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Martin Cooke

Wedding Music - bridal processions

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Having only recently come back to the church world as opposed to the school chapel world, and therefore needing to play for weddings again, I have been taken by surprise by (a) the popularity of the Pachelbel Canon as bridal entry music, and (b) the fact that many brides want a recorded song to see them up the aisle. I suppose that it's all really understandable. The idea of a pompous bridal procession with something like the Jeremiah Clarke or the Purcell does seem 'out", and the Bridal Chorus appears to be dead in the water. 

But given that music like the Pachelbel with its opening rather dreamy, quiet properties is 'in' - (and the choice for the royal wedding of the Handel birthday ode is similarly gentle) - could we try to list pieces in our organ repertoire that would make gentle bridal entry music?

Obviously, there are lots of gentle slow movements about but what immediately comes to mind if you were asked to make four suggestions today to a wedding couple? 

I can feel myself reaching for the 2nd movement of JSB's 4th trio sonata, my Kevin Mayhew/Martin Setchell volume of Fauré transcriptions - (and yes, Après un rêve is in there, but I think Pavane would be better), I might suggest the Finzi Carol (Five Bagatelles), and possibly the opening of the Michael Festing/Thalben Ball combo, whose title is long and complicated... um... Largo, Andante, Aria and Two Variations, or something very close to it. Oh, and thinking of Martin Setchell... and given that I play at a riverside church with a very long aisle and swans outside, I might go for his transcription of Saint-Saens' Le Cygne.

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I find that the choice of wedding (and funeral) music these days comes down either to the couple choosing, in which case it seems anything goes, including replacing the organist at various points by a CD or a band, or sometimes the couple have no idea and leave it to the organist to choose or suggest. Of course the officiant may impose their or their church’s own rules (this is the case in the Roman Catholic Church who, I believe, frown officially even on the Wagner and the Mendelssohn because of the pagan/ suggestive references of the original contexts).

Unless you depend on playing at weddings to help make a living, you are free as an organist to impose your own rules. This can take the form of a written list of music and guidelines which you can present to the couple and/ or the church in advance. If they are happy with it, fine. If not, you are free to decline to play, giving them full rein to employ their own organist/ band/ CDs, etc. I think this is preferable to a situation where no-one is comfortable with the situation and no-one gets upset and spoils the day. 

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Usually I find wedding couples planning to use the average church of any denomination have no idea of what they want, they and their supporters (i.e. those who make up the congregation) are more often than not unfamiliar with a church setting, and on the day the occasion can become anarchic and almost run out of control owing to the absence of a hint of a devotional attitude and the frankly bad and often loutish behaviour of those involved.  So before even attempting to help them choose the music  I make sure they do actually want the organ to start with in any shape or form, rather than playing their own choice of recorded music throughout or importing Little Johnny on his guitar/keyboard, etc, etc.  I also encourage the couple to bring others along to this original discussion, such as future mums-in-law, etc.  Once the decision about using the organ at all has been established the way ahead is then usually a little clearer.  Incidentally, the discussion always takes place around the organ in the church itself so that they can hear what they might get.  Some couples even like to do a 'practice' of walking down the aisle together to their chosen piece!

As an amateur musician I am not qualified in any way other than, perhaps, long experience of these occasions to answer the original question in detail.  However over many years I have found commercial compilations of suitable wedding-like music generally fits the bill and complements the specific suggestions already made above.  I have found a particularly useful book to be Mayhew's 'The Essential Organist - sixty pieces for weddings, funerals and everyday use'.  I don't know whether it is still in print, but my copy is now well-thumbed and its contents seem to go down well.  Apart from anything else it contains a fair number of transcriptions and compositions by Noel Rawsthorne, one of which is his prelude on the Londonderry Air which I find often quietens things down a bit as the bridal entry draws near.  On occasion it has been chosen for the bridal procession itself.  There are also quite a few trumpet tune-type things which are potential candidates as well as many other possibles.  Unfortunately though,  there are rather too many misprints which should not have got past a good editor, and the ubiquitous 'perfect binding' is of course anything but.

CEP

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2 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

  .................................... their or their church’s own rules (this is the case in the Roman Catholic Church who, I believe, frown officially even on the Wagner and the Mendelssohn because of the pagan/ suggestive references of the original contexts).

I didn't know that and, whilst well away from it now, never encountered opposition to Wagner or Mendelssohn in twenty years of playing for weddings in the RC Church. I'd be interested to know where you got that from! I could make a guess!!!

Some excellent suggestions there, Martin - I never thought of the Finzi Clarinet Bagatelles.  

