ECENTLY, I have heard and read from different people and different places that “the primary function of church choirs is to lead the congregation in singing.” I am sure many of you have heard similar things, and have even read that in Church documents.
What is your opinion on this? I think this is a bad concept. Leading the congregation is only part of what choirs do. It is not a wrong concept, but it is bad because it might lead to confusion. Don’t get me wrong, the congregation should be allowed and encouraged to participate in singing, but that is not the primary role of the choir. On the other hand, singing complex and difficult pieces to help people meditate is also not the primary function of the choir. I have seen choir members who got so anxious and frustrated because they worried that their performance might not be able to please the faithful. Both of the above cases are bad because “the people” became the focus.
The primary role of the choir is to pray the Mass. Traditionally, choirs and scholae have always been clerical groups. The choir sings the Mass just as the priest celebrates the Mass. Sacred Music is part of the liturgy and the role of the choir is to pray them through singing. Leading others to pray is the secondary role and it only happens when the choir members themselves are praying. God should be the center of the liturgy. Whether people can sing along and whether people enjoy our singing should not be our main concern. The ultimate goal of a choir is to praise and glory God by singing and praying well.