Ten Commandments of Chanting and Singing
- Bring and maintain peace in the kliros. It’s a witness of cooperation, harmony, and reverence – nothing else belongs there (any more than it does in the altar or nave). I’d rather have tone deaf screamers at the kliros than grumblers, divas, and assassins (not that either would be pleasant!). Without love we are sounding gongs and clanging symbols.
- Come early and be prepared. This is especially true if you are reading an epistle. Prayer is part of the preparation. Spend time with the priest before the service to compare notes/get on the same page (and get a blessing).
- Our ears are more important than our voices. Harmony and matching pitch requires attentiveness; we have to listen at least as much as we vocalize (this is true for conversations – and quiet prayer – as well).
- Make the hand-offs with the choir and clergy sound like you are part of the same team, not separate or (egad!) competing. In chanting, this includes re-pitching only when there is a problem. Don’t draw attention to it when clergy goof up or miss their pitch (we’re in this together).
- Chant clearly and confidently. This is the Word of God, offered to His people. There is no room for pride, nor is there room for mumbling.
- Chant humbly and without vainglory. The kliros is a magnet for pride.
- Don’t settle for “good enough”. Even beginners get the notes right. Good chanting requires making the services witness to the harmony and unity of God. And if you can’t read music or don’t know the tones, start correcting this today. Seriously.
- Match the tempo of the service. It’s not a race, nor is it a dirge.
- Let the service speak for itself. It is perfect, we become perfect in and through it.
- Sing with joy and thanksgiving! We bring beauty to the services as much through our witness as our voices.
It sounds like you are saying, “Be really good, but don’t think you are really good.” Is this a fair assessment?