Lenten tips for choristers

  • Erdinger Weissbier is an acceptable 0% alcohol beer.
  • On Ash Wednesday, always wipe off ash before removing one’s surplice.
  • Performance time of Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus is 12 to 13 minutes, and if sung during the ashing might be tailored to the size of the congregation, cut from end of v8 to the start of v17, i.e. only 4 top Cs in total if sop’s solo is shaky.
  • Remember during Friday practice, there’ll be a choir Mass at half-time rather than “graveyard ghosts”.
  • Wash your feet on Maundy Thursday, it might be you.
  • Don’t forget Laetare Sunday, or you won’t be in the pink.
  • Sitting through a service in a wet surplice in distinctly unpleasant. Remember an umbrella for the ecumenical walk on Palm Sunday;
  • Don’t go for a 10km run if you are planning to sing at Stations on a Sunday evening: it involves genuflecting a minimum of 16 times, before  Benediction.
  • Of all seasons, Lent has the best choral music, it’s generally a capella, and there are often fewer in the congregation to mess up the acoustic.
  • Discourage Director of Music to arrange any non-liturgical singing during Holy Week, such as concerts &c; with rehearsals, there will be ~20 hours singing from Palm Sunday to Easter Day.
  • During the Gloria on Maundy Thursday, it’s the choir versus the servers (with the bells) and the choir must win. They might be louder, but don’t have the stamina.


Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Lenten tips for choristers" in Law & Religion UK, 1 March 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/03/01/lenten-tips-for-choristers/

10 thoughts on “Lenten tips for choristers

  1. And remember folks, it’s “Laetare”, not “Laetere”, just as it’s “Gaudete”, not “Gaudate”.

  2. Tip also needed for handling the ‘depositio’ of the A-word in rehearsing Easter music – or can choir practices be deemed to take place outside real time?

    • One of our priests once suggested that I was keeping “Oxford time” since I tended to arrive at the 9:30 Mass just as he was processing in. However, a 5-minute fudge is not a long enough time-shift to accommodate rehearsing Easter music during the Easter Triduum. In our case, it is the music for Good Friday which requires most rehearsal {and the involvement of the priest]; that for other services is well-known and needs only “topping and tailing”.
      In the past, rehearsals on Good Friday were not permitted in church, and we were required to repair elsewhere. The situation in now more relaxed, so the tip must be: be aware of the requirements of your priest when arranging rehearsals during this period, and possible have a “Plan B”.

      • And – speaking from experience – it’s very a good idea, if you have to sing the Exsultet by the light of two candles, to rehearse it like mad beforehand because you can guarantee that you’ll hardly be able to see the copy.

        • Good point. The same applies if you have to sing one of the psalms when the remainder of the church is in darkness.

          And something I forgot until last night’s ashing. Do not attempt to wipe off any stray ash from a surplice, immediately after imposition. Shaking the surplice is a much better option.

  3. As for stray ash, it may depend on whether (heaven forfend) you purchase rather than make your ash: one of the commercial varieties is described as ‘fluffy’.

    Having your own candle for Exsultet, whatever else is provided, helps. (And do include the ‘work of bees’ additions.)

    At the church where I am assisting, children gathered up the letters of the ‘A-word’, solemnly put them in a plastic bag from our local Christian bookshop, and were charged with finding a hiding place for it. Perhaps we will need to bribe them with eggs to reveal its location on Easter Day.

    Throwing small chocolate eggs at the congregation at the Easter vigil (as practised by the former Dean of Blackburn) is a laudable (if not ancient) custom.

    See what fun religion can be!

    • Thanks for sharing the “traditions” of the churches you are associated with. I particularly like hiding the letters of the “A-word”.

      As for stray ash, whilst not contributing much to our “Shrinking the Footprint”, we do recycle our Palm Crosses into ash [though I haven’t done a carbon balance on the relative emissions of domestic versus purchased ash].

      After opening one of the remaining bottles of Erdingers, I need to renew supplies from Sainsbury’s [which is much cheaper than Waitrose].

    • I agree that there is a greater battle during the Gloria at the Easter Vigil, but at my local church, the congregation generally participate as well – a more uneven balance of forces, even with the vicar’s ban on some of the more “delicately modulated instruments”; also seem to be less of a contest between choir and servers.

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