In the 2-year MCI Online program, there are two different classes on the Divine Liturgy:
- Introduction to the Divine Liturgy
- The Divine Liturgy
Some students coming the program wonder if this is a mistake. It’s not, and here’s why.
When we taught in-person classes for the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, an entire class sang together. Sure, we would often go from one person to another, trying out individual melodies, but there was really no way to make sure that every student knew each part of the Divine Liturgy.
The online course is different. For example, in the Introduction to Church Singing class, every student submits online recordings of themselves singing on a single pitch (to check rhythm and expression), then to a psalm tone, then singing simple responses (“Amen”, “To you, O Lord”) and litany resp0nses (“Lord, have mercy.”) The course is also structured to test a student’s ability to match pitch with the priest of deacon.
The Introduction to the Divine Liturgy class teaches about the Divine Liturgy, and also teaches how to sing and lead the material on pages 11-103 of the Divine Liturgy book – even the Saint Basil melodies! Students practice the music reading skills they learned in the previous course, and how to sing and lead plain chant.
But to do this for ALL the music on these pages would be overwhelming for newer cantors (and even for more experienced ones, if they are still learning to read music!). So for this course, students choose ONE melody for each hymn, such as the Trisagion (“Holy God”) and the Cherubic Hymn (“Let us who mystically”), to record and use to demonstrate their learning. By the end of this course, every student can sing the entire Divine Liturgy, as long as they can choose the melodies to be used when there is a choice.
Later in the program, the Introduction to the Eight Tones class provides a lot of experience in reading musical notation, and in learning and singing melodies. Students practice and demonstrate the troparia, kontakia, prokeimena and Alleluia in all eight tones.
Then, once they are into the “intermediate” classes and take The Divine Liturgy, they will be better prepared to understand the liturgical organization of the service, AND have the necessary skills to sing well from musical notation, and to sing more complicated music. In this course, they will learn and demonstrate ALL the different melodies we use in the Divine Liturgy, as found on pages 11-103 of the Divine Liturgy book.
By covering the Divine Liturgy, our most important service, in two separate classes, we allow students to grow into and master the cantor’s role, and make sure that every student can sing the Divine Liturgy prayerfully, musically, and well.