An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Vested Choir

A choir vested in cassock and surplice. A vested choir was often associated with a choral or sung service. The use of the surplice by choir members was one of the issues of dispute in the nineteenth-century controversy over ritual in the Episcopal Church. The introduction of the surpliced choir in England has been associated with the Cambridge Camden Society. In the Episcopal Church, by 1865 there was a vested choir at Racine College in Racine, Wisconsin, under the leadership of James DeKoven. William Augustus Muhlenberg introduced the first vested boys' choir in New York City at the Church of the Holy Communion. However, Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine of Ohio brought canonical proceedings against the Rev. Colin Tate of Columbus who vested his choir with surplices, and used processional and recessional hymns. In The Law of Ritualism (1866), Presiding Bishop John Henry Hopkins urged that a wide variety of ritual usage was permissible in the church. A vested choir of men and boys was present when Bishop Hopkins consecrated Bishops Henry Adams Neeley and Daniel Sylvester Tuttle in New York City in 1867. DeKoven defended the ritualist cause at the General Conventions of 1871 and 1874. He appealed for comprehensiveness and tolerance in worship. DeKoven's vision of a comprehensive approach to ritual eventually prevailed in the Episcopal Church. Although the use of choir vestments is not required, many Episcopal parishes have a vested choir. See DeKoven, James.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.