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Playing the organ at weddings

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Because it's a Christian organisation with faith, hope and charity at its heart?

Being a Christian by no means obliges you to put up with disrespectful behaviour. Jesus famously lost his rag with the money changers in the temple. Contra Posaune's argument is that there should not be a "right to marry" in church except for active church members. So long as this is not interpreted as an automatic refusal to all those who are not members I don't, in principle, have a problem with it. That said, being a church member will not guarantee a model congregation either. Even regular church-goers can seemingly turn into different people at weddings.

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And those who's only connection is Christening/Marriage/Funeral are not to my mind true members of the Anglican church anyway.

 

Fortunately, you're not the judge of that. What an incredible statement!

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Hatch, match and dispatch services are a way of getting people into the church community; they are an opening.

 

One of my former choirboys had not been to church for years. He went back to that church to get married, got talking to the Vicar and he is now a highly successful vicar himself. Not as unusual as some people might think.

 

I recall a member of this forum getting into trouble, rightly so, and quoted in Church Times, for making similar disparaging statements about wedding couples who were not up to his personal requirements.

 

Malcolm

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I don't have any problem at all about people coming to church for hatch, match and dispatch when they have no connection with the place - which is why, in my first post, I made the comment about not being precious about it. It's the same as the drunk who turns up at midnight Mass - as long as he sits quietly and behaves himself I have no problems - something draws him there. Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville of Birmingham once said, "the church is for sinners, which is why you and I are so happy there!!!"

 

I've played the organ with so many people in church that they were sitting on the organ bench - it didn't even bother me when they made reasonably polite remarks, you can imagine the kind of comments "look he can play with his feet too!". I've played in all kinds of situations, including in prison for morning service where a prisoner once came up to me and thanked me for coming. I don't care that they don't know whether to stand up or sit down and I don't think that those who are regulars should make people feel uncomfortable because they don't know local protocol.

 

The problem I have is when they become rude and abusive - or, in the case of brides, excessively late!!

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While not exactly on the topic of playing the organ at weddings, I was told of a couple signing the register to a recording of 'Madamina il catalogo e questo' from Don Giovanni because they liked the music. (Pity about the words and context... )

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While not exactly on the topic of playing the organ at weddings, I was told of a couple signing the register to a recording of 'Madamina il catalogo e questo' from Don Giovanni because they liked the music. (Pity about the words and context... )

 

For any, like myself, who have a deep aversion to opera, perhaps you could provide a brief explanation of any unfortunate or inappropriate words within the cited work. Thank you.

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For any, like myself, who have a deep aversion to opera, perhaps you could provide a brief explanation of any unfortunate or inappropriate words within the cited work. Thank you.

It's the "catalogue" aria, in which his servant Leporello lists how many women Don Giovanni has had in each of a number of countries, ending up with 1003 in Spain ("Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre").

 

Paul

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I know you'll all hate me for saying it, but you should do what we do here (usually when there is no organist, but from time to time when there is) and that is that we bung a CD on the church's sound system! I have noticed that people seem to listen more when a CD is playing! In any case many is the time that people don't even come into the church until about five minutes before the service. If there is muzak playing what does it matter where the sound is coming from?!

 

It's a matter of style, but these days I have the bride and groom sign the registers on the High Altar to remind them of the sacramental nature of their marriage covenant. (They're told this in their marriage prep interview). It is all done with very good humour, and the congregation is kept involved. What most people don't seem to realise is that much of this huge delay when signing the registers is down to photographers. Here family and photographers are told that the signing of the register is not a photographic opportunity, but that they can return to the church straight after the service and take as long as they like. This means that the organist is spared the horror of playing to a non-listening audience.

 

We once had a harpist here. She played as people were coming in, and if truth be known, her many years of experience playing for weddings was very similar to many of the experiences mentioned in this thread (ie chattering and noise throughout -- organists are not unique in this regard). I made the couple sign the register during the second hymn and then had them sit down. Then I announced that we had a wonderful harpist with us and that we were all going to spend a few minutes listening to her music. Everyone sat attentively and at the end there was a burst of applause. After the service the harpist came up to me (and she is a very distinguished musician in these parts). I thought that I was in for it (!) but she thanked me warmly and said that she had never had a round of applause in a wedding before; now it is a regular thing if a harpist or a Welsh Male Voice Choir or other soloist is singing. It shows respect to them, and also to the couple who have paid their good money to have these musicians/singers present.

 

So far as late brides are concerned they are told at the rehearsal that if the bride is late, the bellringers will stop ringing at the time the wedding is due to start and that the silence will be screaming! Late brides are not too much of a problem since this was introduced. Again the lateness can often be down to the photographer - we find this to be frequently the case. I was warned by my training incumbant to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself on these occasions as the clergy never know what may have been happening beforehand. He told me that there was once a wedding on the same day as the Parish Summer Fair. He advised the bride about this on the night of the rehearsal and asked her not to be late. On the day she appeared 25 minutes late. He told me "I was annoyed but I didn't show it". After the wedding the bride's father came up to him and thanked him for not being cross about the lateness of their arrival. And then he told him, "My daughter has epilepsy and just as we were getting into the car......" And I've always remembered it.

