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Choral Robes vs. Formal Wear

I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have been
speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would be
very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed to
all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly against
robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!
on October 3, 1998 7:43am
My own opinion, having performed in both choirs and bands, is that the
choral robe is a beautiful tribute to the art. It is not true in my neck of
the woods that choral robes are going out of fashion, and they are very
dramatic. Black and white is traditionally the dress for band, and is also
dramatic. But anyone who has been in concert choir ensembles knows the
impact on both the performers and the audience when robes are worn. I agree
with Vaughn Fritts.

----------
> From: Vaughn Fritts
> To: choraltalk(a)lists.colorado.edu
> Subject: Choral Robes vs. Formal Wear
> Date: Saturday, October 03, 1998 12:08 PM
>
> I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have been
> speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
> new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would be
> very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed to
> all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
> bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly against
> robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
> He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
> choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
> hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!
on October 3, 1998 8:08am
Your supervisor is correct. Choir robes for schools are anachronistic.
Most schools are using formal wear and if not formal wear, then some sort
of other uniform. The robes are fine for sacred music, but do not fit
with other styles. Yes they are easier, but is not what the current (last
20 years) trend is. In addition, recruitment of singers for your program
will be more effective if they don't wear robes. My high school son who
is in a good choral program agrees with me. (Now that's confirmation.)

Don Campbell

On Sat, 03 Oct 1998 07:08:32 -0500 Vaughn Fritts writes:
>I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have
>been
>speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
>new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would
>be
>very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed
>to
>all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
>bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly
>against
>robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
>He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
>choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
>hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!
>
>

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on October 3, 1998 10:13am
Vaughn,

Several schools in our system use choir robes. Mine is one of them. For
many years, we had dresses and tuxes. This was very expensive for the
students, and everytime you got a new student, you had to go through the
hassle of ordering a new dress or helping the guy get a tux. Several
years ago, I bit the bullet and bought enough choir robes for my
advanced chorus. As the size of the group expanded, I bought a few more
robes. After the initial expense, it is much easier. The robes belong to
the school, not the students. I charge the students a $10.00 robe rental
fee each semester. This pays for having the robes cleaned, repaired and
buying new ones when needed. I was fortunate enough to have stoles
donated by a church. I would not consider going back to the old outfits.

Charles Claiborne
North Cobb High School
Kennesaw, GA
on October 3, 1998 11:05am
I am president of a high school choral program in Oregon. Our large Concert
Choir (45+) wears blue choral robes with gray and white stoles. It is a
very clean and stunning look on stage, especially for large groups.(The
robes are even favored among judges at choral festivals we've been to) The
robes last for years, and are a cheap alternative. The problem with black
and white is everyone has to be wearing the exact same black and white
ensemble to look good. Then each year you have to be constantly buying or
making that outfit for new members. Good luck!
J.Wickre
Vaughn Fritts wrote in message ...
>I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have been
>speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
>new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would be
>very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed to
>all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
>bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly against
>robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
>He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
>choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
>hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!
>

on October 3, 1998 11:43am
I completely agree with this post, and completely disagree with the former
(wherein the poster gives the impression that robes are passe and are best
for presentation of religious music.) Robes are always clean, neat and very
stunning and uniform on stage. What we are trying to achieve is a uniform
sound, and part of that is accomplished by presenting a uniform look. This
is what robes do best. I have seen the absolute tackiest looking choirs,
sparkling away in their hot pink sequins and cummerbunds. It almost doesn't
matter what they sound like -- they look BAD and are distracting. Of
course, not all choirs have distracting attire, but I have never been
visually distracted by choirs in robes. (I have one choir in robes and
another in a nice, tasteful formal attire. Truthfully, I prefer the robes.)

Wickre wrote in message ...
>I am president of a high school choral program in Oregon. Our large
Concert
>Choir (45+) wears blue choral robes with gray and white stoles. It is a
>very clean and stunning look on stage, especially for large groups

on October 3, 1998 12:10pm
Vaughn,

Hope my comments help. I feel your supervisor is dead wrong! Many
schools use robes and you are correct--it's only one piece (two with a
stole), much easier to maintain, easier to fit, and lasts more than
three or four years. In addition, many All-State and other honor choirs
use robes for performances because it is easier than formal attire. I
know we use robes for all our honor choirs in West Virginia and the
visual effect is stunning!

