Choir Position
Over the past couple months, the choir as been discussing the pros and cons of changing where the choir sits. There are many aspects to consider. Our primary reasons for looking at this topic are accessibility, community, and worship.
On February 10th, the choir experimented with different positions around the sanctuary and got feedback from the congregation.
These are different factors we discussed and the feedback that we got from the congregation and the choir.
  • in the choir pews, the choir is quite far away from the congregation
  • sitting in the pews at the front brings the choir closer to the congregation
    • allows for a greater sense of connection
    • helps the church feel more full
  • the choir is better able to lead the congregation the more clearly they can be heard
  • they can see and be seen by the children during children’s time
  • the choir pews are not wheelchair accessible
  • it is difficult to get up to the choir pews if you have any mobility concerns
  • sitting in the pews in the front allows people not to have to go up and down the stairs
  • ramps and handrails would make the choir pews more accessible
Sound Quality & Clarity
  • where the choir is positioned now is one of the worst places acoustically
  • moving them back creates a better sound, but places them even further away from the congregation
  • moving them forward makes the sound better (louder and clearer)
  • when we experimented with different positions and got feedback from the congregation, the favourite position (in terms of sound) was on the chancel steps
  • the second favourite position was the first row of the choir pews and having a row stand in front of the choir pews
  • a number of congregation members wondered why we didn’t use mics
  • we don’t have the proper equipment to do that well
  • singers generally back off from supporting their sound properly when they have a mic in front of them
  • this immediately decreases tuning and tone and will continue to reinforce less than optimal singing over time
  • especially with the mics we have, it can lead to one voice being picked up above the rest
  • our (awesome) sound team has not had the training necessary to balance the sound
  • it does nothing to address the accessibility issue
Choir’s Experience of Worship
  • choir members often have difficulty hearing the service and seeing the screen
  • if there is a soloist or small ensemble, they have to watch them from behind
  • they are better able to see and hear during children’s time if they sit in the congregation
  • choir members have reported being able to enjoy the service better when they are able to face the chancel
  • the lighting is brightest in the choir pews
  • there is no lighting directly above the chancel steps
  • the choir has traditionally sat in the choir pews
  • some people value not changing things (this was not expressed by anybody)
  • change can be unsettling to a congregation
Worship Service
  • many people find the choir moving during the service disruptive
  • being able to move quicker, less, or not at all would create a smoother service
Sight-line to Director
  • when the choir and congregation can see the music director, the director can give cues to indicate what is happening in the music
  • this is especially important during the anthems
  • the choir is able to see the music director from the choir pews, but not from the chancel steps
  • moving the piano to the floor would mean they could see cues from the steps
Music & Worship made a recommendation to Session to try three different positions on three different Sundays. Session discussed the recommendations and approved it with two alterations. That the three different positions are each tried for two Sundays and that there be a paper survey readily available to give feedback on.
The three positions are:
  1. Having the choir sit in the front two rows of the congregational pews and move to the floor/steps for the anthem and the hymns (excluding the introit, offertory response, and benediction response)
  2. Having the choir sit in the front two rows of the congregational pews and move to the floor/steps for the anthem and having them stand and turn for the hymns (excluding the introit, offertory response, and benediction response)
  3. Having the choir sit in the choir pews and bring the second and third rows out onto the chancel for the anthem and hymns (those with mobility concerns can remain in the front row of the choir pews)
Here are the dates the new positions will be tried: 

March 17: Position 1
March 24: Position 2
March 31: Position 3

May 19: Position 3
May 26: Position 2
June 2: Position 1

Music & Worship appreciates the thoughts and ideas the congregation has provided so far and we look forward to considering this question further with you.