This selection from Taft's book on the popular participation in the liturgy reminds me how important it is that the people in the pews be able to sing the hymns we choose. Great hymns that are sung are not great hymns. Of course bad hymns that are sung are not great either but orthodox hymns beyond the reach of a congregation do not make a congregation orthodox. They only make it quiet.
During all this movement, of course, the people were not only marching in the processions and absorbing the splendor of the ceremonial; they were also kept busy responding to each petition of the diaconal litanies and singing the antiphonal psalms farced with refrains appropriate to the feast of the day. The cantors intoned the psalm verses, the people responded after each verse with the short poetic refrains from the simple and easy to remember limited repertoire.
According to the patristic witnesses of Late Antiquity, this liturgical psalmody was a huge success." Around 562, Paul the Silentiary praises the antiphonal psalmody in Hagia Sophia: "without interruption wells up a well-sounding song, pleasing to the ear of the life-giving Christ, where the precious service of the god-fearing David is intoned by alternating choirs, sung by men. In Novella 6, Justinian I (527-565) fixed the number of clergy of Hagia Sophia and the other three patriarchal churches its clergy served (Hagia Eirene, Chalkoprateia, Hagios Theodoros of Sphorakios) at 60 presbyters, 100 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 90 subdeacons, 110 lectors, and 25 cantors . There were plenty of cantors and others to lead the people in their singing and other aspects of liturgical participation."Though Chrysostom, ever the nag, complains even about the psalmody, it was in fact about the only thing for which most of the Fathers of the Church praise rather than berate their congregations.'` In Asia Minor St. Gregory Nazianzen's (d. ca. 390) funeral Oration 43 iii says that when the Arian emperor Valens visited St. Basil the Greats (d. 379) church in Caesarea in Cappadocia (Kayseri) at Epiphany, "the thundering psalmody struck his ear... And Miracle 33 in the fifth-century Greek Life and Miracles of St. Thecla from Seleukeia (Silitke) in Isauria on the southern coast of Turkish Asia Minor directly north of Cyprus, tells how the pilgrims to Hagia Thekla (Ayatekla), the sanctuary of the saint just south of Seleukeia, recounting their impression of the feast and its liturgy (synaxis), single out for mention "the harmony of the chanting of the psalms.
Taft, Popular, p. 56-58.