The Choir and the Chanters in the Orthodox Church

One of the things that surprised me when I started coming to Orthodox worship is that it’s not “led” by the clergy, to the same extent, I was used to in Western Christian churches. Much of the worship is actually… Read more


Transcript:

One of the things that surprised me when I started coming to Orthodox worship is that it’s not “led” by the clergy, to the same extent, I was used to in Western Christian churches. Much of the worship is actually led by the choir. The hymns that we sing, they aren’t like hymns in a hymnal, that have four verses and the lines rhyme. An Orthodox hymn is usually about a paragraph long, and its chanted, and those are the prayers that we’re singing. The prayers are all hymns and all the hymns are all prayers and because we’re singing them we’re led by the choir. We follow the melodies that the choir is using. So you’ll usually see in an Orthodox church there will be a choir area where the where the choir can stand and music stands and another stand for the choir director who’s facing them. Often, most likely, there won’t be an organ. Our singing in church is almost always acapella.  If there is an organ, it’s just used in a simple way to underline the melody. An orthodox church then definitely needs to have a choir director but it might not might not need an organist, might not have an organ at all. You’ll see in one area of the church the choir stand set up for the choir which take a pretty strong role in actually leading worship and vocalizing all of the responses that the people have. You might find that also there’s another area in the church where there’s just a couple of music stands and perhaps a stand that has shelves and liturgical books in it. This would be the chanter’s stand.  Yes, we have separate groups of choir, people that lead the worship during a large service, but for some of the smaller services where the the hymns that are being sung are specifically those for that day where the the people worshiping might not know these songs by heart, might not be familiar with them. There would be several people, chanters, who have trained themselves to sing in the in the appropriate tone, the melody, the hymns that are appointed to that day. So you might come into worship on an evening vespers service and see there’s no choir but instead at the chanter’s stand there are two or three or four people who are going to chant the services, the special hymns, for that evening. So you wouldn’t be surprised if you come in an Orthodox church and you see two different areas where there are music stands. One is for the choir,  the other is for the chanters.