A leader and director of the chanting of the choir and the congregation during the liturgy and other occasions such as ceremonial processions. He is usually a deacon but may also be a layman. He should have a thorough knowledge of hymnology, psalmody, and all forms of responsory, besides church ritual and traditions. His duties also include the teaching of hymns to other deacons and members of the congregation.
Cantors had a recognized position in the Old Testament. David is referred to as “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sm. 23:1). The New Testament attaches equal importance to chanting: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Eph. 5:19).
Likewise, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). In Revelation 15:2, 3, Mark 14:26, Acts 16:25, James 5:13, and 1 Corinthians 14:26, we find further reference to singing as an important form of worship throughout the apostolic age.
Considerable care is taken in the selection and training of cantors, in view of their vital role in Coptic ritual.
[See also: Music, Coptic: Cantors.]