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A choir is a group of people who sing together. They rehearse together and sing at concerts or for religious services. Some choirs are professional (the singers are paid for their work in the choir). Other choirs are amateur choirs. Some amateur choirs let anyone who is interested sing with them, others may ask people to audition to see whether they are good enough before allowing them to join. Parts of a choir include soprano, alto, tenor and bass.
There are many kinds of choir:
- A mixed choir is a choir with men and women.
- A male-voiced choir is a choir for men.
- A ladies’ choir is a choir for women.
- A children’s choir or treble choir is a choir for boys and girls.
- There are also boys’ choirs and girls’ choirs.
- A male choir may just be for men or for boys and men.
- Children and adults do not often mix as adults have more powerful voices, but some mixed choirs may have children as well, especially if the choir is a more social group,e.g. the choir of a small church.
Choirs usually sing in several parts, most often in four parts. This means that there are two or more singers who are singing the same notes. The parts are called soprano, alto, tenor and bass. This is shown as SATB. If the music divides into more than four parts this can be shown in the same way, e.g. SSAATTBB (for music in eight parts: two soprano lines, two alto lines etc.) or SSATB (music in five parts with just the sopranos divided into two groups). Young children’s choirs may be unison choirs (all singing the same line), but older children will sing in two (SS) or three (SSA) parts or more.
The word choral means “sung”. A “choral society” is a choir of adults. They usually sing music for large choruses, often with an orchestra accompanying. Beethoven’s “Choral Symphony” needs a choir as well as an orchestra.
An a cappella choir is a choir which sings without any instrumental accompaniment.
A small choir is often called a chamber choir.
In popular music a group of singers may be simply called a vocal group.
Architectural part of a church
The word choir can also mean the part of a church or cathedral where the choir sit. The choir is between the nave (the main body of the church) and the sanctuary (where the altar is). The singers will divide into two groups and sit facing one another on either side of the choir area in the “choir stalls”. In cathedrals the singers on the left (when facing the altar) are called “cantoris” and those on the right are called “decani” (pronounce: dee-CAY-nye).
Choir of an organ
A large pipe organ may have three or more manuals (keyboards). The third keyboard is called the "choir". Traditionally the sound from the choir organ comes from pipes in a separate box behind the organist, facing the choir (the singers). It is often used to accompany them. Originally it was a separate instrument so that the organist had to turn round to play it. Later it became possible for the organist to play it from the main console.
Some famous choirs
Some famous choirs include:
- San Francisco Symphony Chorus
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- Huddersfield Choral Society
- BBC Symphony Chorus
- BBC Singers
- Red Army Choir
- National Youth Choir of Great Britain
- Vienna Boys’ Choir (German: Wiener Sängerknaben)
- Harlem Boys’ Choir
- Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge
- Choir of Kings’ College, Cambridge
- Westminster Cathedral Choir