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What Is an Orchestra and Choir?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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An orchestra and choir is a group of instrumentalists and vocalists who create music together. The music performed by such groups is generally written in such a way as to feature the best of both portions of the group. This type of group may be found in local churches performing spiritually based music. They may also perform in local concert halls and sing secular and classically themed pieces.

The vocalists of an orchestra and choir are often divided into four groups. These groups include sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. The sopranos, generally comprised of women, sing the melody of the music. The altos, also made of women, and tenors, comprised of men, provide harmony and counter melody. The basses, the final section of men, sing the lowest notes of the musical arrangement.

The music sung by the choir may be referred to as four part harmony, and may or may not have instrumental accompaniment. Music performed by an orchestra and choir together, however, generally is a blend of both voices and instruments. Similarly, this type of group may also elect to allow the orchestra to perform some instrumental pieces in which the choir does not participate.

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The instrumentalists of an orchestra and choir typically include brass instruments, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. The brass section includes the trumpets, trombones, french horns, and saxophones. The woodwinds feature flutes, oboes, and clarinets. The stringed instruments are the violins and cellos, and the percussion section includes drums and any percussive instrument that may be used in a particular arrangement, such as chimes, maracas, whistles, and tympani. There is no limit as to how few or how many musicians are required to play in each instrumental section.

Music written for both orchestra and choir attempts to blend both types of music — whether instrumentalist or vocalist — together so that both may perform to their strengths. For example, the opening stanzas of such music may feature only one or two sections of the orchestra while the choir remains silent. These instruments are allowed to perform alone before yielding the melody to the choir in the form of a first verse of song. While the choir sings, the musical accompaniment may be simple, until the choir again rests and the instruments carry the theme of the music.

This type of group may perform a wide variety of music. Many churches have an orchestra and choir that is entirely comprised of local members. Such groups often perform spiritual anthems, gospel songs, and traditional hymns. Classical groups, which perform secular music and may be funded by a local endowment for artists, are sometimes referred to instead as an orchestra and chorus.

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