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Choir vs. "Chorus"


Just a curious semantics question..
Do you prefer the title of "choir" or "chorus"? To me, a chorus is a
group of people who sing, sometimes well. A choir is a group of
musicians. I don't know why I have a negative connotation of "chorus"
in my mind. Any other ideas?
according to the dictionary, "choir" can relate to a religous singing
group. "Chorus" is more broad
Nate

Nate Miller
millerna05(a)gmail.com
(540) 840-2339
James Madison University
Bachelor of Music
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia
www.sinfonia.org
Exit 245 (Male A Cappella)
www.exit245.com
on June 7, 2005 9:27pm
On Jun 7, 2005, at 10:19 AM, Nate Miller wrote:

> Do you prefer the title of "choir" or "chorus"?

"Chorus" is invariably used in operas and musical theatre, or other
situations where solo singing is primary. "Choir" is always used for
church choirs. Other groups use them pretty much interchangeably. See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choir


Allen Simon
allen(a)choralnet.org
ChoralNet Chair of Website Development
http://choralnet.org
on June 7, 2005 9:27pm
Hi, Nate,

To me, "choir" always implied a church affiliation. Chorus means a vocal
ensemble. Thus, all choirs are choruses but all choruses aren't choirs.

HOWEVER, I think most don't see it that way.

Judy Gary
Charlottesville
on June 7, 2005 9:28pm
At 1:19 PM -0400 6/7/05, Nate Miller wrote:
>Just a curious semantics question..
>Do you prefer the title of "choir" or "chorus"? To me, a chorus is a
>group of people who sing, sometimes well. A choir is a group of
>musicians. I don't know why I have a negative connotation of "chorus"
>in my mind. Any other ideas?
>according to the dictionary, "choir" can relate to a religous singing
>group. "Chorus" is more broad
>Nate

Hello again, Nate. This is one of the "puzzlers" I ask my Choral Lit
class to get them thinking. (Another is, "Is it better to sing in
the original language or the language of the audience or
congregation?")

There is no cut and dried answer to this question. Usage rules, and
usage is all over the place, as in "brass choir," "clarinet choir,"
etc. You could also take the question farther and investigate "glee
club" and "backup singers."

Have fun!

John


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
(mailto:John.Howell(a)vt.edu)
http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html
on June 7, 2005 9:29pm
At 1:19 PM -0400 6/7/05, Nate Miller wrote:
>Just a curious semantics question..
>Do you prefer the title of "choir" or "chorus"? To me, a chorus is a
>group of people who sing, sometimes well. A choir is a group of
>musicians.

Sorry. I meant to comment on this in my previous reply.

I fight this mindset and terminology every day, even in my own
thinking and word choices. Singers are (or should be) musicians. I
believe the word you want is "instrumentalists."

Oh, and don't forget the concept of "Greek chorus."

John


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
(mailto:John.Howell(a)vt.edu)
http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html
on June 7, 2005 9:29pm
Great question Nate. I have a Senior High Chorus, Middle School Chorus,
but prefer the term Choir when referring to the select "Jazz Choir".
Not exactly sure why. Probably has something to do with your summary.
Matt



> Just a curious semantics question..
> Do you prefer the title of "choir" or "chorus"? To me, a chorus is a
> group of people who sing, sometimes well. A choir is a group of
> musicians. I don't know why I have a negative connotation of "chorus"
> in my mind. Any other ideas?
> according to the dictionary, "choir" can relate to a religous singing
> group. "Chorus" is more broad
> Nate
>
on June 7, 2005 9:31pm
Dear Nate,
"Chorus" and "Choir" can be interchangeable, in my opinion. I think you must have heard choruses that have not unimpressed you in the past--no one can fault the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Atlanta Symphony Chorus, etc. as far as musicianship is concerned. I really believe it has to do with your own personal experience as what one believes is "better". I have heard "choirs" that have left me shaking my head, however--mostly church choirs! I do not make judgments, one way or the other, until I hear a group, be they chorus, choir or a term you did not mention "chorale". And what about Glee Clubs?

Having 20+ years of experience in this Biz, I'll make some generalities for you--others may agree or not! I believe "Choruses" are usually larger groups. I believe "Choirs" are smaller groups or religious ensembles. And "Chorales" can be anything! And this is all depending on the area you are in. I am beginning a high quality amateur chamber choir this Fall ( news will be posted on ChoralList later this summer) and I am not calling it a chorus, choir or chorale LOL!

