"Sing choirs of angels…"

My voice is far from angelic, but I’m laboring mightily to — once again — chant the Exultet this Easter.

The hardest part, I think, is just learning it.  And to that end, I’ve been helped immensely by this recording by Fr. Tim Hepburn, from the Archdiocese of Atlanta.  Back in 2008, for my first Easter Vigil, I downloaded that recording to my iPod and listened to it incessantly.  I now have Fr. Tim on my brain.  But I somehow mastered the basics, and have been able to just practice, practice, practice ever since.  (And every year there are two clear signs that Easter is nearing: my wife starts stocking up on Peanut Butter Cup Easter eggs, and she spends more time out of the house, because her husband is practicing the Exultet…)

It turns out Fr. Tim also has his own apologetics site, which has links to some of his own songs.  Check it out.   For those deacons who have also become familiar with Fr. Tim’s warbling, that’s a picture of him below — presumably not singing the Exultet, though.


  1. Deacon Jeff says:

    The good thing about singing/chanting the Exultet is…NO one in the pews have a copy of the music so they’ll never know if I’m right or not!

    The not so good is learning a whole new one next year!

    Happy approaching Easter!

  2. Deak Pete says:

    Even thought this year, it is MY turn, I am going to pass on the opportunity to by brother deacon who is more vocally gifted. I know I have said this before, but if they want to hear Bob Dylan sing it, they should book him and not ME!

  3. Tim Farrington says:

    Greg: These hopeful posts are what your readers need. Lately, I have noticed your board has encouraged nastiness, celebrated mockery, and brutally critiqued individuals almost to the point of calumny. In this season of Lent, I would suggest you be more balanced and avoid being an outlet for the perpetuation of sin. When you started the blog, there was a certain delightful grace you offerred that other bloggers did not. It is still evident, at times, in some of the homilies and reflections, although some homilies have been less than biblical and insightful and more flashy lately. I assure you of my prayers. – Tim

  4. James Martin, SJ says:

    The year I was a deacon and serving at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York, I said to the pastor, “So I guess I get to sing the ‘Exsultet’ this year, right?” “Are you kidding?” he said. “We have opera singers in the parish!”

  5. Deacon Norb says:

    I do not claim to be more than a common singer and really cannot read sheet music. Years ago, however, when I started my ministry in one parish, I had a horrible fight with the music director about this assignment. I believe — to this day — that this ministry is as sacred to the diaconate as proclaiming the Gospel.

    In those early years, I did the same thing Greg did — had the organist in the parish key the vocal notes of the classical chant out and record it on to a casette. I listened to that music and practicedthat chantt so many times my mind was mush.

    I will do the classical chant once more — this Easter Vigil in 2011.

    Next year we will have a new “baby” deacon in our parish who is a gifted musician. I have already warned him, he will be expected to chant the new text and new music in 2012.

  6. I love the Exultet! I downloaded that version from Fr. Tim a few years back myself, not to learn it, but just to listen!

    @Fr. Jim Martin – that is funny!

  7. I sang the Exultet several years ago (no deacons, and none of the parish priests at the time had the voice to do so) and learned it the same way, on my iPod and practiced until everyone in my house could chant it, too. I was at a chemistry conference the week before and wonder what the people in the room next to me thought of my nightly chant practice – the walls in the hotel were paper thin!

    @Deacon Jeff – Well, I would know if you were right or not would I be in your congregation, but truly you’d have my every prayer as you sang, knowing what it takes!

  8. I’m with Dcn.Norb on this one — first and foremost the Exsultet is prayer and not performance and if the deacon can manage to sing the prayer strongly and confidently and close enough to the notes so as not to distract the assembly, (and prepares, prepares, prepares), then the deacons the one to sing those Easter praises.

    By the way, brothers, don’t forget to prepare to sing the Easter dismissal at the end of the Vigil, on Easter Sunday and during the Octave.

  9. To Michelle Francl-Donnay:

    Wow, one small step forward for the acceptance of the ordination of deaconesses!

  10. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    The Exultet is a treasure of the church and I always wince when it is done poorly. We had one Deacon who strove mightily but would always mangle it. I happened to be blessed to hear Deacon Greg chant it at last year’s vigil (or was it the year before’s?) and I can testify that he performs this duty with great reverence, clearly, on-pitch and frankly very well. It had not come through to my husband and I like that in years!

  11. Deacon Norb says:

    CR Post #8

    “By the way, brothers, don’t forget to prepare to sing the Easter dismissal at the end of the Vigil, on Easter Sunday and during the Octave.”

    Yup! Do that too!

  12. I had the wonderful experience of chanting the exsultet at my home parish a number of years ago — I’m not sure why a deacon didn’t do it…all I know is I was asked with five days’ notice before the Vigil. That was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received as a musician….that our music director (who had another commitment on Holy Saturday, or he would have done it) believed that I could learn it that quickly, and sing it well. What a fond memory.

  13. Where else would you rather be for SEVEN NERVE-RACKING MINUTES than standing alone, in the dark, in front of a crowded full church, singing the Easter Praises??? I am now a two-time Exultet-eer. I am not a Deacon (yet?), although it seems I may be on that path. Shout out to Fr. Tim. I couldn’t have done it without your help!


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