Online Musicianship for Cantors!

In preparation for our online classes, which begin in February, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has acquired a site license for Theta Music Trainer, a website with computer- and smartphone-based games that teach pitch matching, recognition and singing of scales and intervals, and other important skills.

Complete access to this website is available to all cantors in the Byzantine Catholic Church, as well as students in the MCI Online program. For more information, see the Theta Music Trainer page on the MCI website.

Online Courses for 2017

The Metropolitan Cantor Institute will offer the following online courses in 2017:

Introduction to Liturgy – February 12 to April 7, 2017

An 8-week introduction to the liturgical services and traditions of the Byzantine Rite. The course will cover the liturgical day and week, fixed and moveable feasts, the Divine Liturgy and holy mysteries. This is an introductory course that establishes liturgical knowledge for further cantor education.  (No singing component.) Tuition: $50.

Introduction to Church Singing – February 12 to April 7

An 8-week course that covers the fundamentals of plain chant: musical scales and notation, ear training, basic vocal technique, and the simplest chant melodies: singing on a single pitch, chanting to the usual psalm tone, and singing basic responses such as “Amen” and “Lord, have mercy.”  Students will record their singing for review and feedback. Tuition: $75. Continue reading “Online Courses for 2017”

Draft Cantor Directory is online

Earlier this year, the MCI announced plans to put together an up-to-date roster of our cantors, so that we can provide then with regular news and continuing education. It soon became clear that the lists we had were woefully out of date, and before collecting contact information, we first needed to identify the current cantors in each parish. So we have created this new web page.

http://mci.archpitt.org/cantors/Pittsburgh.html

Look here for an explanation of the categories of cantor, assistant cantor, student cantor, and retired cantor. These categories help us determine what each singer needs to know how to do, and also lets us assess the relative needs of each parish.

Pastors and cantors, please send any updates or corrections to Deacon Jeffrey Mierzejewski (mci@archpitt.org) by January 15.

Reader’s Course Videos Available

In September, reader’s courses were held at our cathedrals in Munhall, PA and Parma, OH. Thanks to Fr. Andrew Summerson, the Parma classes were professionally recorded, and those recordings are now available along with the class handouts:

Video 1 (48 minutes)
Video 2 (82 minutes)

Web link: Lectionary
Handout: Introduction to the Books of the Bible
Handout: Tones for Chanting Psalms and Readings
Handout: Tones for the Prokeimenon and Alleluia Verses
Handout: Text of Psalm 50
Handout: Practice readings

As always, materials from previous MCI courses can be found here.

Changes at the Metropolitan Cantor Institute

(The following message went out today on the mcinews mailing list.  If you’re not on it, please join!)

Dear Cantors,

I am writing to let you know that my daytime employer (IBM) has relocated my job (and me) to Austin, Texas as of November 1.  The new mailing address for the Metropolitan Cantor Institute will be 10002 Faylin Drive, Austin TX, 78753.  I will continue to be reachable at (412) 735-1676.

Metropolitan William has asked me to continue to serve as director of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute; to coordinate cantor education across our four eparchies; and to continue to help with the work of the Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission.  He also wants to see us provide much more assistance to cantors who cannot make it to Pittsburgh for classes (though we are continuing to plan a 5-day cantor / choir director workshop for new July).

Because our household goods are still in transit, my access to email and to the MCI website will be limited for the next week or so.  But once things are back in order, expect some announcements for upcoming events and resources.

Please keep me in your prayers!

In Christ,
Deacon Jeffrey Mierzejewski

Reader’s Course – Materials Online

Today, Fr. Andrew Summerson and I presented a two-hour epistle reader’s course to 15 students at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Parma, Ohio.  The lecture portion was recorded on video, and included our best presentation on the prostopinije reading tones to date. In the meantime, here are the materials for this week and next:

Based on this course, we will be making some changes to how we teach this material in the future – and also adding audio / video recordings of epistle readers “at work” in church. Thanks to all who attended!

Next week, courses will continue in Pittsburgh (on Thursday evening) and in Parma (on Saturday afternoon).

Free online classes, ear training, and music theory

We have decided to make all MCI online classes FREE for the rest of the year.  I am reorganizing the class pages, and the details should be up by Sunday.

This will include free access to unlimited ear training (pitch recognition and matching) and music theory courses at Theta Music; watch here for details.

Latest MCI graduate: Thomas Rodack

From 2001 to 20014, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has taught and assessed cantors, granting certifications to those who completed the required coursework AND demonstrated that they could properly lead the people’s singing at the Divine Liturgy, including the proper singing of the eight tones.

Rodack, Tom

The latest graduate of the MCI program is Mr. Thomas Rodack.Tom has enjoyed singing all his life and was a member of the choir at Holy Trinity Byzantine Catholic Church in New Britain, Connecticut.  When he moved to the Pittsburgh area, he took advantage of the opportunity to enroll in the Metropolitan Cantor Institute program.  He apprenticed as cantor at St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibsonia with cantor Bob Matoka and pastor Abbott Leo Schlosser.  Tom appreciates Bob’s patience and guidance.  When Abbott Leo moved to St. John the Baptist in Lyndora and was in need of another cantor, Tom began cantoring there.  He currently assists head cantor Lorrie Homa by cantoring Saturday and many holyday vigil liturgies.

Congratulations, Tom!

