Are you the cantor too?
  • Joseph_M
    Posts: 8
    I'm wondering how many of you find yourselves in the position of playing the organ and also being the cantor at OF? I've inherited parishes where this was the way the DM had always done it and now I am trying to build up a solid foundation of cantors. I find it extremely difficult to effectively accompany the congregation and sing at the same time unless I'm playing some simple chant arrangements. I also recognize that my voice isn't the most lovely voice in the parish though I can sing the right notes. Looking for advice from others on what you may do in this situation?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,780
    I indeed pull double duty. I have for years and years. In certain places, I was the only musician, full stop. At my current post, I have two cantors, but we have four masses every weekend, as well as tons of extra events (cathedral) so I pull double duty multiple times per week.
    Thanked by 2PaxTecum MatthewRoth
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 313
    I also do both. I prefer not to have cantors, I feel it is a waste of the budget and it is hard to find someone who can chant properly. I'd rather just do it myself and use the budget for helping out the volunteer choir with some more experienced voices.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • TCJ
    Posts: 977
    I do both. Once upon a time I had a competent cantor who would sing about half the Saturday Masses, but she's been gone a few years. There is someone else in the choir who can be cantor, but I prefer he spends his time with the choir rather than by himself.

    What I found helped me immensely was every time I'd sit down to practice the organ, I'd spend some time flipping through the hymn book sight-singing and playing random hymns. I did this until I was comfortable picking up any hymn and playing and singing it without prior practice (not an excuse not to practice).

    I also back away if I have a singing congregation. Why should I boom my voice into a microphone if they know the hymn and are willing to sing it strongly?
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,306
    I have been in situations where I did this a lot and in other situations where I did this very rarely, depending on the parish. For 4+ years recently, it was very rare, because they tried to have semi-pro, paid cantors for every Mass, so I only did it in a pinch. At other points in my career, I did it every Sunday.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • trentonjconn
    Posts: 575
    I do this at any Masses which don't have the choir.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 275
    I wish my MD would act as cantor for funerals. The one older woman who serves as cantor for funerals sounds as if she could wake the dead with her shrill voice.

    Anywho…
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,780
    also do both. I prefer not to have cantors, I feel it is a waste of the budget and it is hard to find someone who can chant properly. I'd rather just do it myself and use the budget for helping out the volunteer choir with some more experienced voices.
    Also this. TBH, it's just easier when it's just me. The only time I *need* a cantor is if I want to do a really big organ arrangement with reharms and whatnot. Then it's helpful to just focus on organ. But barring those moments, sometimes it's actually just easier / simpler to not have other people involved.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,780
    What I found helped me immensely was every time I'd sit down to practice the organ, I'd spend some time flipping through the hymn book sight-singing and playing random hymns. I did this until I was comfortable picking up any hymn and playing and singing it without prior practice (not an excuse not to practice).
    I have encouraged all my students to do this. They don't, and then they text me horror stories of how they struggled to play a hymn they didn't know, and then I gently remind them that I specifically asked them to implement this routine multiple times and this is why...
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Serviam... you should probably pay your double duty cantor.
    Thanked by 2Liam ServiamScores
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 997
    I have evidence!

    Nowadays I don’t mic up, tho. Actually enjoy doing this sometimes.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,780
    Francis, that’s the argument I’ve been making to the chancery :-)
    Thanked by 2francis Liam
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Reminds me of when I employed three musical talents. Guitarist, organist and vocalist… except it was all from one person …simultaneously.
    Thanked by 2Liam CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,004
    At least no one asked you to play harmonica.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Joseph_M
    Posts: 8
    TCJ that's good advice.

    I've played piano my whole life and acquired a home organ two years ago so I could fill a void of many parishes in our rural area lacking an organist. I can manage some common hymns pretty well if I need to sing, but when I throw in something like Now Thank We All Our God my muscle memory doesnt follow the music naturally. I think if my organ skills were improved it would help, but with young kids finding practice time is tough. I've made a lot of progress but still significant room to grow to match my ability on a piano.

