Solos a cantor should know
  • The Propers. That's all!
    Any other music is not cantatorial and is foreign to the cantor's purpose & function.

    This is not to say that there can't be solos. A soloist may sing a solo in place of an anthem when there is no choir.

    But Cantor and Soloist are two quite distinct responsibilities carried out by two distinct persons with different vocal styles and functions. Further, a cantor is necessary and inherent to the liturgy. A soloist is not.
  • benji5
    Posts: 2
    Top Fifty Church Solos and Top 10 Spirituals. Kenneth Christensen.
    Tenor Soloist and Cantor, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church McHenry, IL.

    1. Bach-Gounod/ Schubert Ave Maria (tied)
    2. Franck: Panis Angelicus
    3. Malotte: The Lord's Prayer
    4. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach)
    5. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Beethoven)
    6. Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart)
    7. Agnus Dei. Bizet.
    8. Sheep May Safely Graze
    9. Art Thou with Me
    10. On Eagle's Wings (arr. Mark Hayes)

    Top 10 Easter:

    1. The Holy City
    2. The Palms
    3. O Divine Redeemer (Gounod)
    4. The Crucifixion (Spiritual arr. Moses Hogan)
    5. Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? (arr. Hogan)
    6. Let Us Break Bread Together (arr. William Cutter)
    7. Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (arr. Mark Hayes)
    8. There is a Green Hill Far Away (Gounod)
    9. I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked
    10. Psalm 23. Paul Creston or Samuel Liddle
    11. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from Messiah (sopranos only)

    Standard Inspiritational. Most no Longer Done To Death

    1. O Promise Me
    2. Precious Lord, Take My Hand
    3. Bless This House
    4. May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You
    5. Dvorak: Biblical Songs (especially: God is My Shepherd and I Will Sing New Songs)
    6. My Savior Will Supply My Need
    7. I Walk with God
    8. Make Me A Channel of Your Peace
    9. The King of Love My Shepherd Is
    10. Amazing Grace (arr. William Cutter)

    Fourth of July/ Patriotic Holidays

    1. America the Beautiful (arr. Althouse)
    2. God Bless America
    3. Lift Every Voice and Sing
    4. The Battle Hymn of the Republic (arr. Althouse or Hayes)
    5. Deep River (arr. Hayes) and other Spiritual arrangements
    6. Harry Burleigh Spirituals (no specific favorites)
    7. God Bless the U.S.A
    8. This is My Country
    9. What America Means to Me (Frank Sinatra Song)
    10. The Star Spangled Banner (arr. Jay Althouse)

    Christmas (most requested)

    1. O Holy Night
    2. Gesu Bambino
    3. Messiah Arias for each voice range from Christmas and Final Portion of Oratorio
    4. I Wonder as I Wander
    5. Mary, Did You Know?
    6. Peter Cornelius Christmas Songs: The Shepherds, The Christ Child, Three Kings
    7. The Birthday of a King
    8. Alfred Burt Christmas Carols especially Star Carol, Some Children See Him
    9. The Virgin's Slumber Song
    10. Classical Carols (arr. Jay Althouse): Once In Royal David's City, The Wexford Carol,
    The First Noel and Silent Night especially
    10. Mark Hayes Midnight Noel: especially: Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming, Bring a
    Torch, Jeanette, Isabella, Away in a Manger, The Coventry Carol


    1. Deep River (arr. Mark Hayes)
    2. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (William Arms Fischer)
    3. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen (Jay Althouse)
    4. Steal Away; Give Me Jesus (Mark Hayes)
    5. Balm in Gilead (Mark Hayes)
    6. De Gospel Train (Burleigh)
    7. Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho (Burleigh)
    8. Little David, Play on Your Harp (Burleigh)
    9. Go Down, Moses (Burleigh)
    10. Ezekiel Saw the Wheel (arr. Althouse)
    11. Luigi Zaninelli Gospel and Revival Meeting Hymns (Ten Arrangements)
    Thanked by 1amindthatsuits
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I really don't remember this thread or why Kenneth started it, but how did it suddenly turn into a karaoke play list?
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    Not sure, Melo, but assuming the author, (welcome, benji5!) happened upon the thread and provided a list that in his experience, or that of someone whose opinion and experience he values, these were the items most often requested of church soloists, at least in his faith tradition.
    I admit, I am a little sad to see #10 on the first, general list - et tu, Lutheran singer?
    A cantor with a fine voice is almost inevitably going to be asked to sing solos at weddings, funerals, ball games, etc., it is a kindness to young singers to give them a heads up on probably repertoire.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • In which parish would you like to earn money: a parish where the principles of the worship of God are respected or one in which what you describe as selfishness is the highest expression?
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,900
    how did it suddenly turn into a karaoke play list?

