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Malcolm Farr

That Toccata ...

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Many moons ago, my then-bride - a militant non-organist - and I agreed to have the Widor Toccata played as the recessional to our wedding.

 

Sure, we had some other, more intrinsically interesting music during the service, but wanted to leave to something a little spectacular, that everyone could "get into". I had all but settled on Mulet's Carillon-Sortie, but she-who-must-be-obeyed wanted something even more accessible to the masses. So we went with the Widor.

 

After the service was over, and we were being congratulated and commiserated - I still hope the latter was tongue-in-cheek - a couple of organist friends came up to me and said, "How could you?!", while a few of the non-organists said, "Wow! What was that music at the end?".

 

Widor's little party piece has certainly been done a lot, but I don't think it has yet been done to death. It's certainly accessible - a driving rhythm supporting the simplest of musical material. And, well played, I think it comes across as far more than the sum of its notes.

 

So what's the verdict? When couples come to us for music to be played at their weddings, do we steer them away from THAT toccata? Or if they say, "Well we've heard this piece ..." do we say, "Good choice!" and go for it?

 

Rgds

MJF

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Oh - I thought this was going to be about BWV 565!

 

I agree - the Widor is such a good piece it will stand repetition. Of course, it's only organists and other people who spend too much time hanging around in churches who will have heard it rather a lot. To the average (i.e. unchurched) wedding guest I suspect it is still relatively, if not completely, fresh. If the organ (and organist!) can pull it off, why not?

 

Would I be right in thinking it was Princess Margaret's wedding that popularised it as a wedding recessional?

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Would I be right in thinking it was Princess Margaret's wedding that popularised it as a wedding recessional?

 

I thought so - but a google seach ("princess margaret wedding widor") throws up an official Westminster Abbey Library site which lists all the Royal Weddings and says:-

"6 May 1960

Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI, to Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon). (The hymns were “Christ is made the sure foundation” and “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” and the couple left the Church to Henry Purcell’s Trumpet Tune and Airs)." Princess Anne and Capt Mark Phiilips are recorded as having left the Abbey to the Widor Toccata.

 

Is the Abbey library wrong? I think the answer may be that at Princess Margaret's wedding the Bride and Groom left to some Purcell, and the congregation then left to the Widor. That wouldn't work in most Parish Churches because everyone would be out in the churchyard throwing confetti before the second piece started. Princess Anne omitted the Purcell and went straight into the Widor.

 

There is a copy of the order of service for Princess Margaret for sale on e-bay (I'm not kidding!) which might contain the answer. But perhaps there's somone around reading these messages who was there and remembers - or has the service sheet in a box in the attic. e.g a Westminster Abbey or Chapel Royal chorister.....

 

If it was Princess Margaret's wedding which established the popularity of the Widor who played it? I think it was Harry Gabb, in his capacity as organist of HM Chapel Royal, rather than as Sub Organist of St Paul's. He held both posts simultaneously, which was quite possible in those days. At routine services choirs were only conducted if the music was unaccompanied. So only one organist/conductor needed to be present.

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Wasn't it the Duke & Dutchess of Kent (possibly in York Minster?) - I think she is an organist - as well as a Dutchess!

 

AJJ

 

So the organist at the event could have been Francis Jackson - or maybe all this is wrong as 'serious Googling' only brings up Princess Margaret's wedding!

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Wasn't it the Duke & Dutchess of Kent (possibly in York Minster?) - I think she is an organist - as well as a Dutchess!

 

AJJ

 

So the organist at the event could have been Francis Jackson - or maybe all this is wrong as 'serious Googling' only brings up Princess Margaret's wedding!

 

 

Ajj is correct. It is The Duchess of Kent we have to thank for the popularity of the Widor at Weddings and the wedding was at York Minster - although I guess organists with a 1 manual and no pedals might not be so thankful!

 

The Duchess is an organist and used to practice on the Chapel Royal organ at St James's Palace - then conveniently next door to her appartments.

 

I would guess that Francis Jackson suggested that the Widor would be a good exit voluntary - and so it would have been at York. At the time, a breath of fresh air.

CRG

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Ajj is correct. It is The Duchess of Kent we have to thank for the popularity of the Widor at Weddings and the wedding was at York Minster - although I guess organists with a 1 manual and no pedals might not be so thankful!

 

This reminds me of an anecdote told by Professor Ian Tracey at the opening recital of a school organ. He had been asked to play at a friend's wedding and the final piece was to be Widor's Toccata. It wasn't until he arrived at the church that he discovered that the organ didn't have pedals. He ended up having to get a friend to play the pedal line on the lower end of the manual!

