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Skip to today at Mass --
The people who cantor are all volunteers from the choir. It's a very mixed bag. There is one male cantor who's very good, but he has to have the melody line adjusted down so he can sing it (he has a deep voice). In order for me to be able to sing against it, I have to go up into my thin and thready soprano voice. If I'm the least bit congested, forget it.
One of the lady cantors -- I'm not sure what voice she's trying to sing in. She also has a very disconcerting habit of forgetting her words and getting lost. Very few of us are brave enough to try to sing when she's leading.
The lady cantor we had today is generally very good. She sings soprano, but the lower end of it, and with a strong, rich, full voice so there's room to drop into the alto and not throw the people around me off if I do. I don't know what happened to her today, though. She started climbing up the register by leaps and bounds, went soaring past where only dogs can hear you, and up into the sonar region of bats. Then, mercifully, squeaked to a halt, found her place and brought it back down to human levels, again.
Of course, it doesn't help that most Catholic hymns rely heavily on the letters 'r', 'l' and 's' in the songs ('Lord' is a word that's just hard to make distinguishable or sound pretty in song) and tend to be sung in some of the most hostile sound enviroments possible -- large, airy place where choir practices sound wonderful because there are no people to absorb some of the sound, converted to a large, crowded with sound-absorbing bodies space where only the pitchy soprano notes can be heard.
For whatever reason we rely on hymns that were written by monks (and the occasional nun) in the middle ages where they are almost all in common time (4/4) and in a sing-song beat (da, di, da
, da, da, di, DA; da, di, da
, da, da, di, DA). And, just to confuse things, any time in one of these older hymns where the word is 'man' meaning, as had once been the case, 'human being' without any sort of gender identifier, the wave of political correctness had changed that to something else (most commonly 'us' which takes the nicely resonant 'n' sound out and substitutes the silibant 's' to make the hymn now truly wretched) except some people are singing it with the original word as that's how they learned it, and half the people are singing it with the new word and so, those few brave souls that were trying
to sing now drop silent in embarassment in having sung the 'wrong' word.
About the only time you get Catholics really singing in church is Christmas where it's hard to mess up the hymns/carols you've been hearing on the radio for the past month. Oh, and whenever we sing a patriotic hymn -- God Bless America, America the Beautiful, etc.