    3:41 - 5:18 is most helpful in outlining the style and equipment necessary for this type of undertaking -
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,000
    There is no solo literature suitable for the Roman Catholic Mass.

    Sorry, Noel, but the 17th-19th centuries disagree with you. And when you have a musical tradition that dates back to within a decade of the death of Palestrina, I'd be hesitant to dismiss it so readily...even if it is the highest art form of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

    But just because there's literature doesn't mean that one should do it. Some Baroque things are good (much of Viadana), but some are too much about praising God for His gift of the human throat (J.A. Hasse comes to mind here) The original question was about gigability rather than musico-liturgical aesthetics, but I wouldn't want to do either of the Ave Maria settings, given how many others there are (the Schubert is a bad contrafactum that violates the words). And I just did "the" Panis a month ago, because folks wanted it for First Communions, and I figure if parishioners care enough to make a request, I should do what I can to honor it.

    For "solo literature that works"..there's a lovely Salve Regina by Deodat de Severac (1872-1921) on IMSLP. I just edited a Pange Lingua (H. 62) by Charpentier which I'll eventually get up on CPDL. It's for solo voice and unison choir, but there's no reason that it couldn't be done all-solo.
    Thanked by 1barreltone
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,690
    A bass-ic repertory, mostly from my Wanderjahre:

    Monteverdi: Ab aeterno, Laudate Dominum
    Purcell's verse anthems for bass: Sing unto God, The Lord is King, I will love Thee
    G. Jeffries: Bless the Lord O my Soul
    JSB: Schlummert ein
    Handel: The People that Walked, Trumpet Shall Sound
    Haydn: Then Heaven in Brightest Glory
    Mozart: O Isis/O Lord our God (Mack Harralls' anthology Sacred Hour of Song))
    Schubert: Allmacht, Litanei, Abendrot/O how lovely (Harrall)
    C. Franck: O salutaris
    Brahms: Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelszungen
    Dvorak: Hospodin/God is my Shepherd, Goin' Home
    Ives: Serenity, Christmas Carol, Religion, Hymn
    Fauré: La Rancon

    The Brahms I of course only do with pianists I know very well, and doesn't fit the original request for suitcase anthems!
  • There seems to be some delusion that a cantor and a soloist (as understood by the literature, good and bad, under discussion here) are the same thing. Cantors, by definition, are singers of the proper ritual texts of the liturgy. Soloists may sing just about anything, depending solely on their musical and liturgical integrity, in or out of liturgy. All a cantor needs to know is how to intone 'ordinary' liturgical texts, how to sing the propers to Gregorian chant, and how to sing the psalter to Gregorian psalm tones, and how to ornament these tones for his verses of responsorial psalmody. A person who doesn't, or can't, do these things is not a cantor.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JonLaird
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Then you get into the soloists who think they are cantors, the cantors who think they are soloists, and the cantor/soloists who are not particularly good at either.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I rather prefer the Bachian-like association of Kantor=Kapellmeister over the now nebulous term "cantor." Jackson and I are philosophically aligned, but I'd go a step further and let the term culturally rest in the Jewish assignment.
    Someone who chants the verses of a gradual or alleluia is simply a solo chanter. And I wish the V2 lit docs had not appropriated "cantor" for that occasion.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,103
    The term "cantor" was in common use (in English) in the RC church long before Vatican II. Just take a look at the Service Music section of The Pius X Hymnal, where you will find numerous references on one or two cantors singing their parts of the liturgies.

    That said, I'm in complete agreement with Jackson; morevoer, I have no problems with referring to a (proper) cantor as a "chanter" but realize that the term "cantor" has been, is, and will be probably the normative term.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • True -
    from of old two, four, more, or fewer, cantors were prescribed in various rites and uses depending on the importance of the feast. In the Sarum Use on great feasts four cantors (choristers, specifically) vested in copes were to intone the Alleluya from the rood loft.

    The cantor, as Chuck affirms, is not new to Catholic liturgy. Being a cantor, a chanter, is to fill a very ancient and venerable office, and most of our contemporary counterparts are a disgrace to the tradition. A cantor is understood properly to be a person skilled in the chanting and delivery of sacred ritual texts - he (or she) is a chanter, one who chants. Stumbling through what passes for 'chant' in R&A and such does not entitle one to the august signifer 'cantor'. Every diocese should provide for formal training of cantors, in which they learn how to chant (not just 'sing') their parts of the ritual. They should be given certificates of office and none others should be allowed to perform their sacred role.