Marie Grass Amenta, Director
ARTS ALIVE! Youth Singers and
Music Director and Founder,
The Midwest Motet Society(Copy Right Pending)

teteme(a)ameritech.net
.
on June 8, 2005 10:58am
"Choraltalk Gateway" wrote in message
news:200506071719.j57HJuUb019589-host2.oneononeinternet.com(a)choralnet.org...
>
> according to the dictionary, "choir" can relate to a religous singing
> group. "Chorus" is more broad

That's the difference to me, also. Chorus is secular, choir religious.
There's no implied difference in the standard of music-making -- any
difference there comes from context (e.g. Broadway chorus line vs.
BBC Symphony Chorus)

Rob Kerr
on June 8, 2005 10:59am
Allen Simon wrote:

"Chorus" is invariably used in operas and musical theatre, or other
situations where solo singing is primary. "Choir" is always used for church
choirs. Other groups use them pretty much interchangeably.

See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choir

Of course Wikipedia is essentially an open compilation of individual
contributions, too. Very little is "invariable" or "always" these days:
Show "choirs" and Praise "choruses" abound, although the distinction made
above is generally observed.

Some people consider one or the other of these terms to be pejorative, so
they choose the other! Others name their ensemble for the way it the name
flows when spoken. Instrumentally "choir" often refers to a group of like
instruments -- clarinet choir, brass choir, etc. But in the organ world,
like-sounding stops are referred to as a chorus -- reed chorus, string
chorus, etc. In early music "consort" is used in a similar manner.

I'd be more interested in a campaign among directors of vocal
choirs/choruses/consorts (and their instrumental colleagues) to correct the
usage of a terminology that has shown up several times on this strand. That
is, the use of the term "musician" to refer only to instrumentalists. So we
have program listings and credits to "musicians" and "singers," or to the
"choir" and the "musicians." Of course there is no guarantee that any
specific singer or instrumentalist really qualifies to be called a
"musician," but the blanket exclusion of singers is both insulting and
inaccurate. Perhaps the use of "musician" has become attached to
instrumentalists because of the effect of the musician's unions, or perhaps
because of the huge number of amateur singers who are sometimes assumed (or
assume themselves) that their skills are substandard. But I would put the
"musicianship" of many singers that I have worked with (both amateur and
professional) up against any instrumentalists of similar experience.

As a "class," singers are musicians, and so are instrumentalists.
Individual singers and instrumentalists are considered to be musicians (or
not) on their individual merits.

So in our programs, bulletins, and press releases, let's either refer to our
entire body of performers as "musicians," or list them properly in our
preferred terminology of "orchestra/band/instrumental
ensemble/instrumentalists" and "choir/chorus/singers."

Charles Q. Sullivan
cqsmusic(a)hotmail.com
on June 8, 2005 9:58pm
Bravo, Charles!

Snip *As a "class," singers are musicians, and so are instrumentalists.
Individual singers and instrumentalists are considered to be musicians (or
not) on their individual merits.

So in our programs, bulletins, and press releases, let's either refer to our
entire body of performers as "musicians," or list them properly in our
preferred terminology of "orchestra/band/instrumental
ensemble/instrumentalists" and "choir/chorus/singers." * Snip

My own husband, an ENT doctor, made the mistake of answering for me the other night at a gathering of musicians. When asked what instrument I "played", before I could say a thing, he piped up with, "she doesn't play anything but the piano, she's a soprano". He tells me the sofa in the family room is quite comfy!
I have always said that my instrument is voice and feel that more firmly than ever. I treat my singers/choir members as if they are intelligent musicians, ALL of them, even the children I work with. I believe there is a self fulling prophecy-thing going on--if you TREAT folks like they know what they're doing, they will act like they know what they're doing. And the reverse is also true. And, if someone sees their name in a program as a "Singer", they might feel as if they are not on equal footing with the "real" musicians. I usually just name people by instrument, such as violin, or under the vocal part they sing, not dividing them by "musicians" and "singers". Works for me!
Marie Grass Amenta, teteme(a)ameritech.net
on June 9, 2005 8:12pm
Over here nearly everyone uses 'choir'. 'Chorus' is
used pretty much exclusively for theatre or opera
rather than choral music. (For some reason barbershop
'choruses' seem to be the exception.)

A choir
> is a group of
> musicians.

I think the best musicians are choral singers.

Simon Loveless
Melbourne, Australia


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