The role of the cantor in the Byzantine Catholic Church is a very important vocation in service to God.
A list of the cantors who served at St. Michaels follows this article.
The Cantor’s main role is in assisting the priest by leading the faithful in worship during the Divine Liturgy. In the Byzantine Church active worship by parishioners involves singing the Liturgy. The cantor also serves as a reader of Scripture, and assists the priest in all other services and blessing ceremonies in the Byzantine Church.
The cantor needs to have extensive knowledge of the many types of liturgical services, know the liturgical calendar and the corresponding verses, responses, and hymns sung. The cantor must also be skilled in understanding the various tones and forms of liturgical chant unique to the Byzantine Catholic church, all of which are sung without instrumental accompaniment (acapella). No organ music is ever used.
The cantor is also familiar with Scripture and pronunciations and is experienced in chanting the readings (Epistles) in the form that is traditional in Byzantine Catholic liturgies The chant tone is very different than Latin chant, used in Roman Catholic churches.
All of these skills are developed through training, practice, and experience. But most importantly, through desire and interest in supporting the church’s needs and singing praises to God. Educational programs and resources in the specifics of being a cantor are available online through the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.
Since singing is continuous in most Byzantine liturgies, the cantor is very aware of timing, especially in providing enough elaboration for the priest to complete prayers and other elements of the service. (While the cantor and people are singing, the priest is frequently praying additional silent prayers which are part of the liturgy). Both priest and cantor function together in a coordinated manner. This coordination may be so well-established that it appears to be without effort. In reality, a seamless outcome only attests to the experience, practice, and spiritual mindfulness involved.
In harmony with the priest, the cantor’s skills and talents are intrinsic to the beauty of each liturgy. The cantor also has the responsibility of leading parishioners in a way that encourages their full participation. Of course, it is the parishioners responsibility to be engaged in singing and participating as much as possible — this is what is required to be considered active worship.
When all elements of liturgy function in unity, the result is much more than merely beautiful singing. In Byzantine Catholic worship, singing is sacred prayer to God, not an option or side enhancement, but the way of worship itself . Singing from the heart of one’s soul elevates all to praise and thanksgiving, or in humble petition or earnest supplication. It is evidence of the Holy Spirit and the graces of God present in the Body of Christ, the church.
And this is why the cantor is so important to each parish and someone to truly appreciate and thank often.
We invite anyone who would like to learn and serve as a cantor to contact our pastor for more information and discernment.
We have been blessed to have the following cantors serve our parish.
Mr. Alex Sandor
Mr. Ivan Tylawsky
Mr. Vasil Slivka
Mr. Joseph Penyak
Mr. Andrew Marko
Mr. John Kavka
Mr. Edward Gaydos
Mr. Stanley Budzinski
Mr. Frank Bekanich
Mr. Michael Mikitish
Mr. Paul Dzurisin, our current cantor
The above list is a partial listing. Please add to our historical data base of cantors. If you are aware of a name not listed contact our parish.