    They should be paid. Nor should anyone with a nice voice who can use a 'gig' be automatically considered cantor material. Part and parcel of a cantor's training should be immersion in the spirituality, the sacredness, of what he (or she) is chanting, and bond deeply with the sacred ritual texts. In fact, anyone who uses the word 'gig' in reference to the practice of sacred music doesn't belong there.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,690
    They should be paid
    An important step.
    They should be given certificates of office and none others should be allowed
    We've had this discussion about who would likely do the certifying before. I know an astoundingly good organist who was flunked and fired because he argued with the examiner about whether the cantor had to raise both hands.
    anyone who uses the word 'gig'
    Do we need to rehash whether professionalism and dependability should extend into the realm of church music? If singing Mass gets taken as seriously as other performances it will be a step forward.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CCooze
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    the august signifier 'cantor'

    Though not hyperbole, Jackson, methinks thou elevate(th) this responsibility to an office which, despite historical citations/concerns, is irrelevant in this era. Even if I were to accept some acknowledgement of being the Kantor/Kapellmeister by my previous analogy, I would never self-refer in any context, even a Pontifical Mass, as "Cantor." In plain language, we are all part and parcel of the choirs, both earthly and angelic. I'm down widdat.
    To illustrate, if the dread Schubert Mass in G were being employed at liturgy wherein a printed Ordo was made available to the congregation, I would no longer list "Mrs. McGillacuddy, Soprano" or the tenor and bass as designated soloists. Were it a concert, sure.
    Despite references in legislative books pre or post, I maintain there are distinct differences between the role of a "Cantor" in Jewish high Holy Days among other services, and the choral ethos of the Roman Rite all the way back to antiquity.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • .
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,690
    In fact, for me, even giving a recital is a spiritual expression
    It's hard work picking a fight with you ;-) but handraising is one litmus test of 'mental, conceptual, spiritual states', using three letter words is another, it seems to me.
  • Any of the propers are appropriate as solos. And it would be ecumenical to use them in a protestant church, There are English transcriptions too.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    In a Catholic Church, you can use the Offertory Antiphon with appropriate psalm verses, an appropriate hymn, an organ solo piece, etc.

    If a solo cantor with organ accompaniment a few essential pieces:

    1. Ave Maria - Schubert
    2. Ave Verum Corpus - Mozart
    3. Panis Angelicus - Franck
    4. Holy Art Thou - Handel/Phillips

    Other things you could consider include some of the eucharistic chants such as "Ave Verum Corpus" or "O Salutaris Hostia"

    But if you're in a parish church where there is no incense or even no offertory procession, you could just play an improvisation. I usually improv on the antiphon or on Ave Verum Corpus, or on Picardy (Let All Mortal Flesh)
  • I have to admit I find this amusing.

    It was the abuse I got for asking this innocently now a long time ago that led to (1) those periodic reminders not to be abusive (because I complained to the moderator), and (2) my more or less permanent absence from this list. That was why I did not notice until now. I returned to ask advice innocently, got more abuse, and probably won't stick my head in again. I am not the champion in that regard: a good friend who answered the question here himself asked a two sentence question in 2008 or so that resulted in a 12,000 word flame.

    That said, while Jackson is correct in categorizing in the abstract, the category I am working from is "working musician." In that case, one can be a cantor who is asked to do solos, or a soloist who is asked to fill in as cantor. What I meant by asking was, if I am going to shop myself around, what I should I be able to do. The answer turns out to be, (1) Wedding music, (2) Funeral music, (3)things appropriate for post-Communion if it strikes the DM as a good thing, and (4) other useful stuff.

    That would not seem to be such a hard answer, and I thank Benji5 for his thorough answer. The first time I asked it, various people wanted me to get it through my thick skull that soloists don't sing in a proper Catholic liturgy and even suggested that I forgo working if it meant sinning so grievously. As they wouldn't allow anyone else to talk, I gave up on the Forum and only return when I think the abusiveness will be bearable.

    My favorite perhaps was that I qualified it by saying, 'i sing German art song, so my skills are pretty good, so include some hard songs but how about some things for a less skilled cantor?' Someone wrote, "You shouldn't be singing German art songs at Mass." Helpful. Really, really helpful.

    Thanks for all the helpful responses. Knowing more, I asked the question again later, and got better responses. Perhaps I will string the helpful answers together and post that so some young cantor can start building his or her repertoire.


  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    Solos to know? I'd start with Ad Te Levavi and move on from there....

  • francis
    Posts: 10,476
    MJO says it best. Is there a 'gray' area where solos could be offered? Yea, it is definitely gray. Shuberts AM is one of the worst distractions to sacred music that has put its tentacles on the liturgy.

    Cantors don't need to sing solos.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    The first time I asked it, various people wanted me to get it through my thick skull that soloists don't sing in a proper Catholic liturgy and even suggested that I forgo working if it meant sinning so grievously.

    Yes, they do, and in more places than not.

    Cantors don't need to sing solos.

    Some cantors need to not sing, period, but they do.

