The Armchair Liturgist: Communion for Choir Members

I know I’ve covered this issue for altar servers and concelebrants already, but I’m interested in your opinions, practices, and bothers about choir members receiving Communion.

In my present parish, the choir sings from an area proximate to altar and ambo on the edge of our antiphonal seating. So it’s easy for singers and instrumentalists to excuse themselves for a verse of the Communion song.

Accompanists have varying practices. A few line up with the Communion ministers to receive. Others have it passed on to them by another music minister or family member. I try to receive at the end of the Communion procession.

With my last large choir that sang from a loft, we arranged to have two ministers ascend to distribute Communion. The large choir in my Kansas City parish would have the songleader/cantor begin the Communion song with the organist and the choir would come down all three reception aisles to receive the sacrament first.

I noticed on the Musica Sacra forum that one diocese advocates for the choir receiving Communion after the Chrism Mass. That’s about the poorest solution I could consider (aside from home delivery) especially for a Chrism Mass, considering the number of ordinary ministers present.

Sit in the purple chair, and be the liturgist. Tell how you would choreograph it.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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13 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Communion for Choir Members

  1. Liam says:

    I would not describe that diocese as “advocating” but as “determined to remain thoughtless”.

    Otherwise, of course, I very much agree…

  2. Tony says:

    Our choir receives first before starting the communion song. If the director has already received previously, he plays the communion song softly until we’re ready then leads into the first verse.

  3. Todd says:

    Keep in mind also that the Roman Missal says the Communion song is to begin with the priest’s reception of the sacrament. It’s a hard thing to overcome, but the silent spectating when clergy and other ministers are receiving always struck me as inherently wrong.

  4. Chase says:

    In my parish, a Eucharistic Minister brings communion to the loft, which I suppose is much less distracting than having everyone traipse to the front of the church.

    I certainly echo your statement Todd, regarding silence while the clergy and other ministers receive. Along with that thought, I would say it’s important to try to choose a piece of appropriate length during communion.

    Nothing irks me more than when there is complete silence and people are still receiving – or worse yet, when a priest will insist upon “doing dishes” at the altar after communion while the congregation simply sits.

    • Tony says:

      By “doing the dishes” did you mean purifying the vessels and removing all traces of the Body and Blood of our savior before putting away the vessels?

  5. Todd, spot on.
    What we do: upon priest’s reception the Communion Proper antiphon is intoned in English (either Ford’s Amer.Gradual or more often, Rice’s Simple Choral Gradual) by the choir, and all verses sung.
    At it’s conclusion, the organist and myself immediately segue into the Communion processional hymn, at which time the choir receives, resumes their place in the choir, sings the balance of hymn. Generally there are still communicants in line, at which time a motet is sung.

  6. georgie-ann says:

    as Chase says, we also have a Eucharistic Minister come up to the loft,…

    we have some priests who prefer to have some extended moments of silence occurring around the Communion part of the service,…they object to a senseless frenetic feeling that comes with repetitions of verses used as “fill-ins,” creating an aimless distractedness in the atmosphere,…we try to please–plan as best we can, but keeping it simple, when in doubt,…you can always have some soft instrumental sounds,…

  7. Harry says:

    Just an aside, but what kind of ministers serve themselves first, in full view of the people they are to serve, and the people second?

    As for the problem over when the choir is to receive.

    The choir is there to lead congregational singing. It isn’t there to perform. Sorry, music ministers, but I don’t go to Mass to hear a choir concert, although I certainly do appreciate well prepared, well performed music at Mass.

    Now if we are all signing while we receiving communion, there should be no problem with the choir doing so as well.

    • Tony says:

      Just an aside, but what kind of ministers serve themselves first, in full view of the people they are to serve, and the people second?

      Well, the priest for one. The extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion for another.

  8. Matthew says:

    “The choir is there to lead congregational singing”

    Not entirely – the choir can also be there to sing the parts appropriate to it alone (i.e. Communio, Introit, etc.).

  9. Harry says:

    Not during the moment under discussion. At communion, they should take their place with the rest of the faithful.

  10. John says:

    This is a very worthwhile topic. I hope that the comments will stay focused on the logistics. I really like Charles’ routine where the communion hymn begins as soon as the priest receives communion. This has become an awkward moment in our parish. While not every method suggested here will work for all due to arrangements of the church and the placement of ministers, the more comments back on this subject, the more opportunities we will have to find ways to distribute communion to the choirs and the community with grace, flow, and functionality. Thank you for addressing this timely issue.

  11. Francis says:

    It has been my experience that choirs either receive communion at a previous mass in the day, or that a ‘choir communion’ is provided after the mass itself. The priest begins the communion office with the ‘Ecce Agnus Dei/Behold the Lamb of God,’ and everything proceeds normally from that point.

    Sometimes a cantor begins the communion antiphon, allowing much of the choir to receive communion, which leaves only a small gap without music, but this has only happened in Extraordinary Form/Tridentine Masses with a vested schola.

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