What is a Choir Loft?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

The choir loft is a gallery that is included in the design of many different types of Christian churches. Sometimes referred to as a choir gallery, the purpose of the loft is to provide a specific location for persons functioning as a choir during a worship service to gather. A choir loft may be located in the front part of the main worship area, or be located in the back section or even off to one side of the area. In just about every instance, the choir loft is situated at a level higher than the general seating for the worship area.

A choir loft serves as a location for persons singing as a choir to gather in many Christian churches.
A choir loft serves as a location for persons singing as a choir to gather in many Christian churches.

In many larger churches, the choir loft is commonly found in a balcony area located at the rear of the sanctuary, chapel, or main worship area. This allows the choir to offer musical ministry during the service, without taking away from the visual elements of a worship center, the rostrum or speaker’s area, or an icon or image that has been included in the worship service. Because the choir loft is elevated in comparison to the general congregation, it is possible for the songs offered by the choir to wash over the congregants.

Church choirs might perform as part of Sunday services, weddings and funerals.
Church choirs might perform as part of Sunday services, weddings and funerals.

Some churches are constructed with a choir loft that is found behind the rostrum or nave. While elevated, this type of choir loft includes the physical presence of the choir in the ongoing view of the congregation. Many find this aspect of the choir loft desirable, as it allows the congregation to see the choir while they are offering their ministry of song during the worship experience.

Churches built in the 17th to late 19th centuries often included a choir loft that was understood to be modeled after a colonnade. Generally, this placed the choir loft in a position that was not only elevated above the general seating, but was actually located on an upper floor. The choir loft would be open to the main worship area, but would place the choir over the heads of the congregants. While this type of choir loft was often located at the rear of the sanctuary, there are examples of the upper floor choir loft being placed on one side of the worship area.

A choir loft provides a specific location for a church choir to gather during a service.
A choir loft provides a specific location for a church choir to gather during a service.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

Phaedrus

I grew up in a Protestant church where the choir loft was always behind the pulpit, just like Buster29 mentioned. We also had a church loft on the opposite side of the room, but it was mostly used for overflow seating.

A friend of mine invited me to a Catholic Christmas mass, and I was surprised to hear choir music coming from the back. Their choir loft was almost completely out of sight in the upper loft. I could hear the music just fine, but I couldn't see any of the people singing or playing it. I guess that was the point, since the choir was supposed to suggest the presence of angels during the service.

Buster29

The choir loft in my church is an elevated area right behind the minister's pulpit. The choir files into their pews just before the service starts, and the first song in the order of worship is a choral anthem. The choir stands with the rest of the congregation for one or two hymns, then performs a special song. They step back into the audience before the minister starts his sermon.

I always heard the expression "preaching to the choir", but I didn't really appreciate it until I started going to church. Our minister really does face the choir members every once in a while, mostly when he knows he's saying something they'll agree with.

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