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Why cantors and choir directors are cranky right now

With a tip of the hat to Steve Robinson, I give you…

King Kliros!!!!!

And yes, it’s true, we’re a bit stressed right now. Let me just pass on a few reasons why, in hopes that it gives you some perspective.

1) We’ve got a week coming up full of services for which we’re responsible, we don’t have a clue who is going to be at any single one of them to help, and we probably won’t know entirely until about 15-20 minutes into each service.

2) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately cover the reality that no more than half of the choir is likely to be at any rehearsal. This means there is no amount of rehearsal that can prevent some number of trainwrecks, because inevitably the potential trainwreck spot you covered at rehearsal A was the rehearsal that persons B and C, most prone to trainwrecking at that particular spot, did not attend. This also means that all of the musical things you hoped to do something with, no matter how much you rehearsed them, are going to be useless because not everybody was there to rehearse those bits, and the people who weren’t there will just sing what they’re used to singing, regardless of how you try to conduct it.

3) There is also no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately prepare for the reality that no matter how much you try to find out in advance who is singing with you, there will always be two or three people who show up five minutes before Rush and say, “Hey, mind if I sing?”

4) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that covers the fact that the music that you do lives way too high for your tenors and sopranos, but if you repitch it will be too low for your basses. The alternative, different music that would be appropriate for the singers you have, would get you your head handed to you by the people who have an emotional connection to this music that is incomprehensible to you.

5) It’s Lent, so just like everybody else, we’re fasting and struggling too, in addition to the above points.

If you would like to not contribute to our stress level, what would be helpful is this:

1) Come to every rehearsal and every service, tell us if you’re coming or not coming so that we know in advance, come on time, and encourage everybody you know to do the same. I know you’re busy. So is everybody else. So am I. If you’re sick or have to be out of town, that’s one thing. If you’re of the opinion that you have better things to do than rehearse, then why are you in the choir in the first place?

2) Do not think, “It doesn’t matter if I’m missing.” Yes, it does. I have had to cancel rehearsals this Lent because enough people have just not bothered to come for the time to be productive.

3) If you’re part of another ministry that meets during what is the choir’s normal rehearsal time and has a significant overlap of membership with the choir, please bring up the possibility of rescheduling those meetings during Lent so that we aren’t having to hold rehearsals with an even more severely compromised membership than usual. See point of crankiness #2.

4) Ask your friendly neighborhood choir director, “What can I do to help?” We don’t hear that nearly often enough.

5) Last but certainly not least, please pray for us! These next ten days or so of all days.

Just some food for thought.

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6 Responses to “Why cantors and choir directors are cranky right now”


  1. 1 David 26 March 2010 at 6:34 am

    I think Bach would be right in line with you. Similar concepts were written by him in his Entwuff letter, where he spells out the number of singers he needs for his choirs. He asks for (at least) 3 sopranos, altos, and tenors, and indeed as many basses. This way, he says, if someone’s sick, someone doesn’t show up, someone has family visiting, he’ll at least have 2 on a part!

    Preach brother, preach!

  2. 2 s-p 26 March 2010 at 12:57 pm

    My wife is our choir director… your post should be mandantory reading for every choir member of every Church.

  3. 3 Molly Grabowski 26 March 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I also have a hierarchical visit on Bright Tuesday. And we haven’t rehearsed so much as a single Is Polla for that. And then, I have no men coming, that I know of. Sigh. Good times.

  4. 4 Anthony Stokes 29 March 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Molly, I had it the other way around. We had a Primatial visit at the end of February, and I feel like we haven’t had nearly enough Pascha rehearsal due to that. It went well, though. Let’s hope this week does too.

    I know all about people not showing up. Our men’s choir was supposed to sing the Presanctified Liturgy this past Friday night, and the catechumen that sings the alto parts (by himself) found out that his non-Orthodox family came to town to throw him a surprise birthday party, so there I was trying to find more chant to replace the 4-part harmony stuff during the reading of the 9th hour. Good times indeed.

  5. 5 Janet Pedersen 29 March 2010 at 8:45 pm

    AMEN!!! Having been choir director and now a chanter and choir member, I think this ought to be in every parish newsletter in the land.

  6. 6 Jaime 20 April 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Add a drive of an hour and a half and crossing of a time zone to that and see how rehearsals go! I’ve decided to look at it in terms of “this will sound good in 5 years if we keep trying to rehearse.”


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