Johann Sebastian Bach was the most famous Cantor where in Leipzig he provided music for two congregations (Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche) as well as overseeing music at the Petrikirche and the Neuekirche.
In 1997, at the celebration of Carl Crosier’s 25th anniversary at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, the title of “cantor” was bestowed on him. At last night’s congregational meeting, however, Randy Castello, head of the Cantor Search Committee, announced that they had changed the title of the position, and therefore the title of the committee. Since Carl announced his retirement a year ago last April this committee has been working hard to find his replacement. It’s now nearly June, and although a number of candidates have been interviewed, Carl’s replacement is yet to be found. To the folks at LCH, this is the role of the cantor, someone in charge of the congregation’s song. But to the world, they are not looking for an organist, but rather a choral conductor and liturgist. Apparently there is general confusion over the word “cantor,” as understood by the Lutherans which contrasts to Jewish cantors or cantors in a Catholic mass. The committee will now look for a “Director of Music and Liturgy” rather than a Cantor. If you would like to read the job description, you can click here for more information.
The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM) defines the role of the Cantor this way:
- When Christ’s people, the baptized, gather for woship they receive God’s love in word and sacrament, and through the gift of music, praise, pray, proclaim and recount the story of God’s grace in song.
- The Cantor – the historical term among Lutherans – is the leader of the people’s song.
- The Cantor is responsible for leading the musical expression of the people — the assembly, choral groups, solo singers, and instrumentalists, among whom organists have been especially important for Lutherans.
- The Cantor uses whatever musical resources are available, using them in a manner appropriate to the talents of those serving and the needs of the people who are served.
- The Cantor leads the earthly assembly in a foretaste of John’s vision of the heavenly in which all creatures give praise, honor, glory, and power to the Lamb.
- The Cantor’s work is a worthy service to God, God’s people, and the world.
- It is a high and holy calling.
All this reminded me of a T-Shirt we bought for Carl many years ago at an ALCM conference.
Here’s a closeup of the text: