When a deacon really blows the Exultet
  • What should one do when the singer blows the Exultet? In my own future, I know that I will be prepared, if a layman is allowed to do it. (I have no idea what the rule is on that, but I have seen laymen, a choir, deacons, and priests.) But it is a rather long piece, and not every deacon I have ever heard has as firm a command of singing as one would like. So, let's say he tanks, just panics, and even a helpful organist can't get him on pitch. Should someone walk over and help him calm down? (It's not like anyone's worship experience is going to be interrupted by the interruption.) Is it licit to just recite the Exultet text? I know a priest with a superb voice who celebrated with the New Missal at the very first vigil and had the entire melody of the new texts just evaporate, despite months of preparation, and he couldn't call it back even though it was in front of him, so he did plainchant--so well that I didn't even notice until he told me after. But he is an expert at that kind of thing and can cover. What if the singer can't? Is intervention an option?

    Kenneth

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,731
    Our pastor usually sings the entire piece, but he has had numerous health issues this year. He sang the first parts, then read the rest. It was a good idea to not get so winded on this one piece that he couldn't function for the rest of the Vigil. No harm was done by this, and all worked out well.
    Thanked by 1amindthatsuits
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    I've sung the exsultet about ten times, always a capella. As with everything else I sing, I make a deal with myself before-hand to just wing it if I get into trouble. I understand nerves and sudden brain death, but you have to have a back-up plan in place in case you screw up. I don't know what I'd do if there was accompaniment and I got lost....
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Bulleted thoughts-
    *Due to the singular importance of this one chant as a prism that opens up the new Christian year, its assignment to be properly rendered cannot suffer one dimensional consideration, ie. a pastor/celebrant only, a deacon only, a cantor only, a choir only, etc.
    *It ought to be the Missal version if at all possible. Versions chorally arranged like J. Michael Thompson's wonderful homophonic version need to still be rooted in the missal chant. But an unaccompanied (and if possible, unamplified) performance firmly sung, annuciated accurately, unite the elect with the community and the company of angels and saints, lit by Christ our Light through the centrality of the Paschal Candle, blessed and processed.
    *Like canting the Passion or other/all lessons, I personally don't think that either an operatic modality (and certainly not bel canto) or a precious, too soft and lyrical/quasi sotto voce rendition serves the intent of the proclamation. But one doesn't want to advocate a masculinity as sometimes intimated by C.Bartolucci that to me, suggests a brutish approach.
    That's my take.
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,462
    "What should one do when the singer blows the Exultet? " Let them blow it. If the pitch wanders, let it wander. I don't see anything you can do during the course of it that won't make matters worse. If you put that person there, don't do it next year. If it's clergy (and ideally it should be) and they know they weren't good, you might suggest sometime before Lent next year that you're ready and able. In the context of the Vigil, it's a Big Deal; in the context of the church year, notsomuch.

    We were blessed this year with a transitional deacon with a clear high voice who did a very nice job of it. Not my Ultimate Exultet, but much more than adequate.
    Thanked by 2Liam Jani
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,618
    I remember a fairly well-published priest composer some 25 years ago who sang the Exsultet; he was a fine pianist and a light tenor, but he was so eager to avoid going flat that he ended up modulting up at least a major third over the course of the chant, putting him noticeably into not-so-great falsetto land. If he had presence of mind at the time, he could have paused and asked for the incipit to be re-set, as it were.

