Cantor’s Retreat in Pittsburgh area on October 29

On Saturday, October 29, a one-day spiritual retreat for all cantors will be held at St. Elias Byzantine Catholic 4200 Homestead Duquesne Rd, Munhall, PA, led by Sr. Barbara Jean Mihalchik of the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great.  The theme for the day will be “Personal Prayer and the Cantor”.  Every cantor should pray, apart  from the church services. But many do not know how to get started, or have lost the practice of it. Come learn how to start (or re-start) a personal prayer life.

There will be a Divine Liturgy for the health and needs of our cantors at 9:00 AM, and the retreat will run from 10 AM to 2 PM.  Lunch will be provided.  At 2 PM, there will be a panachida for all our departed cantors.

There is a $10 fee for the retreat, payable at the door.  Please register by October 22 by calling (412) 735-1676 or sending e-mail to mci@archpitt.org.

Hope to see you there!

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).

Moleben Monday!

This week, as part of our weekly opening of the MCI files, we bring you a moleben or prayer service to Saints Cyril and Methodius, the two brothers from Thessalonika who brought the Gospel to the Slavs in the 9th century AD. This service also includes, as a bonus, an English setting of the hymn Slava vam Brata, or “Glory to you, brothers.”

Moleben to Saints Cyril and Methodius

Look for a complete list of MCI booklets on the Publications page. And if there are particular molebens or other services you would like to see on the MCI website, please leave a comment here!

Hymnal Project

The singing of “paraliturgical hymns” – popular devotional songs – outside the Liturgy is a significant and beloved part of our Church’s tradition. A small appendix of these songs was included in our previous Divine Liturgy book, and several additional collections were published over the years. Unfortunately, the new hymnal which was announced at “forthcoming” in 2006 never materialized.

With the consent of our bishops, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute is undertaking the project of preparing a new hymnal for our church, to be submitted to the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission when it is complete. This hymnal will include hymns to the Trinity, to the Mother of God, and to the saints, chosenfrom material traditionally used in our church, printed with music and set for singing in various languages as appropriate.

Of course, there are a variety of issues to consider. Which hymns should be included?  If there are several translations or melodies in circulation, which one(s) should be used? Would it be appropriate to provide literal (non-sung) translations for traditional Carpatho-Rusyn or Magyar hymns when our current English translation is a very free one?  And so on.

As part of  this project, we will hold several meetings over the next year, as well as a public “hymn sing” on Sunday, October 2, at Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall, PA. My goal is to complete a draft hymnal by September 1, 2017.

If  you have suggestions for this project, please comment below!

If you would like to assist in this project or contribute on a continuing basis, please write to mci@archpitt.org.

Moleben Monday!

Each Monday for the next several weeks, we will be adding a new moleben or prayer service to the Publications page of the MCI website.

Today’s addition is a Moleben Invoking the Help of the Holy Spirit, suitable for a church meeting or the start of any good work. It can also be celebrated as a patronal service for parishes dedicated to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost).

As always, you can add “_booklet” before “.pdf” in the URL window of your web browser to get a link to a version suitable for printing in booklet form on 2-sided 11 by 14 inch paper.  Here is the direct link for this moleben so you can see what I mean.

If you have a particular moleben you would like to have for your parish’s use, please comment here!

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.

Two new hymns for Ascension

For your enjoyment and use, two hymns for the Ascension:

1. An English setting of the Ascension hymn, Hospod’ Voznesesja, by cantors Joe Ferenchik and Kenneth Dilks, for singing before or after the
Divine Liturgy.

2. Settings in English and Slavonic of All You Peoples, Clap Your Hands, a paraphrase of Psalm 46 by Prof. John Kahanick, restored by cantor Joe
Durko.