Sunday, July 3, 2011

Secrets of a Cantor

I am a cantor. This means that I sing at church. Sure, I sing in a choir, but I also lead songs when there is not a choir. It also means that I lead the psalm during Mass. The psalm is not a "song", like the opening song. It is actually part of the liturgy. So a cantor leads the congregation in the sung prayer of the psalm.

Here are my top 5 things I would like you to know about being a cantor:

 1. It is not a performance - I may sing solo on the psalm, but it is sung prayer, not a performance. It is a different style of singing than singing with a band, or on a stage. My goal is for you not to notice me as a singer, but to hear the words of God.

2. There is a lot of work behind what you hear. I practice each new psalm. It is not all about the notes, although those are important, too.I learn the notes, I learn how to make the notes interesting, and I learn to sing the song to the accompaniment. In addition, I pray the psalm itself beforehand, learning it, not just as a song, but as a prayer. I also educate myself throughout the year on the liturgy and how to minister through music.

3. When you laugh and whisper during the psalm, I begin to get very paranoid! I begin to wonder if I have a wardrobe malfunction, or something on my face, or maybe I said the wrong word - a really wrong word! So, stop talking and pray, dang it!

4. While it is not about me as a performer, it is nice to hear compliments from time to time. It helps me to know that you are not cringing every time I sing. Oh, and if you know of someone who really hates my voice, just keep it to yourself. It is never funny (or helpful) to let me know there is a guy on the right side who wants to leave every time he knows I am singing. No matter how funny you find that fact, it makes me nervous and jumpy, wondering who out there hates me so much.

5. Sing! No matter how bad you think your voice is, sing anyway. Singing at church is not an audition, nor is it being critiqued by anyone. God gave you your particular voice, so whatever it sounds like is beautiful to Him. I wish everyone could hear the sound of a congregation singing from the front. You rarely hear individual voices. Instead, it comes at you as one sound - a beautiful sound!

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