Emcee

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Definition

Description

A master of ceremonies (MC or emcee), or compère, is the official host of a staged event or similar performance. An MC usually presents performers, speaks to the audience, and generally keeps the event moving. An MC may also tell jokes or anecdotes. The MC sometimes also acts as the protocol officer during an official state function. In hip hop music, rock music and electronic dance music, an MC is a music artist and/or performer who usually creates and performs vocals for his/her own original material.

The term originates from the Catholic Church. The Master of ceremonies is an official of the Papal Court responsible for the proper and smooth conduct of the elegant and elaborate rituals involving the Pope and the sacred liturgy. He may also be an official involved in the proper conduct of protocols and ceremonials involving the Roman Pontiff, the Papal Court, and other dignitaries and potentates. Examples of official liturgical books prescribing the rules and regulations of liturgical celebrations are Cæremoniale Romanum and Cæremoniale Episcoporum.

The office of the Master of Ceremonies itself is very old. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the most ancient ceremonials and rituals of the Catholic Church are the Ordines Romani. Names of Masters of Ceremonies are known since the late Middle Ages (15th century) and the Renaissance (16th century). However, copies of books prescribing the forms of rituals, rites and customs of pontifical ceremonies are known to have been given to Charles Martel in the 8th century. The rules and rituals themselves are known to have been compiled or written by the pontifical masters of ceremonies whose contents date back to the time of Pope Gelasius I (492–496) with modifications and additions made by Pope Gregory the Great (590–604). It is reasonable to assume that the ceremonials themselves pre-date Gelasius I and the origins of the Master of Ceremonies may have developed from the time Emperor Constantine the Great gave the Lateran Palace to the popes (324) or from the time Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire (380), and was influenced no doubt by imperial practices, customs and norms. However, documentary evidence from the late Roman period are scarce or lost. The ceremonies and practices of the Byzantine emperors are also known to have influenced the papal court. The accumulation of elaboration and complication since the Renaissance and Baroque eras were carried well into the 20th century until some of the ceremonies (i.e. the court, the rituals and norms) were simplified or completely eliminated by Pope Paul VI in the 1970s after Vatican II; much of the Renaissance pomp and ceremony has been completely abandoned by the popes of the modern era.