Chief singer of an ecclesiastical choir, who selects the music and leads the singing. In medieval times the cantor was commonly one of the dignitaries of the church whose office held a prebend of considerable value. His place on the right of the choir has caused the north section of a church to be called the cantoris. He is assisted by a succentor and in some places carries a staff as a mark of his office.


The Catectism of the Catholic Church

 

 



 

The chief singer (and sometimes instructor) of the ecclesiastical choir, called also precentor. His duties and qualifications have varied considerably according to time and place; but generally he must be ready to lead all the singing in church, to start any chant, and be watchful to prevent or correct mistakes of singers placed under him. He may be responsible for the immediate rendering of the music, showing the course of the melody by movements of the hand. The chief singer of the Gregorian Schola Cantorum was called Prior scholae or Primicerius.

In medieval cathedrals the cantor was master of music and chant, but also commonly one of the dignitaries of the chapter. In the fourteenth century the cantor in many churches began to delegate his instruction of the singers to a master of music. After the introduction of harmonized music some duties naturally fell to the conductor or choir-master, who might be a layman. the cantor's place in church is on the right of the choir, and immediately on his left stands his assistant, formerly called the "Succentor". In ruling the choir the cantor very commonly carried a staff as the mark of his dignity. This custom still survives in some places.

 
 

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