Cantors that mix up verses
  • How do you deal with cantors that have a penchant for accidentally singing hymn verses out of order or mixing verses? With hymns like Take and Eat, I Receive the Living God, All Creatures of Our God and King, that all have 7+ verses, sometimes older cantors can goof. The only solution I can think of is using multiple highlighters, but I'm wondering if anyone else has some genius ideas they use!
  • I'm in awe of multiple verses - I don't think I've ever assisted at any Mass where anyone got through more than one or two verses before moving on to the next action item! :P
    Thanked by 1tandrews
  • WGS
    Posts: 229
    Hymnal 1982 frequently displays a short ___ between verse 3 and before the beginning of verse 4. (At least, to me that seems to be the pattern.)

    I presume this is intended as an assist for singers as they refocus their attention for singing another verse.

    A cantor could use a similar technique. He might do do the marking by himself or else some other person might provide these visual clues.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 274
    When I was cantor and even now in the choir, it depended on how far away from the notes the lyrics are, the font size of the text, the space between verses and most importantly, how familiar I was with the text. If you wear glasses as i do, then I'm managing all the verses through a narrow pane of glass, as in a bifocal or even trifocals in which the pane of glass is narrower. I have "goofed up" as you say because stuff happens. Seven plus verses is problematic based on the conditions I mentioned. A lot also depends on the singer and musician both need to keep their wits about them when goofs happen. I really haven't found a good solution except to be familiar with the text so that if you goof, you can recover.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,868
    One thing you can do is introduce a brief interlude between verses to allow cantors to refocus. (They should be able to sing any refrain by heart.)
    Thanked by 1GregoryWeber
  • Cantors shouldn't be cantoring (especially if they're in front of a microphone and have their backs to Jesus) if they can't keep track of where they are in the text. Affirmatively, then, the scores they use shouldn't be so confusing as to allow this.
    Thanked by 2GregoryWeber CCooze
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 224
    Bring back the Domincan discipline of making the venia if one has made a grave error in singing.

    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2008/07/dominican-venia-and-kissing-scapular.html

    If lying on the floor and getting back up multiple times during the Mass becomes too taxing for a cantor, it may bear fruit in their retirement.


    Thanked by 1ryand
  • Have the cantors sing from a photocopy of the hymn with every other verse highlighted. Worked like a charm at my old parish. Had some cantors who actually insisted on that highlighting.
    Thanked by 1tandrews
  • Three suggestions, in addition to the excellent ones above, starting with an elaboration of


    Cantors shouldn't be cantoring (especially if they're in front of a microphone
    .

    1. Why do we need cantors singing into a microphone at all, if the tune is well known? If the cantor's voice is not amplified, cantor mistakes will not throw off anyone else. In the Protestant churches where I grew up, people have been singing hymns for a few centuries without any cantors at all.

    2. I used to have a choir director who would hold up his hand with the appropriate number of fingers extended to show which verse we should sing next.

    3. This will require some work: print out each verse separately from the music, or (as done in a recent hymnal which is not much liked in this forum) print out each verse together with the music.

    4. In some cases it might be appropriate not to sing all the verses. For example, during communion, you could sing two or three verses and then have the organist or choir perform something else, or have silence. And it shouldn't always be the first N verses; sometimes it is worthwhile to sing, for example, verses 1, 3, and 7.

    Three suggestions? A baker's three, it turned out.
  • Carol
    Posts: 488
    As a cantor, I consider it my responsibility to mark my music in the way that works best for me. It is OF with the dreaded OCP missallette. I have my own copy which I carry back and forth and mark as needed. Underlines between multiple verses works best for me, sometimes even with colored pens. With certain psalms, I draw lines connecting words where one verse is considerably shorter than another and so there is a large space to track across. Most importantly, I sing through everything beforehand and ascertain what might trip me up. On the other hand, do you play everything perfectly when you are the accompanist? Giving the benefit of the doubt is a kindness when it is not a chronic problem.
  • Carol,

    You raise a valid question:
    On the other hand, do you play everything perfectly when you are the accompanist?


    to which I would like to raise a clarifying point.

    If the organist is doubling the voices ON PURPOSE, to support part singing, then clearly he should play exactly what's there. If the choir is singing in unison and the organist is therefore not doubling the parts, "mistakes" may merely be improvements on the clunky part work provided for choir members. (I am struck by how incredibly awkward some part writing is). Similarly, is the mistake in the melody or in a lower part?

    These distinctions make a difference because the cantor is singing something the text of which is available to everyone, and the text of which is required to be sung AS IS. (This is the first situation).

    It also makes a difference if the changes made are from clumsiness, malice (or pride, I guess) or nerves - or power failure.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Thank you everyone for the responses. There are lots of good ideas I'm keen on implementing very soon. Score preparation seems to be the best idea. That and encouraging the cantor(s) in question to take some time preparing their hymnals on their own.

    Hymnal 1982 frequently displays a short ___ between verse 3 and before the beginning of verse 4. (At least, to me that seems to be the pattern.)


