Cantors Verses Soloist

Cantors Verses Soloist

For a series of cantor workshops, I complied a video of cantors singing the responsorial psalm.  These clips were culled from the Sunday morning Roman Catholic televised Mass in my diocese.

As you listen and watch, don’t judge the singer.  Don’t judge their training or quality of voice.  Instead, listen for inflection.  Do you beleive what they are proclaiming?  Do you think they beleive what they are proclaiming?  Are they proclaiming?  Are they preoccupied with performing?  Do they appear warm and welcoming?  Do they seem nervous?  Are their gestures on the beat?  Do they have any unnecessary movements?  Do they make eye contact with everyone?  Do they stare at their music?  Does it seem like they are proclaiming the Word of God or singing a song?  Do they look happy to be there?  Are they dynamic?  Do they smile?

I had a conversation with a singer regarding the subtle difference between a cantor and soloist.  Here are some of the thoughts I shared with her.

A cantor proclaims.
A soloist sings.
A cantor looks at the congregation during the introduction.
A soloist looks at the music, floor, pianist.
A cantor has part of the music memorized (like the refrain) and looks at the people while singing it.
A soloist stares at the music.
A cantor gestures and cues the assembly.
A soloist just stands there.
A cantor (during the Psalm) doesn’t sing the refrain but looks at the people as they respond to her.
A soloist sings her own response.
A cantor prayed the text during the week that she is going to proclaim on Sunday.
A soloist learned the song she is going to sing.
A cantor has people come up to them after the service to tell them how the text spoke to them.
A soloist has people come up to them after the service to tell them how beautiful they sang.

I demand that all my cantors memorize part of the Psalm so that they can look out at the people.  If a cantor sings from Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid.” and looks out at someone who is scheduled for surgery tomorrow, it can have a huge impact on that person.

If a cantor sings from Psalm 42, “Why should I mourn and toil within when it is mine to hope in God?” and looks out at a teen thinking about suicide, it can make a difference in their life.

If a cantor sings from Psalm 63, “As morning breaks, I look to you to be my strength this day.” and looks at someone starting a new job tomorrow, it could make a difference for that person.

If a cantor sings from Isaiah 43, “I have called you each by name.  I love you and you are mine.” and looks at someone who is lonely, it might make a difference in their life.

A cantor, if they do all those things, will grow by leaps and bounds.
A soloist, may grow through years of repetition.

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