 

As to the Widor being done to death, I've heard that piece many a time and it gives me a thrill every time I hear it. I never tire of it. Ian Tracey played it at the above recital and he played it a couple of weeks later at St. Georges Hall, Liverpool last May. A wonderful organ despite the audible wind leaks. I really hope it gets the restoration it deserves.

DM

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I have vague memories of the Widor being played at one or more of the royal weddings. Wasn't Bach's F major also played at Princess Margaret's wedding? And a transcription of Strauss Snr.'s Radetsky March at Princess Anne's? I have a feeling it was associated with Mark Phillips' regiment.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Wasn't it the Duke & Dutchess of Kent (possibly in York Minster?) - I think she is an organist - as well as a Dutchess!

 

AJJ

 

So the organist at the event could have been Francis Jackson - or maybe all this is wrong as 'serious Googling' only brings up Princess Margaret's wedding!

 

I tried "Duchess of Kent wedding music widor" in a very serious google. Up come naxos Progamme notes and a note about an Alfred Hollins recital which confirm that it was Francis Jackson, and it was the Kents' wedding.

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I have vague memories of the Widor being played at one or more of the royal weddings.

 

================

 

I'm sorry, but I've never heard of this Toccata.

 

Is it worth getting hold of a copy, or is it French, like so many of the others?

 

;)

 

MM

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If you were going to play for a high profile wedding, with the possibility of setting the trend for the next half-century, which piece would you suggest?

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If you were going to play for a high profile wedding, with the possibility of setting the trend for the next half-century, which piece would you suggest?

Another old warhorse: the Final from Vierne 1. That always gets them dancing - so long as you don't play it too fast.

 

As for the Widor, when I had a church, being asked to play that at a wedding was the least of my worries. It pales into insignificance against some of the tripe I've been asked for. "Theme from Love Story" etc., etc. (Hyurcgh!!) I did try to steer couples away from things like that. I did have a reasonably effective method of avoiding one regular request in days of yore: Bach's "Sheep may safely graze". I'd simply smile sweetly at the bride and ask, "Oh? Is your fiancé Welsh then?" It usually worked.

 

(With apologies to any Welsh readers! ;) )

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Guest acc
So what's the verdict?  When couples come to us for music to be played at their weddings, do we steer them away from THAT toccata?  Or if they say, "Well we've heard this piece ..." do we say, "Good choice!" and go for it?

 

Rgds

MJF

 

If that's what the bride and groom want, why not?

 

The only piece of that kind I would definitely not play at a wedding is Vierne's...Marche Nuptiale (from his Pièces de Fantaisie), which seems to be a reference to his own (failed) wedding, rather than anything else.

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If you were going to play for a high profile wedding, with the possibility of setting the trend for the next half-century, which piece would you suggest?

 

Messaien's 'Transports de Joie' perhaps.......?

 

AJJ

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I have vague memories of the Widor being played at one or more of the royal weddings.  Wasn't Bach's F major also played at Princess Margaret's wedding?  And a transcription of Strauss Snr.'s Radetsky March at Princess Anne's?  I have a feeling it was associated with Mark Phillips' regiment.

 

Rgds,

MJF

 

The Radetsky was indeed given an airing at Princess Anne's wedding. (Surpassed only by Timothy Farrell's splendid accpt to 'Let Their Celestial Concerts'.)

 

The late Princess Grace (Kelly) went (I'm reliably informed) up the aisle to BWV 552a. Presumably very slowly.

 

And The Duchess of Kent chose Francis Jackson's (in)famous recording of a certain work featuring a certain high-pressure reed stop, as a desert island disc... On the same programme, HRH expressed regret at not getting an Oxbridge organ scholarship, but having to make do elsewhere... I jest not!

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The Radetsky was indeed given an airing at Princess Anne's wedding.

 

About the Radetsky March ... I recall a radio interviewer asked the organist "How will you play it" - and the witty reply was "At full gallop"!

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If you were going to play for a high profile wedding, with the possibility of setting the trend for the next half-century, which piece would you suggest?

For those who are capable of pulling it off - and unfortunately that doesn't include me - I'd suggest Dupre's Prelude & Fugue in B major.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
If you were going to play for a high profile wedding, with the possibility of setting the trend for the next half-century, which piece would you suggest?

 

 

I would strongly recommend you try the entertaining, civilised but crowd-pleasing Toccata by John Weaver - published by Schotts and (sadly) currently out of print. Apart from the fact that the big tune might slightly remind you as it does me of the Thunderbirds theme (and what harm could that do?) it always scores a direct hit. It's not too difficult either, provided that you cheat slightly in one bar near the end where he expects you to have six fingers on your right hand.

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================

 

I'm sorry, but I've never heard of this Toccata.

