Liturgy We Live
by Dr. Gil Haas

Today, choirs are singers who provide musical leadership for congregations. Rural Anglican churches popularized “cock and hen” choirs of men and women, while urban churches used orphaned children. Neither scenario developed enthusiastic singing by congregations who considered themselves audiences rather than active participants. The Anglo-Catholic Movement of the mid-1800‘s introduced surpliced choirs of men and boys who encouraged congregations to take up their responsibility as singers. Choirs led the congregation in singing psalms, chanting responses, while only occasionally adding a simple anthem. The term, choir (“quire” in the Anglican BCP), also applies to a location. A Medieval basilica’s choir included both the chancel and the sanctuary. These early churches had two areas which were designated “choir” and “nave”. Choirs of later churches were subdivided into areas for clergy (labeled “choir”) and the sanctuary. The term, choir, had once described the entire area outside the nave but now became only part of that area. Choirs grew to two-thirds of naves providing space for large monastic communities. It was only about one hundred years ago that singers were placed against the chancel’s wall positioning the “musical” choir within the significantly older “architectural” choir. Requested by Dr. Howard Johnson

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