Are you a cantor? Do you sing in the choir?


I am wondering how many members are cantors here. (And members of choirs) I am a new cantor and will be doing my second mass (by myself) June 10th. I was a “junior cantor” and went up with another well seasoned cantor a bunch of times before I had started doing it myself.

I take voice lessons from my choir director as well. I’m also a part of the choir at church.

I really enjoy doing this. Though I usually go to mass twice if I cantor, because I don’t get much of of that mass (big ball of nerves…).

On June 10th, the psalm is going to be a tricky one, that I’m fairly nervous about. And also, I will be singing “How Beautiful” during mass, which I’m fairly nervous about as well.


One of our weekend organists invited the men of our parish to form a choir, and there was a decent response. We participated in the midnight Mass for Christmas, practiced for a few weeks afterward, sang at one event at another large parish in our area (at which I was the surprise soloist, as someone didn’t show up), and then disbanded.

I would love to continue singing in the choir, but they only sing at our Sunday 9:30 AM Mass, while I attend at 6:30 PM.

I’ve recently become interested in the idea of serving as a cantor for our 6:30 PM Sunday Mass (our organist serves as cantor at this Mass), but I don’t know where I’d find the time to practice any more.


Hi there! Don’t worry. The nerves will go away with time. When I first started cantoring in high school, I was so nervous as well.

From high school through most of college I was mainly a cantor. In college, I became the liturgical music director at our Newman Center. By my senior year of college I joined a choir at the Cathedral in my city and mainly did that for a few years with additional cantoring for weddings and funerals.

I really loved the music we were doing in the choir (we did everything from Gregorian chant to Palestrina, Tallis, Mozart, Faure, Hovannes, etc.) and at that time, they only had one cantor for all the masses at the Cathedral. The choral music was more important for me at the time, so I chose to do that. Then that cantor left and the position opened up to four cantors instead of just one. I fortunately was hired. During that time, my concentration in music fell to more oratorio/opera/concert/recital, etc. Choral singing (especially in early music) is much different from that kind of singing, so I discontinued the choir. Cantoring is also different from the singing that I’m trained to make a living, but not in the same way as choral singing. I definitely do not sing like an opera singer when I cantor. That would be over-the-top and the music doesn’t call for that either. I also make sure to stay away from the microphone so that I won’t be overpowering the congregation.

So, I’ve done both and enjoyed both. Sometimes I prefer hearing a choir over a cantor, but that’s usually when the cantor sings too much into the microphone.

Good luck with your next mass. I’m sure you will be feeling our Lord there helping you out. :wink:


I’ve been a cantor since Lent 2000, so a little over 7 years. I was a member of the parish general choir as well as the chamber choir for most of that time, but do not currently have time for the weekly rehearsals. I really miss the people and choral singing, so hopefully I won’t have to go without for too much longer.

The nerves haven’t completely gone away, but I’ve found that as I’ve become more familiar with the music as it relates to the Order of Mass and with the hymns/psalms themselves, I’ve become much more relaxed and comfortable as a cantor. You’ll find that just as the liturgical year is cyclical, so are the associated hymns and psalms. And of course the unchanging nature of the Mass is a great comfort. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need my hymnal for some of the music. :thumbsup:

God bless and good luck to you!


Good luck on your next Mass.

Does it count if you used to sing in the choir and cantor? I quit altogether, before I was pushed out, choir and cantoring back in September 2006. The previous music director and I were at odds pretty much the whole time I was in choir. I wanted to sing my range and the tune and she wanted me to destroy my voice singing badly.

I would love to rejoin the choir but our new music director isn’t much better. Granted, she’s newly married and dealing with a two-month old but she’s trained in music so there should have been an improvement. Though there is one person who’s in choir that would rather having entertaining and heretical music rather than sould theology. And he gets his way because our priest thinks the same way and this guy monopolizes the choirs and liturgy committee.

Sorry, didn’t mean to sound if I was complaining but rather was explaining. When I find my new parish, I intend to join the choir there.


I started singing in choirs (as a paid professional) in 1975, when I was a senior in college, and I became a cantor in 1977 or 78.

My first choir job was in a Lutheran church. When I started as a Catholic cantor, I was also hired in the same church choir. The music director was a classmate of mine. A few years later, a new pastor decided that choir singers ought not to be paid, and I got a new choir job, which I still have, at an Episcopal church. When city parishes began to shrink, and Mass schedules were cut back, I lost my 12:30 Mass, so now I volunteer to cantor in another parish on Saturday afternoon.

I can remember the nerves as a new cantor. And then, I started with a new and different voice teacher, and for a while went through some tough times with pitch problems - as Randy Jackson would say, it was “a little pitchy!” But then, things settled in pitchwise and the nerves calmed down, and all is well. When you’ve been at it 30 years, you’ll be fine, too! Hey, much sooner really! Good luck with the tricky psalm.



I sing in the choir. Some of the choir members take turns as cantor, but I’m not one of them. I’d be a nervous wreck. I wouldn’t even like singing in the choir all that much if I had to stand at the front of the church (our choir sings in the choir loft – in the back, and four flights up. :slight_smile: )


I was a choir girl and a cantor before I went away to school. I didn’t know if I would even be allowed to do it at Duquesne since when I first started going here, I wasn’t Catholic yet. Now it looks like I’ll be a regular cantor at one of the Masses, which I’m happy about because I do miss it very much.

