Someone mentioned this in another thread about not wanting to be flamed for being a cantor and how people complain that they shouldn’t exist etc. So it got me thinking, how about a thread to discuss the matter : ). What are some objections people make against the idea of cantors (Lets look at the issue completely separate from the usual music you might hear from said cantor).

I think there’s many on here who really do prefer that we don’t have them. But then I’m not 100% sure about that. Perhaps this could have been turned into a poll? I would be curious because it seems like more who don’t like them then who do. My husband is a cantor and I love it when he sings so I’m bias :slight_smile:

Usually the objections aren’t to the idea of a cantor per se but to the actual practices of the particular church/priest/cantor.

In a place that does not have a choir, certainly a cantor to help lead the people in song is reasonable. The operative words are “help the people”, though. An excuse to solo through every ‘sung’ part of the Mass and do 4-6 hymns solo as well–not good.

In a place that has a large choir, a cantor to work with choir and people is also reasonable. Again, if the cantor’s idea is to use the choir for ‘backup’ entertainment–not good.

Some priests prefer cantors because certainly ‘one’ person is easier to deal with than a number of people (choir). Or because they like the idea of it being an ‘old’ idea (even though they hate established traditions). Or because they think it’s more ‘simple’ and thus truer or more Godlike (these are the ones who verge on iconoclassicism and were the first to chop down altar rails, toss out the exquisite altar linens and statues, and clean out the sanctuary so that the church looks bare and empty except for the cheap felt banners and cutesy drawings which look like they were executed by a child though they were drawn by adults who should know better.)

But there are many, many cantors who are all that they ‘should’ be. Leaders, not soloists; working with others, not against them; marvelous in praise and wonderful assets to their parishes. God bless them.

I’m a convert since 2000, so I have no idea what would be used in place of a cantor for the responsorial psalm? Can anyone enlighten me? BTW, so far I’ve found the cantor situation (at least in my parish) a lot better than the backbiting nonsense that I’ve seen in many Protestant churches over who from the choir is going to get the solo on a particular week.

Kind of an aside, I went to a beautiful Greek Orthodox wedding liturgy and the priest and a cantor flew in for the liturgy. I got the impression that they used a permanent male cantor more like a permanent deacon than our rotating cantors in the western church. It was very complicated music, so I imagine that one has to train for quite a while to learn the liturgy. I would be interested to hear from any of our Orthodox brethern who might be able to shed some light.

I used to have the men in the choir sing unison the first time and have the choir respond in 4 parts. The verses were each chanted in 4 parts and the choir responded in 4 parts…

Joe B

A Cantor in an Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Christian Church is someone who really knows the Liturgy - and all the other non- sacramental Serives of his Church - the Cantor also may well act as Reader and has to be able to Chant all the relevant Gospel passages.

They have special melodies that they use on Sundays - called the Resurrectional Tones - and there are 8 of them - used weekly in rotation - and all the ‘Propers’ are sung in these tones . To fulfill their function properly they need a library of books and requently need 4 if not more for each Service.

Not withstanding that - they also have to be able to ‘sort out’ what is needed for each Feast as well and there are all sorts of problems that can arise - this year we will be those who use the Julian Calendar ] celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation on Great and Holy Saturday !! Truly a minefield.

Me I take off my hat to our Cantors.

The old name for them now for the historical bit :D] was Diak - and he other than the Priest was probably the most educated man in the village - not only did he fulfill his vocation - Diak - he also taught . As time went on he was a paid holder of the post and they really were well trained - a professional person - well respected in their Community.

BTW - in most EC Churches and some EO Churches there are no organs - the Diak is responsible for setting the pitch in conjunction with the Priest.

Ahh well you have cleared up a few things for me Tantum. I can see where the objection would be with some. We do have a choir but they only sing once a month so either this older man or my husband leads as cantors.

We have a wonderful Cantor who not only leads the way with the responses but also works with all three choirs.

AND he doesn’t cue us by doing the “touchdown” signal. Ugh that annoys me.

Really, no need to do that. Most of us have been going to Holy Mass a long time and can do it on our own.

Ok. Yes my only problem (as hinted in my post) is the current practices that surround the average cantor (like what someone else mentioned in a post). Personally I think they are a good idea and even the Roman liturgy of the late middle ages had cantors.

:slight_smile: That drives me crazy too.

Cantors as singers of verses and intoners have an ancient history in the church, though mainly in monastic communities. Cantors as lone persons singing into a microphone in a (usually vain) attempt to fire up a singing congregation are something cut out of the whole cloth as a phenomonon of the New Order. Where the idea got started I’ll never know, but like every mediocre idea adopted because of laziness, ignorance, and apathy, it caught on like wildfire. It is much easier to cover over everyt deficiency with a cantor than to cultivate a choir/congregational singing tradition such as mainstream protestant demoninations usually have.

