Disillusioned with Choir

When I first joined our choir two years ago, I was thrilled to be in it. I was full of inspiration during many of our songs and during Mass. I felt it was important to continue staying in the choir. Yesterday we sang at the big modern cathedral for rite of election with a world class choir director. I felt like a cog in the machinery. The secular music values seemed to overshadow spiritual intent (my impression) and I felt stressed afterwards and like I was out of my league. In short, I felt I didn’t sign up for that.:shrug: If it’s practicing til you’re blue in the face, being stressed at Christmas and Easter, :eek: comparing degrees of musical talent, :cool: jumping through hoops and just doing a job; then I’m thinking perhaps my time would be better spent elsewhere. Now some of the songs seem mechanical. I would miss the companionship, but even that seems to disappear after choir functions are over. Has anyone quit choir and for what reasons?


I ceased singing with the choir/folk group in another community when it began to feel more like performance and less like worship.

In my current parish, I have resisted all invitations to join the choir, often countering pleas of *“We need your voice in the choir” *with *“Doesn’t the congregation need my voice out here?” *We often lament that *Catholics can’t/don’t sing *-- If everyone who sings joined the choir, what would that benefit congregational singing?


It feels more like a performance now. :tiphat: I guess the only way to counteract that is to bow out for a while and not be mechanical about it. Perhaps if I just skip a couple times and then go back, it might be better. But then I’m thinking I’d really like to fly back east and have Easter with my sister and her family instead of singing Holy Thursday, chanting Good Friday, singing Holy Saturday, singing Easter Vigil and singing Easter Sunday. :eek: And then coming home to collapse for the remaining hours of Easter Sunday.:rolleyes:

For some of the same reasons you describe, I recently decided to take an indefinite leave from our parish’s EF Mass choir.

Singing with the choir at Mass should not, I reckon, lead one to feel any sort of stress. When I started to feel apprehension every Sunday before Mass, I decided it was time to take a break from it. But I sympathize with the fact that it’s not easy to do; the comraderie is enjoyable as you point out, and after all, it is a service to the congregation.

:shrug: I’ve been there!

Whenever I have felt that it is becoming more of a performance rather than worship, I take a break. Most of the time I find that I am not indispensible. :wink:

Also, I have found that I have always been welcomed back. I am refreshed and I am at worship again. I have also found that 9 times out of 10 I am the one who is performing… I don’t know what it is, but when I am disatisfied with the music or the others I myself am the one who is taking it as such. Not necessarily everyone else, you know? It’s my own attitude that I need to adjust. But then again, I find myself a bit of a control freak when it comes to music suitable for Mass. :shrug:

By all means, take a break! Get back in when you feel ready to and not before. You are worshipping from the pew. Those around you feel more comfortable singing when there is someone who is singing in the general vicinity! :thumbsup:

in Christ


I’ve been through much of what has been expressed here, but I decided I will not let my feelings or what the others do be a deciding factor in how I worship. I will attend practice, and try hard to learn the hymns, but I keep reminding myself why I am there.

I am there to worship, and contribute to the best of my ability. Rather than stress, if I am not sure of a hymn, I do the best I can (and sing very softly) Since praise is the most neglected form of worship, and the most beneficial to us as well as very pleasing to God, I will sing, and hopefully encourage others to join in.

Peace & remember we pray twice when we sing.


Rosalie, if you are feeling that stressed, it’s probably time to take a break. You can always go back later if you feel called to do so. I was in and out of the choir in my former parish several times, and they always welcomed me back. There are plenty of other things you can do to serve your parish and your community, and if choir has become a burden for you, don’t feel guilty about leaving.

I was in and out of the choir in my former parish church several times before I switched to the “traditional” parish in town. Sometimes it was a conflict with my job so I couldn’t make rehearsals and/or I had to work on Sundays, but I quit for awhile because I am a classically-trained musician and the choir director at the time went on a pop/rock binge, complete with drums and tambourine, and I couldn’t take it after awhile. When I took a break, I didn’t tell the whole story of how I hated that music; I simply said that I had other things I needed to focus on for the time being. By the time I was ready to return, they had a new choir director whose musical taste was more traditional.

