The Work of Precentor

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Greetings everyone, this is mainly directed to current or previous precentors. The Lord has blessed me with musical ability through years of training, and originally my mother urged me to use my piano skills at church, which I did for short periods of time. Now I believe in non-accompanied singing so that's out of the question. I don't really have an angelic voice or anything but I can hold a clearly understandable tune and I believe I should at least consider pursuing the work of being a precentor sometime in the future. What would you recommend for going about this? I'm currently at a church that does not need a precentor so talking about with my elders is out of the question, but is there anything you did or learned prior to being a precentor? Is there anything you wished you had learned? Thank you.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm sorry I nor my church are EP. Why is talking with the elders "out of the question?" I'm sure your current precentors get laryngitis or go on vacation from time to time. I'm sure they'd be delighted to have someone interested.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm sorry I nor my church are EP. Why is talking with the elders "out of the question?" I'm sure your current precentors get laryngitis or go on vacation from time to time. I'm sure they'd be delighted to have someone interested.
Perhaps I was a bit dramatic. Talking to them about it is not bad or anything, but we have no precentor at our church. It is a hymn and psalm singing church, and they have a piano player.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
Perhaps I was a bit dramatic. Talking to them about it is not bad or anything, but we have no precentor at our church. It is a hymn and psalm singing church, and they have a piano player.
That's a different matter. I'll bow out.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Posting this here again.


1) Listen to how precentors do things in the various livestreams of EP churches. It will give you good ideas.

2) Practice the tunes that you want to precent. Learn them as well as you can. Ideally, you want to know them so well that you don't really need the music and can just focus on the words.

3) Have various checks and balances to minimize error. For me, that involves humming the tune quietly to myself before I pitch it to the congregation. I also look at the music (even if I don't think I need it) to start the singing and sometimes will keep looking at it for a stanza or two.

4) Learn proper pronunciation and breathing (as one would for any singing). Learn how to project your voice well and sing from below (not from your throat). Find a comfortable tempo for singing (which can vary slightly for sad versus joyful psalms) while recognizing that your pastor or congregation may require a different tempo at some point.

5) If you make a mistake and catch it while pitching the tune, just smile, and re-pitch the tune (mistakes do happen!). Precenting isn't about you but serving the congregation to help them sing together.

6) Try not to use new tunes the congregation does not know and try to stick with tunes they either know already or have been learning and working on.

7) Don't be afraid to take a leadership moment, if it is necessary, e.g., I once chose the wrong tune (the wrong meter) for a psalm because I misread the bulletin: I just said that there was a mistake and we were using X tune instead.

8) Pitch pipes are useful.

9) Having a water bottle with you throughout the service can be helpful too.
 
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