John Ryder
jlryder(a)citynet.net
on October 3, 1998 12:24pm

Sorry, I forgot something else! Black and white attire can end up looking
cluttered and tacky, esp. if some people think that the color cream is the same
as white. Just something else to think about.
on October 3, 1998 6:50pm
In a message dated 10/3/98 3:03:00 PM Central Daylight Time, clancam(a)juno.com
writes:
> Your supervisor is correct. Choir robes for schools are anachronistic.
> Most schools are using formal wear and if not formal wear, then some sort
> of other uniform. The robes are fine for sacred music, but do not fit
> with other styles. Yes they are easier, but is not what the current (last
> 20 years) trend is. In addition, recruitment of singers for your program
> will be more effective if they don't wear robes. My high school son who
> is in a good choral program agrees with me. (Now that's confirmation.)
> Don Campbell
My daughters' high school has many choral programs. All choirs wear some
sort of uniform. Concert Choir, the largest and includes all other groups,
wears robes. Chamber Choir wears formal style clothing, and the upbeat
"Showstoppers" wears a more glamorous, or glitzy uniform or costume.
All four high schools in our school district still use the "old fashioned,"
or anachronistic if you will, robes. Parents seem to like them as do the
students.
All four high schools' chamber and concert choirs perform in concert
annually. It's very impressive and like a step back in time to when both
students and parents were less presumptuous. Maybe I should add that we
located in the anachronistic midwest.

Larry Autry
on October 3, 1998 6:58pm
In a message dated 10/3/98 10:19:40 AM Central Daylight Time, vfritts(a)pb.net
writes:
> My supervisor is adamantly against
> robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
> He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
> choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
> hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!
Obviously, he hasn't been to many midwest choir presentations. Check my
other message.
I have learned with some managers, that it's hard to win an argument. They
will always have a better response to your arguments. And -- even if you win,
you lose.

Larry Autry
on October 4, 1998 4:17am
I feel that either robes or formal wear are acceptable concert
attire depending upon what the students and the community
prefer. My personal opinion here is that Vaughn's supervisor is
taking the politically correct choice, hoping to avoid any
confrontation regarding the robes and their religious
connotation found in some people's minds.

Wouldn't it be nice if the MUSIC was the important part of the
discussion?

ART
on October 4, 1998 11:59am
>I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have been
>speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
>new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would be
>very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed to
>all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
>bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly against
>robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
>He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
>choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
>hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!

Choir robes are a direct descendent of academic robes worn by all students
at European universities, and perhaps still used at some of them. The
advantage to robes is that you don't have to worry about the details of
what's under them, and that still applies to both church and school choirs
today.

However, I think most people today equate robes with church choirs and
church choirs with religion, in spite of their academic origin. It may be
this connection that your supervisor is reacting to, even though he hasn't
come right out and said so. And it may be that the KIND of robes you are
picturing are, indeed, traditional church vestments rather than academic
robes. Perhaps you should approach him very openly about his feelings.

I had to laugh at his equating black and white concert attire with a
"modern look." True formalwear--white tie and tailcoat for men and formal
gowns for women--is late 19th century dinner clothes, hardly "modern" in
any way. Tuxes and less formal gowns are a "dress down" version of those
dinner clothes that came into use in the early 20th century. (Check out
some excellent historical movies like the Hercule Poirot series for good
examples of both types of dinner clothes in the 1930s.)

No answers, I'm afraid, but perhaps some points for pondering and
discussion. (And how do your choristers feel, or are you keeping them out
of it?)

John

John & Susie Howell (mailto:John.Howell(a)vt.edu)
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html

on October 4, 1998 2:44pm
As a very large person, I also vote for robes. I can fit in a large
choir robe whereas I don't fit in standard dress sizes. High school is
a difficult time for just about everyone. Large singers get extra
anguish if the outfits don't come in their size.

Berni Phillips
on October 5, 1998 9:28am
>I am a high school choral director in Long Island, New York. I have been
>speaking with my supervisor about replacing the old choral robes with
>new ones. Our school colors are red and white. I feel this look would be
>very dramatic. I also like the simplicity of choral robes as opposed to
>all the individual pieces involved with formal concert attire (shirts,
>bow ties, cumberbunds, pants, etc.). My supervisor is adamantly against
>robes and wants the "modern" look of black and white concert attire.
>He's telling me that very few schools are opting for the old-fashioned
>choral robe. I disagree with him on this issue and would appreciate
>hearing from other dirctors on this matter. Thanks!

I think has at least a little to do with the kind of music you emphasize.
Robes tend to give a "sacred" impression to a group, and secular music (at
least to me) seems to be bit out of place--especially if you ever do pop,
broadway, or novelty numbers. I'll tell you what though, robes are a
breeze to take care of (and to fit!!!) compared with the various
parts/pieces of tuxes and gowns.

Paul Langholz
Vocal Director
Clear Lake High School
Clear Lake, IA 50428

on October 6, 1998 3:55pm
John Howell wrote:

>No answers, I'm afraid, but perhaps some points for pondering and
>discussion. (And how do your choristers feel, or are you keeping them out
>of it?)
>

That was the best opinion to this thread, I guess. The Best suited "attire"
for your choral perfomance must be the one that best suited your choral's
character. You can seek it from your type of music, your concert theme(s),
and IMO, most important of all: how your singers will feel about it. Do not
apply the costume, if it leads to "strange" self-feeling among the singers,
or tend to make them feel unconfidence with their performance.

I guess that is one of the main function of any costumes (by the performer's
side): Bringing Up Self Confidence!

Feri Dewobroto
Jakarta, Indonesia
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