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date: 21 November 2019

Decani and cantorislocked

  • Nicholas Temperley

Extract

The two halves of the choir (in an architectural sense) in an English cathedral or a large church or chapel: decani is the south side, cantoris the north. The names mean ‘dean’s [side]’, ‘cantor’s [side]’, and refer to the two highest officials of the chapter of a medieval cathedral. The Cantor, or precentor, ranked immediately after the dean in secular cathedral establishments. The dean’s stall was at the west end of the choir, facing east, just to the south of the central aisle; the cantor’s was opposite, north of the aisle. For certain duties the choir (in a musical sense) was also divided into two equal halves. The singers on the dean’s side – decani – took the leading part one week, those on the cantor’s side – cantoris – the next; during the seasons of the three great festivals the alternation was daily. Psalms, canticles and hymns were sung in alternation between the two halves. Together with much other Latin terminology, the names survived the Reformation, and have been used ever since in cathedral music to signify the two halves of the choir....

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