Cassock and Surplice
  • newmanbenewmanbe
    Posts: 76
    Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (PDF). There are several threads on the forum that discuss it: here is one such thread.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,858
    But still nothing about chanteuses, BrophyBoy?
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Ahh... Ok. Thanks.
  • BrophyBoy
    Posts: 38
    uhhhh...thankfully, no, Richard;-)
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 188
    We follow the 1962 because our priests are all FSSP and our Schola wears cassock and surplice sans collar at mass, ladies wear nice church dress. I had not heard of any controversy about this until now. Just my first impression, but isn't it a little bit of a made up controversy considering all the problems with liturgy/morality/music quality today? Not trying to be snarky but just asking.
  • Incardination
    Posts: 704
    Personally, my approach (EF) centers around whether I'm in the sanctuary or not. In the sanctuary, as a member of the liturgical choir, I wear cassock and surplice. Outside the sanctuary (in the loft, say), standing in for the actual liturgical choir, I don't. Personally, I find it an affectation to wear the cassock and surplice in the loft... unless I were a cleric.

    Back in my seminary days (even before Noah, or so I'm told), there was a similar "controversy" (if this rises to that level) surrounding seminarians wearing the biretta while out in public, or the clerical cape over their cassock while walking around town, vehement arguments both pro and con.
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 313
    One argument for robes (which we wear here) rather than cassocks is that the robes cover all shapes and sizes. Cassocks have been suggested, and like the ones worn by the OLEM choir do look better, but they are more fitted, and thinking about certain members of our choir I wonder whether this would be a good thing?
    Apologies for uncharitable thought
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 93
    We wear purple cassocks and surplices with rounded necklines. In summer, we do not wear cassocks. The surplices are worn in summer with men wearing dark trousers and women wearing dark skirts or slacks.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,816
    '...about certain members...'

    I had a choir once with 'certain members'. We were ordering cassocks and surplices from C.M. Almy and a certain couple in the choir (who were generously 'rotund') gave me their measurements in a sealed envelope.

    (I would never settle for Geneva gowns, commonly called academic robes and quite erroneously called 'choir robes'. Cassock and surplice are choir habit. That's really all there is to it. If there are those who just can't seem to 'get it', those alb-like vestments with scapulars have at least some semblance to religious or ecclesiastical vesture.)
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  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 93
    M. Jackson Osborn: Acquiring measurements from singers is indeed a dangerous task. I always ask singers to complete a "size" form and place it in an envelope. Then, I give the envelope to our parish administrator who compiles the information and orders. Some singers even pay for and order their own vestments rather than risk having their sizes known.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 198
    My only experience with a choir wearing anything other than street clothes was quite edifying. I sang briefly in the choir of a small parish. The choir was a nightmare, socially and spiritually. The behavior in the choir loft was quite reproachable (including utter total lack of reverent attention to the Mass itself; snippy gossip, arguing and insults being whispered between hymns; an ongoing battle of wills between the organist and (possibly self-selected) music director, which included regular derogatory comments about the private lives of each; and even some mild sexual harassment (by an old lady, of all weird things!!) but the politics of the parish left the parish priest unwilling to intervene. I offered my resignation instead. But anyway, the one remarkable thing I noted that was when we sang a Mass around Christmas and for that particular day we wore robes instead of street clothes, everyone behaved like angels instead of demons. It was remarkable indeed. Really impressive. It might be that if they wore them all the time the effect would wear off, though.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,031
    CatherineS, even my choir is nowhere near that bad. LOL.

    We don't wear robes because the temperature control in the loft is non-existent. It often gets unbearable. Add to that my choir members no longer process to the front for communion and no one sees them. People in their eighties do have difficulty with steep and narrow stairs so we abandoned all processions.

    Cassock and Surplice: The servers wear them and that has been their normal dress for the last 50 years that I know of.
    Thanked by 2Lurl Matilda
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,781
    Would never sing in a choir that required such, due to walk very deliberately due to multiple leg injuries in the past, and have clear view of feet when navigating steps of any kind. I know I am not alone in that regard; we know our kind.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,031
    Understand. I have lost choir members because they could no longer navigate those loft stairs. Some of my current members have to take them very slowly. It all irks me because the parish has squandered money on everything else, but not on an elevator which is greatly needed.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 100
    I wear a cassock and “organist surplice” which stems from the Anglican tradition and has wings rather than sleeves which makes it much easier to play. I have a friend who wears an Anglican surplice which doesn’t have buttons all the way down so it’s easy to part it around the legs. My choir doesn’t robe.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    After a short period of experimentation (in 2009) our schola cantorum found its 'natural' place in the sanctuary, vested in cassock surplice. From that point, two or three members were making 'funny' remarks on both items.
    Two years later we got a new director, a young, very knowledgable, polite and traditional man. Within a few months the 'sheep attac' men got the pastor to intervene, and we were moved to the choir loft for the 'better acoustics' (which is a valid point, though).
    Since then everyone wears what he wants - and also wanders around at will during e.g. the homily and the eucharistic prayer ...