So don’t feel guilty, and don’t burn your bridges. Do what you need to do to find a way to serve your parish which doesn’t make you feel drained and disillusioned. Who knows, you might make some new friends in the process. Good luck and God bless.

My goodness!!! I have been in choir for three years and we don’t sing that much. I think you guys are over done. We sing Holy Thursday and Holy SAturday at the vigil. We have a lot of it split up with a cantor(s) on other sundays and holy days. You need to see if other individuals will sing seperately. We have a contemporary choir that sings one sunday a month and this gives us a sunday off to attend any Mass we want. It seems a lot is put upon one group for you. We even have a children’s choir that sings once a month.
I would fly back east and enjoy it for once as you may not get a chance again.

FWIW, over the last 12 years I have been in the choirs of three different parishes, and at all three the whole choir always did Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Sat. Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday morning. Where I am now, we also do all of the holy days, although in the other churches, we would have a cantor for those instead. Maybe we are overdone…or maybe you are blessed with more musical manpower than we are, so you can split things up more easily. :slight_smile:

You think it’s stressful singing in the choir?

Try playing for one. Or worse, being the director for a choir.

Both the conductor and the musician are disheartened week after week by the no-shows and the drop-outs. It’s hard to sit up in the front and see that people who you counted on have dropped out. And when they give you an explanation, it makes you want to cry, since you try so hard to select songs that will be appropriate for the liturgy and challenging but not discouraging for the choir, and also within the music budget of the parish. (Music budget–that’s a good one.)

And it’s very hard to listen to be the recipient of the criticisms–“Those hymns are too high for me to sing.” "Why don’t you do something livelier/quieter/more solemn/less solemn/more classical/more modern/more in keeping with the Liturgy/more appealing to the young people/something with actual notes instead of just words/Chant/Latin/the original language of our parish/…

And heaven help you if your music evokes applause! That’s so inappropriate for the Mass!

In the meantime, you watch the Praise and Worship choir down the road at 1st Megachurch bulge with dozens of new voices every week, and they can do anything they please, including Broadway show tunes, and people clap and cheer for them. And they’re making a CD and going on tour! And their music budget is bigger than your parish priest’s salary.

I’ve played piano in church since I was a child, and my advice is, Making music in church is not something you do for yourself. It’s a service, like cleaning the floor or preparing the coffee for the Fellowship time, or counting the money after the offering. It’s joyful work, and I emphasize the word Work.

All that being said, if you need to drop out of the choir for a while for emotional, mental, or physical reasons, fine.

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I’ve been involved in music ministry since I was 15, so it was difficult for me to decide to quit. I did have some issues with the music selections and the proper use of the choir, but seeing my wife alone in the pews with my children was the biggest factor in deciding to leave.

I agree with Cat on this one. It is joyful work. I think maybe as professionals we often see it more as work because we’re usuing the talents we’ve honed for years. God calls us to give of our time, talent, and treasure. Being involved in the music ministry is part of that. ( I completely understand Holy Week!) Believe me, by June I am ready for a break!

My home parish has a choir of 8 that for a small group works their collective tails off. One lady is 88, another is legally blind, and we only have 3 men. With little exception, they are there for everything. They do it, not as a social group or hobby, but truly as a way to worship the Lord and to give Him a little part of themselves.

We have a fairly large parish (for our area anyway) but we can’t get more than 8 in the choir no matter what type of appeal is made. Why? People don’t want to commit, sacrafice, or spend extra time in church. Its a microcosm of Catholics in general today.

God gives us all gifts, and we are called to use those gifts for His glory.

I know people who are musicians or who sing for Mass. Many of them attend a different Mass as a “Parishioner”, then, go to the mass where they “work”. If you sing at 9 on Sunday, maybe by attending Mass on Sat PM you could find more balance?

