Becoming a Cantor
Cantors are vital of the worship of the Byzantine Catholic Church, and have been a respected part of our church's tradition. Most likely you have come to this page because you feel you might be called to become a cantor, or because your pastor or others in your congregation have asked to consider becoming one.
To be a cantor in the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church, you will need to become a skilled liturgical singer:
- First and foremost, you will need to become a man or woman of prayer. Liturgical singing that is not prayer is a useless endeavor. The cantor should strive to develop and foster an active prayer life and a regular rule of prayer.
- You will ned a voice that is adequate to be heard in church, to carry a tune, to sing tunefully, and to lead the singing of the congregation.
- You will need a knowledge of the liturgical services – both the text and music of each service, and the basic theology and meaning behind the service. You will also need to be familiar with the liturgical books that contain the hymns for each service, feast and commemoration, and known when exceptions occur – for example, during the Paschal Season.
- You will need an extensive knowledge of the Church’s plainchant and any other music to be used. In our churches, this consists of the traditional prostopinije or plainchant of our tradition.
- You will also need a certain amount of general musical knowledge.
- Finally, you will need to learn to pay attention to what is going on in the church and in the service, and adjust the singing appropriately.
Above all, you will need to learn to lead the singing in church in a way that is comfortable, prayerful, and suitable to the worship of Almighty God.
Taking the first steps
If you would like to become a cantor:
- Read What is a cantor? if you have not already done so.
- Talk to your pastor, and to those who know you well. Ask them if they think you might have what is takes to be a cantor.
- Read about the Metropolitan Cantor Institute program. (This not the only way to become a cantor, but unless you come from a parish with a strong singing tradition, full cycle of all liturgical services, and an experienced cantor willing to teach you everything he or she knows, the Cantor Institute is probably your best help in learning our liturgy and music.)
- Study the sequence of courses in the Cantor education roadmap.
If you still feel called to consider a vocation as a cantor, sign up for the first two MCI courses: Introduction to Liturgy and Introduction to Church Singing, the next time they are offered. When you have completed these courses, you will be interviewed by an MCI instructor and formally enter the MCI cantor education program. Note that a certain basic level of singing ability and willingness to work are minimum requirements for the cantor education program. Students need to demonstrate these before will be accepted as student cantors.
The important of perseverance
As you continue through the Metropolitan Cantor Institute program, you will learn to follow and appreciate the Church's liturgy, and develop comfort and familiarity in our plain chant. You will also have the opportunity to learn to pray better, and to work with your clergy and fellow parishioners.
Like any vocation, there is no way to know for certain what your future will be . But if you are called to become a church cantor, you will find that you have an opportunity to bring many around you into the beauty that God wishes us to have in relationship with Him, through liturgy, prayer, and song.
Becoming a parish cantor
Just having the skills of a cantor is not enough; because a cantor is a leader in the church, you need to work with your pastor to earn and establish your place as a dedicated and reliable leader of church singing. Through the Metropolitan Cantor Institute courses, you will learn about the roles of clergy, laity, readers and cantors, and how to make these work our fruitfully for the Church. The Cantor Institute is also in touch with our eparchies and parishes, and can provide information about parishes in your area which may need the assistance of a church cantor.
While eventual certification as a cantor is not required, it is one way to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills to serve anywhere in our church as a parish cantor.