Have you ever had a volunteer cantor who probably needs to quit?
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 250
    To preface, I’m not a music director, but I’ve been thinking about this and wanted some input.

    We have an elderly woman at my parish who is a cantor and probably has been one for about 30 years or so. She knows liturgy well, is always available, dependable, etc. But the problem is, her voice has likely had its better days. It’s at the point where she’s really shrill on most pieces of music (almost like nails on a chalkboard), gets lost sometimes while singing, etc. Many parishioners have commented how she needs to quit singing and they dread hearing her. I often brush it off because I’m a cantor as well, and I don’t want to gossip about other cantors. I will tell people maybe to let the pastor or music director know how they feel, but really, what do you do with a volunteer who likely needs to hang it up but most likely won’t on her own volition? Do you just keep on keepin’ on with it or get rid of her?
  • TCJ
    Posts: 964
    I was the organist at a parish who had a volunteer cantor who needed to quit. He wasn't old, but his sense of pitch left something to be desired. It wasn't up to me to decide, so he kept singing and nobody did anything about it.

    For choir, I've had a couple people remove themselves from the choir of their own will due to a failing voice so I've not had to make that decision myself. Yet.

    My recommendation is to do exactly what you have done, sending people to the MD or the pastor since it's not your responsibility and let them handle it. If you're ever in a position to make that decision yourself then you do need to gently let them go at some point or another.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    Just an idea.

    If you have numerous cantors, you might print a sheet about cantor skills, how to improve, materials to read, etc. then finally, suggest that at the beginning of the liturgical year each cantor should make a self review or assessment. Am I improving my skills? Is my contribution a help or a hindrance to liturgy? Etc. If the person is honest they might just step down. If they dig their heels in you might ask them the question directly or have the pastor do so.

    I had a couple of these in my last position and if they have a diva mentality it’s truly a thorn in the side for the parish.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,902
    One way is to have annual voice check-ins on an individual basis for all cantors (and choristers where it can be an issue).
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 250
    That’s actually a good idea regarding voice check-ins. Unfortunately, I don’t see it being something that’s implemented, but I think that would be the most surefire way for someone to know how they sound. I remember her telling me years ago that she doesn’t listen to herself, and that could be half the problem right there.
  • I suppose if you're not in charge, but something needs to be done, you can point out the situation to whoever is in charge, and then that's all you can do. It her "performance" is unbecoming at Mass (and the Mass deserves the very best we have to offer), the music director should be informed, and hopefully the music director will make the right decision.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    I had two who lasted much longer than their voices did. They became awful with age. Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone else to take their places. There were some folks who could have done well, they just didn't want the job.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    I eventually began wearing

    https://www.macksearplugs.com/

    when I went to Mass to avoid the distraction.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    How do you think I made it through performances by the middle school string orchestra and the recorder recitals? Earplugs are good.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores