    One part of the solution to the choral situation mentioned earlier is for the volunteers not to enable it further; there's a great deal of enabling that goes on in church circles because of the implied directive that Church People Should Be Nice.
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    One part of the solution to the choral situation mentioned earlier is for the volunteers not to enable it further...


    It's a tricky situation for volunteers. Those who are aware of the "secret" relationships have been around long enough and realize there's no solution as long as the choir director and the soprano section leader are both around. Regardless of how we feel about the dysfunction, nobody wants them to get fired. Some of us even sympathize with them. It is better to be quiet. Over the years, a few people have said something and they were expelled by the choir director.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    QED. (Not intended as snark. But folks in this situation should fully own that they cooperate in the decision to keep it going; it's not just a problem of the principals, but of the group that enables them. It only changes when enablers prefer change to the status quo, which is typically a fairly high hurdle. Still, it is chosen. While this is afield of the specific topic, it is related in an important way - choir dynamics of this sort are an important rudder of who bothers to try joining a choir, decide to stay in a choir, or to leave a choir.)
    Thanked by 1Theo
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    It wouldn't be a problem in my choir. The pastor would throw the offending parties out the door. He has this unusual idea that those who are in positions of authority represent the Church and what it teaches.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    CW
    Crazy talk.
    Thanked by 2Gavin Kathy
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Not crazy, at all. He doesn't tolerate scandal and is clear on where he stands. If the Church defines a behavior as wrong, he defines it the same way. Must be more liberal where you worship.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
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  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    While this is afield of the specific topic, it is related in an important way - choir dynamics of this sort are an important rudder of who bothers to try joining a choir, decide to stay in a choir, or to leave a choir.


    Thank you for your comment, Liam. I feel sad because choir membership has been dropping steadily over the past few years, and yet there's nothing the ordinary choir members can do.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Theo, what can you do unless the pastor is willing to get involved? He has the authority to do something about it.
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    CharlesW: You are right. The pastor has the authority to do something, but I don't think he wants to. The only thing my fellow volunteers and I can do is to hope that the situation will resolve on its own in several years when structural changes become inevitable. By then, most of us will be too old to sing regularly.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    Charles,

    What I still don't know is which anecdotes or aspects thereof you were counselling against.
    Thanked by 1marajoy
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    Theo, I'd complain with my feet. I'm not usually in favor of putting that kind of pressure on folks in charge, but sometimes it seems that all one can do is leave in hopes that things will improve...especially if done en masse.

    I don't know- maybe I'm wrong.
  • melofluentmelofluent
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    Yes, leaving en masse is the classic way for an enabling group to put a tourniquet on further enabling. Two classic versions: quietly versus openly. The latter can be more cathartic and even more healing if done with honesty-without-vitriol, but People Trying To Be Nice have a more difficult time with it.

    "yet there's nothing the ordinary choir members can do" - just realize this is not really true as such but more a rationalization of a choice - they are doing something by choice, either choosing omission or action. It's not the same situation as being chained to on a rail when a train approaches. Even then, one can pray, if one has cultivated such a habit to bring it present to mind.
    Thanked by 2Theo Jani
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    This is the usual sidetrack that nearly every thread takes. When things are discussed here, it is usually in a conversational way. Conversations drift. So what? Discussions are not formally structured, and would probably be too boring to read if they were.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    I don't know, Charles. If we can talk about problems with microphone systems, we should be able to talk about interpersonal problems that affect our work.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Jani
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    Particularly if there are things that involve recurring patterns. The recurring pattern isn't the affair, but of not-so-secret things that have disruptive effects for which a group overcompensates by enabling. Very common in church ministries (and workplaces, for that matter), but gets extra oomph from the imperative to maintain appearances in the name of Being Good (which is different from actually being good...). Even worse when the dynamic is exploited by the principals.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Jani
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    Melofluent seems rather annoyed by recent posts on this thread. Going back to the original question "Who can sing in the choir?", for the choir I am in, it would be anyone who can match pitch and likes good music, except for women who are single and under age 50. I am serious.

    I don't think leaving en masse will happen because most of us volunteers have been around for a very long time. Some members don't approve of the "secret" relationships, but they stay because they like the music and have formed friendship with their fellow singers.
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    In re-reading your original comment, I see you weren't asking for a solution. Good luck. Not really fair to those young people who want to sing, though.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Going back to the original question "Who can sing in the choir?", for the choir I am in, it would be anyone except for women who are single and under age 50.


    The question was related to a canonical issue, and/or perhaps issues of prudence- and was a question in general.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    What can be annoying is the nattering nannies of forum propriety who want to determine the course discussions take. I don't see how that is possible, given the open nature and loose structure of the forum. I have read through many obfuscated rambles on this forum that should have begun with, "It was a dark and stormy night..."

    we should be able to talk about interpersonal problems that affect our work.


    I'm with Kathy on this one.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    Btw, there was only one choir that I spent several years in without there being significant secret-but-not-so-secret drama. It was a blessed relief. Until a new pastor came in and demonized all that went before; after 3 more years of trying to see if it made sense for me to solider on, I was done, but the people who remain have been convulsed by the various rules imposed about what they can and can't talk about openly, but the powers that be seem oblivious to a basic pattern of group behavior: Whatever you're forbidden to talk about becomes what rudders the group. When you tell someone, whatever you do, don't think about X, the result is that they will probably think more about X in an effort not to think about it. (Related to this, btw, is why *wise* confessors don't encourage penitents to focus in too much detail or too often on what they've done wrong - because that very focus becomes a tool of the Evil One in so many ways.)

