choirs and congregational singing
So, I have a question to put to our devoted readers - actually, I suppose more of a scenario and request for commentary.
My new parish choir, capable as they are, has some members who have expressed a desire that I conduct them more often, even on congregational music. My problem with this is two-fold: one, this means I need to keep in sync with an organist and cantor, and it brings into question just who, the cantor or the conductor, is leading the music. The other problem is one of general principle: if the choir is singing as part of the congregation, and the congregation is not conducted, why should the choir be conducted?
What I feel this truly brings into question is the relationship between congregational and choral singing in the Mass.
When I first attended Mass in my new parish (“incognito”, attempting to be seen as just a regular parishioner), what I noticed was that when the choir sang harmonies with congregational music, if I sang confidently and well, I could not hear the choir’s harmonies. So, in order for me to hear the choir’s musical finesse, I had to stop singing.
Does singing harmonies, then, on a song like Haugen’s “Eye Has Not Seen”, undermine the choir’s task of supporting congregational singing, by giving them an incentive not to sing (i.e. to hear the choir’s harmonies)?
So, my first proposal would be that congregational music should contain either no harmonies, or just a soprano descant - something that can be heard and appreciated even when the congregation sings full-blast.
This, however, given our status quo of having the choir sing only offertories without the congregation, risks reducing the choir’s role to one of simply “learn a new anthem each week”. There are worse things, true, but what if we gave back some of the music that, now, is ordinarily given to the congregation, to the choir?