Making the Congregation Your Choir
In much of my cantor training, my teachers and I focused on the responsibilities of the cantor, and the ceremony of it all. It was very much about what you could do for the congregation as a leader, not about establishing a bond between yourself and the parishioners that creates a choir out of the people.
Elena’s teaching encourages that type of symbiotic relationship. Common repertoire, which includes repeating the same psalm and communion hymn for a number of weeks at each Mass, can turn a silent Mass into one full of enthusiastic singers. The repetition builds familiarity and comfort that a congregation latches on to and responds to, even if it’s not in a fully conscious way. Elena also encourages cantors to enable the congregation rather than lull them into a sense of enjoyment. Taking the repeats of psalms and Alleluias at a softer volume brings more participation and put some focus back on the full church rather than one singer.
Elena also democratized the role of cantor. At other churches where I’ve sung, it would be considered rude or stepping on toes to come to a Mass you’re not scheduled for and sing with the scheduled cantor. When Elena organizes and plays a Mass, anyone who’s ever sung for the church is sought out in the pews and invited to sit on the altar. It creates a beautiful, strong, honest, flexible community of worshippers who all feel free and happy to lift their voices in songs of praise.
– Meghan, Cantor