Choir Handbook


Convent of San Pedro Lerma Spain Double Organs: 1617 Diego de Quijano 1792 Pedro de Albisu




Romans 15.5-13

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” And again, Isaiah says,”The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.



Bless O Lord, us your servants who minister in your temple, grant that what we sing with our lips, we may believe in our hearts, and that what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.



The choir is a parish choir, though it contains members who travel from all sorts of places to be part of it. The general requirements for membership include a singing voice and to be able to sight-read (sooner or later, preferably sooner). The director of music in Roman Catholic Tradition is the principal cantor. The members of the choir are also expected to be cantors if needed – and therefore, in terms of musical skills, the bottom line of membership is the ability to prepare and peform (competently) a psalm response at a public mass. Membership of the choir requires both musical skills and potential to learn quickly as we work through the weekly repertoire. The director of music and the members of the choir can tell fairly quickly whether you are likely to keep up. Being a parish group, the choir has the normal expectations of Christian behaviour – and the ability to integrate socially is important in a group that aims at harmonious common work.



We are grateful for your time and interest in Sacred Music, and the success of the choir’s ministry depends on your faithful and regular commitment to the rehearsal and liturgy schedule as outlined here. With your diligence, all rehearsals will start promptly and end at the exact times indicated. To assist in providing the best atmosphere for productive and rewarding rehearsals, we advise you to arrive 10 minutes early to get yourself settled and your music in rehearsal order so that you’re ready to begin rehearsal in a clear and focused manner. Your regular attention to this matter is critical to the success of our very important work, and you will find that it greatly enhances your enjoyment of each rehearsal. Attendance is essential at all regular weeknight and Sunday morning rehearsals, and your presence is expected at all liturgical services for which the choir is scheduled. Your presence at each rehearsal is necessary for developing note security, good choral blend, and extending the musicianship required for the best execution of each of the works in the choir’s large and growing repertoire. If, due to an emergency or business conflict, you must be absent, please notify choir member Helen Lee as soon as possible. If you plan to be absent, please notify Helen 10 days in advance, and consult with your voice leaders and section members first. If possible, arrange a suitable substitute singer. Each absence affects the blend and balance of the choir, so this consultation process is a means of showing courtesy to your fellow singers as well as acknowledging the shared responsibilities and benefits of singing in a choir. Every person in the choir is very important, and each absence affects the choir’s ability to perform its ministry at the highest musical and spiritual level. The parish priest will be happy to provide references to members of the choir testifying to their contribution provided they attend rehearsals and the corresponding liturgical services.



Sunday Choral Masses are at 10 am, with an 9 am rehearsal call.The six annual Holy days include Maundy Thursday evening Mass in Holy Week, Good Friday (3 pm liturgy), the Easter Vigil night, The Assumption, All Souls, and the Patronal Festival of St Francis Day (held in early October, often transferred to the proximate Sunday). Ecumenical and Interfaith services held together with our neighbouring religious communities are also a matter of core importance. Rehearsals occur on Wednesdays and begin at 7.30 pm, finishing at 9 pm. Rehearsal also begins at 9 am on a Sunday before Mass, and the hour before designated liturgies unless otherwise arranged. Wednesdays before cantored Sundays (the 2nd and 5th Sundays of the month) are not optional rehearsal days. They allow us to work on more complex repertoire and to build up our skills base.



Most choirs in the Western harmonic and polyphonic tradition of music are divided into working teams of Soprano (Treble), Alto, Tenor and Bass. Repertoire is written for various combinations of voices, and so an English pre-Reformation custom for double choir works was to divide the SATB parts into Decani (the Lady altar side -liturgical South) and Cantoris (the Sacred Heart altar side- liturgical North) – divided simply to right and left. Excellence was always mutual. Our choir also adopts the decani/cantoris model when appropriate, with a voice leader appointed for each of the double parts. Either decani or cantoris may sing the first or second parts. This is left to the choice of the director of music on the given day. The voice leader’s responsibility will be first of all to know and be able to teach repertoire to other members of the section. This may involve sectional rehearsals from time to time, and will certainly involve a great deal of listening and observing on the part of the voice leaders of pitch, rhythmic expertise, phrasing, difficult notes or phrases and general musicianship.Voice leaders are asked to see that their sections have made the appropriate score markings in pencil. Voice leaders have also been asked discretely to assist other members of their line with observations and corrections. Other members of the choir are asked generally to refrain from making corrections during rehearsal. The general protocol for personal errors in choir is simply to one’s raise one’s own hand (to acknowledge you are aware of your own mistake) and move on without comment.