I don’t know which I prefer. Certainly in a choir it’s not so bad if you mess up. But I don’t know, there’s just something I really enjoy about cantoring (unless of course, EVERYTHING that I have to sing ends up being out of my range!!!)


There’s a very good reason for me not to be a cantor – most of the melodies are in the soprano range, and I’m an alto. What would I do as a cantor when confronted with a note I simply couldn’t reach? :eek:


As the music director, I cantor, conduct the choir, and sing alto in the choir (I’m a guy…but I have a wide vocal range and we have only two timid altos). After a couple weeks of cantoring, you’ll find that your nerves go away. My public speaking had improved immensely as a side result.


Funny thing is, I used to be a reader, and I was never nervous about that. :smiley:


Thanks for all the encouragement.

I’m slowly getting used to this. I started because the choir director threw me in last minute at the Christmas midnight mass to sing the Alleluia, she knew my parents would be in town.

The good thing about our setup. During most of the year, the cantor is “backed up” by the choir. The cantor’s main objective in our church, is to help people know when and what to sing, and to be a front presence I suppose. I kind of enjoy leading the congregation in song, it’s very rewarding for me. I want to make them feel comfortable singing, and want them to join me. I figure, if I sound like I am having a good time, they will see they can too.

Our choir does some great pieces during special times of the year. We do a big “concert” type of thing about 30 minutes before mass on Christmas, and sing many many songs. It was awesome, I really liked that. Except during lent, we sang this one song, it was very strange…good song, don’t get me wrong, but the words were very odd.

At only 24 years old, I still have most of the common songs memorized (marching band geek, used to memorizing music). And am always practicing (have my voice lesson at teh church, which helps, I can practice what we will be sining that week). But I’m still getting used to switching back and forth between soprano and alto. I’m more of a natural alto, but my voice lessons have brought out my higher range. I can float in either section, but the choir needs strong altos, so I sing there.

As for just the nerves…I know they’ll go away. I’m used to public speaking, it doesn’t make me very nervous…but I’ve never sang before I started doing choir (very musical background, but never in choir). So I started choir, and then voice lessons. So now I’m singing in front of people. I’m still a little sheepish about if people will think I sound alright I suppose.

So I guess after now having “professional” training, and singing in front of a church, I should be a pro at karaoke right??? :wink:


I sing in a schola. Schola Cantorum Sancti Pii Decimi at Mater Misericordiae Mission. :thumbsup:


Yes, I cantor at daily mass. Try it, it is addictive and you will be as one of our saints calls singing…praying twice!


My main role in my church is as an instrumentalist, playing flute. But I am also a trained vocalist, so I fill in as cantor when needed. I don’t sing in the choir on a regular basis because of a schedule conflict with their rehearsal time, but I do join them for the major holidays.

It was my involvement in music which led me to the Church. I had always been somewhat intrigued by Catholicism and had even ordered some info from the K of C, but that was as far as it went for awhile. A few years later, a friend of mine who was the organist and choirmaster at a Catholic church hired me as cantor. My interest in the Church was revived, and three years later I converted…with my organist friend as my sponsor. :thumbsup:

I tell aspiring cantors to just sing as if you are singing for the Lord (which you are), and if you flub up, it’s no big deal. I have had my share of “oops” moments, but if anyone says anything, I just tell them that if I were perfect, I wouldn’t need Jesus! That stops them in their tracks every time. :smiley:


I don’t cantor often, because it makes me a nervous wreck. My legs shake although my voice is pretty stable. I haven’t done it for a while, but I’m on tap for Father’s Day. I call myself the desperation cantor…if we’re really desperate for a cantor, I’ll do it. People are always very nice when I do, so I don’t know why it makes me so tense. All the way to church I repeat over and over, “For your glory, not mine” and that seems to help.

I’m the standin soprano too. I was a soprano for real until about 2 or so years ago. I’m in my late 50s and find the top of the range pretty uncomfortable now. We have one real, full-time soprano who’s not always available for the Mass the choir sings. She’s in college and works two jobs. On those days, I sing soprano alone which isn’t fun for me. There’s another woman, another alto who sings soprano sometimes too. We’re both a lot more comfortable with alto, but we’re out of sopranos. If everyone shows up, there are 3 men who swap out parts, one full time alto, two alto/sopranos, and one real soprano. We’re all trained voices, and sound good together. We’ve had other people come for one or two practices and disappear. I think the sight reading scares them off. I think if we’d approach learning a new song differently, we’d have an easier time finding new members, but this is the way the director does it…he plays and we sing. I generally bang the parts out on the piano at home – I’m pretty good with just the right hand.


Asking St. Cecilia for prayers and intercession helps too. She’s a very powerful prayer partner. :thumbsup:


Now that I think of it, St. Cecilia was the patron saint for choir when I was a kid. We all had St. Cecilia medals, and there were awards in her name. We also had St. Robert Bellermine (sp?) as the patron for drama and speech. The schools here all had Bellermine societies.


I used to be a cantor. sigh


I’m a cantor, organist, director, and sing whatever part is lacking in the choir when necessary!

Nerves are not a problem here. Only getting vocally tired on the occassions when I have to sing 3 vigil masses and 3 regular Sunday Masses all by myself when the choirs are on vacation!

Joe B

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit