Training Children as Cantors?
  • gtastove
    Posts: 5
    Do you think children should be trained to become cantors as soon as they are able? Also, what kind of things drive young adults away from the church choir/cantoring?

    I am curious because it seems like most choir members in surrounding parishes are older. I am one of the youngest at 27. But who will replace those older choir members when they are unable to sing anymore? How are we replacing our musicians.

    I live in an area of small parishes, so starting a children's choir is not an option. Any help anyone can give would be wonderful!
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 176
    Assuming they’re old enough to read, sit still, and be reliable: Put them in the choir. Let them learn real music, theory, good vocal production, and discipline along with the rest of the singers. Then they have the opportunity to bring their classmates and friends aboard.

    Making them amplified soloists is cute and all, but all they’ll get to sing is hymns and gebrauchsmusik psalms and antiphons. They’ll learn more and stay interested longer if they’re singing polyphony.

    Children need to work to become strong musicians, not be put on a pedestal/microphone as the finished product because they can sing a hymn. It’s not fair to them.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,533
    The lack of cantors is a growing problem, mainly because there is this mistaken notion you have to have them.

    Stop singing the psalm and the gospel alleluia.

    Choose only hymns and a mass setting that the people know. Singing participation will improve the more you remove that is unfamiliar for the congregation to sing, eliminating the need for a cantor.

    If Vatican II required cantors, they should have funded the operation with training and payment.

    [that felt good!]

    Do you think they did think this through as well as the concept that all masses on every weekend had to have the exact same musical challenges, regardless of local circumstances?

    Did they envision one person in the pulpit trying to lead singing over a microphone?

    What were they thinking?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I have had some early teenage cantors and they did a good job. But they grow up and drift off to college. I don't have any now.
  • Carol
    Posts: 461
    We have a mom, dad & son who are part of our choir. The middle school aged son is a wonderful singer. We are really hoping he will become a tenor, but he is singing alto at the moment. He loves being part of the ensemble and has sung solo on the verses for psalms. He suggested a hymn he hoped we could learn and sing before Midnight Mass and so we did.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    Yes, it is amazing how quickly children grow up, up and away. You finally get them to where you need them and the next moment they are gone. (Just me lamenting the loss of my two sons this fall.)
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • I will echo what Gamba and Carol said.
    Except that as long as there is a need for cantors in a given parish there is no reason why youth should not be taught the requisite attitude, ritual sensitivity, and singing skills. This is a good opportunity to take an unwashed mind and teach it how to chant, project, and perform the role like a true cantor. Any time youth who are willing to learn want to serve, by all means see that they get to do so.

    Boys were not strangers to being cantors in earlier times. In the Sarum Use four boys in copes were to chant the alleluya from the rood loft on great feasts. Just like being acolytes and altar servers, our young should as well be found in choir and cantor service from an early age.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,557
    If by "becoming cantors" you mean "joining a Pueri Cantores choir", then by all means, you should!
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • Children like to mimic adults. This is why campaigns to get children to avoid smoking need to change adult behavior. This is also why the manner of celebrating Mass and singing (of all kinds) need to be assiduously cultivated. If all the children see and hear is Cindy Lauper (did I spell that correctly) and bad knock-offs, they will think that's what they're supposed to do, no matter how much the idea repulses them. On the other hand, if Father takes Mass seriously -- not as a one-man-show, but as the August Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he will bring his congregation around, eventually. If musicians cultivate only the seeds they've been provided by (modern liturgical musicians of the congregational-music stripe) the children aren't going to hear beautiful music sung well, nor will they see people taking music as serious work.

    Oh, and has anyone invited them, personally?

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    The lack of cantors is a growing problem, mainly because there is this mistaken notion you have to have them. ... ... What were they thinking?
    Well, perhaps, MS#21 (my emphases)
    Especially where even a small choir is not possible, there must be at least one or more cantors, thoroughly trained ... . ... Even in churches having a choir ... celebrations a choir cannot attend ... some degree of solemnity, and thus with singing.
    And then there is GIRM#104, which references MS#21,
    It is fitting that there be a cantor or a choir director to direct and support the people’s singing. Indeed, when there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to direct the different chants, with the people taking the part proper to them.
    It is presumably the responsibility of the pastor to fund the training, and the responsibilty of the bishop to ensure that suitable training is available.
  • It is rather a paradox that whilst we wisely and correctly champion the sung mass some of us lament and dismiss the idea that there should be music and chanting at every mass. This seems rather inconsistent to me. Of course, when we commend the sung mass and music at mass, it goes without saying that we commend, as well, that the singing and the music are consistent with our liturgical patrimony. Every mass should be a sung mass, and it is not far-fetched to aver that Vatican II thought so. This is the real, the genuine 'spirit of Vatican II'.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar eft94530
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 206
    I'm a 40 year choir member and cantor for about six years. I still sing in the choir and I'm the only tenor and there is another young man 40 years my younger who sings baritone. We're the men section. I think the reason for lack of choir members is the hymnody we sing, it's speaks of individualism, you, me and I. Or it speaks of things we don't believe in. For example, verses or refrains that say "Come eat bread and drink wine".

