A choir is essentially a group of people that create music together; the musicians within a choir can use various instruments as well as their range of vocals, organized to create moving and uplifting music. The choir is most often associated with the church or Christianity as this where choral music is most common. In this article we will delve into a fuller understanding of the role of the choir within the church as well as choir-like groups of musicians that are present in other cultures and religions that serve a similar function. To fully understand the significance of choir music we can first gain an understanding of the benefits of music which allows us to in turn know the benefits of music composed by a choir.
Benefits of Choir Music
Music has been linked to spirituality since ancient times within various cultures and religions. It is has been a form of expression used to convey stories and emotions. It is also a form of embodiment of spirituality; music that is written and played in reverence to a particular deity, conveying the deep emotions of the musicians. Music also used as a practice of mindfulness or channeling where melodies and songs are received from spirit through the musician to be shared with the world.
Anyone who has listened to a piece of soulful music knows that music has the ability to affect our emotional state (which in turn can tune our mental and physical states). Our bodies are at a core level, pure energy that can be tuned to various vibrations. Music is vibrational rhythms that can affect us at an energetic level; directing, tuning, synchronizing and harmonizing us as we listen and feel the musical vibrations. This is why music is often used as a form of sound healing.
Listening to or participating in the music created by a choir can be a moving and healing experience. The intention of the choir being to spiritually uplift the congregation and direct this energy in unison is a powerful experience that can evoke beneficial emotional-energetic experiences. Another benefit of choir music is that it can foster a feeling of connection and unity as it is a collective experience.
Role of the Choir in Christianity
Choral music in a church is for the function of praising God, the music of the choir leads and enlivens the congregation singing together and creating a feeling of unity, upliftment and bringing the congregation into a state of collective harmony. The choir is present to sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Sometimes the congregation joins in and sometimes the choir offers practiced worship songs that are maybe too complicated for the congregation to sing.
The church choir is made up of a conductor (who directs the musical performance) and sections of singers (usually four sections singing in four-part harmony). Church choirs can consist of only acapella singing or include instruments such as pianos, pipe organs or cellos.
There are various types of choirs within Christianity for example; Gregorian Chant Choirs which are part of the churches and chapels of the Roman Catholic religion, the music of Gregorian choir is usually in Latin and has monophonic (simplistic single tune) melodies or the Bulgarian Choir which is a women’s choir that is also a world-renowned modern choir singing Bulgarian folk melodies which is influence by orthodox Christianity.
Other forms of choral music in various cultures and religions
Although the idea of a choir is most commonly associated with Christianity the practice of creating music in unison for the purpose of unified religious reverence, worship and spiritual upliftment extends to many other religions and cultures. These are some examples of how music in the form of singing or chants is applied in a few other well-known religions and cultures:
Buddhism and Hinduism - In both of these religions mantras are chanted or sung together within the temples. Mantras are repetitive sacred sounds that are believed to have sacred spiritual, energetic and religious powers. Mantras are chanted individually as well as together within a group meditation and this unifies and harmonizes the energy of the collective.
Sufism - In the religion of Islam using sound as a form of prayer and reverence takes the form of what is called zikr or dhikr. Zikr is the repetitive recitation of Arabic or Quranic phrases which serve as a form of remembrance and glorification of Allah (God). Zikr is considered to have spiritual, emotional and psychological benefits for those that recite it. The Sufi sect of Islam is known to perform zikr in a group setting.
Judaism - Jewish choral music is sung in synagogues and is purely vocal as instruments are not usually allowed in the service. There are different types of compositions usually based on praising god and conveying Jewish religious teachings.
Shamanism - There are various shamanic practices around the world and most have some focus upon interaction with the spirit world often navigated through altered states of consciousness. These altered states of consciousness or trance are sometimes induced through the use of singing and instruments. Within the culture of Native American shamanism, the songs that a shaman sings are called icaros, a shaman often sings these melodies accompanied by instruments such as drums, flute or didgeridoo during sacred ceremonies to guide the energy and curate the experience of the people participating in the ceremony. Many of the icaros have been channelled by the shaman from the spirit realm and some of these form parts of the music of the culture and the songs are sung in community.
Choral music, no matter its varied intricacies, is most definitely a potent form and practice of engaging with the power of sound. It is intentionally created from a space of faith and devotion to infinitely powerful spiritual energy. And the fact that these religious melodies are created as a group and appreciated by even more people amplifies the energy of this music making it all the more effective. If you are curious to experience some choral music now that you have contemplated this topic more intently you can check out the following composition on the Music of Wisdom YouTube channel: Relaxing Choral Music - The Best Choir Meditation Music For Emotional Healing, Surrender, & Peace.
__Written by Music Of Wisdom team