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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

January 26, 2018

Cantors from Hell!

evelyn @ 6:28 pm

I couldn’t resist posting this list of what shouldn’t happen at the microphone! It was written by my very good friend, Frances Mary Dunlop, an experienced cantor who teaches upcoming cantors in her parish of St Mary’s, Greenock.

Meet the Cantors from Hell!

SADIE THE STYLE QUEEN always wears clicky heels so that she clatters around the altar like a geiger counter. The congregation are usually so mesmerised by her huge dangly earrings that they pay scant attention to the words of her psalm.
The good cantor moves quietly, does not distract the congregation by idiosyncratic dress or mannerisms.

CASUAL CLAUDE approaches the lectern pulling from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper from which he proceeds to sing the Word of God (Claude often acts as reader, usually at his cousin’s funeral).
The good cantor uses a book or folder for a more professional appearance, and to show respect for the Liturgy.

FRISKY FREDA is a young thing, fortunate not to have stiff knees. She runs briskly up and down the altar steps.
The good cantor acts with decorum, moves unhurriedly, whether suffering from stiff knees or not!

MESSY MARY is disorganised, spreads all her bits and pieces – books, papers, specs, glass of water – along the altar rails.
The good cantor is well-organised, well-prepared, avoids clutter.

FIDGETY FRANK sits during the Readings, searching his psalter for the right page, hunting through all his pockets for his glasses, blowing his nose …
The good cantor listens attentively to the Readings, participates in the Mass as a member of the Assembly.

OPERATIC OLIVIA has had singing lessons, and doesn’t let anyone forget it! She bellows into the microphone the whole time, even when the people are singing their response.
The good cantor engages in dialogue with the Assembly, does not sing while they are responding, knows how to lead without dominating.

HASTY HARRY is anxious to save time. He and the reader (Hurried Hughie) start moving towards the lectern during the Opening Prayer. (‘No sense in making the Mass longer than need be.’) At the end of the First Reading he is treading on the reader’s heels, and beginning the psalm almost before the people finish saying ‘Thanks be to God’.
The good cantor observes the principle that there should be no movement during a prayer, knows the difference between an ‘empty’ silence and the reflective silence which should follow the First Reading.


Frances M Dunlop


  1. Ha Ha! And all drawn from life! (Not in my parish, or yours, of course!) We have had some fun with these over the years, have we not?

    Comment by Frances M — January 26, 2018 @ 10:02 pm

  2. Excellent! I think I should share this little gem.

    Comment by Marian — January 27, 2018 @ 5:58 pm

  3. Indeed we have, Frances, and there is still mileage in it, as Marian’s comment shows.

    Comment by evelyn — February 2, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

  4. Yes, Marian, do please share it.

    Comment by evelyn — February 2, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

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