    Every week seems like a mini concert. Personally I'm growing weary of it. So, if a veteran singer can recognize that the music being sung is bad can you blame young people for not wanting to join? We sing a lot of praise and worship stuff at adoration because young people are supposed to like that kind of stuff. Well let me tell you, I don't see a lot of young people at Mass let alone hear them singing.

    I like Noel Jones advice. I think he hit nail on head.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    I approve of several of the views of Percy Deamer, an Anglican promoter of the Parish Communion. For example "people crowd our churches at the Christmas, Easter, and Harvest Festivals, largely because the hymns for those occasions are full of a sound hilarity". (Oxford Book of Carols). And, after making the point that the Ordinary is the people's part, asserted that a parish should not be expected to know more than three settings (Parsons' Handbook).
    So, yes I think Noel Jones is correct with 'Mass settings that people know'. And wrong with 'stop singing ... the Gospel Alleluia', because in its familiar settings people sing it enthusiasticly. I would hope that a Catholic congregation could stretch to three English settings (plain, festal, and penitential) and at least two Latin Mass settings.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,478
    We have a 14 yr old that sang a lesson at the Easter Vigil and he also sang another lesson for the Pentecost Vigil. EF so of course he sang in Latin to the Prophecy tone, he did very well and our Latin experts were impressed. He will be singing one of the longer prophecies next Easter Vigil!

    He is normally part of the serving team, but as we are swamped with servers, I will try to grab him at least one a month to come and sing with the choir, and become one of the Cantors.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,533
    Every mass should be a sung mass, and it is not far-fetched to aver that Vatican II thought so. This is the real, the genuine 'spirit of Vatican II'.



    Where is this stated in church documents, please. In the GIRM?

  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,533
    And wrong with 'stop singing ... the Gospel Alleluia', because in its familiar settings people sing it enthusiasticly. I would hope that a Catholic congregation could stretch to three English settings (plain, festal, and penitential) and at least two Latin Mass settings.


    I agree wholeheartedly.

    I am speaking of a priest who arrives at a parish to find no one to play the organ, no one to sing to lead singing alone or in a group. And a volunteer who really can't sing trying to lead them embarrassing them with her efforts.

    At that point it is time to stop trying to sing anything that requires learning something new each week of the song leader/cantor. That's why it is best to not sing the psalm and alleluia.

    This gives the priest time to figure out and find people to take musical leadership roles. Even if he has to hire a Seventh Day Adventist organist who is free to play for him on Sundays!

    It's taking pressure off trying to do something in the liturgy that is beyond the ability of his current crowd.

  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    Even if he has to hire a Seventh Day Adventist organist who is free to play for him on Sundays!


    Ha ha! I've never considered this. Our city has the headquarters for this denomination. We have so many Seventh Day Churches here, I'll bet a few people could be free to play on Sundays.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,533
    SDA's do not pay their organists (in most circumstances) so in doing training sessions for to teach the organist about the new organ I've has as many as 10 organists for the church show up. So for the next year, as each one took a Saturday or two and played for the first time I would get calls for help - since they might only play 5 times a year. So it was a year of new organist's calls, though I didn't mind.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,557
    ...we are swamped with servers, I will try to grab him ...


    The best programs I know emphasize that the roles of server and singer are not watertight. You can be both. I've known families where the boys take turns either chanting the mass or serving at the altar. It helps cultivate the idea that first, the two roles compliment the other, and second, Our Lord doesn't just bestow one single talent upon us that we can use to give him glory. He is generous in his outpouring of gifts, and we need to respond likewise.

    a parish should not be expected to know more than three settings


    . . .Unless you're the Westminster Cathedral pre-V2 (according to Aidan Nichols), or, even more remotely, Fr. Fortescue's parish. Both knew how to sing all eighteen Gregorian ordinaries.
    Thanked by 3tomjaw Carol bhcordova
  • The Rev Percival Dearmer did say 'should not be expected to...', which isn't quite just plain 'shouldn't'. I'm sure that the repertory at Westminster Cathedral was not unique to the cathedral, neither in the Catholic nor the Anglo-Catholic worlds. Many CofE and Episcopalian congregations could at one time sing all eighteen of the Gregorian masses as put into English by a number of Anglican chant scholars.

