Glouchester Cathedral Choir is typical of the English cathedral choir, consisting of 18 choristers, several probationers, 7 lay clerks and 4 choral scholars. The choir sings a number of weekly services and choristers are educated at King’s School. Today, however, I would like to focus on the number of choristers in a choir.
It continues to amaze me that 18 boys and 12 men can fill a large cathedral without the use of microphones, but how does that happen? When you watch YouTube videos of Westminster Cathedral Choir during their Midnight Mass, you will notice how full the sound it, but you have to remember that while their sound is not mic’ed through the cathedral, is for television, so what you are hearing is very different from what the faithful in the pew hear. I once heard Westminster Cathedral Choir in concert in the US and I will admit that they can sing LOUDLY (I was blown away, literally!), but I bet it doesn’t sound like that inside Westminster Cathedral.
I once attended a service at St. Thomas, sitting halfway down the nave. There the choir sounds full, but it nowhere near overpowering. However, later in the day, I was able to sit in the chancel and observe a full rehearsal of boys and men, and I was BLOWN away (again literally!). So, what can we glean from this?
Choristers can be trained to resonate in such a way that they do not need to be amplified, even in a large church. My choristers finally reached this blessed point last fall. At the same time, it is a different sound. Amplified sound is often too loud, which people mistake as robust singing. Often mics are just a cover-up for a lack of congregational singing. When you take them away, it will take time for people to adjust to a full, but less in-your-face natural sound. Go for it anyway. It is better. Trust me!