Sacred Music Ministry
The Liturgical Church Choir
A brief history
The role of choirs in sacred settings has historically been recognized by the Catholic Church as one of its greatest treasures, particularly in its Cathedrals. With an ancestry dating back to medieval times, it was the music of the church that was a driving artistic force in early periods, and it was church musicians that standardized many concepts of music theory that are still in use to this day. With this in mind, the Church has mandated that “the treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.”
The modern role of choirs in the Catholic Church is to augment the singing of the assembly, to lead the people in sung prayer and to enhance that song with the addition of musical elaboration. The music of a well-trained choir performing alone adds a beauty and depth of solemnity to the worship experience, enabling those in attendance to reflect more deeply.
The choirs of St. Thomas More Sacred Music have embraced this role, in addition to fostering the Catholic Church’s heritage of polyphonic music, and aim to enrich the lives of our parish family through reverence in prayer and song.
(Adapted from cathedralmusic.org for STM Sacred Music)
Statement of Intent
St. Thomas More Sacred Music enables and empowers the members of our parish to musically participate in the life and liturgy of the Church. Music is of preeminent importance among the signs and symbols that the Church uses to celebrate its faith. Singing is an integral part of the liturgy and the life of Christian prayer. When words are sung, they speak more fully and effectively, allowing us as worshippers to express and share our faith more deeply. Enthusiasm, love of music, passion for serving others, and commitment are qualities shared by all members of the several choirs at St. Thomas More.
Rehearsal - 7:30pm Thursday
This choir rehearses on Thursdays from 7:30–9:00pm in St. Thomas More Church, and primarily provides music for the Sunday 10:00am liturgy. Offering adults (ages 16+) the opportunity for singing in a tight-knit community of fellow parishioner-musicians, the Adult Choir brings beauty to the liturgy in a unique manner: singing in a choir is not something that can be done alone. A choral experience offers members growth in their musical skills, but more importantly it fosters a spirituality of selfless humility, patience, and teamwork. The choir serves St. Thomas More’s liturgies from the end of September through the Feast of Corpus Christi in June. New members are welcome at any time! Prior musical experience welcomed but not required.
Rehearsal - Seasonal
The Youth Choir rehearses seasonally in St. Thomas More church and sings at various liturgies throughout the year. The Youth Choir allows young singers (ages 7-15) at our parish to participate musically in the life of the church. Musical expression can foster in children transcendent experiences, strengthening their belief in God’s presence and steadfast love. Music can be a profound entrance into a rich spiritual life. Participation in the choir offers our youth a deeper understanding of the liturgies of the church, strengthening the values they learn in the Religious Education Program.
The Youth Choir will work to help our young people serve their church family in the liturgical life of the parish. The choral experience offers youth the chance to develop their musical skills, but more importantly it fosters a spirituality of selfless humility, patience, and teamwork. New members are welcome at any time! Prior musical experience welcomed but not required.
Rehearsal - monthly (TBD)
The men of the Compline Choir provide voice to the Office of Compline, or “night prayer.” The Office lasts about 30 minutes and consists of psalms, short passages from scripture, an office hymn, a canticle (Nunc Dimittis), a responsory, collect and additional prayers. In keeping with the earliest practices of the monastic communities, Compline is offered when the work of the day is completed—a time when the quietness of evening settles over the hearts and minds of those who have come together. It is an opportunity for reflection, to offer gratitude for the blessings of the day which has passed, and to anticipate God’s gift of a new day to come. Compline services are specially scheduled liturgies that vary with liturgical season.
Rehearsal - 6:00pm Thursday
The bell ringers bring joy and festivity to various liturgies throughout the year, especially during the Christmas season. Composed of ringers ages 7+, the Handbell Choir rehearses on Thursday evenings from 6:00–7:00pm in St. Thomas More church. Bells have long been a part of Christian worship, adorning the robes of the high priest in the time of Moses, and dutifully “signifying the hour of the work of God” since St. Benedict. The pealing of bells serves as a reminder of the voice of Christ, calling the hearts of the listener heavenward, in the direction of the great cathedral bell towers.
An antiquarian inscription on old European bells poetically sums the power of metal raising its voice to God:
“Vivos voco; Mortuos plango; Fulgura frango.”
(I call the living; I mourn the dead; I break the lightning.)
Other Leaders in Music
The role of cantor is one that weds Scripture to song, the word of God to melody. The many liturgies offered at the Parish of St. Thomas More are enriched by the cantors who lead the congregation in music. Serving both St. Thomas More church (Manalapan, NJ) and Our Lady of Mercy church (Englishtown, NJ), the cantors serve on a regular basis with accompanists to support to congregational prayer through song. Regular availability is welcome, but not required. Some level of musical experience and confidence in leading others through song is required. For more information on how to become a regular cantor or attend a cantor training workshop, please contact the Director of Sacred Music.
The many liturgies offered at the Parish of St. Thomas More are enriched by the number of musicians helping to lead music; in a special way, this includes the accompanists. Serving both St. Thomas More church (Manalapan, NJ) and Our Lady of Mercy church (Englishtown, NJ), the accompanists work on a regular basis with cantors and choirs providing organ and piano accompaniment for liturgies. For more information on how to become involved as an accompanist, please contact the Director of Sacred Music.