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Author Topic: Cantors versus Choirs, which is more Preferable  (Read 2078 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 13, 2011, 02:39:55 AM »

I prefer Cantors in Orthodox Churches ...
Choirs not so much......

Why do alot of Orthodox Churches, just have Choirs and no Cantors....
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2011, 03:04:33 AM »

We have Western style choirs to emulate the Latins; this will smooth over things so that we can eventually submit to the Papal Tiara and kiss his red boots with our holy Orthodox lips.
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2011, 03:08:51 AM »


I dread that Day,But i Think Its'a Coming the way things are Going.... Grin


We have Western style choirs to emulate the Latins; this will smooth over things so that we can eventually submit to the Papal Tiara and kiss his red boots with our holy Orthodox lips.
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 03:11:13 AM »

Time to start our own True Old Cantorist sect. I'll be Archbishop of Plant Earth; you take Canada.
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 03:21:11 AM »

So the Russians got the choir idea from the Latins?
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 04:23:43 AM »

Cantors are part of the choir. The more skilled singers (cantors) sing the more complicated parts and the main body of the choir sings the longer more simple parts (psalms and what not) to save the cantors voices. Traditionally there are two monophonic choirs (left and right) singing antiphonally (back and forth). History attests to this in that St. Ambrose imported the practice of antiphonal choirs from the east into the west.
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 04:33:20 AM »

Cantors are part of the choir. The more skilled singers (cantors) sing the more complicated parts and the main body of the choir sings the longer more simple parts (psalms and what not) to save the cantors voices. Traditionally there are two monophonic choirs (left and right) singing antiphonally (back and forth). History attests to this in that St. Ambrose imported the practice of antiphonal choirs from the east into the west.

At the serbian Orthodox New Gracanica Monastery and St. Sava ,that's all they have are cantors ,,it may be because there's seminaries as well, and the seminarians have to learn all the ancient orthodox hymns, in old church slavonic during the Liturgical services ,That the reason i prefer and an use to cantors more than choirs....... Grin

The priest Professors do most of the Chanting and the seminarians chime in ....Plus It Ancient and traditional having Cantors then Choirs anyway...
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 05:02:02 AM »

I'd answer that the Finnish church has both cantors and choirs but I have a feeling that I am missing something. What's the function of cantors in America?
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2011, 06:00:35 AM »

I'd answer that the Finnish church has both cantors and choirs but I have a feeling that I am missing something. What's the function of cantors in America?

This is confusing because cantor just means singer, so I will take what we are calling cantors to actually be chanters.

In America it seems to be common to have only small choirs, so everyone kind of acts as a chanter; or (and I personally have only seen this in churches of Slavic use) they have have choir that uses a more classical or neo-classical style. I have never seen the traditional setup of monophonic choirs with chanters used in antiphon by any Orthodox (in America at least). It is still common amongst traditional RC's.
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2011, 01:17:23 PM »

More than a decade ago, our church, back home, still had two groups of chanters on opposite sides of the chancel ("strane" ). The lead chanters though were sworn enemies in real life, enmity which often translated into chanting, as well.
I always laugh when I remember how, during Lent, at the Presanctified the older chanter (northern stand) would start an antiphon, only to be overpowered by the younger one, with a stronger voice, at the southern stand. For a while they would both bray like "wild asses" to quote the psalm, and then, the oder would eventually give up.

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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2011, 01:34:05 PM »

Here is a portion of the article on Byzantine Chant from the Orthodox Wiki:

"The second, less permanent, concept was that of koinonia or "communion." This was less permanent because, after the fourth century, when it was analyzed and integrated into a theological system, the bond and "oneness" that united the clergy and the faithful in liturgical worship was less potent. It is, however, one of the key ideas for understanding a number of realities for which we now have different names. With regard to musical performance, this concept of koinonia may be applied to the primitive use of the word choros. It referred, not to a separate group within the congregation entrusted with musical responsibilities, but to the congregation  as a whole. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Church in Ephesus [1]  in the following way:

    "You must every man of you join in a choir so that being harmonious and in concord and taking the keynote of God in unison, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, so that He may hear you and through your good deeds recognize that you are parts of His Son."