 

Most couples are OK.

 

There is a lot to be said for being informally formal or is that formally informal. We rarely have an unpleasant wedding these days. :) (Although the one that took place about 7 weeks ago was a bit rough ;) )

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It's the "catalogue" aria, in which his servant Leporello lists how many women Don Giovanni has had in each of a number of countries, ending up with 1003 in Spain ("Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre").

 

Paul

 

Thank you, Paul. Now I understand the unsuitability of it (one hopes).

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Thank-you to quentinbellamy for much wisdom - 'informally formal' is a good thing.

 

With regard to late brides, it seems not to be the custom in Newfoundland that the bride is late, so it happens very rarely. I used to have various ploys to keep myself amused. I learned the Boellmann Gothic Suite while waiting for a bride at Cregagh Presbyterian Church, Belfast (described by Simon Preston as the worst organ he'd ever played). One bride at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, wanted to enter to 'Chariots of Fire', but also hired a Model T Ford to bring her to the ceremony. Due to a malfunction, the vehicle lived up to the title of the entrance music and the bride was very late, by which time I had played all the film themes I could think of and a fair whack of Gilbert & Sullivan.

 

Most often, I would play 'Why are we waiting?' or 'Get me to the Church on time', the degree of subtlety varying in inverse proportion to the amount of lateness (5 minutes: heavily disguised on the Pedal, 20 minutes: French toccata). At Belfast Cathedral, it was interesting to see the choristers' faces in the mirror as they realised what was going on.

 

'Seven minutes in this time, sir - you were late!'

 

In practical terms, at Henbury Church, Bristol, we had a lot of weddings and if they all ran late the last one would be running perilously close to being outside the legal hours for solemnising matrimony. The Vicar took to telling brides, 'If you're late, the organist will play "Why are we waiting?"', and that did the trick in most cases.

 

They don't know about singing 'Why are we waiting?' to Adeste fideles here, so the effect would be lost.... ;)

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What most people don't seem to realise is that much of this huge delay when signing the registers is down to photographers.

Indeed. So much so that on more than one occasion, after the scheduled music has run out, I have been known to engage celestes and an ecclesiastical wallpaper version of 'Hold it, flash, bang, wallop......' has emerged, largo

 

she had never had a round of applause in a wedding before;

I had two in one service a fortnight ago! One was for a blues/jazz version in 9/8 of 'Amazing grace' requested by the bride... alas on Clavinova, but it worked!

 

There is a lot to be said for being informally formal or is that formally informal.

Absolutely.

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I'm becoming very afraid.

 

I have a wedding to play for next Saturday. :unsure:

 

MM

 

Don't worry - the chances are that no one will be listening - or even singing any hymns!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I've shared the story before on these fora of the wedding I played for once where the bride was 45 minutes late (despite living next door to the church).

 

Having already played through all the wedding music in my "Bumper book of wedding and funeral music" at least a couple of times each I had no option but to proceed to the back of the book. Hence why the bride came in to the strain of the funeral march....

 

I've warned subsequent brides about this cautionary and true tale but amazingly it's never once happened since.

 

And yes, another vote of support to Quentin for his sage comments - and also I would say to SL whoever he or she is for such kindness, tolerance and generosity. I'm evidently not the first person to have wondered what sort of church I'm in when in times past I've been scolded by fellow communicants for not bowing at precisely the "right" moment or the vicar can be berated for "disrespect" for not wearing a dogcollar (which would in any case have been concealed under layers of clerical garb). It goes back to the heart of what this thread is about - attitudes (and, I submit, how they can often be more important than outward behaviour).

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Sorry to dredge up an old thread but I would appreciate a little advice.

 

No fewer than 2 brides have contacted me in recent weeks asking for something other than the standard entry and exit music - fine by me.

 

With the first I arranged a meeting with the pair in the church so I could play them some alternatives; I've done this on previous occasions without problems but this pair didn't show up. Bride was very apologetic when I called them later to inquire if all was well - she had 'forgotten'. Great. 20 minutes of my life wasted but no harm done and I suggested she call me when she was ready. Not a word since.

 

The second bride wanted a specific piece which personally I feel is not suitable but I didn't say this, just offered to play it to her on the organ so she could decide for herself whether she liked it or not, and if not there would still be time to choose something else. She had found an organ copy of the music and would drop it round to me next day; it turns out I live across the road from a friend of hers so she knows where to find me. Do I need to say that the music has never materialised and I've heard no more from her?

 

Is it my responsibility to call these people back since they are so disorganized as to let things drift like this? I'm horribly afraid they will just decide what I'm going to play, have it printed on their Order of Service regardless of whether or not I can do it!