    I was hoping someone would say "a church document says you should only have one role during Mass." I'll keep plugging away
  • tandrews
    Posts: 164
    It's very difficult to find cantors for our evening Mass, so I do the Elton John thing too. It's very good practice and a skill no one taught us in college/grad school.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 432
    For me, it's varied from place to place. My first job, I did it all the time for daily Mass but rarely on Sundays (it's also the only place I've been that has expected an organist for daily Mass). When I moved to Florida, the first place I was at expected it for all weddings and funerals, but not on Sundays. At the place I left about a year ago for my current position, I regularly had to do it, usually at the early morning Mass but sometimes others, rarely for weddings and funerals. Where I'm at now, I've had to do it only once on Sunday when the scheduled cantor got her schedule mixed up and came for the next Mass instead, and occasionally in Spanish.

    No matter the situation, it's a good skill to pick up as an organist, even if you wouldn't be caught dead doing so in public. It helps me when practicing hymns in terms of breathing/lifting and tempo. When you have to sing from the bench, your singing technique can be somewhat compromised and you become closer to the untrained person in the pew, which isn't a bad thing when you have to lead said people.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,501
    I used to do this for funerals if there was no cantor to be found.
    Our organist refuses to sing, so we have a cantor at every mass where there is no choir.
  • davido
    Posts: 898
    Legend says that Frescobaldi was famous for cantoring from the organ bench while playing.
    So there is quality precedent.
  • PhilipPowell
    Posts: 115
    Personally, I find “Billy Joel-ing it” (as Matthew Meloche would say) easier than trying to have a cantor show up for our 7:30am daily Mass.
  • DavidOLGCDavidOLGC
    Posts: 80
    So far I have not been both the cantor and organist.

    What I have done is sing along with the choir as part of the ensemble, so I am singing and playing the Gloria for example. I also teach them the melodies of new pieces by playing and singing, particularly the Entrance Antiphon, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and Communion Antiphon.
  • gensemer
    Posts: 4
    I tried this for a few months but didn't enjoy it at all since I'd prefer to either sing well or play organ well but not to do a mediocre job at both. So I've organized a little schola that does everything a capella, when I'm responsible which so far has been only once a month. At the start it was just me and my son, but we have others that join us with varying frequency. It has been a great success and the congregation has been very supportive. We use Simple English Propers a lot - almost the whole thing we chant but we do a polyphonic piece for after-communion, and we have an exit hymn right out of the hymnal and sometimes the organist joins us for this.
    Thanked by 2DavidOLGC Carol
  • DavidOLGCDavidOLGC
    Posts: 80
    Well, today our cantor called in sick at the last minute...and I had to step in and sing his parts.

    It took a lot of concentration, and I would have liked to have more time to prepare than an hour before Mass, but it worked out OK.

    To those of you that are both organist and cantor all the time, my hat's off to you.
  • Magdalene
    Posts: 11
    All I've ever known was singing while playing the organ. It's what all our music directors did when I was growing up (though they played piano, not organ). I only have a choir at one Mass on the weekends, so I sing the other two by myself while playing the organ. I also do all funerals and weddings by myself. It's been fine until you end up needing three verses instead of one on a new hymn and hymn tune. Come Holy Spirit!
  • emac3183
    Posts: 37
    When I have a cantor, I tend to sing with them as a "choir" of 2. I find it supports the congregational singing better the more sound I have in the loft and counteracts the "cantor diva" effect. If something is new or particularly difficult, I will drop out if I need to focus more heavily on the organ part, and I have the cantor sing solo on incipits/psalm verses generally speaking.
    Being able to do that has allowed people who weren't quite comfortable singing as a cantor to step up, and now several of them have become really solid!
  • Carol
    Posts: 856
    Sometimes my organist will sing along and that's fine until we come to a word with more than one pronunciation, such as eee-ther/eye-ther. I try to be conscious that my role is as leader of song and not the diva.
    Thanked by 1DavidOLGC
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I didn't do both. I had the good sense to realize my voice declined in my fifties and I quit singing solo. Too many "divas" seem to not know when to give it up.
    Thanked by 2DavidOLGC Carol
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,697

    Personally, I find “Billy Joel-ing it” (as Matthew Meloche would say) easier than trying to have a cantor show up for our 7:30am daily Mass.


    @philippowell Can't you force your sisters to sing at those early Masses?
    Thanked by 1PhilipPowell
  • This arrangement of Cantor and Organist in one is so prevalent in my region, that people often assume i also play the organ when i only do the singing.