Actually, choir directors are usually musicians and some choir are actually made of very good musicians. Just because they are volunteer choirs doesn’t mean they are people who don’t know how to read music.
Having the choir sing alone is a valid choice for all the hymns except for the post-Communion meditation piece if one is done. That one is supposed to be sung by the congregation.
OTOH, the responses and acclamations should be sung by the people.
I’m not even in a choir but it’s discouraging to read that the hard work that choirs put in to make their praise to God the best it can be is perceived as showing off by members of the assembly. We expect the best from all our other ministries, why is it that when a choir gives its best it’s shot down? I’d rather listen and meditate to a complicated, well-done piece done by the choir alone than sing some of what passes for ‘hymns’ these days.
Thank you, Phemie, for saying this. I think most people who make these kinds of complaints that the choir is up there for a show probably have never been part of music ministry. My husband and I are musicians and were part of the choir for many years. It was a mixed bag of musicians and non-musicians (mostly non-musicians) - all volunteers. Our choir director/organist is one of the most brilliant and humble musicians I know. He does incredible things with the choir and does the most spiritually inspiring music I’ve heard in a long time. He has them do easy to very complicated music beautifully. When we do hymns, it’s straight-forward, traditional hymns that everyone can sing. When they do motets, it’s just the choir.
Working as a musician and knowing many musicians in ministry, most of us are not doing it to “show off” or to get “praise” from anyone in the pews or in the sanctuary. Quite honestly, many of my colleagues and I don’t like it when people clap because we aren’t doing it for the praise and also because we know that there will be people like on this thread immediately judging us for something that the people in the pews are doing. And really, most people in the pews don’t even realize it’s wrong.
On Easter Sunday, the music was beautiful. There were a couple of beautiful hymns, some antiphons, motets, chants, etc. I personally get more spiritually out of the complicated motets and polyphony then anything else, although I do like singing some hymns. At the end, of course, people started to clap. My Dad began and I stopped him, saying, “Dad, ----------(the organist/choir director) doesn’t like it when people clap. It takes away from the prayer.” He sat for a second and then said, “You know, you’re right. This wasn’t a concert. But it is a little like Pavlov’s response. I wasn’t even thinking when I started clapping. I heard someone doing it and just joined in.”
What really saddens me is the fact that because I or any other musician does his/her job and do it beautifully, they are immediately judged as being show-offs. We were given a gift and to use it to the best of our ability for God, no less. What an insult to God if we gave a mediocre or half-hearted rendering of the music or of our instrument. And here’s the kicker… many times you lose both ways. If you do a beautiful job, you’re chastised for being a show-off and putting on a performance. But if you have a bad day and do a mediocre job or are just not up to par with your normal ability, people are very quick to pounce on you as well. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
Would we be judgmental of a priest who did an incredibly beautiful liturgy or would we say he was showing off? Are priests chastised for giving inspiring and uplifting homilies or would we rather them just give half-hearted homilies so as they don’t appear to be showing off? When a doctor performs his duties as a physician with excellence and utmost ability, do we say that he must be showing off his ability? Why would it be any different for a musician?
Of course, I’m not denying that there are musicians out there who may not be doing it for the right reasons. I’ve worked with a few myself. But I can honestly say based on the many colleagues I have who have been working in music ministry, most are doing their absolute best with the utmost humility in giving inspirational prayer through music whether they are musicians (paid/volunteer) or people who just want to give back to their parish and to God with music. Most of the directors I know are balls of stress all year long because of people ready to pounce on them with assumptions that aren’t even true. It’s this kind of attitude which make a lot of musicians just want to put their hands up and give up. Knowing what my director friends go through, I wouldn’t have their job for the world. Some of the nonsense you have to deal with is insane. And we wonder why Catholic music ministry in many parishes are so bad or some directors are depressed. This is one of the reasons. The sacred music and God is what keeps them going.