    Btw. we lost one of greatest 'fans' in the process (our best alto in the mixed choir), who openly said that she used to attend the 'schola Mass' for its overall liturgical esthetics rather than the - hummm - quality of our gregorian chant.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 100
    Unless there are actual choir stalls, I utterly fail to see why anyone (barring a complete, and rare, lack of a loft) would ever want to be in the sanctuary. One of the first things I did when I arrived at my current church was move the cantor from a special podium up front and center back to the loft. It’s not a concert, folks. Ruffled a few feathers but it’s much better.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,781
    Stairs that are dangerous to many other than the very agile. Multiple places.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,423
    "move the cantor from a special podium up front"
    There is also the possibilty envisaged by GIRM that the cantor is the only musician, and is required to 'direct the congregation' cf.GIRM#104. In that case a visible position at the front may be neccessary. Even Westminster Cathedral does this at some Masses (and IMHO it works well). There is always the danger of the liturgy becoming a concert, it happened in 1850's Catholic churches with choirs (and orchestras), it happens now with guitar and drums and a lip mic, Anathema sit.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    Unless there are actual choir stalls, I utterly fail to see why anyone [...] would ever want to be in the sanctuary.
    Apart from dangerous staircases, and while I am in favor of singing in the loft with any except 'traditional liturgical' chors, in my experience they tend to be more devote when they are in sight of the congregation. I direct a choir that is placed right behind the altar (there is no space to the side) and they always behave as it should be, no comments necessary at any time.

    By contrast, tonight in the loft our schola members again acted as if they were in their living room. I'll have to ask our director to start trying to educate them as soon as possible.
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,498
    In our church, it is better to sing on the Sanctuary, the acoustic is far better. We usually sing from the Sanctuary on our Saturday Sung Mass, and other occasional weekday Masses.
    We can not sing from the Sanctuary on Sundays as there are too many servers, and we do not have the room. The other problem is that if we sing from the Sanctuary we can't have the ladies sing with us!
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,423
    "in the loft our schola members again acted as if they were in their living room"
    GIRM#312 "part of the assembly of the Christian faithful"
    ?
    Thanked by 2Elmar Matilda
  • Tomjaw,

    Could you describe the situation (general architectural layout) that allows/compels you to sing from the Sanctuary?
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,498
    @Chris Garton-Zavesky

    Here is an image of the church, https://www.flickr.com/photos/josephshaw/5588503502/in/gallery-latinmasssociety-72157626440212666/
    Originally it had a flat back wall (the one with the Crucifix on the first arch), with one high Altar and two side Altars. Later a Sanctuary was added, the side chapel, and a narrow Gallery (10') with organ.
    The Cinema ceiling is very helpful but the sound does not carry very well under the (low) gallery or into the side chapel when you are singing from the loft.
    As you can see the Sanctuary is ideal the sound carries out to fill the church with the ceiling reflecting the should back down. It is very easy to sing in this church!
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,816
    tomjaw =

    Very nice church -
    You likely know that whereas the rounded apse is typical of continental churches, a flat east wall is typical of English Gothic churches and cathedrals. (Typical but not universal.) Your church, of course, is not Gothic, but there is a parallel nonetheless. Your church is very nice and would appear to have good acoustics. What kind of organ do you have?
    Thanked by 3tomjaw CHGiffen Matilda
  • I'm confused. It appears from the pictures that you're singing from upstairs. What is more, I don't see anywhere east of the transept for your choir to sit, much less sing.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,498
    On Sundays we always sing from the loft, that is bigger than the photos found by @a_f_hawkins show, each side of the Organ is room for around 12 singers. Say 12 foot by 15 foot each side.

    When we sing from the Sanctuary we sing in the former choir i.e. in the Arch on the gospel side. The high Altar was on the back wall, but was moved forward onto the platform that fills the Sanctuary in the changes of the 1970's.

    @MJO Yes most English Churches do not have an apse, but some originally had one over 1000 years ago! Most of the Swiss churches I sing in also don't have an apse, but it is more common to find an apse.

    The Organ as show on the photos in a French choir organ c. 1900, single manual! and a limited number of stops, it is in need of a rebuild, and is a bit too small and limited for the church, although it does have a beautiful tone. We also have an hauptwork noise maker up in the loft with poor quality speakers, but with the right organist it is produces an acceptable sound.
  • Hawkins, Tomjaw,

    Yes, I can see the choir now. UNobtrusive is ideal, and it appears that you've managed that.

    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    "in the loft our schola members again acted as if they were in their living room"
    GIRM#312 "part of the assembly of the Christian faithful"
    ?

    Indeed - that which is acceptable behavior of a toddler during Mass isn't necessarily for a schola member, though ... I guess that they are trying to compensate for the lack of children in our parish ...
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • Elmar,

    Why are there no children in your parish?
    Thanked by 2Elmar Matilda
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 100
    If you can be out of sight like St. Bede's above that's one thing. I know that I am perturbed whenever I see anyone who does not serve an official (altar-related) liturgical function in the sanctuary. It is, after all, the successor to the holy-of-holies wherein only a priest and his aiding ministers should enter. It's not infrequent to see a band camped out in front of Our Lady's or St. Joseph's altars (within the rail if it still exists) and this, to me, is unacceptable. Just my opinion, I know, but again, it's placing people within the sanctuary who have no business being there.... literally.