 

Is it worth getting hold of a copy, or is it French, like so many of the others?

 

;)

 

MM

 

I had just read this when I was disturbed by a loud droning noise. At first I thought I was hearing the return of the Luftwaffe for another go at Belfast but it turned out to be a squadron of flying pigs.

 

In 1974 Polydor issued an LP entitled Music from the Royal Weddings 1923-1973 played by Timmothy Farrell (whatever happened to him) at Westminster Abbey (2460 230 Select). Unfortunately the sleeve notes are all but non-existent and the music is from Weddings (and in the case of the Queen a Silver Wedding celebration service) celebrated in the Abbey but this does confirm the Bach F major for Princess Margaret and the Widor for the current Princess Royal's first marriage to Mark Phillips. Interestingly nobody selected the Wagner. The list reads

 

Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1923)

 

Wedding March (Mendelssohn)

Minuet from "Berenice" (Handel)

 

Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece (1934)

 

Bridal March (Parry)

Trumpet Tune and Air (Purcell)

 

Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Prince of Greece (1947)

 

Air from "The water Music" (Handel)

Fugue a la Gigue (J.S Bach)

 

Princess Margaret and Mr Anthony Armstrong-Jones (1960)

 

Toccata in F (J.S.Bach)

 

Princess Alexandra and The Honourable Angus Ogilvy (1963)

 

First Movement from Concerto in F (Handel)

 

HMQ and Prince Philip Silver Wedding (1972)

 

"Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (J.S. Bach)

 

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips (1973)

 

Radetsky March (J. Strauss)

Toccata from Symphony No 5 (Widor)

 

BAC

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I don't know if the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Mary Donaldson had much coverage in the UK, Europe (other than Denmark) or the US, but it certainly did here in Australia. Mary was a "local", and so there was a lot of interest here.

 

The recessionals, played by domorganist Flemming Dreisig. started with the Toccata from Widor's 5th, continued with a Wagner transcription (the Overture to Act III, Lohengrin), the Finale from Vierne's 1st and the Carillon de Westminster, a couple of movements of an Alpine Suite by Danish composer Benna Moe (of whom I confess I'd never heard before), and finished with the last movement of Widor's 6th.

 

I dare say the Moe pieces won't feature in big weddings to come over the next few years, and there was nothing really out of the ordinary in the rest, just I think fairly typical postlude fare (although, come to think of it, I'd never heard the Carillon de Westminster used in the context of a wedding postlude).

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Guest Roffensis
================

 

I'm sorry, but I've never heard of this Toccata.

 

Is it worth getting hold of a copy, or is it French, like so many of the others?

 

;)

 

MM

 

I haven't hear of it either, but gather there is a delightful "easy" version for those cathedral organists who train their choirs as badly as they untrain their choristers!! :lol:

R

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No one has yet mentioned Jules Grison's energetic Toccata in F which I think would be less likely to scare the natives than Transports de joie. One of the reasons why I think the Widor remains ever popular, even with organists judging from some of the posts here, is that it never outstays its welcome. It doesn't have that declamatory A-G-A motif that BWV565 does which never fails to lower my spirits when heard. But also, the Widor works well at a variety of tempi, with my personal preference for it to be played a little slower than usual, as I find it then goes with a bit of a swing.

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I got a copy of Christopher Maxim's "Toccata Nuptiale" for Xmas, the blurb says:

 

"It makes a liason between the musichall ballad 'Daisy, Daisy' (the [composer's bridegroom] friend had a passion for cycling!) - on the pedals - and the grand organ style of Vierne."

 

It's a lot of fun. I'm pushing it to undecided couples this "season".. :lol:

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I got a copy of Christopher Maxim's "Toccata Nuptiale" for Xmas, the blurb says:

 

"It makes a liason between the musichall ballad 'Daisy, Daisy' (the [composer's bridegroom] friend had a passion for cycling!) - on the pedals - and the grand organ style of Vierne."

 

It's a lot of fun. I'm pushing it to undecided couples this "season".. :lol:

 

=================

 

Right, that's it! I'm going to write a wedding Toccata!

 

If people have to stoop to "Daisy, Daisy" and the style of Vierne, I can do the same with the music of Michel Legrand.

 

I thought of a Toccata based on "The windmills of your mind"....perfect tune for a French Toccata pedal theme, but then I remembered another song he wrote, with some very apt words:-

 

From the 1971 film, "Summer Of '42".

 

The summer smiles, the summer knows

And unashamed, she sheds her clothes

The summer smoothes the restless sky

And lovingly she warms the sand on which you lie

 

I suspect that this would be more appropriate than anything connected with young ladies and "bikes!"

 

;)

 

MM

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