    The way you deal with things like this is . . . musicianship. (Then again, I was trained as a horn player. You *will* fail with the horn; it's built into the beast. My favorite story of this type regards a concert in the 1970s by Barry Tuckwell that my horn teacher shared with me: Tuckwell flubbed a very exposed high note - he paused, pointed his finger up into the air - and the four horns of the orchestra hit it for him. *That's* musicianship. It was contrasted by the behavior at different concert of a Continental horn player who flubbed a high note and, after the concert, hurled his Alexander down the stairs to the sub-stage area). Elemental musicianship can be seeded into non-professionals by illustration and permission ("if you feel you're losing the pitch, just nod for an incipit. It's perfectly fine.")
    Thanked by 2chonak BruceL
  • G
    Posts: 1,383
    I would have been happy to hear someone "flub" the actual Exsultet, given that a best effort was made.
    Instead I heard someone sing horribly, (albeit, I assume, accurately,) a strange paraphrase, in a strange modern, chant-ish setting whilst accompanying self on organ with strange new-agey chords...
    I blame the publisher more than the musician.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,733
    Booing and/or whistling are not an option, so unless one is in a position to hire/fire the answer is clearly nothing. There is a lot to be said for muddling through, especially if one is not encumbered with an accompanist. Piatagorsky writes of a memory lapse at his Vienna debut where he improvised an entire prelude for a Bach suite. A long line of excited cellists at the reception were eager to learn what edition he used!

    I personally don't think that either an operatic modality (and certainly not bel canto) or a precious, too soft and lyrical/quasi sotto voce rendition serves the intent of the proclamation.

    The Goldilocks approach sounds so reasonable that I feel like a Devil's advocate to take issue, but why exactly wouldn't one adopt bel canto in a church about the size of an opera house, or resort to crooning if the microphone had no off switch?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Step away from the microphone diaphragm.
    That was easy.
    Any church the size of a noted opera house won't require electronic augmentation by either a bravura singer, or a well-trained chanter.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,987
    The Exultet was the first chant I ever taught myself. Rehearsed probably LITERALLY 100 times. Nailed it, learned from it, and though I'd love to do it again, I ferl it's better that I never ever do it again.
    Thanked by 1amindthatsuits
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,733
    There is that requirement to proclaim from the ambo, so that first is not always an option: fortunately I happen to know where the circuit breakers are. I still don't get the distinction between bel canto and bravura, or the notion that operatic=unchurchy. My Wagnerian experience stood me in very good stead indeed when the lector started rummaging about my feet for something or other with an open candle flame.
  • G
    Posts: 1,383
    My Wagnerian experience stood me in very good stead indeed when the lector started rummaging about my feet for something or other with an open candle flame.

    I don't want to know.
    No, wait, i mean I REALLY want to know.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    IIRC, Richard, St. David of Wales isn't a huge nave. So, a baritone/tenor (or if necessary Mezzo) should be able to point the voice, attended by the best chosen fach, the best tonal attributes and unaffected by "forced" anything, to even a moderately deaf senior in the last pew.
    I suppose what I meant or should have qualified is that the performance should in no way, from any technical or staged perspective, call attention to itself.
    Should go without saying.
    This last Saturday that's what I did: the task assigned to me without affectation. People got that.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,733
    ...the task assigned to me without affectation.
    or dilettantism, I would presume. I know you at least wouldn't argue church music deserves less care than the theatre, though that seems to be the general rule. I do have a beef with treating bel canto as a dirty word.

    G, nothing as picaresque as you seem to be assuming ;-P, nor did anyone at church die by a spear thrust. The wildly leaping shadows though were as distracting as any smoke machine at the end of Walküre. I never found out what was being sought; probably they were afraid something was unplugged.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, mon ami, though we lived across the freeway literally from St. David's on Humboldt, my ten years were at St. John Baptist on San Pablo, El Cerrito. I'm old and infirm now, especially with memory!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,282
    I don't really like bel canto singing when I'm at an opera...
  • Well, there is an Italian order that is in residence at the parish where I am sing ing now, and, while I don't do bel canto, they appreciate having a classically trained basso profundo up in the choir loft. I was trying to show different interpretations of Gregorian Rhythm to my young musical director, and I showed something from the newly rejuvenated that Sistine choir. He immediately made fun of the cantors solo part, because it was in pure bel canto style. Nice opening note with lots of the vibrato and flourish. I went to a morning mass at the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi and the cantor was a man of probably 8 decades who sang the modern stuff with lots of brio. That's just how they like it.

    Kenneth