    Someone mentioned the GIRM above; I'm utterly failing to remember the document at the moment but it was quoted on the forum not long ago and I believe it was SPX? who said that if musicians needed to be up where excessive visibility would be a condition they should be hidden behind screens. I found this to be both interesting and encouraging (albeit utterly ignored).

    Anyone who attends regularly (either form) needs little by way of instruction about what to do when. Gentle reminders at seasonal changes or during special liturgies, perhaps, but do we really need the arm raising routine from the cantor when the psalm refrain rolls around again? No. Do we need to announce the hymn numbers that are posted in 6" numbers on the board in the front corner? No we do not, lol.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw cesarfranck
  • Serviam

    In some church buildings in Europe (and probably elsewhere, but not here in the States) there is an architectural feature called the quire, which is where the choir of canons sits to chant the office and, by extension, where the men and boys' choir sits to sing the Mass. Sometimes (cue Jackson) there is a rood screen, and one is thereby impeded from seeing, but not hearing Mass.

    The "arm raising routine" is not part of the Catholic rites, since it is a clear recent import from the utterly profane. Announcing hymn numbers is (I guess) intended to give the impression of increased audience participation (cue Francis) has little place in an authentic Catholic rite -- because we're not invited guests who need to be told where to hang our hats, when to cheer and boo, and so on.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,423
    The psalmist should be able to convey by tone of voice, and by glancing at the congregation, that they are about to hand over for a response. But in a building the size of Westminster Cathedral they probably need a more visible gesture. (Or an organist who can elicit the response)
    The same would be true if another of the propers is done the same way. But generally if a cantor needs to wave an arm, it is probably the wrong music.
  • Hawkins,

    I've been to Westminster Cathedral (it seems like several life-times ago). Good vocal cues can do the job.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,423
    I know I can achieve good rapport with a class of thirty, and that I never felt I managed that with 100. Some people have the charisma to do better than I could. I know I can understand a reading better if I can see the expression on the lector's face. I know I can follow a cantor's intentions in Westminster Cathedral from 7/8 rows back, but I have never tried from 30/40 rows back, I suspect that I need to see the whites of their eyes, or a slight wave of a surplice clad arm. I might test it in a couple of months.
  • Hello all,
    Coming somehow after the battle ?
    David, Cassock is a liturgical dress and until 1969 had to be blessed and received bu clerks. In seminar, it usually was at the beginning of second year. So it should not be worn by laics.
    Altar servants were (and should still be) only male, and usually clerks. So, they naturally wore cassocks and surplices. Singers were exclusively male, and were "cantors". They were part of the altar service, and wore the same attire.
    Then, end of 19th, choir who were not lucky enough to have boys became mixed, especially with the end of castrati.
    Then, in the 20th, servants were not necessarily clerks, but could be boys. Then, cassocks are "de facto" used by all altar servants, even not being clerks.
    Then, albs can be used by any christian as it is our baptism "white garment".

    I dare assess that cassocks is a male garment and can not be used by women. I would compare it to men wearing dresses. So, male singers could wear it, but certainly not female singers.
    Alb seems to be the right answer, except that its aesthetics can be challenged, especially for people like me (with, oh so many kilos to wear every day).
    Alb with a cord ? better, but then, not yet
    Gown ? too protestant
    Cape ? the image of Juventutem choir seems to demonstrate that it is an excellent compromise.
    "civil" (black suits) ? excellent compromise.

    In my parish, I am not lucky enough to have a formal choir attire, and every singer comes as he is. I regret this, but have no hand on it. I concentrate on the content more than on the appearance (not that I have any choice or any saying)...
    That is the worst solution... so... :-(

    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    Chris, you are asking
    Why are there no children in your parish?
    Actually there are some (including mine), but e.g. less that a handful of the children and grandchildren of the choir mebmers ever show op at Mass.
    Maybe the state of our church music is a contributing factor ... we might better discuss this topic in another thread.
  • Elmar,

    When you said "lack of children", I understood it literally. If there are a few, but not many, I would have expected a "relative lack of children".

    Yes, we can take that up in a different thread.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • RMSawicki
    Posts: 58
    Since the original topic of this now-ancient (by internet standards) posting was the question of cassocks and surplices worn by liturgical musicians, and considering that one of the questions raised within the combox was whether or not organists find wearing a cassock uncomfortable or awkward when playing the organ. I'll just offer this belated observation.

    My first master, in light of the fact that both our organ console, as well as our choir stalls, were on the floor of the church on the Gospel side, thus rendering them visible to all, when playing for all liturgies, was clad in what is known as a "semi-Jesuit" cassock (he would add a plain linen surplice for the High Mass with the choir). Go online to any church supply/vestment catalog or company and you'll likely see one displayed. He always said it was the easiest and most comfortable cassock to wear when playing the organ, and in my own experience I can testify he was correct. (BTW it's called "semi-Jesuit" because it meets in the center, rather than at the side as in a kimono-style "full Jesuit").

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!
    Thanked by 1Incardination