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Posted July 6, 2009

Book: Guide for Cantors
Authors: Jennifer Kerr Breedlove and Paul Turner
Liturgy Training Publications. Archdiocese of Chicago. 2007. Pp. 87

An Except from the Jacket:

You’ll want all of your cantors to read this new guide. Effective for training those new to the ministry and for rejuvenating the work of veterans, this book can be used by individuals or groups. It gives cantors the background and tools they need to pray, study, and serve in the liturgy: leading the assembly with sung prayer [song-leader/animator], proclaiming the Responsorial Psalm [psalmist] — models of good liturgical practice and of the Christian life.

Inside you’ll find a pastoral, inviting format and style, including a basic theological and historical overview of the ministry; liturgical catechesis about the role of the cantor during the Mass; ways to deepen personal prayer life; generous quotations from the documents of the Church; detailed and practical instructions for how to serve as cantor; vocal enunciation/diction exercises and warm-up tips; instructive photos, charts, and text boxes; frequently asked questions with answers; questions for reflection or discussion; information in conformity with the most recent liturgical documents; an annotated resource section; a glossary of terms; and prayers.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Cantor as Minister of the Word

Many cantors, when doing their preparation for liturgy, make the mistake of treating the Responsorial Psalm like just another song in the list of music they need to learn. This could not be farther from the truth; the psalm is the central moment of the cantor’s liturgical ministry, and it must be treated as such. Here, you are not simply a music minister or a minister of hospitality as you are when you lead song. You are a minister of the word, the keeper and holder of the sung scriptures for the community.

Musical settings of the psalms generally fall into two major categories: chant-tone psalmody and rhythmic psalmody. As singers, rhythmic psalmody [in basic “song form,” with melody and rhythm through the verses] is what we are accustomed to and which we find more comfortable. The danger here is that it takes at least twice the skill in such a setting to make the words reign supreme and be remembered above a petty melodic setting. In the words of St. Augustine, “When it happens to me to be more moved by the singing than by what is sung, I confess myself to have sinned criminally, and then I would have rather not heard the singing at all.” For this reason, more and more parishes are shifting to chanted psalmody, with a melodic refrain and a chant tone for the verses; the style is clearly distinguished from all the other singing at liturgy, and it is simple and stark enough that the text can more easily be heard and taken in.

Table of Contents:

Theology and history of the cantor

Spirituality and formation of the cantor

Serving as a cantor

Frequently asked questions