Hello everyone. I hope your Tuesday is going well. Mine began with a 6:30 spin class at the gym. I thought I could catch a train in time to meet my carpool companions on time, but nothing seemed to work out and I made everyone late for work. So not the best start to the day, but it is a beautiful day here in Chicago—sunny and warm.
I'd like to raise the issue of the use of microphones for parish choirs. Some history here. When I was the music and liturgy director at a parish in Florida many years ago, we had a choir of just under fifty. The acoustics of the church building were certainly not ideal (carpeting under the choir member's chairs, carpeting beneath the pews), but I never even entertained the idea of placing microphones in front of the choir. Their sound filled the church. When they sang acclamations and hymns, their harmonies supported the singing of the assembly. When they sang pieces by themselves, I felt quite confident that the nuances of their choral sound were being communicated well to those who were listening. Several years after leaving the parish, I returned for a visit. I found an entire new system of hanging microphones all over the choir area and a professional person was in attendance at Mass to be the "sound guy." The choir (which was even larger in numbers) had a very different sound. It seemed kind of artificial to me. This scenario was repeated in another parish where I subsequently served as music director.
This past Sunday while at Mass in New England, it was the parish choir's final Sunday of the year to sing at Sunday Mass. They were taking the summer off. Again, this was a substantial group of singers, yet there were microphones placed on the different levels of the choir area. There is little natural reverberation in this church. Sound gets absorbed quickly. Unfortunately, microphone placement was not ideal. There were voices heard above others because those people were standing closest to the microphones. What could have been a blended choral sound was really destroyed by the use of microphones. They sang a magnificent piece after communion. Unfortunately all I heard were a few voices "sticking out" over the sound of everyone else.
My advice? If you can, remove the microphones for choirs, unless they are absolutely needed. Try working with an acoustic sound rather than an amplified one, especially for groups whose choral sound is adequate for the space. I welcome any and all comments. I know that we "gotta sing," but do we really need that song to be amplified all the time?