QUOTE(Dulcet @ Sep 28 2011, 10:13 PM)
Our church choir has (as regular-ish attendees) 4 basses, one male tenor, one female tenor, one countertenor/tenor as necessary, 3 female altos, 8 adult sopranos, 4 girl choristers and 4 boy choristers. OK so we're more likely only to get about 2/3 of this number but still, I reckon this counts as a Mixed Choir - and we're quite good!
That sounds like the archetypal local church choir and they can be beautiful or awful. But one thing they nearly always are is a good musical education for the younger members (and some of the older)
I started in a choir like that. My Dad had been organist at a "high" anglican chirch which had only boys and a very few men, and at evensong there were a handful of ladies as well but they (we, but I was only 10) were rather enclosed behind the main choir in a little ark behind the stalls, and I don't think we ever really did anything that qualified us as choir. In the morning service I used to sit near the organ at the back, and my Dad gave me a hymn book and I found I could read the alto parts "just like that". I now know that made me lucky rather than "good".
We moved to a church nearer home, where there were about a dozen boys, three girls - we were the first three - about four men, and about eight ladies.
This was about 1960. The ladies had been in the choir since before WWII. And they were just AWFUL. Actually some of them may not have been too bad apart from elderly voices and attitudes. but the main two, who were sisters, were catty in every way including the way they sang. The younger, a widow, really did sound like a cat yowling and she was EXTREMELY LOUD. The older, a very short fat spinster with a club foot, had a tremolo at least a tone wide. You couldn't hear the boys most of the time.
The rector wouldn't get rid of them. They had sang in the choir since before the war, done great service to the church - possibly the also did flowers, I'm not sure - and it would be insulting to them. Well, it was insulting to the congregation who regularly used to complain about them.
My dad started including verses in the hymns which would be sung by just the choir children. The rector (silly old fool) picked up on this and would announce that verse three would be sung by just the children, even if they hadn't had a chance to learn it, and a few of them didn't even know the tune, and I'd find myself sight-reading
Dad then entered the choir in the Church and Chapel choirs class in a local festival - but just the children, who by that tim numbered 20 and were more girls than boys. My little brother was a lovely treble. We sang a hymn with a harmony part and a solo for me in the third verse (my first taste of solo success!) and a two-part anthem, and to our amazement we won.
After that Dad's next ploy was to have the adults go up to the choir-stalls (where actually they couldn't be seen if you sat far enough to the left of the church) and to sit the children in the small block of pews by the organ; he wrote little anthems to suit us, and we still got the occasional verse. This was much better! But eventually, after a few years, he fell out with the recotr and went to a church in a very large vilage half an hour away, taking me and a couple of older pupils from school with him, and started a choir there.
A new rector came to the old church. The first thing he did was to sack the ladies. And pay the kids. Which really swelled the choir;. Then the PCC decided they couldn't pay the kids any more and the numbers dwindled. We came back, the evensong was a sparsely attended service and usually only got a bout a quartet for the choir (I was off the university in the middle of all this) and the morning service was moved to a small tin curch which was much nearer the middle of the town, and had a small organ right at the back with a small - again, mixed adults and kids - choir sitting beside it. The church was getting more and more "social" and ecumenical and silly ideas started to be mooted, such as the church choir members should be scattered around the congregation to help them all sing
Our cassock days were definitely over, and so was most of the good music in that church (for a while - Dad changed jobs and moved across country three years later)