A marked feature of liturgical ceremony was the active part taken by the people in its performance, particularly in the recitation or chanting of hymns, responses, and psalms. The terms choros, koinonia, and ekklesia were used synonymously in the early Byzantine Church.
In Psalms 149 and 150, the Septuagint translates the Hebrew word machol (dance) by the Greek word choros. As a result, the early Church borrowed this word from classical antiquity as a designation for the congregation, at worship and in song, both in heaven and on earth. Before long, however, a clericalizing tendency soon began to manifest itself in linguistic usage, particularly after the Council of Laodicea, whose fifteenth Canon permitted only the canonical psaltai ("chanters") to sing at the services. The word choros came to refer to the special priestly function in the Liturgy—just as, architecturally speaking, the choir became a reserved area near the sanctuary—and choros eventually became the equivalent of the word kleros." (my emphasis)

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Byzantine_Chant

So, both practices are historically Orthodox. But which one better comports to our theology and ecclesiology? I think that Saint Ignatius' approach is the true Orthodox one.
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2011, 01:35:54 PM »

We have Western style choirs to emulate the Latins; this will smooth over things so that we can eventually submit to the Papal Tiara and kiss his red boots with our holy Orthodox lips.

Give me a break, you are insulting many of our Russian and Ukrainian believers and others by stating such nonsense.

That being said, I do prefer the Cantor-led chant if it is done well and the congregation participates. Being Rusyn, I am familiar with the Carpatho-Russian plain chant and am qualified to serve as a cantor in the prostopenije, but I find beauty in all of the chants used in different traditions. There is certainly room for both a choir and a cantor. It is interesting to note that one of the common architectural forms that was preserved during the period of Greek Catholicism in parts of East Europe was the retention of the 'kleros', known as a 'klirosh' where the cantors would stand and sing in the front of the church, to the right of the iconostasis. We had one through a renovation some years ago and the chant singing was better than when led from the rear loft.
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2011, 01:48:06 PM »

I like cantors, but to say that choirs are a Western influence is silly nonsense. Byzantine-style choirs often alternate between the two and this is nothing new. I was just at one of Elder Ephraim's monastery and they do both. I hope no one will accuse them of Latinization. As for congregational singing, I'm all for it but it's not realistic to expect everyone to learn all the hymns throughout the services, throughout the year, so there's always a place for a smaller set of singers.

*I realize Alveus was joking but I'm not sure Stashko was
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2011, 01:56:11 PM »

I like cantors, but to say that choirs are a Western influence is silly nonsense. Byzantine-style choirs often alternate between the two and this is nothing new. I was just at one of Elder Ephraim's monastery and they do both. I hope no one will accuse them of Latinization. As for congregational singing, I'm all for it but it's not realistic to expect everyone to learn all the hymns throughout the services, throughout the year, so there's always a place for a smaller set of singers.

It's is an irony worth noting when the Greek Catholic followers of St. Alexis were first being received in the Russian Orthodox faith that it was common for the people to be told by the priests sent by the Russians that their prostopenije/chant singing was a Western innovation of the Unia and should be done away with. Of course that was a period in time when the Russian Choral tradition was at its height, but this anecdote shows the silliness of the argument. There is room for choirs, cantors and small groups of singers for all of the reasons stated. We have all three in my church.
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« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2011, 02:40:35 PM »

Latinization...........i believe it.......Some of the Serbian  Medieval churches try to imitate the Latins ones ,by having those ugly gargoyles things on the outside of them, Hate those things ,,,,those churches i would like see bull dozed.......Replaced with beautifull traditional byzantine ones...

I never joke about serious matters.....




I like cantors, but to say that choirs are a Western influence is silly nonsense. Byzantine-style choirs often alternate between the two and this is nothing new. I was just at one of Elder Ephraim's monastery and they do both. I hope no one will accuse them of Latinization. As for congregational singing, I'm all for it but it's not realistic to expect everyone to learn all the hymns throughout the services, throughout the year, so there's always a place for a smaller set of singers.