Notes from the Cantors’ Meeting of May 22, 2016

All serving cantors of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh were invited to a meeting on Sunday May 22 at Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh. The meeting was not recorded (to allow for frank discussions) but I did make the following notes to share with cantors who were not able to attend.

What is the singing like in your parish?

“We have two full-time cantors, each with a cantor in training, 2-3 assistant cantors and about 10 trained epistle readers. We have been singing the Our Father in the tone of the week, and the parishioners are now familiar with the samohlasen tones (tone 3 is still challenging).”

“In one of our priest’s parishes, only the A settings are used, and the people would like more variety.  We do have some homeschooling families and would like to offer classes for them.”

“Our priest now covers three parishes, one of which has been without a cantor for some time. But one of the other parishes has had a strong singing tradition, and old old professor always prepared books with music, so our transition to the new book was not hard.”

Is there a time you attended the Liturgy and the singing was the best?

  1. Last liturgy by our previous pastor; very heartfelt
  2. Easter Sunday

What do YOU need to do a better job as cantor in your parish?

  • We’re all awaiting release of new materials that match the green book (Holy Week, etc) – this year people were really happy with the new Holy Week / Annunciation books.
  • Help with pitch matching – especially with priests or deacons are not regulars.  (But  if the priest or deacon are ALL over the place, it may be better for the cantor to just pick a pitch and stick with it.)
  • Guidance setting a good tempo – sometimes our priest sings very fast.
  • Better instructional recordings: sometimes the recording is too fast to master initially. We may need to have set s of recordings, one slower and one at normal speed. Recordings in several different pitch ranges would also be good.
  • Books or instructions for when the bishop makes a visitation

Discussion of what the MCI offers and how the program has developed

Funeral books are not yet available; a class on the Parastas was recorded and put on the MCI website. Recent evening classes were held in Pittsburgh; we may also have regular weekend or evening classes in Youngstown or Johnstown if there is interest.

We need to assess this year’s Holy Week music, and review Christmas and Theophany books. Anyone who has specific suggestions based on this years’ Holy Week / Annunication books should send them to mci@archpitt.org.

The MCI online program, including ear training, will be free for the rest of the year.

Other observations from attendees:

  • Music on website should be recorded by a single voice as well as by a choir.
  • When a parish shrinks, the untrained voices are more noticeable. We need ways to counter this and help the people  sing together.
  • Cantors can use training in how to use a microphone when one is present.
  • People really like the paraliturgical hymns at the opening incensation, especially the ones based on the day’s readings. The Marian Hymnal is still widely used; we need a new. comprehensive hymnal.
  • Once music is learned, going to books with text only can help you focus on the words. But the settings need to be predictable; the cantor can’t keep changing how they are sung.
  • We need cantors who are leaders, and the people generally follow – we don’t need soloists.
  • We need cantors who are comfortable with what they are singing.
  • We should start having regular spiritual reflections at classes – perhaps a regular retreat? Discussion: retreat should not be right after Pascha – perhaps September or October. One day is the right length – seminary is a good location.
  • We need ways to get cantors together socially / professionally:including singing together, so we know who the other cantors in our area are.  Perhaps hold an annual moleben and panachida for cantors.
  • We should have a list of serving cantors (though privacy is an issue) and a group of cantors willing to lead singing at important events, priests’ funerals, etc – holding practices in advance.
  • Volunteerism is great, but should we encourage stipends for cantors in parishes that can afford it. Cantors’ work should be acknowledged better as important to parishes.
  •  If the people have words in front of them, those are the words that should be sung

“Ask me anything” (challenge from MCI director Jeffrey Mierzejewski)

  1. Liturgy in our parish is always an hour and a quarter; friends tell me theirs is done in 30 minutes. How is that possible?  (Explanation of “low liturgy” – fortunately this is rare in our church.)
  2. What is happening with parishes that are still not using the green book?  (Answer: some parishes, especially those with elderly or long-serving pastors, take longer to adopt anything new.)
  3. Will there be official Vespers books? (Answer: most of Vespers has already been released, between the green book and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  A proposed Vespers text from the Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission is with the bishops.
  4. Which way is the wind blowing on Slavonic these days?  (Discussion of combining English and Slavonic. Some cantors commented that they could use help learning correct pronunciation and meaning of words for those occasional circumstances when their pastor or parish wanted something sung in Slavonic.)
  5. Has the MCI given any thought to working with the Office of Religions Education on materials for ECF classes? (Answer: Yes.) In further discussion, it was noted that children can learn sections of the Liturgy, and lead the singing of them.  In one parish, children lead the antiphons and Communion hymns. We should consider teaching liturgy and singing at altar server camps.

As you can see from this summary, the discussion was wide-ranging, and many of the detailed suggestions will be incorporated into Cantor Institute initiatives in the remainder of the year.

Three-day Cantor Workshop in Pittsburgh

The Metropolitan Cantor Institute will hold a 3-day workshop for new cantors at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh from July 5-7. This intensive course will introduce beginning cantors to the fundamentals of church singing and chant leadership. The course is also open to bi-ritual clergy who wish to improve their knowledge of our plain chant.

A limited amount of lodging is available at the seminary for those coming from outside the Pittsburgh area. Cost for the course  will be $100, and an additional $125 for those staying overnight. Watch this website for more details, or contact MCI director Jeffrey Mierzejewski at (412) 735-1676 or mci@archpitt.org.