While we strongly encourage all members of the choir to become competent cantors and soloists, the choice of soloists at public liturgies and events is at the discretion of the director of music, who may consult on the matter with voice leaders.



No matter how much musical experience one has, we all need to be attentive to building our musical skills on a continuing basis. To assist in this quest, choir rehearsals will include some work in solfège and music reading. This will—over time—ensure that music-making is all the more enjoyable and fulfilling. As a start, be sure to get thoroughly familiar with the key signatures and solfège syllables printed in this brochure.



While the choir does voice-exercises and music skill-building exercises regularly, we recommend that all members consider taking some private lessons in singing as well. See the director of music for recommendations.



All of the music you’ll need will be provided for you in your assigned choir folder, hymnals or music collections. Please note that in most cases the numbers in the upper right-hand corner of your music (or on the binding of your hymnals) should match that of your folder. The numbers in the upper left-hand corner of your music are our library catalogue numbers. Please write your name in pencil on your score to help encourage other choristers who end up (accidentally of course) with your music to return it to you personally. These library numbers will be listed on the wall in rehearsal order each time you arrive for rehearsal. Discipline in this will assist choristers to have their own familiar score marking available to them as reminders.



Please help by returning music immediately after the liturgy for which it is required. Late return of music is an administrative pest for unpaid volunteers. Music needs to be returned as soon as we have performed it, or the time we meet at the very latest. Please return music once we have performed it.You are responsible for keeping your choir folder and music in as good a condition as possible. Be sure to get your music in this order before rehearsal begins so we can use our rehearsal time as efficiently as possible.  We encourage you to photocopy your original music and take it home. You can keep photocopy at home – not originals. This is permissible under copyright law for the purposes of study. You can transfer your score marking from your original to your photocopy.



If they are not already there, please write your number in pencil on your score to help encourage other choristers who end up (accidentally of course) with your music to return it to you personally. You are expected to mark your music as necessary during rehearsals (with breath marks, phrasing, dynamics, etc.), but please use only pencil when marking your scores. A pencil is provided in the container at rehearsals.



Saint Francis wears the red soutane (day dress), its liturgical and concert attire. It adds the white cotta (choir dress) when it begins a liturgy (but not at rehearsal). Please keep in the mind the dignity and importance of the ministry you are a part of. Black shoes are preferred. Sandals are also acceptable in a Franciscan parish.



Parking is restricted on many of the area side streets every day, but free parking is available in the parish grounds. Unfortunately, space is quite limited and we ask that you park sensibly, and be ready to move a car if requested by someone who has been parked in.



Sunday parking may be difficult because our rehearsals usually begin while the 8:30AM mass is in progress. Unless you arrive early, there may not be any parking available in the church grounds, so it’s probably easiest simply to park in street. Please be aware that if you park someone in (as we often need to), it is only reasonable to be willing to move your car to let them out at the conclusion of liturgy or rehearsal – and not after you have gone for coffee, lunch and a walk. If you are going to leave your car in the grounds to go elsewhere, please move it to a position where it does not leave other people no means of leaving.



scale degree syllable

  • 8 = do
  • 7 = ti
  • 6 = la
  • 5 = sol
  • 4 = fa
  • 3 = mi
  • 2 = re
  • 1 = do

major scale, ascending: do • re • mi fa • sol • la • ti do

major scale, descending: do ti • la • sol • fa mi • re • do

In major, do is the fundamental or resting note in the scale.

natural minor scale, ascending: la • ti do • re • mi fa • sol • la

natural minor scale, descending: la • sol • fa mi • re • do ti • la

In minor, la is the fundamental or resting note in the scale.

chromatic scale, ascending:

DO di RE ri MI FA fi SOL si LA li TI DO

chromatic scale, descending:

DO TI te LA le SOL se FA MI me RE ra DO



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