CCTLS 8: Choirs

CCTLS section eight treats not only choirs, but touches on other music ministers, too. Let’s start with the choir:

8. The importance of preserving and increasing the centuries-old patrimony of the Church spurs us to take into particular consideration a specific exhortation of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Choirs must be assiduously developed, especially in cathedral churches”[SC 114]. In turn, the Instruction Musicam Sacram explains the ministerial task of the choir: “Because of the liturgical ministry it exercises, the choir (cappella musicale or schola cantorum) should be mentioned here explicitly. The conciliar norms regarding the reform of the Liturgy have given the choir’s function greater prominence and importance. The choir is responsible for the correct performance of its part, according to the differing types of song, to help the faithful to take an active part in the singing. Therefore,… choirs are to be developed with great care, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and in religious houses of study”[Musicam Sacram 19]. The schola cantorum’s task has not disappeared: indeed, it plays a role of guidance and support in the assembly and, at certain moments in the Liturgy, has a specific role of its own.

The documentation of the decade of the 1960’s with regard to choirs is clear: they view a greater importance to be aligned with the virtue of enabling worshipers to sing. This primary task of service (some might say of sacrifice) is intended to be fostered as a good example in places of formation: from larger churches to places where clergy and religious are formed in their vocation.

That is not to say that the choir’s traditional role as “correct performer” is abrogated. Part of that performance is to perform as a servant to others.

From the smooth coordination of all – the priest celebrant and the deacon, the acolytes, the altar servers, the readers, the psalmist, the schola cantorum, the musicians, the cantor and the assembly – flows the proper spiritual atmosphere which makes the liturgical moment truly intense, shared in and fruitful. The musical aspect of liturgical celebrations cannot, therefore, be left to improvisation or to the arbitration of individuals but must be well conducted and rehearsed in accordance with the norms and competencies resulting from a satisfactory liturgical formation.

John Paul II widens his gaze in the interests of good liturgy. Not only does the choir serve the singing of the people, but it has a place in a larger order of worship. We are looking for a “spiritual” atmosphere, which is accomplished by more than “correct” musical performance. This atmosphere would seem to require grounding in a certain formation in worship. I would expect this formation to be appropriate to the person’s responsibilities. Every choir member should have a basic training. Every music leader (conductor, director, accompanist, psalmist, cantor, songleader, librarian, etc.) should have more. And if there is a professional music director, I don’t see how a sound liturgical formation should be escaped. That doesn’t mean a graduate degree, necessarily. But it might. More likely, a musically trained individual would have liturgy as an area of personal study.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Chirograph for the Centenary of TLS, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to CCTLS 8: Choirs

  1. Mark this day. IMHO, this may be the first time, to my knowledge, where I can’t envision any clear-thinking soul involved deeply in and/or liturgy and worship music in the RCC would find any significant bone of contention in t post above, Todd. I actually linked it to a thread started by a newbie choir director that questioned the purpose of the quire. Good on ye, mate.

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