Paragraphs 28 through 47 of the document Sing to the Lord reviews the various ministerial roles within liturgical music. First up is the Choir. The US bishops start off with an echo the importance given in SC 114 to the balance between choirs being “diligently promoted ” and “active participation which is rightly (the assembly’s).”
What do choirs and ensembles add? Skills and commitment to “enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.”
What does this enrichment entail? SttL 29 and 30 detail it:
- Parts of the Mass that lend themselves to dialogue with the assembly–litanies, and the “processional” songs at entrance, preparation, and during Communion. Even pieces that aren’t structured for dialogue or alternation–the Gloria and Creed. “This approach often takes the form of a congregational refrain with verses sung by the choir.” Ah well, even the Gloria.
- Singing without the assembly. Times mentioned: before Mass, in place of any of the parts of the four-hymn sandwich. The only caution given in SttL 30 is to use a “proper liturgical text or by expressing themes appropriate to the Liturgy.” SttL 137-199 gives more direction, and we might get to those sections eventually.
Three brief sections remind us that first, instruments lead:
31. When the choir is not exercising its particular role, it joins the congregation in song. The choir’s role in this case is not to lead congregational singing, but to sing with the congregation, which sings on its own or under the leadership of the organ or other instruments.
Music exists to serve others, and choir members are part of the assembly:
32. Choir members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.
A few comments about clothing:
33. Choir and ensemble members may dress in albs or choir robes, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as choir vesture.
On leadership, I suspect the bishops are echoing the premise that musical leadership and support is conveyed by instruments, especially the organ. Why the organ? It’s a one-person effort that can effectively support singing, lead it, and reinforce it.
Clerical attire is not explicitly banned, but discouraged.
Anything you readers are seeing in this?