In Comparing Small RC Choirs
  • Hey yall,

    For those who play for small parishes, how many are in your congregation and how many in your choir?

    I work for a very small rural parish, about 120 familes on a good day. My choir is made up of 6-7 regulars and 1-2 semi regulars. Some Sundays everyone is there, most of the time 3-5 are, and sometimes just little ole me.

    Also how do you recruit at your small parish?

    Thank you!
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • We're not huge, but we have a decent amount - maybe just a little more than what you have of a Sunday. Our choir averages between 12 and 15, give or take a couple members.

    How to recruit?

    A) Socialize with non-choir members after Mass. Sometimes it just takes breaking the ice with them. B) Every once in a while, have Father mention that the choir is recruiting members. Emphasize that you'd be willing to help train the more timorous in your congregation. C) Pray. Pray often. And with your choir. Priestly vocations flourish with prayer - no reason why musical 'vocations' shouldn't as well.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    Our parish is actually pretty big (over 60 in the choir for the 9AM traditional Mass), but we're the Latin Mass in a blended parish, so our PiPs numbers (ca. 170 on a Sunday for the past month) and Schola numbers (about a half-dozen) are similar to yours.

    As for recruiting, "what Stimson said." Socializing is hard for me; I'm an introvert. It helps if I see an unfamiliar face (esp. female...don't hate on me, old habits die hard) sitting alone at coffee and donuts (which only happens once a month). But socializing is the only thing that has really worked for us, though we do everything else. I'm not saying that prayer hasn't worked, but has seemed that God for His own reason has often answered "no".

    A particular obstacle for us is the Mass time (1 PM) and rehearsal time (8-9:30 Tuesdays, after Benediction). Mass time isn't going to change; rehearsal time could, but it would be hard.

    EDIT 1/8/20-- our attendence has moved consistently to ca. 200, and for some reason people are flocking to Schola. We've been averaging 10 in the loft, and have even sung several things in 4 parts. And I'm expecting a new member tonight.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 521
    Our choir is about 8 strong on any give Sunday during "choir season". Usually, 2 Alto's, 5 Sop's and 1 tenor. Our avg congregation is about 120-150 but this varies depending on the seasons and Mass times. Some of our choir members are EMHC's and on occasion will be absent from our choir to serve in this ministry which brings our group down to about 5.

    Sometimes we have a flutist that plays with us. Our choir schedule rotates from 4:30 Vigil Mass, to 8:15 AM or 11:00 AM. The 8:15 AM Mass is hit and miss with choir members, our rehearsal time is Wednesday's 6:30 to 8:30 and often we don't have a full compliment, especially during the winter months, understandably since most are in their 70's and 80's.

    We also experience an unnecessary amount of socializing which can be distracting if you're the only man surround by women (LOL).

    Regarding how to recruit. I would recommend a practice of singing hymns with whatever religious program you have for children. These hymns would be specifically oriented to their Catechism and could act as memory aids. Hymns about the ten commandments, the sacraments, etc. It's an old idea reminiscent of the Sunday schools from days past. I am going to suggest this to our MD and PSR teachers not that they will listen to me but we need to start investing in our children if we want our choirs to continue.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 360
    Ca. 200 at the one mass the choir sings; total weekend attendance somewhere between 800 and 900. Choir (SATB) is 24 with all present, up from 16 when I arrived in '17; on a bad day (school breaks or Memorial Day + flu + family crises) it may fall to 15ish. Schola (chant only) is 7, equally split men/women, but grows to 15 when we are preparing for liturgies not on a Sunday morning, e.g. Compline.

    One problem we have here is that we are (the biggest) one of 6 Latin-rite Catholic churches in a shrinking, graying town of 26,000, and the only one left with a choir in the proper sense of the word (i.e. a group that sings motets and other music beyond hymns with the congregation). You would think this would help things, but because no churches have yet closed, many good local singers are willing to tolerate a lack of sacred music in their ancestral parish for the sake of keeping the doors open, rather than coming here where they could sing good music. I have choir members who came to the parish from another to sing a decade or more ago, but none in more recent memory, after the decline really accelerated.

    We all make a point of socializing at coffee hour, and while we're holding our own, the long-term outlook is grim. After an ever-declining number of local children are baptized and confirmed, they go away to college and never return, or else end up working 80 hours a week in minimum-wage jobs, where attending an evening rehearsal and a morning Mass are absolutely out of the question. There is not a yearly influx of new people to recruit, as one would have in a university town or big city, but an ever-shrinking and aging population.

    Thanked by 1PianistNowOrganist
  • TCJ
    Posts: 782
    6 members with an average attendance of around 250. Everyone tells me that nobody can get volunteers for anything around here, so the choir isn't the only group that struggles to find committed people.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,371
    We're not huge either, Stimson, the choir that is. Some of us do battle the weight trying to be less huge. My choir was large at one time. People have both moved away and passed away. We gain at most, one or two new people every year or so. We top out at around 16 to 20 people. Unfortunately, not all are able to attend rehearsals, but fortunately 3 or so of them are very good sight readers. On top of that, none of us are getting any younger and the median age of the choir is near sixty.

