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A cantor or chanter is a person who leads people in singing or sometimes in prayer. In formal Christian worship, a cantor is a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds.
In Judaism, a cantor is one who sings and leads people in prayer in a Jewish religious service and may be called hazzan. A cantor in Reform and Conservative Judaism is an ordained clergyperson, similar to that of an ordained rabbi, if the cantor has gone through seminary training or been certified as a "Cantor" from an endorsed seminary.
"Cantor" is used as a translation of equivalent terms in other languages, such as for the leader of singing on a traditional Kerala snake boat, a Chundan Vallam. A similar term is precentor, defined as a leader of the singing of a choir or congregation.
Cantor is a Coptic word (language that very similar to Greek) which if translated to English means teacher.
More specific types of cantor include:
- Cantor in Christianity, an ecclesiastical officer leading liturgical music in several branches of the Christian church
- Protopsaltis, leader master cantor of the right choir (Orthodox Church)
- Lampadarios, leader of the left choir (Orthodox Church)
- Domestikos, leader assistant to the Protopsaltis of the right choir and/or to the Lampdarios of the left choir (Orthodox Church)
- Hazzan in Judaism, a singer and/or musician. Orthodox Judaism only allows men to be cantors, while the other branches allow women. Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism ordain cantors from seminaries. Ordained cantors serve as clergy in their congregations and perform all ministerial rites as rabbis.
- An ordained Muezzin, who calls the Adhan in Islam for prayer, that serves as clergy in their congregations and perform all ministerial rites as imams.