A few thought& offered to assist those in the ministry of Cantor to communicate effectively.
Through the ministry of Music the liturgical assembly can be united in the prayer and enlivened in their joyful praise of God. The Cantor is in a unique position to draw out of the congregation a participative response. In Irish churches there is often an innate reluctance to stand and sing as a congregation. Churches in Germany, France, Africa and South America resound with the sung praise of the faithful gathered for celebration. Irish churches by contrast often allow even the simplest of responses to be said rather than sung. Still all is not lost, the experience of travel, the presence of Songs of Praise on T.V. and the revival of Church music generally open a window of opportunity. In parishes where the ministry of Cantor has been developed progress is reported. There are a number of observations about the cantor and the performance of their task that I would like to comment on.
1. This is a ministry which relies on communication from within the Sanctuary. This is important because there are a number of conventions which govern this communication. It would be extraordinary if a member of the congregation wandered in past the altar rails, took up the microphone and started to warble a song of nostalgic merit in memory of his dear departed mother. That would be perfectly appropriate in the pub, or in a relaxed family gathering but clearly out of place in the liturgical arena. Even for a priest who was not vested, nor participating in the liturgy, to come forward and sing uninvited, would cause upset. It quickly becomes clear that there are definite roles, reasonable expectations and standard behaviour that is expected.
2.- The cantors role is not known to all congregations, or even in places where the role is established not everyone present will have worshipped there before. Therefore the cantor may well begin with a word of introduction. “Good evening everyone.” to which might be expected a reply, so best to wait for it to be spoken. “I am Mary Smith, your cantor tins evening.” The cantor is likely then to speak about the music, suggest a run through some particular pieces, and then to give a warm exhortation to the congregation to join in the singing.
3. The use of leaflets, missalettes and hymn books adds another layer of complexity, the cantor may reasonably invite the congregation to turn to number Three hundred and thirty three. Sorry, what? “Vas that the number of the page, the hymn, which book? So easily the desire to be helpful can become a distraction if there is not adequate clarity and diction.
4. So what is expected of the Cantor in such a situation? Very much what would be considered good practice by a Lector. Clear speech; delivered with sufficient vocal energy, at an appropriate speed, and in a tone that is appealing to the listener.
5. There are moments of explanation in an environment where there may be distraction,
so instructions are best repeated, but in such a manner as to reinforce the information for those who heard it perfectly well the first time, and to help those who were momentarily distracted. You dont wish to offend the first by making them feel like children, nor patronise the second by making them feel indebted to you for having the patience to repeat yourself .¬
6. There are also moments of instruction, the simple invitation to stand can be delivered in tones reminiscent of a Sergeant Major or in gentle but direct instruction of the parent rousing a sleeping child. Either extreme may be inappropriate, and something in between may prove effective.
7. When any one of us stands in the sanctuary to speak the congregation confer on us permission to fulfil the role that we are privileged to exercise. Yet congregations can be fickle and no sooner have they given their consent than it is withdrawn again. Closing out the voice of someone who is asking us to do something that we would rather avoid is a skill learnt in childhood and perfected in church when confronted by a cantor. So the art of persuasion is used to cajole and prompt the desired response.
8. Coping with success and with failure is also part of the art of good cantoring. When the chemistry is right, and the congregation are responsive, it is so easy to press harder and harder on the accelerator, releasing more and more glorious music, but alack too much fuel can lead to disaster. On the other hand there are the moments when despite the best effort of the cantor, no matter how good, the congregation seem deaf and dumb. Should the hint of shrill you will singggggggg” creep into the voice of the cantor then a bad situation can quickly become worse.
9. The physical posture and choice of modest dress may help the cantor be present without being intrusive. 10. Obviously the cantor has to have time to be prepared, becoming familiar with the sanctuary, the microphones, the sacristy, the celebrant, the organist, the mass sheet, the liturgy group, the timing of the procession and the detail of the liturgical movement all requires that the cantor is one of the first to arrive. 10.30 mass may well need to be anticipated by up to 30 minutes if the experience of panic is to be avoided and the confidence relaxed air of a professional is to be achieved.