    At Walsingham we know only three ordinaries: Willan, Merbecke, and cum jubilo, all in Old Church English. I consider us to be rather lax in this regard and think that we should know at least two or three more - even though on some solemnities the cathedral choir do offer a choral setting.

    As an ideal minimum I believe that a parish should have a setting for Advent and Lent, one for Christmas-Epiphanytide, one for Eastertide, one for the Sundays after Trinity, and one for solemnities. That would be a minimum of five. Unless chant is well represented throughout the year in a parish's musical repertory, the setting for penitential seasons should not be plainchant, lest people come to associate chant with sadness and penitence. (Plainchant is well represented in Walsingham's annual repertory and our people love it - they especially like the lesser propers a la Palmer-Burgess - and they are delighted when a solemnity happens, because they know that all three readings in the lectionary will be sung.)
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Andrew Malton
  • Andrew Malton
    Posts: 785
    Unless chant is well represented throughout the year in a parish's musical repertory, the setting for penitential seasons should not be plainchant, lest people come to associate chant with sadness and penitence.

    This.
  • gtastove
    Posts: 5
    Thanks, all! There have been times when I have sung a cappella hymns throughout Mass because there is no organist, and have omitted the Psalm and Alleluia because the congregation is better off if led with words instead of song. So I get that.

    At the moment, our church has 2 cantors and no choir, and 1 Mass. We agreed to take turns so that we would not have to cantor each week. I have younger children than her, and her daughter is becoming interested in singing.

    What I didn't mention is that I am a music teacher, and it does bug me when no music is sung or not sung well. So I'm one of those who is an advocate for teaching children (or any able person) to sing and to sing well for the Church.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    Every mass should be a sung mass, and it is not far-fetched to aver that Vatican II thought so. This is the real, the genuine 'spirit of Vatican II'.

    Where is this stated in church documents, please. In the GIRM?

    Probably
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
    CHAPTER VI SACRED MUSIC
    117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant [...] It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches.

    Graduale Simplex page after page looks like Responsorial Psalms
    so why reject such singing?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,761
    Also: SC 113: "Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine offices are celebrated solemnly in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people."

    The 1967 instruction Musicam Sacram reiterates that point, and expands on it, saying, among other things: "Pastors of souls will therefore do all they can to achieve this form of celebration." It calls the solemn Mass the "fuller form of liturgical celebration, in which everything that demands singing is in fact sung".

  • This encourages singing, yes.

    "Every mass should be a sung mass," is not stated anywhere.

    No one's rejecting singing, just wanting to to add to the Mass rather than distract from it by doing it poorly. Is that inreasonable?
  • SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM

    115. Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music.
    It is desirable also to found higher institutes of sacred music whenever this can be done.

    Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training.

    116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

    But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

    117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.

    It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches.

    118. Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.

    119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40.

    Therefore, when missionaries are being given training in music, every effort should be made to see that they become competent in promoting the traditional music of these peoples, both in schools and in sacred services, as far as may be practicable.

    120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things.

    But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.

    121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.

    Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful.

    The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life.
    That would be true of Appalachia (to name but one), would it not?
  • Hawkins,

    Surely "mission lands" doesn't mean the same thing in a technical legal sense as it does in the hands of wreckovators everywhere.


    [purple] What is allowed in Africa must be allowed in every vernacular parish in America because the situations are absolutely identical, except that we really shouldn't take the Africans' lead on sexual morality or anything else we want to change. [purple off]
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    CGZ I don't doubt that what the wreckovators have done was not intended by the bulk of those who voted to approve SC#119. But despite the relative clarity of most of the surrounding clauses, I find it difficult to clearly identify the line which should not be crossed. I would like to hold the line, or at least to be able explain to others why I object to what they have done, without relying on my personal opinion.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 648
    I believe that it was in the mid-1970s before the U.S. was no longer considered a mission country. And from the latest report from the Catholic Extension Society, there are still a large number of dioceses in the U.S. that qualify as a missionary diocese