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Location of the Choir during Mass

Issue: What is the proper location of the choir during the Mass?

Response: The choir should be placed where it is part of the assembly, where it allows each member to fully participate in the Mass, and where it has the ability to be heard.

The Vatican II Instruction on Implementing the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Inter Oecumenici) states: “The choir and organ shall occupy a place clearly showing that the singers and the organist form part of the united community of the faithful and allowing them best to fulfill their part in the liturgy” (no. 97).

Discussion: The choir aids the community in prayer and worship. It helps focus the community’s attention on the liturgical action taking place at the ambo, the altar, and the chair.

In accordance with Inter Oecumenici, the General Instruction to the Roman Missal states that the position of the choir should show that it is part of the assembly—but a part that has a special function. The location should help the choir to exercise its duties and allow each member to fully participate in the Mass (GIRM nos. 294, 312).

The document Built of Living Stones, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November of 2000, also provides guidelines regarding the choir’s placement. The stated preference is for the choir to be in a position where it is part of the assembly, and not to be in or near the sanctuary. At the same time, occasions or physical situations (such as lack of space) may necessitate that the choir be placed in or near the sanctuary. In such cases, the choir must not be a distraction from the liturgy or overshadow the priest (no. 90).

With the aid of music, the congregation is drawn into the beauty of the liturgy. Having the choir in an appropriate location to perform its proper function enhances the community’s ability to worship.

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