10. Sound systems are our friends, honestly. Albeit that they whine, squeal, fade, pop, and do all their inanimate best to frustrate our best laid plans. In reality they are fairly simple. An amplifier provides the power to increase the volume of one voice so that it can be heard in a large space. That amplifier requires electricity and to be switched on. But where is it? Why does the sign say DO NOT TOUCH when no matter how you plead it cannot turn itself on. Microphones capture the sound. These also need power, and all of them need to be turned on., but where is the switch, up, down, press, pull? Microphones can work by radio transmitter, more power, batteries, how much power is left in them? Where is the base station, it needs to be turned on too, yes in addition to the amplifier. Most microphones are connected to the amplifier by cable, normally a lead, which plugs into a socket. Where are the sockets? How long is the lead, male or female connections, can two leads be joined together? Then just when you think everything is simple what about the stand? Your tall, hes small, its fallen down. Where are the adjustments, how does it stay up? Microphones are sensitive to all noise, tapping, coughing, whistling, moving, speaking, shouting and yes singing. Normally we don’t clash cymbals to introduce the orchestra, so why thump the mic? Being responsible for the sounds people hear is part of the professional approach. Making sure that the system works to suit your needs is both a right and all right, even if the sacristan, parish priest or altar server has other ideas.
These are some notes about the Opening Rites of the Mass with particular reference to th1 importance of Liturgical Music and the role of the Cantor. Perhaps they wi1l compliment other information that you have already gathered.
Introductory rites (CSL 24)
Beginning, introduction, preparation.
The purpose of the introductory rites is
• to make the assembled people a unified community
• to prepare them properly to listen to Gods word
• to prepare them properly to celebrate the Eucharist
Gather the people
Tell the Story
Share the meal
1. Entrance or processional song- assembly.
2. opens the assembly
3. deepens the unity of the people
4. introduces them to the mystery of salvation or the feast being celebrated today
5. accompanies the procession.
Reverence the altar Introduce the mass Gloria
kiss altar Rite of blessing Opening prayer.
incense altar and sprinkling of water
sign of Cross Penitential rite
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
When the Scriptures are read church God himself speaks to his people, and it is Christ present in his word who proclaims the Gospel.
The awe inspiring phrase God himself speaks to his people should be reason enough to take this moment in the mass seriously. This reading of the scriptures is of its nature a
liturgical act and thereby demands a certain solemnisation. The readings should be received with the unlimited veneration of faith, but at the same time that faith will be aroused, sustained and strengthened.
*a special place is set aside for it
*a special book is used
*a very special book contains the Gospel (think of the illuminated manuscripts)
*a specially prepared person reads (the Gospel is reserved for one in Holy Orders)
*a procession may give the book of the Gospel further reverence.
*the threefold sign of the cross signifying that our mind is open to receive Gods word, that we confess it with our lips, and above all that we intend to take it to heart.
besides the actual reading itself various other elements support it and flow from it: psalm, alleluia, silences, creed, intercessions and above all the homily incense is used
1st reading Gospel
Psalm chant between the readings Homily
Second reading Creed
Gospel acclamation and procession General intercessions
Think of the various ways that people were educated about the truths of faith, song, sculpture, paintings, stained glass, poetry, miracle plays, all impregnated with the Gospel message.
Acclamations. The acclamations are shouts of joy which arise from the whole assembly as forceful and meaningful assents to Gods word and action. They are important because they make some of the most significant moment of the mass stand out. It is of their nature that they should be rhythmically strong, melodically appealing and affirmative. They help create the opportunity for active participation that is an essential dimension of the communities involvement.
The Alleluia is the acclamation of paschal joy it is both reflection of the word of God proclaimed and a preparation for the Gospel All stand to sing it. After the choir or cantor sings the Alleluia the people customarily repeat it. Then a single proper verse is sung by the cantor or choir, and all repeat the alleluias. If not sung the alleluia should be omitted. During lent a brief verse of acclamatory character replaces the alleluia and is sung in the same way.
In the Roman liturgy the reading is usually rounded off by the singing of a psalm. A cantor specially trained for this office steps forward with his/her cantatorium or book of chants(the churchs oldest hymn book) and intones the psalm. For chanting the psalm the cantor was allowed to go as far as the ambo, but later he was allowed only to go up to the highest step, since this top step was reserved for the Gospel reading. He was to remain standing on a lower step (gradus), whence the chant came to be known as the gradual. As a rule the refrain was taken from the psalm chanted by the cantor. The Alleluia before the Gospel has its origin in an ancient tradition, for it recurs in one foml or another in every liturgy except the Ethiopian
RM. 67. The cantor of the psalm is to sing the psalm or other biblical song that comes
between the readings. To fulfil their function correctly, these cantors should possess
singing talent and an aptitude for correct pronunciation and diction.
