How does your parish train cantors?
  • gtastove
    Posts: 6
    Question: when you all train your cantors, what are the ways you do this? What are the best steps to take if one is just starting out?

    Only helpful comments, please.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 236
    All my cantors are paid, and well. I walk them through the Mass and give them different cue sheets for where to be and what to do at a weekend/funeral/wedding Mass. If they are unfamiliar with chant or singing pointed psalms, or the other stuff you may not get studying Schubert or Handel or Verdi with a teacher, I coach and demo as needed. We spend maybe 30-45 minutes together before their first Mass running everything and cleaning up the rough places. After the Mass, I'll point out anything that could have been better. Thereafter, they get the music in advance, prep it, show up, and sing, and we only talk together beforehand if there's been some change.

    All of them save one have previous vocal training, and I haven't had to touch that part of the process. The exception is now a college freshman, and spent 2 years singing in all three of my choirs (adult SATB, chant, high school chant), and picked up on what I was teaching 7x a week. When her I noticed her reading and vocal production had become pretty solid, I asked if she could sub in an emergency; she rose to the occasion, and ended up singing many a Mass the summer before she left, and now whenever she's on break.

    I've had many an untrained person ask if they could be a cantor; I've always said yes, if you join the choir first, to learn the ropes of singing the liturgy/reading quickly/intonation/Latin there. All but the aforementioned student didn't want to make the commitment, and went on their way.

    We typically have no cantor at the weekend Masses in this church; the choir sings the high Mass, and then the rest are organ/congregation; I myself lead the psalm and alleluia unaccompanied, and the remainder of the music is simply accompanied by the organ. I sing and the priest sings, but there's no amplified songleader. To me it's much less of a headache and a better musical result than running a piano bar with a revolving cast of people with microphones who shouldn't have them. If we had more money, it'd be nice to have a pro singing quality repertory, but that's not the case, and we get along fine without it.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 282
    Our parish cantors practice once a month. Some have sung with high school or college choirs some are long time choir members affluent in many types of hymns, mass settings, and choral arrangements. Some are paid, some sing more masses than others. I known these facts because I was cantor for the parish about 5 years until it became to hard for me to do plus sing in the choir and schola. The age group ranges from young 20 year olds to those in their 70s.

    If I were to make any suggestions for improvement it would be to have more than one practice a month. Practice in pronunciation of consonants and vowels, good diction makes a big difference and being comfortable and familiar with the text is very important. Technique, that is bringing in the congregation, raising your hand(s), eye contact, stepping away from the mic, etc., needs to be developed as well. I think also the cantor needs to be able to pinch hit when necessary and not be solely focused on just the mass(s) they are responsible for during the month. I can't tell you how many times I had to pinch hit for cantors who had scratchy throat, not prepared, had a cramp...etc.