    I have been there 19 years, but this choir has quirks and members going back much earlier than that. When the choir mass starts at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays, I have maybe 6 people in the loft. By the first reading the rest have wandered in. We have one member we call the "Gloria" member because she is never there until it is over.

    All that aside, they often sing rather well. We have our share of disasters but most of the time it works out. I have considered calling us the Holy Spirit choir because it is only through a miracle by Him that it works out some Sundays.
  • vansensei
    Posts: 173
    We're not huge at St. Robert's. We've actually been losing people to moves and busy schedules. At it's biggest, 30, but it has been fairly low recently - to the point that I am the sole "tenor", aka baritone who has an E4 some days.

    How do we recruit? Good question.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,371
    People are so over-scheduled these days it is hard to get them to commit to anything.
    Thanked by 2cesarfranck Wade
  • I work at a parish in small town Georgia. We probably have 120-150 in attendance at the 9am principal Sunday Mass (the only weekend Mass with music), with fewer at the 5pm Vigil the previous day and maybe two dozen at the 1pm Spanish Mass. I'd say maybe 100-120 families.

    I play and direct a volunteer choir (more of a schola) of 5-6 regulars and two who are intermittent. I typically get 4-5 singing on any given Sunday during "on season," with full committment on high feasts. We sing a lot of chant and some traditional hymnody, with the occasional three-part motet, so our small numbers work for us. I'd be glad to have one more confident soprano and a confident bass so that we could sing more polyphony.

    Edit: Before I was hired, there was no DM or regular accompanist, and no choir. We now sing the propers, ordinary, Credo, and a few hymns every Sunday. Mass is sung by the priest. We have definitely come a long way; it was a banjo and a guitar when I was a child there.
  • Trentonjconn,

    Well done!
  • Thank you, everyone! This was wonderful. Sounds like my little choir is spot on size wise. Since I don't have the opportunity to visit other churches to compare (since I'm usually playing at all our services!), it is nice to know what other musicians are working with. trentonjconn sounds like you and I are in the same boat! and sounds like you are doing an awesome job at your little parish too!

    Before I started a year ago, the music ministry was a mess. There was either no music or an elderly organist on sat vigil. On Sunday, there was a 16yr old pianist (who had started when she was 12, which I can get on my soapbox about...) The music was a 4hymn sandwich with no cohesiveness between the services. The choir practiced 30mins before mass, but that was really to let the piantist practice. Most of the choir just showed up when mass started. The priest also had a habit of stopping mass to change whatever hymn they were singing to one of his favorites.

    New priest; new music program.
    Now we had a rehearsal during the week and before mass. We sing the propers every week with hymns too, polyphony once a month, and are as a group learning chant!

    This past year was the first year this parish has strictly followed the Roman Missal for Holy Week and it was beautiful and power. Members of the congregation cried when the solemn intercessions were sung... they had never heard them sung! As with the Reproaches.

    Anyways, my choir does want to be bigger, it is easier to sing with numbers. However, this does give me a better outlook. For those of you with dwelling numbers, that is so hard! A lot of it sounds out of your control, like an aging congregation or dwindling town population. I hope and pray for you!

    My parish too has an older population; however we also run a parish school which has helped. My prayer and my mission is that authentic traditional music and liturgy will help us thrive! In our diocese, the oldest most authentic churchs are the ones bursting with young families and babies. We actually have had recorded number seminarians ordained as well. There is hope!

    St. John Paul II would always say "the youth are our hope." And I realise now, that the youth are the hope because they will one day become adults and with a solid formation, they will set the world on fire!

    Well, this has become quite the run on. Anyways, if yall are ever in Music City, USA, come visit me!
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,174
    We are an EF community attached to an OF parish. We have an average weekly attendance of 150, this should really be 200 but some only come every fortnight / month as they are travelling some distance and we have many other options to hear the EF in London.

    For the choir we have,
    Soprano 2
    Alto 3-4
    Tenors 3
    Baritones 2
    Bass 3
    plus up to 3 children.

    Although some only join us when we are singing polyphony (up to twice a month), so our attendance varies between 4 and around 12.
    The OF choir that sings at the Mass before hand, attendance 150-200 other Sunday OF Masses give say another 50-100, only has 4-6 members!

    We have a choir practice Thursday nights at my house followed by dinner with wine, attendance 8-12!
  • Wade
    Posts: 15
    Just to add to the contributions: we're a small parish, 60-70 in attendance on an average Sunday. Since I started, we've managed to grow the choir from 8 to 12 and the handbells from 4 to 7.

    Ensembles rehearse Tuesday nights, choir from 7:30-9pm. I reduced handbells to four months per year (two months leading up to Christmas, two months leading up to Easter), rehearsing 6:30-7:30pm on Tuesdays, which helped get more commitments.

    Our choir breakdown looks like this,
    Soprano 5
    Alto 5
    Tenor 1
    Bass 1

    We usually get to add a few more singers for Easter and Christmas, but that's what our "normal" looks like.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 991
    In our 1200 family parish, we do good to get 7 people in the choir. We used to have a really large choir, but on of the previous directors managed to alienate almost all those.