Monday, February 20, 2012

Musings from the Choir Loft

Several weeks ago, Cardinal Ritter High School's choir was asked to do the music for our Archdiocesan Catholic School Mass. I am the "director" of said choir, which should greatly alarm anyone who knows me because my musical knowledge consists in knowing the difference between a bass and treble clef (maybe)! When I say I am the "director" it means that I write our students passes so that they can come to choir practice during home room.

We are fortunate, though, to have some VERY talented musicians and singers, and it has been a real joy of mine to work with them and put stuff together for our Masses.

So back to us leading the Archdiocesan Mass at the Cathedral...there were going to be several priests in attendance, and so we did not want to stand where choirs at our Cathedral sometimes do which is in the sanctuary. We made our way up to the choir loft and I learned some really interesting things about liturgical music while being up there.

First of all, I learned that when you are up in the choir loft, you don't need microphones. For the songs and chants our kids did, the lack of microphones gave the sound a much more angelic quality than the sound that I typically encounter at Masses where the musicians/choirs are miked up.

Secondly, the choir loft was great because we could move around, reposition ourselves, change music sheets around, briefly whisper to get on the same page and so forth in between songs. I, as the "director" could watch the Mass and signal to the choir and musicians when we needed to keep playing and when we needed to stop, and I didn't have to think about the fact that I would somehow be distracting and taking people's attention off of the Mass.

I realized, yet again, that somethings that Catholic parishes have thrown out were really not helpful changes at all, and that there is a lot of wisdom in the way things were typically done for the last 1500+ years or so. If I ever get a chance to build a church building, it will definitely have a choir loft for the sake of those attending Mass AND for the sake of the choir itself getting to breath easy and not have to be "on stage."


  1. Father,
    You should visit St Boniface in Lafayette sometime and hear our Schola Cantorum. You are so right about the choir needing to be in the choir loft! Good for you for putting the kids up there!
    Judy (Ford) Watson, CRHS class of 68

  2. But I want to bang my tambourine in front of will they see me in a choir loft? :)

  3. BRAVO! So now, how do we get all of the priests to understand this very simple concept? As a member of a very small choir (my family), I have had the luxury of simply saying to the choir director, 'I can only sing if we sing from the loft'. Thankfully no big effort was made to change our minds! However, I find those big choirs, up front, very distracting and actually left one choir because of it. It seemed (to me) that our 'face to face' with the congregation, rather than with the Lord's Mass, made for a very awkward situation. Now about the music (as opposed to hymns)...