The Quire (or Choir)     
The medieval choir, as today, was the group of people who participated in church services by singing in the church.  In the monastery, however, every monk or nun was a member of the choir, and expected to always be present and ready to participate in the Divine Office.  The few exceptions for non-attendance were for those who were infirm, or whose other duties to the monastic house required them to perform other important functions, such as preparation of meals or the duty of performing private Masses for the ailing or for an important guest. 

The monastic choir sang in what we know as Gregorian Chant, also called Plaintchant, or plainsong.  The single melodies of the monastic chants were different for each monastery, were learned primarily by heart (with often strict punishment for those who might not learn quickly or well enough), and were sung/chanted by all the monastic brethren in unison.  The religious, liturgical song was a sacred and important task of the religious nun or monk and as such, great care was taken to make sure the singing was done well and without mistakes.  Harmonized singing became part of church services in the 15th century, but when it did, monasteries and cathedrals were often in competition with each other to produce the most beautiful music and feature the most ethereal and powerful singers.    

[Minster, choir east, York, England]
The part of the monastic church building known as the Quire or Choir was separated from the nave with a sturdy wall, called the pupitulum, or screen, called the Choir Screen.  The wall/screen helped protect the monks and nuns from cold and damp, as they performed the offices and hours of the church at all hours of the day, and in every kind of weather.  The area where the choir sat was built with choir stalls, screened and sectioned benches where each member could sit or kneel or stand.  If there were books available to help with services, there were also candles provided for better lighting.  (Though a single candle in the freezing dark of a Yorkshire winter must have been very little comfort.)

[Studland Church, interior, Swanage, England]

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