*I realize Alveus was joking but I'm not sure Stashko was
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« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2011, 02:56:25 PM »

We have Western style choirs to emulate the Latins; this will smooth over things so that we can eventually submit to the Papal Tiara and kiss his red boots with our holy Orthodox lips.

Give me a break, you are insulting many of our Russian and Ukrainian believers and others by stating such nonsense.

Give me a break. You have no sense of humor, nor apparently the ability to contextualize sarcasm when it was so clearly spelled-out in my next post.
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« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2011, 03:12:25 PM »

I watched Quite a Few Romainian Orthodox u-tube videos....Loooove them...Im amazed how many  slavic words there are ...like the word strane meaning  sides as you mention below......  laugh




More than a decade ago, our church, back home, still had two groups of chanters on opposite sides of the chancel ("strane" ). The lead chanters though were sworn enemies in real life, enmity which often translated into chanting, as well.
I always laugh when I remember how, during Lent, at the Presanctified the older chanter (northern stand) would start an antiphon, only to be overpowered by the younger one, with a stronger voice, at the southern stand. For a while they would both bray like "wild asses" to quote the psalm, and then, the oder would eventually give up.


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« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2011, 11:24:24 PM »

I would take cantor(s) over a choir any day.
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« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2011, 11:44:10 PM »

^Ditto, and I'm not the least biased because I am a cantor (chanter)! Grin
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« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2011, 11:46:22 PM »

2 Byzantine Choirs per church, please (1 Right, 1 Left).
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« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2011, 12:23:14 AM »

Depends on the tradition of the parish:  For my Byzantine chants I like what Fr George has above, but preferably with a small choir of trained cantors, each one switching off on the lead and the others providing ison

For the Slavonic chants I like a full choir.

As for the involvement of the congregation, I think we should all at the least join in on the "Kyrie Eleison" (or "Lord Have Mercy" or "Gospodi pomilu") during the Litany.
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« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2011, 12:26:19 AM »

I'm torn, I honestly love both equally.
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« Reply #22 on: January 14, 2011, 09:15:17 PM »

I think stashko's real question is traditional (neo-Byzantine-style) music vs. westernized, polyphonic, modern settings.

Those are two very different styles, but both are sung by choirs.
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« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2011, 09:20:56 AM »

Nothing is better than Znamenny chant. Greek Byzantine chant in its Greek and Slavonic forms is terrible.
The Serbs and Bulgarians should learn how to sing like Slavs not like Greeks.
http://www.optinachoir.ru/eng/diskografiya/cd3.html
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« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2011, 09:31:06 AM »

The Late Serbian Metropolitan Christopher Had The Serbian  Cantors Sing everything in the Greek Byzantine way in greek and in slavonic byzantine ..I loooved it ..It was truly Beuitiful...... Grin

Serbs don't use this type of Chant Znamenny chant...Im not familiar with it....


Nothing is better than Znamenny chant. Greek Byzantine chant in its Greek and Slavonic forms is terrible.
The Serbs and Bulgarians should learn how to sing like Slavs not like Greeks.
http://www.optinachoir.ru/eng/diskografiya/cd3.html
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« Reply #25 on: January 15, 2011, 11:38:02 AM »

Nothing is better than Znamenny chant. Greek Byzantine chant in its Greek and Slavonic forms is terrible.
The Serbs and Bulgarians should learn how to sing like Slavs not like Greeks.
http://www.optinachoir.ru/eng/diskografiya/cd3.html

Terrible?  Maybe you haven't listened to it executed properly.  And also, please note that Znamenny chant is a derivation of Byzantine and in many places that still use it, it  is still chanted with Greek text.
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« Reply #26 on: January 15, 2011, 03:43:46 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   
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« Reply #27 on: January 15, 2011, 08:46:57 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   

Among the Rusyns or Carpatho Russian peoples, whether Orthodox or Greek Catholic, it was a given that all of the faithful were taught the eight tones and the hymns of the liturgy. Choirs were not introduced there until the second half of the 19th century. I would imagine that the same knowledge was common for the faithful in all chant traditions at one point in time.
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« Reply #28 on: January 15, 2011, 09:14:36 PM »

