Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Chorus (from the Greek choros) signified originally a band of singers and dancers, who took a conspicuous part in solemn functions, especially in the worship of Apollo and Bacchus, where recitations alternated by chanted choruses were employed. From these religious services tragedy and comedy took their rise, the chorus in them being formed of boys or men. Sometimes the chorus represented women, but their parts were always played, by men. For example, in the Hecuba of Euripides the chorus is composed of captive Trojan women, while in the tragedy of OEdipus Rex of Sophocles it consists of the elders of the city. The chorus of Greek tragedy varied in numbers from the 50 or so of AEschylus to the 15 of Sophocles. The leader of the chorus was called Coryphaeus, a name surviving in our modern ballet, and the general management was in the hands of the Chorayus, whose post conferred much honour upon its holder, and also entailed upon him great expenses in producing the entertainment and in supporting and providing for the performers. The arrangement of the chorus was occasionally antiphonal. In the revival of the performance of Greek tragedy, of late introduced at our Universities, the Greek practices have been followed so far as possible. The chorus was generally accompanied by flutes, and the music was of a rude and simple nature. In the modern chorus, a large body of voice is generally employed to alternate with solo, duet, etc. Plain song in unison, as practised in many churches, may be looked on as a form of chorus singing. Bach's Passion Music, Handel's Israel in Egypt, Mendelssohn's Elijah give well-known examples of modern chorus. On the first revival of opera the chorus was intended to resemble in character the Greek chorus, and took little if any part in the action, but this feature gradually changed, and the chorus singing was entrusted to those taking part in the piece, as, for instance, the fishermen in Masaniello. Choral singing is much practised in parts of Great Britain, the Welsh and Yorkshire choirs being renowned, while very many have heard the gigantic chorus of the Crystal Palace Handel Festival.