RM. on singing: No. 19
The faithful who gather together to await the Lords coming are instructed by the apostle Paul to sing psalms, hymns and inspired songs. Song is the sign of the hear1s joy. St Augustine, to sing belongs to lovers. One who sings well prays twice.
With due consideration for the culture and ability of each congregation, great importance should be attached to the use of singing at mass.
Instruction on music in the Liturgy
• by sacred music is understood that which, being created for the celebration of divine
• worship, is endowed with a certain holy sincerity of form.
• liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with
• ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it.
• .the practical preparation for each liturgical celebration should be done in a spirit of co¬operation by all parties concerned, under the guidance of the rector of the church, whether it be in ritual, pastoral or musical matters.
• all things by degrees, there can and should be a variety of forms of the mass with
• differing degrees of musical accompaniment and singing.
• the faithful fulfil their liturgical role by making that full, conscious and active participation w.hich is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself and which is, by reason of baptism the right and duty of the Christian people. TIlls participation should be above alJ internal, and external, the external reflecting the internal by the attention and participation in the singing of the responses, acclamations and singing.
• 24. Besides musical formation suitable liturgical and spiritual formation must also be given to members of the choir, in such a way that the proper performance of their liturgical role will not only enhance the beauty of the celebration and be an excellent example for the faithful, but will bring spiritual benefit to the members of the choir themselves.
• the song after the lesson., be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the proper. By its very nature it forms a part of the Liturgy of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it- and what is more participating in it as far as possible.
• Language where once choirs were at the forefront of the introduction of the vernacular they.now perform an essential role in maintaining a place for the Latin language in the liturgy.
• Presence. In the people, in the Word and in the Eucharist
• Unity of the community, no divisions, and therefore no m1ificial divisions between those who sing and those who assist with their prayers. The aim is the full and active participation of all the people.
• Intelligibility; Priests will ensure that whatever they or the ministers say or sing will be so clear that the faithful will be able to hear it easily and grasp its meaning; and that they will in fact be spontaneously drawn to respond and participate.
• Participation; The peoples acclamations and their responses to the priests greetings and presidential prayers constitute that nunimum of active participation which is t be given by the congregation in every form of the mass.
• 19. CSL The importance of Singing
• The Apostle exhorts the faithful to sing together “psalms, hynms and spiritual canticles”
• Acts 2:46 For singing is an expression of joy. The dispositions and capabilities of each congregation should, of course be taken into consideration.
• The entrance procession should be accompanied by the kind of singing that is relevant to their nature.
The Liturgy of the Word
1. CSL 33
• The most important part of the LOW consists of the readings from sacred scripture and
• the songs occurring between them. The Homily, the profession of faith and the prayer of the Faithful develop and conclude it. In the readings, which re interpreted by the homily, God speaks to his people, reveals to them the mysteries of redemption and salvation, and provides them with spiritual nourishment: and Christ himself, in the form of his Word, is a present in the midst of the faithful.
• In the readings the table of Gods word is laid before the people and the treasures of the bible are opened to them. CSL 51, according to the mind of the Council richer fare should be laid before the people at the table of the word.
• After the first reading comes the Responsorial psalm or gradual, which is an integral part of the liturgy of the word. Normally the psalm is taken from the Lectionary, for the texts in it have been chosen so as to have some bearing on the particular reading. However to make it easier for the people to sing a responsory to the psalm verses, certain psalms and responsories have been chosen for use through out the different seasons of the year and for the feasts of particular classes of saints.
• The cantor sings the verses of the psalm from the ambo or some other suitable place.
• The people sit and listen to him/her, but take their due part by singing the responses……
• After the second reading comes the alleluia or verse before the gospel and if not sung they may be omitted.
• Jungmann on this theme: Since these two chants have a more than decorative function, nor are they merely a musical flourish to an action but are in themselves components in the mass structure, it is not permitted to substitute other hymns chosen at random from other hymn books.