Neither cantors nor choirs I desire, but rather as the ancient liturgies seem to show, a whole congregation!  I think cantors and choirs exist due to a need to preserve church hymns especially when not everyone knows what to chant.  However, there was a time when everyone knew what to say and chant.
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« Reply #29 on: January 15, 2011, 09:15:21 PM »

2 Byzantine Choirs per church, please (1 Right, 1 Left).

I wonder how many people realise that the two Choirs are actually mentioned in Scripture (Nehemiah 12:40).
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« Reply #30 on: January 15, 2011, 09:19:01 PM »

2 Byzantine Choirs per church, please (1 Right, 1 Left).

I wonder how many people realise that the two Choirs are actually mentioned in Scripture (Nehemiah 12:40).

In our Church, we have a North Wing and a South wing of the congregational way of chanting, usually for us males in the North, females in the South.  I think this is called "antiphonally?"
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« Reply #31 on: January 15, 2011, 10:21:58 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   

Among the Rusyns or Carpatho Russian peoples, whether Orthodox or Greek Catholic, it was a given that all of the faithful were taught the eight tones and the hymns of the liturgy. Choirs were not introduced there until the second half of the 19th century. I would imagine that the same knowledge was common for the faithful in all chant traditions at one point in time.

I rather expected as much.  I have some recordings of Old Believers, and they seem to have congregational singing to this day; at least some of them.  I believe that we have gone too far when simple "Lord have mercy" responses have to be sung like operatic arias by a choir and not be the response of the people to the prayers of the litanies.  I can, however, see the value of the choirs and cantors for special troparia and the like.  Parts of the Liturgy that I believe should be sung by the whole of the Faithful are:

1. Litany responses,
2. Beatitudes
3. O come let us worship . . .
4. Trisagion Hymn
5. Creed
6. Lord's Prayer
7. We have seen the true light . . .
8. Blessed be the name of the Lord . . .

This is just my opinion, and I don't intend to make a big stink about it.  I already got in trouble in one church for singing along with the choir, so I shut up after that.
 
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« Reply #32 on: January 17, 2011, 05:30:35 PM »

I prefer Cantors in Orthodox Churches ...
Choirs not so much......

Why do alot of Orthodox Churches, just have Choirs and no Cantors....

Addressing the OP........

Choirs, at least in Greek/Antiochian practice, can be just groups of cantors, divided up antiphonally as described in other posts (i.e. one set sings the melody, the other sings the ison, and they switch).  Most recordings from Mount Athos, like the ones from the Monasteries of Simonopetra and Vatopedi, are like this. 

I think however, you're talking about how many churches today use choir music written in the modern major and minor scales - similar to 1800s and 1900s western christian choir music - as opposed to traditional chant.  The reason why the first is sung now is because such music became quite popular in the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, and it seems church musicians backed by the people supported it.  Advocates of traditional chant existed, but  were in the minority. 

The situation today is still a legacy of this, though at least in the Greek/Arab world there's a renewed appreciation for traditional chant, probably because recorded music made well done traditional chant available to everyone (as an aside, poorly done Byzantine chant, especially if sung in the way most places probably did it in the mid-1800s, sounds really awful).     


Finally, regarding congregational singing, not everything in our liturgy is meant for congregational singing.  For example, the so-called "monastic hymnody" in the menaion, triodion, etc. which is complex and which changes each day.  That being said, the cantor/choir's job is half to sing the "monastic hymnody", and half to lead the People of God in daily prayer by singing the other parts which are the same each day (e.g. "O Joyful light" in Vespers, the Doxology in Orthros, the antiphons, cherubikon of the Divine Liturgy and other fixed sections of the liturgy).  When cantors lead the People of God  in the second way, study of "late antique" liturgy is quite clear that the music was made for people to sing along with and that people did so.   Later, specialized versions of this music for a cantor or choir (which were unsingable by the congregation) became very popular, both in the 1400s (St. Simeon, bishop of Thessaloniki, complains about this and prefers congregational singing) and in the late 1800s with the above mentioned Western influence.   
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« Reply #33 on: January 17, 2011, 10:06:20 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   