I don’t think, by the way, that anyone who performs this function should be put to shame. I’ve done it myself, hiding perhaps a bit of chagrin. But the “tradition” of one person blasting his voice into a microphone singing an unsingable hymn that shouldn’t be there in the first place to cover up the rumbling noisees of a congregation that is basically not singing in the first place is not one of Catholic worship’s greatest moments.

I’m a trained cantor and have been involved in church music for more than 40 years (since I was in children’s choir).

When I was in my teens and early 20s I went through what I call the “Star Seach” phase, where I wanted all eyes on me, and took every opportunity to sing melodramatic solos. Then I “got religion” and learned the proper place of a cantor.

Now I see my ministry as humbly leading the congregation in song, and to intone various parts of the Mass and the Responsorial Psalm.

When I do the intoning and the Psalm verses, I sing closer to the microphone so the words are crystal clear. I don’t use any fancy-schmancy vibrato or vocal gymnastics – the words are the focus. When leading the congregation, I move farther back from the mike once the people know what in heck is going on. SOMEONE has to begin the congregational singing!


It used to be the the churches were made with acoustics in mind. Think of how the sound travels so well in the older churches. That is so the sound of the singer would carry even when the church was full. Now churches are built without acoustics in mind and so the singer, regardless how they can carry their sound is unable to. Carpeting is one of the main culprets which absorbs quite a bit of sound. The other is poor church design.

As to the quality of cantors, there aren’t that many people who volunteer that are trained. Also most churches do not pay their cantors so when you are pulling from volunteers your choices are very limited.

As to the bringing in the congregation with their hand(s) it’s really up to them. They should be allowed to do it as they like as long as they do it at the right time. There is no set rule on using one hand or two, the right hand or the left.

A choir conductor always brings the choir in with two hands so the cantor standing in the front is like the conductor bring in choir which is the congregation.


Maybe they shouldn’t do it because it looks so dumb?
Or because it draws attention to them instead of Our Lord?

I’ve lived a whole lot of years without someone “bringing me up” for responses. I have a missal, I can read and therefore I don’t need a cue.

This is not a broadway play, it’s the Holy Mass. Cantors who stand in the front as if to say, “Look at me, I have the lead”, need to get over themselves.

I’m not stupid and don’t need to be treated as such.


[quote=G.I.R.M.]104. It is fitting that there be a cantor or a choir director to lead and sustain the people’s singing. When in fact there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to lead the different chants, with the people taking part.

A very interesting thread, and thanks for starting it. As most know, the institution of the cantor is very ancient. Both the Jews and the pre-Christian Greeks had cantors hundreds of years before Christ.

I hope you don’t mind me making some observations as an Eastern Catholic. In Eastern Catholic churches the cantor is somewhat of a necessity because of the complexity of the services and the sung nature of almost the entire liturgy.

Although I am an Eastern Catholic deacon now I was a cantor (still am when I don’t serve as a deacon) for many years. I didn’t use hand signals; when working in a different book or on a different page I simply chant out the page number recto tono, something like “on the 15th page the proper for St. …” for example. That is how the canonarchs (the monastic liturgical cantors) traditionally led the chants in ancient monasteries as well, with a simply but reverently chanted introductory prompt.

And, most of the sound designers doing installations for church are clueless and are incapable of enginerring a system appropriate for the task…So we have the artificially sounding omnipresent Cantor billowing from all corners of the church. In this case, it is not the fault of the cantor, but that of really BAD audio engineering out of ignorance.

As to the quality of cantors, there aren’t that many people who volunteer that are trained.

Can of worms question…If they are going to volunteer, why don’t they get training? You can’t just be a Lector or Altar Server, EHMC, Acolyte, Deacon, or even a Priest without training… Why are Cantors, whose duty holds a important place in the liturgy exempt from training?

Also most churches do not pay their cantors so when you are pulling from volunteers your choices are very limited.

Can o’ worms part 2…Why don’t they pay them? The amount of training needed is more akin to a formation…it is a lifelong process. A lector or Altar server for instance needs only limited training and they get more than the cantors…Isn’t THAT backwards…

Joe B

Not a very kind and charitable thing to say.

Have you considered what Cantors who use this gesture look like?
Is it Historically Catholic to have someone “bringing us up”?
Read again the post from the Cantor on this thread who “found religion” and now focuses on actually leading the congregation in song, instead of having his time in the spotlight.

This is wonderful that you are so immersed in the mass. What about those in the congregation that are not? What of those that are there thinking of converting to the faith?

How in the world did we live through 30 years of going to Holy Mass without a Cantor “bringing us up”? We followed the missal. And while you feel that what I stated about Cantors in not kind and charitable, I truly think that having to be cued for parts of the Holy Mass that I have been doing for 46 years is an insult to my intelligence.
As for converts, my husband converted last year. When we went to another parish with a Cantor who cued with arms flying up, he nearly lost it.
“What is she doing?” was his reaction. He is used to our Cantor leading the song and not grabbing attention for part of the Holy Mass.

Once again this not charitable. To assume that all cantors are up there with this mentality is very judgemental.

Sometimes it’s not what you do, but what it looks like you do.

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