Cantor (church)
A cantor is the chief singer (and ofttimes instructor) employed in a church with responsibilities for the ecclesiastical choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

; also called the precentor.
The cantor's duties and qualifications have varied considerably according to time and place; but generally he must be competent to conduct the vocals for the choir, to start any chant on demand, and to be able to identify and correct the missteps of singers placed under him. He may be held accountable for the immediate rendering of the music, showing the course of the melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 by movements of the hand(s), similar to a conductor.

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, a cantor, also called a chanter (in Greek, ψάλτης, psaltis; in Slavonic, Пѣвецъ, pievets), is a lay person in minor orders who chants responses and hymns in the services of the church. Particularly in the Byzantine tradition, the cantor in charge of doing the music for a service is referred to as the protopsaltis (προτοψάλτης), a term which may also refer to an office within a diocese or whole jurisdiction. The chief chanter is called the protopsaltis (Gr. Πρωτοψάλτης). The cantor or chanters sing the many hymns called for during the Divine Services. A chanter must be knowledgeable about the ecclesiastical mode
Musical mode
In the theory of Western music since the ninth century, mode generally refers to a type of scale. This usage, still the most common in recent years, reflects a tradition dating to the middle ages, itself inspired by the theory of ancient Greek music.The word encompasses several additional...

s as well as the complex structure of the services. A chanter must be Orthodox and is properly tonsured to service a parish by the bishop. Tonsured Readers will often wear a cassock, a black robe, during the service.

In the Greek tradition, a chanter will often wear the exorason, a black outer cassock with angel-wing sleeves. The Slavic tradition—which tends more commonly to use a choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 rather than a cantor—assigns no specific vestment to the chanters, unless an individual has been ordained a Reader, in which case he would wear only the inner cassock (podryasnik) and put on the sticharion
The sticharion is a liturgical vestment of the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, roughly analogous in function to the alb of the Western Church...

 when he receives Holy Communion. In the Greek tradition, the chanters are stationed at a psalterion, a chanting podium positioned to the south and sometimes also to the north side of the sanctuary. In the Slavic tradition, the chanters are similarly positioned, and the area is referred to as the kliros
The kliros is the section of an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic church dedicated to the choir...


Western Christianity

Before Vatican II, in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 a cantor was the lead singer of the choir, a bona fide clerical role. The chief singer of the Gregorian
Gregorian might refer to:* The thought or ideology of Pope Gregory I or Pope Gregory VII *Things named for Pope Gregory I:**Gregorian chant** Gregorian mass**Brotherhood of Saint Gregory...

 Schola cantorum
Schola cantorum
The Schola cantorum was the trained papal choir during the Middle Ages, specializing in the performance of plainchant. Although legend associates them with the papacy of Gregory the Great, there is no historical evidence to support this claim. The Schola is attested in historical records...

 was called Prior scholae or Primicerius. In medieval cathedrals, the cantor or precentor
A precentor is a person who helps facilitate worship. The details vary depending on the religion, denomination, and era in question. The Latin derivation is "præcentor", from cantor, meaning "the one who sings before" ....

 directed the music and chant, and was also one of the ranking dignitaries of the chapter. During the 14th century in many churches, the cantor began to delegate his instruction of the singers to a master of music. After the introduction of harmonized music, some duties naturally fell to the conductor or choir-master. Today, the cantor is a role that can be performed by a lay person. In parishes without a choir, the cantor serves to lead the responsorial singing with the congregation.

The cantor's locality in the church is most generally to the right of the choir, and directly to his left is his assistant, formerly called the "Succentor". A common custom for cantors was the bearing of the staff, which was the mark of his dignity and a visual representative of his sacred role inside the church. This custom still survives in some places.

In Protestant Churches the role of the cantor can be lay or pastoral. In Northern European cities, especially in Germany, the title of Cantor or Kantor survived the Reformation, and referred to a musician who supervised the music in several principal churches, taught in the boys' secondary school, and provided music for civic functions. Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

) and Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann
Georg Philipp Telemann was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family's wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually...

-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

) were among the famous musicians employed under this system.

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.