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cantor

cantor [Lat., = singer], a singer or chanter, especially one who performs the solo chants of a church service. The office of cantor, at first an honorary one, originated in the Jewish synagogues, in which from early times it was the custom to appoint a lay member to represent the congregation in prayer. The notation of the chants was forbidden. In the 6th cent. poetic prayer forms were developed, and with them more complicated modes, or music, thus necessitating professional cantors. In the early Christian church, cantors known as precentors had charge of the musical part of the service. In modern Roman Catholic and Anglican services cantors sing the opening words of hymns and psalms.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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