The Role of the Cantor
“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of Music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Martin Luther
Trinity is among a growing number of Lutheran congregations in North America and around the world to restore this historic title to those who are called to care for and nurture the musical voice of the congregation.
Cantor comes from the Latin word cantare, which means to sing. Thus, the term Cantor refers to the chief singer or musician – the person who plans, guides and leads the people in singing and offering musical worship.
Happily, this title emphasizes our holistic Lutheran understanding that in worship all our varied musical expressions are to be coordinated so that we achieve the goal of praising God together.
As with so many other parts of Christian worship—prayer forms, Bible readings and the proclamation/teaching portions of the liturgy itself—Christians derive the title Cantor from the Jewish synagogue. In the early centuries of Lutheranism the Cantor was responsible for the people’s singing of the liturgy and hymns. The Cantor also directed the Kantorei (the choir) and deployed its vocal and instrumental forces as needed in church, school, and city. Additionally, the Cantor composed music. Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most well known Lutheran Cantors of the church.
The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians states that the Cantor is responsible for coordinating the entire musical expression of the liturgical life of the church. This includes: solo instrumentalists, instruments that lead and undergird the singing of the congregation (here, the organ and organists are especially important for Lutherans) small and large instrumental groups, solo singers, large and small choral groups, and the singing life of entire congregation. Whatever resources are available, the Cantor uses them in the manner most appropriate to helping worshipers worship well and thus, be served in their spiritual needs.
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