Punch,

You'd think that would be the case considering that we use the same melodies for the same 8 Resurrectional Troparia week in, week out sometimes twice in the same Liturgy (at the 3rd antiphon and after the Little Entrance), but the fact is at our church, most of the people can't or don't.  Why?  Who knows?  But I'd like to think that though they are not belting out the melodies and the words, they are at least inwardly praying them.
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« Reply #34 on: January 17, 2011, 10:44:46 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   

Among the Rusyns or Carpatho Russian peoples, whether Orthodox or Greek Catholic, it was a given that all of the faithful were taught the eight tones and the hymns of the liturgy. Choirs were not introduced there until the second half of the 19th century. I would imagine that the same knowledge was common for the faithful in all chant traditions at one point in time.

I rather expected as much.  I have some recordings of Old Believers, and they seem to have congregational singing to this day; at least some of them.  I believe that we have gone too far when simple "Lord have mercy" responses have to be sung like operatic arias by a choir and not be the response of the people to the prayers of the litanies.  I can, however, see the value of the choirs and cantors for special troparia and the like.  Parts of the Liturgy that I believe should be sung by the whole of the Faithful are:

1. Litany responses,
2. Beatitudes
3. O come let us worship . . .
4. Trisagion Hymn
5. Creed
6. Lord's Prayer
7. We have seen the true light . . .
8. Blessed be the name of the Lord . . .

This is just my opinion, and I don't intend to make a big stink about it.  I already got in trouble in one church for singing along with the choir, so I shut up after that.
 

In our church, we go a bit further. The entire congregation sings along the Liturgy of the Catechumens, to include the variables, which are printed in the bulletin. For example, last Sunday we had:

January 16th
Veneration of the Precious Chains of the Holy and All-glorious Apostle Peter

Tone 1
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews,...

Tone 3
O Holy Apostles,...

Tone 4
Without leaving Rome thou art come to us...

Tone 1
As God Thou didst rise from the tomb in glory,...

Tone 2
Glory to the Father / and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Christ the Rock most splendidly glorifieth the rock of faith,...

Tone 6
Both now and ever / and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Steadfast Protectress of Christians,...

I could not copy and paste the special marks that help us all sing in harmony with the choir (mostly related to phrasing and tonal peculiarities). In any case, in our case, the antiphons are the same in ordinary Sundays and when they are changed for the Great Feasts, most folks know them anyway.

During the Liturgy of the Faithful, the congregation also sings along with the choir for each and every choral response or hymn, although we do have a problem with the hymn to the Theotokos when it is not "It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos..." We also sing Psalm 33 before the dismissal, as well as two rounds of God Grant You Many Years for those who are celebrating name days, birth days, etc.. and those who will embark on trips (I know that these are not part of the Liturgy by I love them).
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« Reply #35 on: January 18, 2011, 12:58:48 PM »

I choose none of the above.  I would like to see (or rather, hear) Congregational singing.  If we stick with the old style chants which put the emphasis on the words of the hymn, there would be no reason that even the most mentally dense congregation could not learn the 8 tones and some of the more common hymns.   

Punch,

You'd think that would be the case considering that we use the same melodies for the same 8 Resurrectional Troparia week in, week out sometimes twice in the same Liturgy (at the 3rd antiphon and after the Little Entrance), but the fact is at our church, most of the people can't or don't.  Why?  Who knows?  But I'd like to think that though they are not belting out the melodies and the words, they are at least inwardly praying them.

Expectation mostly.  Unless he has changed, Father Don does not have a problem with congregational singing, and even used to encourage it.  But, as I learned in the Lutheran Church, you sometimes have to goad the congregation a bit.  My remember my father turning around after the first verse of a hymn and telling the congregation that they certainly could do better than that!  The second verse usually sounded louder and better, as did the rest of the service.  I think that Orthodox come with the expectation that they are not supposed to sing.  And besides, St. Mary’s has some excellent cantors ;-)

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« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2011, 08:57:03 PM »

^Fr. Don still does, Punch.  The problem is that most people either don't know how or don't care to know how.  And despite efforts by certain cantors to teach the congregation, this has fallen on deaf ears and we keep going as we have been.
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