Holidays are extra sacrifice for those who work for the Parish, from musicians to the secretary. Thank God for the people who keep the Parish and Mass going during those times.

Hi Rosalie - This just might be a time for you to take a break from the choir for a while. You don’t have to quit altogether. Until about 5 or 6 years ago, practically all my life I sang in all different choirs - from the children’s church choir, high school choirs, university choirs, volunteer church choirs to professional church and secular ones. There were always people who’d take a break or leave all together for a variety of reasons. Then, they’d come back again when they were ready sometimes after a couple of months, sometimes after a few years. It’s actually not that unusual.

I guess I’m in the same category as Cat and idrum677. Although it is a wonderful and joyous thing to be praying through music, it is still “work” and we are doing a job within the liturgy to provide a form of prayer to those who are there. This is how I look at it. If God gave me the gift of music and the ability to give 100%, the very least I can do is try to give that 100% back to Him. It is very rare that a musician does something perfectly - any musician will tell you that, but their love of music and their integrity incites them to give their best. And when a musician is a spiritual person that is even more enhanced in terms of sacred music. To not give more than my best at that moment in time is, for me, an insult to God and an insult to those who depend on that kind of prayer. It means that I wouldn’t be doing my responsibility and not showing reverence and respect to God who gave me those gifts. In many ways music is so wonderful and almost always beautiful. For me, it is a constant prayer no matter what kind of music I sing. Sometimes you can attain a level of spirituality which lifts one up and away from the earth. It can be heavenly. It can also be “easy” and can be approached with a certain joie de vivre, but it also has to be tempered by discipline and hard work, no matter what level of musician you are.

For choirs, if the director knows he/she can pull more out of a choir than what is given, he/she has the responsibility to do that. Mediocrity and just getting by can’t be acceptable if more can be done especially when it comes to giving to God. Also, as Cat described, it can be EXTREMELY STRESSFUL for choir directors and organists. Many times, their jobs depend on the quality shown during the masses, especially for Christmas and Easter. Very rare have I ever seen a choir director not stressed during the preparation for those times.

Try doing some renaissance motets when all but one or two tenors decide to not come for mass. Or with a children’s choir - they’re always there for the rehearsals because it’s during school, but on the weekends their parents don’t take them to mass and you only get about 10 kids out of a 30-voice kids’ choir. Some will take measures and basically kick those repeat offenders out. But then you have to deal with the lay-person politics of the parish or the school should you enact those rules and be ready to get attacked and hope that your pastor will defend you. Otherwise, your dead. Every parish has a different kind of dynamic and any person working within that parish can get really stressed out trying to work around it. Some directors have an better time not passing on that stress to the choir. But there are some directors who might have bad days or bad years (that often has to do with bad bosses) and the stress is felt by the choir.

All that said, I do understand how it can be very stressful and hard to accept when it is a church choir. If it is affecting you mentally, physically and spiritually, it would be a good time to take a break for a while. Otherwise, you’ll end up hating it. And if you feel a call to go back to it, you can join again refreshed. God bless.

That is such a great idea!!! :thumbsup: I have often done that myself, even when I’m cantoring. I’ll go to the mass before or after the mass that I have to cantor. That way, I have one mass to just be a congregant and then another mass as a music minister - a worker. Of course, I’m still praying, but there is a lot more things I have to think about when I’m cantoring. It truly does help keep a balance.

