Choir vs. chorus

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Woods
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Choir vs. chorus

Postby Woods » 2017-02-11, 14:00

What’s the difference between a choir and a chorus? I thought using “chorus” with this meaning was a mistake made by people with bad English… but I just checked the Cambridge Advance Learner’s and it’s got basically the same definition as “choir.”

Then I also checked Merriam-Webster online:

choir: an organized company of singers (as in a church service)

chorus: an organized company of singers who sing in concert : choir; especially : a body of singers who sing the choral parts of a work (as in opera) ; a group of dancers and singers supporting the featured players in a musical comedy or revue


Is it more like if we’re talking about a radio choir or one that is participating in a classical music performance, we should rather use chorus instead?

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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby schnaz » 2017-02-14, 22:10

Hi Woods,
I don't know much about music or the theater. When I hear choir I think of a group of singers in church. Chorus can be connected with the word "girls" to make "chorusgirls" who are performers on stage who dance and sometimes sing. So usually you won't find members of a choir in a chorus line nor members of a choir in a chorus line. Usually.
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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-14, 22:47

Woods wrote:Is it more like if we’re talking about a radio choir or one that is participating in a classical music performance, we should rather use chorus instead?

I would call those "choruses", yes.

At the opera on Saturday, we heard a children's chorus perform the march "Avec la garde montante". If you had said, "On Saturday we heard a children's choir" I would have assumed you were in a church or, at the very least, at a performance of sacred music.

So basically, the primary venue is a church, I would call it a "choir". (E.g. the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.) Otherwise it's a "chorus". (E.g. the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C..)
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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby Woods » 2017-02-15, 7:24

I can still remember my English teacher from twelve years ago teaching us the word “choir” without explaining the difference…

Recently I went through a large number of classical music recordings and most of them used the word chorus, however they were all issued by the same publisher, so I assumed they had made a mistake. It wasn’t until I found a record by another publisher that I realised this word might be used.

Okay, one last thing – I recently took a class called “choir” at a school; actually, the class was called “kor,” but we universally translated it as “choir,” all of us including the teacher – have we made a mistake? We did, indeed, sing sacred music from time to time, but also pop, rock and classical songs – so it was not about the religious component, but about the singing together. But it was a very small choir/chorus – isn’t it about the size?

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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby linguoboy » 2017-02-15, 18:03

Woods wrote:Okay, one last thing – I recently took a class called “choir” at a school; actually, the class was called “kor,” but we universally translated it as “choir,” all of us including the teacher – have we made a mistake? We did, indeed, sing sacred music from time to time, but also pop, rock and classical songs – so it was not about the religious component, but about the singing together. But it was a very small choir/chorus – isn’t it about the size?

Nope. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has 360 members.

I really feel that the chief criterion is religious vs secular. (My school class was also called "choir", but (a) it was a religious school and (b) in addition to learning comic songs in class, we sang hymns together in church.)
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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-02-16, 1:42

I think "choir" is pretty common for school singing groups, even secular ones. I was in one at my public high school, and it's called the choir.
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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby schnaz » 2017-02-16, 3:57

We had a glee club.
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Re: Choir vs. chorus

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-10, 2:12

It's funny, I've never heard "chorus" used except in a formal context, usually the name of something that I would call a "choir" (or with other meanings, e.g. "a chorus of birds," the chorus in a song, or a chorus in Ancient Greek plays). I would say I was in choirs in each of elementary school, middle school, and high school even though there were almost no religious songs in the first two and none at all in the last one (the German Club choir, where the last song we sang was always "Bier her!" :D).


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