Christian Cyclopedia

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(musical). Group of singers taking part in ch. services. In the OT a sacred choir was organized by David (1 Ch 6:31–47) and continued by Solomon (2 Ch 5:12, 13). In both Jewish and early Christian services a solo voice over against a singing group chanted the Psalms. The cong. responded with a refrain. This arrangement of solo voice, choir, and cong. influenced the place and function of the choir in the beginning and early development of the plain-song period in the Christian ch. The all-male choir (boys and men) developed after Constantine's conversion and was securely est. in the Schola cantorum of Gregory I (see Gregorian Music; Popes, 4). The choir schools at Metz and St. Gall are of equal importance in the 8th c. The choir was of such importance in medieval times that the study of music is in essence the study of ch. music. The new music, the polyphony of the 12th c., brought about a new concept and organization of the choir. Previously the choir, composed of male clerics or at least boys strictly trained under ecclesiastical direction in a home attached to the cathedral, performed in the sanctuary. The music was monody chant, and the cong. sang little or nothing. Gregory XI introd. the Collegio dei Capellani Cantori, trained and directed by laymen; it sang either from a choir loft or the W gallery. The cong. did not participate in the singing of the liturgy in medieval times. Female voices were tolerated in some parishes even before the Reformation. Both traditions, male and mixed choirs, are found in Angl., RC, and Luth. chs. The Ch. of Eng. has tried to preserve a male choir, mems. of which are considered lower clergy who function in the chancel. The Luth. Ch. preserves a lay concept of the choir. The choir is gen. placed best in the W gallery (with organ console and organ chests) for acoustical rather than liturgical reasons. Proper choir vestment is cassock and white surplice for all. Female singers preferably wear black skullcaps. The Luth. Ch. preserves these chief functions of the choir: to sing the propers* that are beyond the ability of the cong.; to assist the cong. in singing liturgy and hymns; to sing music appropriate to the Ch. year, i. e., motets, cantatas, and anthems. RRB

M. Pierik, The Song of the Church (New York, 1947) and Dramatic and Symbolic Elements in Gregorian Chant (Tournai, Belgium, 1963); D. Johner, Choralschule, rev. M. Pfaff, 8th ed. (Regensburg, 1956); W. Apel, Gregorian Chant (Bloomington, Indiana, 1958); E. A. Wienandt, Choral Music of the Church (New York, 1965).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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