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Double duty, organist and cantor

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  • Double duty, organist and cantor

    I'm wondering how many of you do the job of cantor while playing the organ.

    Recently I took on an organist job, making clear that I am primarily an organist and am willing to play the organ/piano and direct the choir. The priest seems to be hinting that I cantor the psalm for masses with no choir. The church can't afford to pay a cantor. I've sung in choirs before, but have stayed away from the one-person-band scenario. In my view, it spreads resources too thin and detracts from a focus in quality music making and refinement of craft on one's own instrument.

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    Quantum,

    Confession time. I can't sing and play at the same time. I certainly credit those who do, but I can't. Better to teach someone to cantor who has talent and develop his/her skills.

    Michael

    P.S. Maybe I could cantor the Psalm, but that's about it.
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

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    • #3
      Quantum,

      Why not suggest using a simpler setting of the psalm that the congregation could sing without a cantor. Simplified Anglican chant is sung by many congregations. There are also metrical settings of psalms that could be used. Perhaps you could conduct a monthly psalm practice with parishioners until they got used to the idea.

      And you might want to nicely tell the priest that you are not a lounge singer.

      Good luck.

      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800

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      • #4
        What is the denomination? Catholic church requires the Psalm to be from the Ambo ... at least in the States. That said I have karaoked from the bench when I was subbing at the Cathedral... the cantor didn't show up but the bishop did. He was not amused at the cantor, but was thankful that I was able to not interrupt Mass. I used to work there full-time so I'm not a new face but still many types of ministers are needed in a church ... that includes a designated cantor.

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        • #5
          From time to time, I help out in the Catholic churches in the area. Some of them require me to sing while others have a cantor singing from the ambo. I can sing solo and sing while playing an instrument, so it's not a big deal, but in general, I wouldn't do this as a standard requirement unless it was clear from the beginning that I'm supposed to do both. (does that make sense?).
          In my protestant home church, the pastor sometimes asks me to sing or play unfamiliar hymns to the congregation before they sing to the full organ, but that's fine.

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          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            I'm also playing for a Catholic church once per week, but I've never heard of an "ambo." What in the heck is it? Is it an abbreviation for "ham bone?"

            Michael

        • #6
          I can play, and I can sing. It's like walking, and chewing gum at the same time; some can do it, and others can not. I am in the can not crowd. I play well, and sing even better, but can not do both at the same time.

          Having been a cantor for a Catholic church I came to realize that we are under appreciated, and generally not paid; where as in contrast a Jewish cantor is highly regarded in the temple, and very well compensated for their time, and talents.
          Until The Next Dimension,
          Admiral Coluch.

          -1929 Wangerin Pipe Organ Historian
          -Owner 1982 Rogers Specification 990

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          • #7
            myorgan The "ambo" is a reading desk where scripture is read and chants are sung by the soloist. Why it is called ambo, don't ask me. I'm just a guest in churches where they say ambo.

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            • #8
              Originally posted by andijah View Post
              myorgan The "ambo" is a reading desk where scripture is read and chants are sung by the soloist. Why it is called ambo, don't ask me. I'm just a guest in churches where they say ambo.
              I was interested in the "new" word ambo myself yesterday and looked it up. Seems like it is used more in the Orthodox churches. This link is most interesting I think. BTW I can't sing or talk while playing; so no double duty for me. https://www.britannica.com/topic/amb...h-architecture
              Lloyd

              Happily retired organist/pianist from the Church of the Brethren...Allen ADC-4300-DK.
              Home...Wurlitzer (ES) Orgatron Series 20 Serial #11608 (retrofitted with MIDI and VPO-Hauptwerk) with Leslie 44W (shorty).
              Hammond BC Serial #5070 with Leslie 31A (tallboy) tone cabinet
              A.L. Swan antique pump organ (C.1852) Cherry Valley NY
              Member of the Lutheran Church (LCMS): traditional worship. Cleveland Clinic Spiritual Care volunteer with the chaplain's office.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by lcid View Post
                Seems like it is used more in the Orthodox churches.
                As I said before, over here, the word is very common in Catholic settings. I just had a look at my Catholic hymn book and in the sections that describe what happens during the service, "Ambo" is used frequently. Rough translation of one passage: "The ambo is the place from where scripture is read."




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                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Andrea,

                  Thank you for the clarification. I'm playing for a mass once per week, and I had never heard of that term. Now that I have heard the term, I can use it intelligently. Thanks.

                  Michael

              • #10
                When I was the organist in a very large Catholic church there would be times when there was no cantor available for the Saturday evening Mass ... for those times I sang and played at the same time as well as announcing the hymns as well as the sung Psalms.

                In my present church (Lutheran) there have been a few times when I have had to sing along with playing ... most organists I know have good singing voices that can fill in at a moments notice.

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