    I always wondered what that was about. It shows up in BB a lot too. My guess always was that it was an arbitrary final verse should a church not want to do all the verses. Oops!
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,103
    When I teach children, I tell them that even though when they read people sometimes ask them not to follow along with their finger, when they sing it is actually a good idea to use their finger to keep their place on the page.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 738
    I've found that it's helpful for me to at least place my finger in the margin, next to the correct verse number, if not to just follow along with the text, as well (at least for hymns with more than 4 verses on a page).
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen Carol tandrews
  • Carol
    Posts: 488
    CGZ you are right that sometimes the organist intentionally changes the accompaniment to improve it, but nerves or a misplaced finger is more what I was thinking of. The problem for the cantor is once you are on the wrong verse it is apparent to everyone whereas the organist's error is only apparent to the more musical unless it is a gross error.

    I was really just sticking up for the cantors. Bottom line we are all human and need to prepare properly for Mass.
  • Our old choir director didn't have the music decided upon until the practice before Mass and usually changed music after practice or during Mass.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,868
    Ah, the ancient "Be Afraid - Be Very Afraid" model of choral direction.
    Thanked by 2Carol tandrews
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,944
    Being able to think whilst on one's toes should be the first requirement for the job. Practical suggestions have already been made; from baseline worst to best they're
    3. Get a Vatican II Hymnal :-0
    2. Use a finger
    1. Turn off the microphone and set an example of joining your voice with others
  • We have met the enemy, and he is us. I do this more when I sing and play than I care to admit. Not often, but more than I'd like.

    I mean, if it bothers you that much, you could just shoot me. That should stop it happening any more. Heaven knows you'd make some parishioners happy, too.

    Also, what about accompanists who play the wrong verses? I have one who can't even play the organ in Latin. It's very annoying.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 274
    One other aspect of all of this that I have run into despite my familiarity with the text, especially psalm tones are "word changes", that is, changes made by the publisher. Being familiar with the text is so important. I've noticed to, well it seems to me to be the case, that some cantors wait until that half hour warm up before Mass to learn the music, despite having a once a month practice session with the M.D. and other cantors, once they go home, practicing the music isn't a priority or they don't think about it. I don't know how often you(r) cantors practice but in our parish, I don't think once a month is sufficient.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 488
    New words to old, familiar hymns is a trap- especially words neutered to be PC!
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • I have one who can't even play the organ in Latin. It's very annoying.


    Imagine the horror if someone used the Hautbois on a German Chorale.
  • Have the Cantor announce what she is going to sing.
    You know: “verses one and three”
  • The term ‘testa di tenore’ comes to mind.

    If your editions aren’t idiot proof, your choices are:
    1. Pay the non-idiot premium for your cantors, or
    2. Make your scores idiot proof.

    If (2) means notating every single verse, that’s precisely what you do!!
    Thanked by 1tandrews
  • Palestrina,

    You have not, apparently, met some cunning idiots!
    Thanked by 1tandrews
  • Remember, these are honest mistakes by well intentioned people. As long as you are alive, you will make mistakes. I've done this myself on more than one occasion.
    Thanked by 2Carol PaxMelodious
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,620

    Have the Cantor announce what she is going to sing.
    You know: “verses one and three”


    Or the practice of some contemporary worship leaders to utter the first few words of a refrain before launching into it. That’s always charming. You could do it from the console, announcing the first few words of each verse before it begins. [/purplebold]
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,944
    is in fact standard procedure in Germany and you can choose verses on the fly:
    Thanked by 2ryand tandrews
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,944
    This old-fashioned device in Harlem has a separate slot for the tune number as well!
  • I've used those German hymn displays before. The one I used was incredibly noisy in the stone church.

    CHUNK CHUNK "Es ist ein Ros entspruuuungen..."
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • Well, setting aside the point that some of those 'songs' should be banned...

    It's a matter of concentration, really. It's that simple. If a person has taken reasonable precautions (for example, to be able to see the text and distinguish the verses -- some of the suggestions above can help) and still can't follow verses in numerical order, then the fault lies with a lack of concentration and attention.

    There could be many explanations for such a lapse.

    As effective as the dread of singing the wrong verse into a microphone (thus being heard to sing the wrong verse) might be, it doesn't constitute a good reason to turn on the microphone. Eliminating the microphone form cantoring is a worthy aim, in my view.
  • How do you deal with cantors that have a penchant for accidentally singing hymn verses out of order or mixing verses? With hymns like Take and Eat, I Receive the Living God, All Creatures of Our God and King, that all have 7+ verses, sometimes older cantors can goof.


    All the words got sung, just not in the order you expected. As problems go, it's minor.

    Pray for them, smile graciously and thank them for their service: no matter how bad it was, they've still done a better job that hundreds of other people in the church today would have done.

    And, ahh, never ever programme all seven verses. That's just crazy.
  • tandrews
    Posts: 48
    And, ahh, never ever programme all seven verses. That's just crazy.


    That wasn't my decision to make when the priest mentioned AFTER the opening hymn of Lasst Uns Erfreuen that he wanted us to sound Protestant and sing all the verses. He did say it very sarcastically ("I wanted us to be protestant for a moment"), as if to make a point to me in front of the entire congregation, but I'll happily play 20 verses if he thinks he's going to get under my skin! I can play them slower too...