Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Choir Belongs in the Choir Loft

312. The choir should be positioned with respect to the design of each church so as to make clearly evident its character as a part of the gathered community of the faithful fulfilling a specific function. The location should also assist the choir to exercise its function more easily and conveniently allow each choir member full, sacramental participation in the Mass.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Throughout almost the entire history of Christendom, lay choirs have sung the praises of God and aided their congregations from a position of humility and service rather than in full view. The chancel location is a stumbling block to choir member and congregant alike. To the chorister, it both builds the ego to be seen as one "performs," and it literally separates one from the congregation one should be supporting. It visually distracts from the preaching of the Word, and it tempts the congregants to critique the appearance of the choir and especially any extra musicians that have been shoehorned [in] for special occasions. . . .

. . . The choir speaks with the congregation rather than at them. This relationship is more apparent when the choir speaks on behalf of the people, such as when offering an anthem of praise to God, rather than to an audience. Further, the director has the freedom to lead the singers without distracting the congregation, the seating can be movable to accommodate special needs, and the choir is afforded the same view of the pastor's face as the other worshipers are. Acoustically the rear position is preferable. . . . Any good organ builder will prefer a gallery position, and voices resonate best from this position, hence most effectively aiding the corporate singing and praises. The maintenance on an organ in chambers in the front will be higher than one enclosed in casework in the rear due to temperature and humidity differences, plus the fact that a roof leak on pipework and windchests can go undetected until much expensive damage has been incurred.

— Rich Mays, Consider the Choir (alternative link)

“Having ‘left Geneva,’ I am solidly on the ‘road to Durham,’ happily in the folds of the evangelical (but traditional worship, as in 1928 BCP) Anglicanism.” — Rich Mays, e-mail 29 April 2006.


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