Chorister or Music Director?

I am a Mormon (nickname for member of ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), have been a Ward Music Chairman for 8 years, a music teacher for over 15 years, started piano when I was 4, violin when I was 8 and been trained professionally as a chorister (singing in a choir from the age of 7 or maybe it was 6.  It was a LONG time ago anyways…) . I have often wondered why we are the only church to call music directors as ‘choristers’. How can we get it so wrong?

The definition of a chorister according to The Collins Australian Pocket Dictionary is “a singer in a choir, usually a choirboy”.

Boy would our Young Men LOVE to hear that!

The question I have is: What is that game you play with a big orange ball, and have to throw it through a hoop? Oh that’s right. Handball.

Aren’t Ward Clerks and Executive Secretaries the same thing? No? Well neither are Choristers and Ward Music Directors.

So what is the difference exactly?

Well, Ward Choristers can actually be called to sing in the ward choir. We don’t generally do that, usually asking for volunteers instead, but it can be done.

Ward Music Directors (and any other director, I might add) leads or conducts the music. In Primary we call them the ‘Music Leader’.

The job of the Ward Music Director, as outlined in the church Music Handbook:-

 “recommends and conducts the congregational hymns for sacrament meetings and for other ward meetings as requested. To recommend hymns for sacrament meetings, the music director obtains a schedule of future topics from the ward music chairman, selects hymns that correlate with the topics, consults with the organist, and gives the recommendations to the ward music chairman to obtain the bishopric’s approval”.

May I add that the term ‘chorister’ is not mentioned ANYWHERE in the Music Handbook. Someone with intelligence did actually type it.

I know we Mormons don’t have great big cathedrals with gorgeously high ceilings and wonderful acoustics and enthralling young men and boys singing glorious hymns directed heavenward. We have temples instead. We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (on a side note, the ABC mentioned that they were “The most disciplined and skilled choristers in the world”).

Someone tried to tell the Relief Society group I was with today, whilst discussing time signatures, that choristers conducted. I don’t ever recall as a chorister (singing in the choir from the age of 7 to the age of 11) actually ever conducting the music. Our Choral Director/Conductor did that. I mean, call a violinist a viola player, and you would get poked in the eye with their bow.

Can we please stop referring to our Ward Music Directors as choristers?

If you REALLY have a burning desire to continue using the term ‘chorister’, please join I’m sure they can help you out :D

One comment

  • Yes Yes! I don’t know where they got the habit. Probably trying to be humble in the early days of the church. We don’t really promote ignorance now do we. I wish there was a researcher for church music that could tell me when that word first appeared anywhere to do with latter day saints. My other thing is calling the intermediate hymn the interlude hymn. If everyone understood it is intermediate they would only put the difficult songs there after everyone has warmed up. You know who understands that in both dimensions the minute you check all the songs out, or hear the struggles in the opening hymn sometimes. Intermediate hymns can function as an interlude but it is not best understood that way by anyone except an investigator or a chapel tour guide or something. Funny things these things I’m pointing out hey? But I totally agree with you – we should correct our ways -willingly. Understanding is a great thing, leads to progression and confidence.