Solo cantor/violinist (just starting) - help!
  • Hey everyone! I'm pretty new to this community but I've been following this forum for all my sacred music questions.

    I've just started singing/playing at a church which does not seem to have a budget for hiring an organist, so it looks like I'm on my own (literally, the only musician for the 7am Mass) for a few weeks until I figure something out. The pastor seems to have no qualms with having the Mass sung acapella ("the 7am Mass is more subdued" were his words, they had no music before I came in). I feel slightly uncomfortable without some chordal instrument behind me, especially for hymns, but ultimately it's up to me to choose the rep. I should also mention I am a young professional violinist with extensive early music (as in Baroque/sacred) training.

    I asked my organist friend if he could accompany me for Mass last week (first time I started) and he did...but he can't come in the future (it was a one-time deal). We did the ICEL chant for the ordinary, hymns w/organ acc., and I performed movements from the Telemann Solo Violin Fantasias for prelude and postlude.

    My question: is it advised to sing as a solo cantor just a capella? Any suggestions for repertoire (both for solo soprano or violin) or chants?? We're using the *sigh* Breaking Bread Hymnals.

    I did not really sign up to start a choir (there's enough of that at my church) and I was hoping for it to be just me and an organ/keyboard. However it seems the pastor wants me to get something started...I think it's something I can develop in the future once I have more knowledge of rep, technique, etc. I know that is not a problem, just a matter of when to begin.

    Thoughts? Help is much appreciated!!!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,737

    A few ideas, offhand:

    The 7.a.m. Mass congregation is used to a quiet Mass without music, and probably a fair number of them like it that way. Be gentle with them and keep the singing minimal.

    One way to keep things minimal is to leave out hymns. Hymns are not part of the Mass text, so there's no requirement to add any. Let the congregation get used to singing the congregational portions of the Mass. The foundation for everything else is to sing the dialogues with the priest: "The Lord be with you", etc., and the "Amen"s. The priest's example is important. He can sing the melodies in the Missal.

    After a few weeks with just those, you can add the "Lord, have mercy", and the "Lamb of God", on the ICEL tunes. A lot of congregations like to sing the Agnus Dei in Latin, so if your priest is cool with a little Latin, go for that.

    Later you can add the Holy, the Our Father, and the Gloria.

    For a congregation that's not used to singing, it's OK if everything is the same week after week. You could phase in these basic chants over the span of a year.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Thanks so much, chonak!

    I should probably mention that the 7am Mass does have music occasionally on holidays. I used to work there as a children's choir director for the 8:30am and recall seeing a cantor/pianist every Sunday after the 7am finished but don't know what happened to her. Also, the congregation knows me - I've been attending that church since I was 7 years old.

    The pastor does want hymns for Entrance, Communion and Offertory. I suggested using the SEPs (I'm familiar with and have sung them before) but we discovered the antiphons don't match our "Celebrate/Celebremos Missal". Please excuse my ignorance - why don't they match? Shouldn't they?

    I feel like a lot of this "Musica Sacra" stuff is more of a trial-and-error process people learn over a long period of time...but I wish there were some dummy-proof introductory resources for helping a mostly "contemporary" music parish utilize existing resources to introduce beautiful sacred music. This forum sure has helped me a lot!!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,737
    The general worldwide rule in the Church is that the entrance, offertory, and communion antiphons are in the book "Graduale Romanum". The SEP antiphons are translated from that source.

    There are also antiphons (entrance and communion only) in the Roman Missal, and these are intended for spoken use only, at Masses with no music. But a few years ago the U.S. Bishops granted permission to sing them also, so now you can sing either text. Some weeks the Missal and the Graduale are identical; sometimes not.

    Jeff Ostrowski has an article about this oddity:

    Thanked by 1SopranoViolin
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    Welcome to the ministry and thanks for posting on the forum.

    The link that Mathew has posted is a great one. It has the Missal Antiphons for Entrance and Communion and the Offertory Antiphon from the gradual all in Enflish.
    My choir does not read square notes we sing off of the accompaniment scores.

    There are others out there but as far as ease of use I find the Lumen Christi Series the best.

    Good luck
    Thanked by 1SopranoViolin
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    On the issue of the text of the gradual vs the missal:
    The Gradual text is preferred but there is absolutely nothing wrong with singing the Missal Texts. Please sing them, they are approved for singing since the last GIRM.

    Then when your comfortable adding the Gradual please do so.
  • Thank you all for the clarification!! This explains so much, esp. the post by Jeff Ostrowski :)
  • Regarding my original comment, this may be a bit redundant, but is it okay to sing solo without organ acc. at all for Sunday Masses?? That's probably my main concern...I'm sorry if this a n00b question, haha!
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    Is certainly ok for you to do it. You are the Cantor (leader of song) for the congregation.
    Just know that you are not to replace the singing by the faithful but to lead it.

    However there are times when you will be the only one singing.
    Expl: the Psalm verse or the Antiphons.
    So sing it strong and proud.

    When it's time for the congregation to sing (Gloria, Our Father, etc) don't get in there way, just lead and set the key and tempo.

    What ever you do, do not be timid.
    The congregation will sing when you and your priest are singing.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,412

    In fact, some of us would prefer it.
  • How so, Adam? I'm probably a bit biased being an instrumentalist :) is there room for solo violin during Mass? Or only for prelude/postlude? Being new to the Musica Sacra scene I'm always trying to ensure I'm liturgically appropriate...
  • Welcome ;-) In my experience if they know you play violin they will find a way to use it! As one commenter mentioned, hymns aren't necessary. Perhaps you could ask about switching out a hymn for an equally appropriate violin piece or make an arrangement of one that your congregation is familiar with? I have done this many times and get frequent calls for it, seems to go over well in my neck of the woods. Good luck and welcome again!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,412
    There is nothing wrong with solo violin, though the liturgy doesn't really call for instrumental music within the liturgy.

    That is to say - it is not required, not that it isn't allowed.

    There is nothing at all wrong with unaccompanied chanting and singing, nor with chanting and singing accompanied by a violin (though singing and playing at the same time might prove challenging).