Rules for Gregorian Part 4 - Thoughts and Reflections - Composition of Choirs and Scholas


One thing that comes up periodically is the inclusion of Woman in the schola (not the choir) for singing Gregorian Chant.

There are important distinctions to be made in reading the next passages.  First, choral music is not Gregorian.  Second is congregational singing.

The guidelines for Schola that I was given decades ago are summed up as:
  1. If there are men capable of forming a schola, then they should with the exclusion of women.
  2. If there are not then, a female or mixed schola could be used.
Now there are three passages to consider:

12. With the exception of the melodies proper to the celebrant at the altar and to the ministers, which must be always sung in Gregorian Chant, and without accompaniment of the organ, all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites, and, therefore, singers in the church, even when they are laymen, are really taking the place of the ecclesiastical choir. Hence the music rendered by them must, at least for the greater part, retain the character of choral music. (INSTRUCTION ON SACRED MUSIC PIUS X
I need to look up 'choral music', but I do know that the word 'choir' has a specific meaning.  The 'choir' is those who sing in the 'choir' section of the Church.  The 'choir' is the section just in front of the Sanctuary ... it may even be considered part of the Sanctuary.

Source: Roman Catholic Churches.

13. On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir. Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.(INSTRUCTION ON SACRED MUSIC PIUS X
This 'ancient usage' is discussing the presence of the laity in the Sanctuary - similar to the employment of Altar Boys for the roles normally performed by religious.

So, if the 'choir' is in the Sanctuary, women are to be excluded for the above reasons.  This however does not talk about congregational singing because obviously the responses sung by the laity are part of the liturgy and it would be absurd to say that women can't sing the Kyrie etc.

Counter point to this is the phrase "all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites".

So is the singing of Gregorian Chant by a mixed or female choir located in a choir loft at the back of the Church proscribed?

On to Pope Pius XII who made a distinction:
74. Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough choir boys, it is allowed that "a group of men and women or girls, located in a place outside the sanctuary set apart for the exclusive use of this group, can sing the liturgical texts at Solemn Mass, as long as the men are completely separated from the women and girls and everything unbecoming is avoided. The Ordinary is bound in conscience in this matter."[26] Pius XII (MUSICAE SACRAE PIUS XII)
So looking at both documents what do we have for principles?

  1. When religious are not available - laymen and boys can enter the sanctuary to form the 'choir' and sing Gregorian Chant. (Pius X)
  2. When there are not enough laymen, a mixed schola is allowed provided they are outside the sanctuary. (Piux XII)
So ... what I was taught decades ago appears to have been correct!



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