    Keep in mind that most of us are not re-enacting or approximating Medieval liturgies but work in NO parishes where the expectations are different. If playing the Schubert a couple of times a year keeps everyone happy so I can then play better stuff that I like, I can live with that. If some snob objects, I don't care.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,476

    I will be playing the Shubert for a wedding in two weeks. It isn't a crime. It isn't against church rubrics. I give the couple the choice on Marian music for that spot.

    Nonetheless, three things remain definite in my mind:
    1. Shubert is the worst choice (well maybe HMGW is close)
    2. It doesn't belong in the liturgy. The Salve WOULD be appropriate.
    3. Shubert is just operatic schmaltz and has nothing to do with sacred music.
  • 'It isn't a crime.'

    Not at all wishing to start something or be disagreeable -
    it's just that when I saw those words I couldn't help but think of
    Bill and Hillary when they protest that 'it was legal'.

    Yes, we are all remorseful when we have to lower our standards, and none of us has been immune. That doesn't make it less painful, though, does it? And, yes: there are worse things than Schubert (though I always wonder how people can sing it in church with a straight face). (And, most things that 'aren't a crime' really are a crime in another, higher, sense, aren't they!)
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    If you are looking for a crime, try "Eagle's Wings." THAT is a sin against nature. I would play Schubert any day instead.

    We do the "Salve," but I play the Schubert by request around Mother's Day. One of my singers has a tradition of singing it for his mother, and has been doing it since before I was there. I'm OK with that. Usually when I play it is for funerals. I won't do weddings and don't need the money enough to put up with the people involved, which is why I contract them out. Around the time of Our Lady of the Rosary, some ask for an 'ave.' This year I think we will do the Arcadelt instead.
  • Charles,

    Once --- just once --- could you get through a posting without reminding everyone that you don't need the money?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    I might remind you if I DID need the money. It's a very good reason to not do weddings and get involved with all the stress present in every wedding I have ever experienced. Of course, if you will stop reminding everyone that any item brought up for discussion is wrong because it isn't done in the Tridentine mass...
  • Kenneth, it's clear you do not have a dog in this fight.
  • A good friend and coleague wrote a management thesis on"toxic work places." I seem to have started the toxic thread.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    I seem to have started the toxic thread.

    Worry not, I say unto you. That should be in scripture somewhere.
  • I recently learned what a web troll is.
  • Actually, I find it interesting, curious, and clever that Charles sometimes intimates that he doesn't need the money. I hope that his good fortune continues... that he is able to continue saying it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Many thanks, Jackson. I am not wealthy - Trump is wealthy. But I have all that I need and am greatly blessed with good health. Much to give thanks for.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,103
    I'm really surprised that nobody has mentioned the (original) Ralph Vaughan William setting of The Call ("Come my way, my Truth, my Life") ... not the bowdlerized arrangement in hymnals. Score attached (it's good with organ accompaniment, actually better than with piano).
  • Of course, if you will stop reminding everyone that any item brought up for discussion is wrong because it isn't done in the Tridentine mass...


    You overstate my position. Still, mentioning the ancient rite isn't the same as mentioning personal wealth, so your analogy limps a bit.

    I would enjoy learning about the other rites in the Church. Maybe that should be another thread hereabouts --you know, like Catholic Answer Open Forum for non-Roman Rite Catholics Only ---- so that the rest of us can learn about the riches available.

    God bless,

  • Liam
    Posts: 4,832

    For your penance, sing 5 Malotte Our Fathers, 5 Gentle Womans, and 5 P&W doxlogies of your choice.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Chris, I don't think I ever mentioned personal wealth. I have noted that I don't have to have the money from weddings, and that putting up with the hassle wouldn't be worth it at any price. In other words, you couldn't pay me enough to do them.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    By the way, Chris. Happy new year! September 1st was the beginning of year 7524 of the Byzantine Julian calendar.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,083
    you couldn't pay me enough to do them.

    Oh. You can always do them and send the money to soMEone else.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    Heeheehee. There is an older organist here who really needs the money, keeps all the literature practiced and ready, and plays well. I contract with her to do all the weddings, which works well for both of us.
  • I think it's fun that Charles avers now and then that he doesn't need the money. I hope he keeps doing it. As for weddings, most of them are rather a routine affair with couples who know nothing of music and more or less leave it up to the organist, or who know nothing of music but are insistent on some awful stuff that they heard somewhere (in which case one bows out), or the rare ones who know nothing or know quite a bit and are intelligently and joyfully involved in making good and informed decisions. These are a joy to play for - and! they actually will have listened to the music at the wedding and been overjoyed with it. The others probably wouldn't know what you actually played - it's just background to them.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    The others probably wouldn't know what you actually played - it's just background to them.

    I'm afraid everything on Sunday morning has become background noise to most of the congregation. It's like they took tranquilizers before coming to mass and are just floating once there. Maybe that's what the sforzando is for - awake from your slumber, arise from your sleep...