Paper short abstract:
This paper focuses on sacred music rehearsals as chronotopes wherein acts of negotiation between “performance” and “worship” emerge among choir members. Encompassing both narrative and sensorial dimensions, these acts of negotiation are productive in shaping the singers' religious and artistic experience.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents the musical process of facilitating religious experience in a traditional
Anglican church in London and it is based on recently ended fieldwork. A less prominent topic in
(ethno)musicological or anthropological research, traditional Anglican music in the contemporary
church provides a rich ground for exploring how the sound choreography (the process of choosing
and preparing the music and the act of 'performing' it in a church environment), within a service
adopts and addresses notions of performance, audience, repertoire.
I follow the process by which the church sound environment is determined through the
choice of music (hymns, anthems, mass settings), the music practice adopted and embodied by the
choir and the sonic affordances of the church space. In particular, musical choices and
'performances', as part of the broader style of religious service, nurture spaces of debate about the
boundary between sacred and secular, notions of faith, personal and collective histories, religious
identities and expectations. Within this context, musical notions of performance, professional vs
amateur singing, style, expressivity are continuously interrogated by the choir singers through their
practice. Rehearsals and services convey moments of tension between, on the one hand, obtaining a
'professional' musical sound and, on the other hand, leading the congregation in a meaningful
worship whereby the two aspects appear not to be fully compatible. By looking at the structure,
content, technique and focus during choir rehearsals, I approach questions about the implications
for both musical performance and religious experience of the choices made by the singers in
addressing this tension.
Comparing Notes: Realising the Sacred and the Self in Art