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Church/Temple Choirs... Members/Ringers...

Dear All:
        I am attempting to formulate some guidelines and objectives, and set some membership policies for my temple choir. I am interested in finding out what other organizations -- most likely religious organizations -- are doing:
(1) Is your choir open to members of the church/temple only, or are non-members allowed to participate?
(2) Does you choir employ "ringers" or section leaders, either professional or non-professional?
(3) How many singers are in your choir, out of approximtely how many member-families?
        Feel free to either post your answers, or send them to my e-mail address directly...
Ron Isaacson
Choir Director
Or Chadash Singers
Cong. Or Chadash
Damascus MD
on July 17, 2011 8:44am
The issue of paid ringers is discussed extensively in this ChoralNet resource.
I don't know about synagogues, but most churches consider non-members to be "potential members" and are thrilled if they participate in some church activity, including the choir. Our church choir did Elijah this spring and the director brought in half a dozen visitors to augment the chorus, and no one had any objections that I know of. And to everyone's pleasure, a couple of the visitors stayed on as regulars.
on July 19, 2011 3:46am
    At Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, we welcome members and non-members in our adult and children's choirs. 
    For over 3 years,  there have not been section leaders.  We are now considering hiring a Cantor who would also be a professional soprano section leader.   If the budget will allow, we would also like to hire a male singer who could sing tenor most of the time but also occasionally assist the bass section.
    Our numbers have ranged from 5 to 10 during the past two years.   We have hired soloists for Good Friday (Tre Ore) and Easter, and it is amazing how much better the choir sounds with the blending professional voice(s).   There have been Sundays when there were 8 singers in the choir, comprising 20% of the congregation.  Other Sundays 5 or 6 choir members comprised 10% of the congregation.   Our regular seating places are upstairs in the organ/choir loft.   However, if a choir member serves as Assisting Minister, we usually bring the choir downstairs to sing with the piano.   Several choir members also serve as Lay Reader or Usher, and that can affect our singing location, also.
     Best to you.
     Pat Maimone
     Organist/Choir Director, 11 AM Classical Service
     Coordinator, 3rd Sunday (a) 3 Classical Concerts
     Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
     Santa Monica, CA 90405
on September 6, 2011 9:44am
We have 2 "choirs" - one is a traditional SATB choir, and the other is a choir that sings contemporary music along with guitars, piano, and percussion accompaniment (but they still generally sing in SATB harmony).  The traditional choir is ~17 members, 2 of those are paid singers.  The volunteer members feel VERY STRONGLY about the benefit of having the two paid singers, and it is my long-term goal to get to a point where we have a paid singer in each section.  I also feel strongly about it because I have seen the significant benefit to my choir.  It allows me to program more reliably because I can count on having voice parts covered; also having a strong bass singer allows me to program accapella music confidently because his strong voice helps the rest of the ensemble to stay in tune. 
the contemporary choir is around 8 members, if you don't count any of the instrumentalists.  There are no paid musicians in that group other than myself, the director (I sing and play piano with that group). 
I would be happy to welcome anyone into the choirs, member or non-member.  In general our church does not place a strong emphasis on needing to be a member in order to participate; in fact I would say the opposite.  When we have done major works with the choir I have opened participation in those events to folks who are not regular choir members and also to folks who are not members of the church at all.
Our congregation worships ~250 on a Sunday, divided over 3 services; 1 with no music, 1 led by the contemporary choir, and 1 led by the traditional choir.
Julie Ford
Minister of Music, St. John's Episcopal Church, Plymouth MI
on September 8, 2011 5:50am
I direct a small (10 members at best) Lutheran church choir. I am not a member, I just play one on Sundays. They are pleased with me so i am welcomed at all functions. The church does not hire members, so I guess i'm seen as a "Potential member" as others have mentioned.
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