If this happens do I risk making a hash of it or just ignore their O of S and play Wagner and Mendelssohn? The weddings are in July and August so time is running out.

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'Sounds fairly typical - I usually email well in advance and am reasonably clear about what will and will not work on our particular instrument -1 man & ped. If they want something out of the ordinary they provide a CD and that is played or if I have the music I will play or suggest something else. I have rarely needed to meet in advance although the (musical) Rector does of course. Sometimes there is further contact and sometimes not - beyond confirming choices etc. Last weekend for instance both 'in' and 'out' was on CD and I played they hymns and the music at the signing of the register. This weekend we had a trumpeter and because I knew what was required a quick session on Sibelius resulted in B flat parts for in out and the rest that can be used again. There was also a choir and we decided on the pieces sung during the register. Often they ask for Wagner and Mendelssohn and again leave the register music to me if no choir. Beyond this however I am afraid I do not go much out of my way to chase - experience has proved on occasions chasing up to be largely a frustrating task. The Rector sorts the hymns and lets me know what to do - so far - nearly 20 years - there has not been any real problem!

 

A

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As I don't have email addresses for either, and only the phone number of one of them, I think I'll dump this back in the lap of the parish office.

 

I thought I was doing them a favour offering to meet them in person and give them the chance to hear their choices on the instrument and in the building; a bit more authentic than a CD, I thought. It's therefore all the more annoying to be 'stood up' in this way.

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We have a booklet which we give to couples, including a section on music choices, pointing out that all music must be approved before Ordos are printed. Couples are asked to contact me well in advance, and in most cases I will meet them at the Cathedral and play various choices for them. It mostly works well, but yesterday we had the wedding-from-Hell to prove the rule. The couple said they wanted the same music as at a previous wedding in the Cathedral and claimed to have copied the Ordo. 'I think they lied', said the Dean. The Ordo was not one of ours - it had the Wedding Candle in it, which we don't do, the order was obviously copied from modern RC practice (the actual service was BCP, as are most of our weddings), and the music included, 'She walked through the fair' during the Signing, which I would talked them out of. The only identifiable piece on the Ordo was 'Rejouissance' as the couple left the church. I played that. The congregation were noisy and extremely badly behaved. They took flash pictures during the vows, despite being asked (and later reminded) not to do so. The bridesmaids took off their shoes during the lessons and declined to put them back on when they next had to move. The photographer stopped processions in order to pose the participants. (And the bride was given away by a guy who looked like Groucho Marx, but I guess that's not his fault).

 

Still, at least the wedding took place (they had booked and cancelled twice before) and they paid the correct fee in cash.

 

Generally, though, things work smoothly. I'm prepared to go to a lot of trouble if I'm contacted well enough in advance, and it usually works out.....

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I think I'm fairly tolerant when it comes to weddings - I operate on the assumption that congregations are there to support the couple not the organist so assume that noone will actually listen to me. Probably the hardest commission for me (as jazz doesn't come naturally to me) was the request to play some Stevie Wonder hits on a clapped-out pneumatic action organ once. Naturally the congretation listened spellbound to my every mistake...

 

I do think it's good practice to offer to meet with the couple before the service since many are not familiar with the repertoire or assume that because something is well known to them, it will work on any organ. That doesn't always follow - once I was asked to play for a couple on a little four stop two manual organ with three 8 foots but I met the couple at another church which had a huge organ. I demonstrated Widor's Toccata on an open diapason with them wondering throughout why I didn't use tutti, and they liked it so we went with it. It was their wedding not mine.

 

When it came to my wedding there wasn't even an organ at the venue so we had piano music instead. Liszt Consolation no3 anyone? Sumptuous.

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....once I was asked to play for a couple on a little four stop two manual organ with three 8 foots but I met the couple at another church which had a huge organ. I demonstrated Widor's Toccata on an open diapason with them wondering throughout why I didn't use tutti, and they liked it so we went with it. It was their wedding not mine.

 

I once had to play the Widor on this:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N09040

 

Even worse, I was booked for a wedding at a Roman Catholic church in West Belfast. I met the couple at the Cathedral and played them some stuff, and they decided on Mulet's Carillon Sortie for the postlude. When I got to the church, I found one of those lounge bar electrones sometimes known as burp-boxes - two short manuals and an octave of stubs down below. Actually, now i think of it, that was the second time I got caught like that. The first was just after I went to Belfast, in another RC church, a huge gothic barn somewhere in Co. Antrim. It was a tremendously pretentious wedding and, once again, a burp-box (a four-manual pipe organ wouldn't have been too much in that building). The occasion was relieved by the solist, who was a friend of the family, providing a running commentary on the guests, particularly the bride's mother.

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A very long time ago, I got a trombone-playing friend to reinforce the pedal line of the Widor for a wedding.

 

It seemed to work quite well!

 

Ian

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Bringing comments from yet another thread, thank goodness for Tony and his colleagues who support NPOR and help protect organists from disasters at unfamiliar churches by enabling us to check up organs online before visiting!

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