In some sectors of American Christianity, choirs are on the downturn, yet this musical form is adapting itself to the new religious landscape, writes Cathy Lynn Grossman in a Religion News Service-based article in the Washington Post (Sept. 17). Citing the recently released National Congregations Study, Grossman reports that choirs are on the downturn especially among evangelical and mainline Protestants.
Choirs are still strong in black churches, where 90 percent of regular attendees report a choir at their main service. The same is the case for 76 percent of Catholic worshippers. Evangelicals reporting choirs declined from 63 percent 14 years ago to 40 percent; mainline choirs are said to be down from 78 percent to 50 percent. Grossman reports that sales for music for choral anthems has dropped so sharply that the United Methodist Church’s publishing arm, Abington Press, stopped buying new anthem music.
Those interviewed cited several factors for the choir decline, including the recession, high mobility in the U.S., and the “culture of performance and expertise” where amateur singing is discouraged. Some evangelicals see a different kind of choir emerging from the traditional performance choir. In its place are choirs that lead the whole congregation in song. Because a segment of evangelical churches are recent church plants, it may also be the case that they will begin choirs as they develop.