Wow we are in the green now not yellow. Speaking of the forum color.
Personnally while reading some of the other posts, I like choir also because my DH doesn’t attend so I would sit out with the congregation by myself so now I sit with the others like a choir family.:slight_smile: Our sunday choir is mostly old ladies but there is a mix and I am 60 so that is not considered old and since I joined others have too. Our other choir is mostly people under 60 and they have a guitar so they are considered contemporary. But if we were combined there would not be enough chairs. I considered joining that one but our choir director is very lively and fun. The other choir doesn’t really have a director of sort, he plays the guitar.
My director plays the trumpet once in awhile.
We also have a problem with no shows, but we sing a lot and we are trying to get him to understand we have family obligations. We do not sing in the summer it is for the cantors etc. We have tried to get the contemporary choir to sing one more sunday so it is two and two but no luck.
I am taking piano lessons on my 6th month and I think I could play melody on the keyboard organ we have which no one uses. But I am worried they, our priest, actually will say oh Barb is available and can play well. this is scaring me too as I didn’t want to be involved that much but that is why I took the lessons.
My teacher is very good and making us learn the chords, she doesn’t know what she is prepping me for. We have a lot of tallent and one of the things that is strong in our church is that we all know that we have family things to do so every one tries to take a turn. The liturgy and ushering help is arranged in 3 month incremants and arranged so no one has to hear Father’s homily twice. ha ha He laughs about that. If you had been to three Masses one on SAt and two on Sun yes it does get a little boring but you can pray as that is why I bring a prayer book but then you can get a stern look from someone saying I shouldn’t be reading during the homily. Oh well I might as jump in the water we are all singing to the Lord.
You probably have much musical tallent out there, we have a children’s choir that does a sunday so try to just ask around and see if some one would like to help play or sing cantor. some of our ladies bring a daughter with them to cantor with them and learn the ropes. One day we had a daughter of a mother singing and she grabbed the mic and just a belted out the psalm. It was cute but she had to be curtailed and I bet she makes in the music world some day. The problem was she didn’t want to sing unless she could sing as loud as she wants.
You sound like you are a real blessing I pray you can grow in all your musical talent.

Choir directors often have a difficult time separating their secular mindset from their sacred mindset. This is true for both those who ARE trained in music and those who AREN’T trained in music. I can’t speak for the relatively untrained, but for those with a professional music background, this inability to separate often manifests itself in the treatment of the church choir as a professional choir. This was largely my experience as a choir director. I’m not proud of it, but there were times I myself felt like I was just pumping out performances.

Sometimes we directors forget what we’re there to do. Personally, when something went awry I felt embarrassed and I took it very personally. I spent (and am currently spending) years in music school where the only acceptable way is the “right” way. Our music teachers are critical and often unsympathetic of our flaws (much like their music teachers were and likely how we will be ourselves). What my choir did was an extension of myself and any flaws hurt deeply. Not everyone is like this, but I suspect that deep down a lot of directors feel the same way I do. Were my priorities right? Not by a long shot, but I can only be the person that I am and pray that I may be guided in the right path.

Going back to your original post, I am very sorry that you are experiencing this. I hope that what I have posted may shed some light on what the director might be going through him (or her) self. I could be totally wrong of course, so don’t take anything I say as definite (I think there is a little self-therapy in my post). If you judge it prudent, please inform your music director of your decision. You don’t have to be specific about anything, but just let him know that you will be unable to participate in the choir for a period of time. It will be nice for him (or her) to have a heads up. Also, should you decide to rejoin, ignore the ones who feel it necessary to compete and show off their talent. I know its hard and a lot easier said than done, but sometimes people need to put down others to make themselves feel good. Its a crummy thing to do, but we’re all very flawed people. Pray for them and for the director.

All my best. Sorry if I rambled a bit.

Isn’t that the truth! All of a sudden a handfull of parishioners are music experts (it’s always about 1-5 who complain louedly when THEY don’t LIKE a piece).

This is so true, we do it for God. I began singing 9 years ago when I was 45. Although I played piano since I was six, I never sang. Singing is so different! I had to train my voice to sing properly, and learn how to follow the road map of choral pieces. My cantoring has been routinely criticized (by the sorry few “experts”) and praised! As long as our choir director tells me I’m good enough to cantor, I’ll do it!

This sounds like our choir. We are blessed to have a well-educated music director. We practice once a week, sing every Sunday. And yes, the whole Triduum thing. It’s exhausting and exhilirating. It takes a big commitment. I decided to put my heart where my treasure is. To praise the Lord in song. To those who criticize, I say, let them get up there in front of all those people and sing without shaking!

I have a great deal of admiration for all music directors for doing and impossible job.:thumbsup:

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