The Armchair Liturgist: Auditioning Parish Choir Members

armchair1.jpgHere’s a question for you musically-inclined armchair liturgists: Do you or would you have auditions for parish music ministry?

If not, do you have a de facto screening process for people who join, but who are never mic’ed or don’t get the plum singing parts?

How about having one “concert” choir which is built up by auditions, and other parish choirs open to all? Anybody ever flip-flopped on this matter, starting with one procedure and coming to decide another way was better?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Auditioning Parish Choir Members

  1. When I was “recruited” to take the DM job at my current parish 15 years ago, Todd, I actually requested from the pastor then that I be provided the opportunity to start and auditioned-based choir that would “replace” a cantor/organist morning Mass. That was the best move I’ve ever made in four decades. We kept two “Y’all come” choirs, one trad (seasoned citizens) and the “folk group” (which became “Ensemble.”) The old folks folded within a year or so, and now the Ensemble rehearsals are populated at rehearsals with quite a few AARPs, so much that the notion of “contemporary” is paradoxically ironic, if not ridiculous. So we’re in a paradigm shift, except for the auditioned choir. I flesh out the shift later on my blog and let y’all know when it’s posted.

  2. Liam says:

    After many years of observing the travails (even melodrama) that befall volunteer choral ministries from the lack of any objective assessment of individual voices, I firmly believe that all voices need to be listened to by the music director on an individual basis at the bare minimum in order for the director to tell how well a person matches pitch and to be properly placed if you are to do any SATB singing.

    Because most women are mezzos and most men are baritones (true SATBs are at the lower ends of the bell curve), that means most people are NOT true SATBs and they should be placed by trained music professionals to do right by them. Their voices (and hearing to match pitch) change with time and illnesses, so I would recommend doing this every year for every voice – and the meeting is also an opportunity to express encouragement, goals, frustrations, dissappointments, et cet. I find the avoidance of this kind of thing in many Catholic music ministries helps to keep them inhibited by unaddressed issues.

    No liturgical ministries are literally open to all; all of them in some way involve not only interest but also demonstrable skill and fit on the part of the volunteers.

    Music, at least, has professional standards for assessing skill and fit.

  3. jeffrey says:

    Scary topic. What we do is have a month-long trial period, make sure that the person likes us, he or she fits in etc. Seems to work. Sometimes we end up agreeing that it doesn’t work, but most of the time the person stays. This also instills a good attitude from the start: there is not right to sing, etc.

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