Choir (music)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A choir (from the Greek χορός choros “dance floor”, “round dance”, “dancing crowd”) is understood in music to be a community of singers in which each voice is cast several times. In addition, choir is the name for a piece to be performed by this ensemble .

The term choir in its current meaning was not coined until the 17th and 18th centuries. Until then, a choir was a group of musicians in general. This is still expressed today in terms such as trombone choir or violin choir .

In addition, choir in instrumental music refers to the different voices of similar musical instruments (for example as a flute choir : recorders from the small sopranino recorder to the large bass).

Types of choirs

There are different criteria for characterizing choirs. These are not exclusive and often overlap. There is no single taxonomy . Basically, a distinction is made according to the voice registers that occur:

In addition, other features are used:

There are many choirs who have adopted the name of their preferred composer. Numerous Bach choirs , but also Monteverdichöre and Heinrich Schütz Choirs , exemplify this for baroque music. Classical, romantic and modern composers can also be named, such as the Mozart Choir , Mendelssohn Choir , Reger Choir or the Hugo Distler Choir .

In the 21st century, the phenomenon of the virtual choir came about through the performance of a piece of music by a group of people over the Internet. The specialty is that the individual singers and the conductor are not in the same room. The attendance is only mediated via the Internet .


Voices for choir singers
Female voices Male voices
Range of a choral soprano
Soprano (S)
Range of a choir tenor
Tenor (T)
Range of a choral mezzo-soprano
Range of a choir baritone
Range of a choir alto
Alt (A)
Range of a choir bass
Bass (B)

Singers with the same vocal range are grouped into vocal groups . The division of the vocal groups is determined by the piece to be performed and is called the cast . Different instrumentations can appear in one piece. In order to show the division of the vocal groups, their first letters are usually written one after the other and this abbreviation is given in connection with the title of the piece.

The number of singers in a choir can vary widely. This can be in the single-digit range, but it can also grow to around 20 to 50 in larger casts, or even to 100 or more participants. Havergal Brian's extremely voluminous orchestrated Gothic Symphony , for example, uses 500 voices. For the sake of clarity, these are often divided into two SATB choirs. This is also the case in Mahler's 8th Symphony ( the Symphony of a Thousand ). However, there have already been large choirs or divided choirs. a. in the Venetian baroque double choir.

SATB - standard line-up for mixed choirs

Usually, in a mixed choir, the female voices are divided into the high soprano and the lower alto range, and the male voices into the high tenor and the low bass range. The abbreviation for this standard line-up is SATB . The common mezzo-soprano and baritone intermediate voices in solo singing are more likely to be found in choral music as soprano II or alto I and bass I (also bass baritone ).

Voice division and choir division

Each vote can be split again internally and independently of other votes. The first voice is often higher and the second lower. In the case of the abbreviation, the letter of the voice is doubled.

  • SSAATTBB: Soprano I / II, Alto I / II, Tenor I / II, Bass I / II (eight-part mixed choir; e.g. to be found in romantic choral music)
  • SSATB: Soprano I / II, alto, tenor, bass (five-part piece with divided soprano)

Further divisions are possible, but rarely.

If the choir is divided into partial choirs, these are also divided in the abbreviation. Double choir is a typical line-up in baroque music (examples: Venetian multi- choir and some motets by Johann Sebastian Bach ). In the case of multiple choirs, the pitch range (ambitus) of the voices is irrelevant (a soprano in choir I does not sing higher than a soprano in choir II); Double choirs are usually formed with a balanced voice.

  • SATB / SATB: Soprano I, Alto I, Tenor I, Bass I, Soprano II, Alto II, Tenor II, Bass II (double choir; in contrast to the eight-part mixed choir described above).

The choirs have been divided into more than two choirs since the early baroque period (see also Venetian multi-choirs ). For example, some pieces in the Psalms of David (1619) by Heinrich Schütz are based on four choirs, from which certain voices or choirs can be performed instrumentally if necessary.

Further forms of instrumentation

  • SATB: soprano, alto, male voice (reduced version of SATB, often due to the lack of men in choirs)
  • Boys' or women's choir -Besetzungen
    • SSAA: Soprano I / II, Alto I / II
    • SSA: soprano I / II, alt
    • SAA: soprano, alto I / II
  • Male choir line- ups
    • TTBB: Tenor I / II, Bass I / II the same
    • TTBar.B: tenor I / II, baritone, bass
    • TTB: tenor I / II, bass
    • TBB: tenor, bass I / II equal to TBar.B: tenor, baritone, bass

Comments on historical special forms

In addition to the usual musical practice, there are special forms that can be traced back to historical models:

  • Participation of high male voices ( countertenor ) in soprano (“treble”) and / or alto.
  • the historical performance is on theories under which certain choral works of the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque in the voices principle soloist (ie only with a singer) are to occupy.
  • the old choir practice allows instrumental parts to run along with the vocal parts.


The exact number of choirs and singers in Germany can only be estimated as many choirs do not belong to any organization and, for example, school choir work is not systematically recorded. Reliable figures are therefore only available from the choir associations ( German Choir Association , Association of German Concert Choirs , Cäcilienverband , Choir Association in the Evangelical Church in Germany ), which assume 1,790,000 people in 45,000 German choirs. According to further estimates, 3.3 million people are active in 61,000 choirs. In this respect, around 2–3% of the total German population sing in a choir.

The following picture emerges when broken down into divisions:

  • about 45% - mixed choirs
  • around 31% - children's and youth choirs
  • about 16% - male choirs
  • about 8% - women's choirs

The oldest mixed choirs in the world in today's sense are the Singgesellschaft Wetzikon (1755), the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin (1791), which still exists today, the Dreyssigsche Singakademie in Dresden (1807) and the Singinstitut in Zurich (1805). They cannot be compared with the centuries-old church choirs (e.g. boys' choirs, cathedral choirs), the partly vocal Collegia musica from the 16th century or the English glee clubs and madrigal societies from the 18th century, all of which are only elitist Circles were accessible.


See also

Portal: Choral Music  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of choral music


  • Heribert Allen: Choirs in Germany (= series of publications by the Association of German Concert Choirs, Vol. 6). Edition VDKC, Viersen 1995, ISBN 3-929698-06-4 .
  • Ulrich Nicolay: Werkschöre in the Ruhr area. A survey (= contributions to Westphalian music history, vol. 21). vd Linnepe, Hagen 1990, ISBN 3-89431-009-X .
  • Marcello Sorce Keller: Tradizione orale e tradizione corale. Ricerca musicologica in Trentino . Forni Editore, Bologna 1991.

Web links

Commons : Choirs  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Duden online: choir , meanings 1 a and 1 b.
  2. Erich Valentin : Handbuch der Musikinstrumentenkunde. Gustav Bosse, Regensburg 1954, p. 455 ff., Appendix instrument maker (advertisement: Bärenreiter recorders ).
  3. Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'The Curse of the Gothic Symphony'. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on April 6, 2016 ; Retrieved April 6, 2016 (American English). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ Konradin Medien GmbH, Leinfelden-Echterdingen: Mehrchörigkeit from the lexicon - In: Retrieved April 6, 2016 .
  5. Musica sacra , 2005/02
  6. ^ Opera & Dance , 2004/2005