    In any event, practical questions about the sociological dimensions of music ministry seem to me to be worth discussing, because they are so damned common. Not discussing them doesn't make them have less salience.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    practical questions about the sociological dimensions of music ministry seem to me to be worth discussing, because they are so damned common.


    I agree with you. This is so true for choirs with volunteer singers. They are there for the music, as well as the socializing.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
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    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Theo, I just want to add that I'm not against romance in the choir per se. We've already had some marriages, and one or two relationships in a choir that's 4 years old. There many choirs in which the spouse of the director sings, and that can work really well. I think of someone with Wendy Culbreath's voice, and personal skills, and I have no doubt of the glory given to God and the kindness shown to fellow choir members. That's healthy, and a blessing.

    However, the situation you describe sounds caustic to put it mildly. The dysfunction is preventing the whole choir from growing and developing- it's mission has been thwarted by staff and volunteer romances gone awry.

    If you choose, you have a valid concern to bring to the pastor. He's turned a blind eye, ok. But maybe hearing how bad the situation is for morale, for the growth of his parish choir, perhaps he will take action. I'm sad for the musicians involved. Their shady and spiteful behavior is going against their very mission as sacred musicians, and they've got to know it.

    Someone needs to do something helpful, and honest. Maybe you are the one that can quietly prompt an end to the stalemate. Maybe not. Might I recommend a novena to discern your role and how to act with charity in a tough situation. Stay reasonable, kind and classy. As a director, I'm heartened that you care about your choir.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,017
    Melo, I honestly didn't understand you.

    In fact I still don't, because I don't know what you meant by "here." Did you mean no purchase here, for you personally? Or here, on the forum? Because if you meant here, on the forum, that seems like you're expressing more than an opinion. It sounds like you're making a rule for everybody here.

    And you're still trying to tell people how to respond to you and how to behave on a comment thread and who not to judge. I really don't understand why you're always making these suggestions.

    I also haven't the foggiest idea of what an Agnew-ism is, so unless you're really just here to type instead of conversing, why not say things so that other people can possibly understand them?
    Thanked by 2Gavin Spriggo
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    why not say things so that other people can possibly understand them?


    Hah! You should live so long! LOL.

    Spiro Agnew was vice president during the administration of Richard Nixon. He had a gift for making extreme statements. He was the only vice president in US history to resign because of criminal charges, so says St. Wiki.

    It always amazes me that those who criticize misdirecting and sidetracking threads are the world's absolute worst for doing the same.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,713
    Well, as long as we're meandering a bit, I also had a choir member who went bonkers when one of the other members discreetly drank water during rehearsals and Mass. (The choir was in a loft.) The drinker was at.....that stage of her life....when sudden thirsts develop.

    And when I say "bonkers" I mean that the first member loudly and clearly berated the second one while the rest of the group looked on (mouths agape.)

    Needless to say, I tossed the berater out of the group.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Gavin
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    I have threatened to confiscate cell phones a time or two. Some of my members play with them during sermons. I can live with that, but they sometimes forget to turn them off and they ring at the worst of times.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,765
    [Digression]
    Some Agnewisms, whether his own or generated by speechwriters Bill Safire and Pat Buchanan, were enjoyably combative turns of phrase: the administration's critics, for example, were the "nattering nabobs of negativism", and "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals". They're still around, aren't they?

    Although he, formerly a Maryland governor, was exposed in the end as -- well, having acted like a Maryland governor, I like to remember his use of rhetoric.
    [/Digression]
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • Theo
    Posts: 50
    Theo, I just want to add that I'm not against romance in the choir per se.


    MaryAnn: Thank you for your latest post. Like you, I am not against romance in the choir per se. I know of success stories between choir members, or between the choir director and a choir member. But in my view, if the choir director decides to date women who are under his supervision, the relationships must be disclosed, not carried on in secrecy. I think that's for the best interest of all choir members.

    I believe one of the young women pursued by the choir director has complained to the pastor, but any change is unlikely.

    Most volunteers and I feel that we can't say anything because we are not involved directly. We don't like the dysfunction, but we are so used to it and we accept it, in part because we fear that there might be graver consequences if we say something.
  • About Melo my friend,
    Anyone who has attempted to understand him (you) a bit knows a few things:
    1) Very few can give counsel from such a venerable perspective of long years as a DoM and working musician. Trust me, his (your) advice counts for a lot. He's (you've) been there, done that, and tries very hard to go by WWJD when observing gospel and professional considerations.
    2) Considering #1, we can infer that fraternal corrections and suggestions made by Charles/melo (you) are given with his (your) idea of all of our best interests in mind. So...
    3) No one needs to be defensive about our reception to his (your) comments, nor would we be expected to agree and/or implement his (your) advice in every or any instance.
    4) Speaking for myself on this one- Charles, you often write in a style that is over my head. I do not share your genius, alas. As we are brother and sister, I submit the burden is on us both to understand and be understood.


    We can have our opinions AND be overtly charitable, as this is a public forum. Charles/Melo, you are correct in that we never know who is reading and we need to be wise about commenting, for the sake of the gospel, our profession in general, and our livelihoods in particular. I appreciate you calling "order!" regarding potentially problematic comments/issues, even if you risk being seen as over-correcting. I'd rather us err in that direction than risk being foolhardy.


    Duh alert: Not everyone will agree on everyone else's opinion. We are on the same page in general, and passionate about all of it, including the particulars/minutiae of our goals. We can defend without being defensive, correct without being dismissive, advance without being aggressive, etc. Then there's the reality that we're all chiming in using a media that has set limits when conveying tone and intention. Taking things personally is as understandable as it is pointless.


    All this to say, here's to growing in charity, humor, and wisdom! To end with a Beatles quote, "we can work it out". :)