Locating The Choir

Beauvais Cathedral organIn the comments today, Ld offered some thoughts on the placement of music ministry. Check the comment and the citations, most of which we’ve discussed on this site over the past nine years. I’d like to respond to some specifics:

The choir is supposed to be part of the worshipping community. Is there anybody who thought that because the choir was in a choir loft the members weren’t really at Mass?

I think it depends. You can be at Mass when you are in a loft. The question offered by the GIRM is different: are they part of the worshipping assembly? Choir lofts may be perceived as places apart from the assembly. In one choir loft I once knew, the sanctuary area was invisible to the choir when they were seated. Additionally, the library staff would often use the homily time (since they couldn’t see the preacher) to sort, file, and distribute music. Not only were they not part of the assembly, I might wonder if a few folks were really at Mass.

If choir lofts can accommodate regular parishioners–family members of choristers, latecomers, etc., then I would say the loft satisfies the requirement. My grad school parish had good visibility lines and full naves for weekend Mass. People felt welcome to go up or down–even little kids fascinated by the pipe organ.

I do think that in some churches, lofts on one end are the optimal location for sound projection.

The sanctuary is reserved for the ministers of the Mass. Ministers here refers to bishops, priests, deacons, acolytes, readers and cantors, not to the congregation or the choir.

Regarding the choir, this would be an interpretation that could easily go the other way. Indeed, in some churches, the “front” end of the long nave is just as good for sound projection as the “rear.”

The reality of the choir is that if it can be seen, it serves as a distraction to the faithful at Mass.

Agreed–which is why all choristers should be well-trained not to do distracting things.

Another consideration to note when placing the choir is that when a choir is in front of the congregation and facing the congregation, it appears that the choir is giving a concert instead of fulfilling its proper role at Mass. Also, if the choir is facing the congregation, it isn’t directing its music towards the proper focal point. In fact, it will have its back to what is most important, namely, the Eucharist.

Another advantage to antiphonal seating for the entire assembly.

Ld, feel free to chine in. As well as any others.

Image credit.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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