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Here is an extract from the guidelines for wedding music from one US Roman Catholic diocese (San Diego):

“The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not to be used.  Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy.  The “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner's opera, Lohengrin, actually accompanies the couple to the bedroom, not the altar!  Mendelssohn's incidental music to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream accompanies a farcical wedding (the play is a comedy).  More importantly, they have been used to accompany “weddings” in countless movies, TV shows and game shows.  The majority of images these pieces conjure in the minds of the congregation may have a lot to do with sentimentality but very little to do with worship. Because of this, even though they are frequently used in the United States in Protestant churches or non-religious wedding settings, they are rarely used in Catholic churches.“

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1 hour ago, Zimbelstern said:

Here is an extract from the guidelines for wedding music from one US Roman Catholic diocese (San Diego):

“The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not to be used.  Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy.  The “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner's opera, Lohengrin, actually accompanies the couple to the bedroom, not the altar!  Mendelssohn's incidental music to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream accompanies a farcical wedding (the play is a comedy).  More importantly, they have been used to accompany “weddings” in countless movies, TV shows and game shows.  The majority of images these pieces conjure in the minds of the congregation may have a lot to do with sentimentality but very little to do with worship. Because of this, even though they are frequently used in the United States in Protestant churches or non-religious wedding settings, they are rarely used in Catholic churches.“ 

Many thanks for that. The Diocese of San Diego wasn't where I was thinking of!!

I have sent the above to a close friend who is VG to an English Diocese. It will be interesting to see whether the above is a 'local rule' or something from Rome.

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Another idea - how about the 'Wedding Processional' from 'The Sound of Music'?  The brief appearance and sound of the organ seems to be well remembered by many people all these years (nay, decades) after the movie first appeared.  The sheet music (by Richard Rodgers of course) is still readily available in various editions from sources on the web, but I use a rather musically-thin arrangement of the 'all-organ' vintage which I saw in a second hand bookshop many years ago.  It has often been chosen by couples for whom I have played over the years.  An additional advantage (?!) is that you can segway into various other numbers from the same musical if so desired, and I have them in a vocal selection album which was similarly purchased serendipitously.

Incidentally, the organ shown on-screen was almost certainly not the one used for recording the accompanying sound track.  If one searches the internet one comes across various suggestions for the organ case and church used for filming the action, most if not all of which centre around Salzburg.  However the instrument used for the sound recording was  probably the large Morton theatre organ formerly in the Whitney Studios in Glendale California, which no longer exists.   Further information can be gleaned from a fairly recent (September 2017) post on another discussion forum.  See:

http://www.organforum.com/forums/showthread.php?1578-Organ-in-the-Sound-of-Music/page2

I was prompted to post this having seen a letter to the editor on the subject in the recent Organists' Review (June 2018), and have already replied privately to the writer along similar lines.

CEP

 

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On 22/05/2018 at 00:10, Zimbelstern said:

Here is an extract from the guidelines for wedding music from one US Roman Catholic diocese (San Diego):

“The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not to be used.  Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy.  The “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner's opera, Lohengrin, actually accompanies the couple to the bedroom, not the altar!  Mendelssohn's incidental music to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream accompanies a farcical wedding (the play is a comedy).  More importantly, they have been used to accompany “weddings” in countless movies, TV shows and game shows.  The majority of images these pieces conjure in the minds of the congregation may have a lot to do with sentimentality but very little to do with worship. Because of this, even though they are frequently used in the United States in Protestant churches or non-religious wedding settings, they are rarely used in Catholic churches.“

I play for a Roman Catholic college whose chapel is attractive to couples wanting to marry. We have some very strict guidelines covering the music (e.g. no recorded music) but the Jesuits are happy enough for the traditional Wagner and Mendelssohn to be used. Our argument is that the original associations have been replaced, and these pieces are now associated, by the vast majority of people, with weddings. If all that originated from the secular and pagan and was assimilated into the Christian tradition were removed from the RC church, we would be much the poorer for it.

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On 26/05/2018 at 08:54, Colin Pykett said:

Another idea - how about the 'Wedding Processional' from 'The Sound of Music'?  [...]  the organ shown on-screen was almost certainly not the one used for recording the accompanying sound track.  If one searches the internet one comes across various suggestions for the organ case and church used for filming the action, most if not all of which centre around Salzburg. 

During my school's choir tour last October, we sang at the Austrian church (St Michael's Basilica, Mondsee) used for the filming of the wedding scene in The Sound of Music. The basilica's organist, Professor Gottfried Holzer-Graf, allowed me to play the splendid organ in the west gallery before our service and concert. Its sound bears no relation to that of the Morton organ heard in the film (mentioned by Colin in his post), whose pipework and mechanism were destroyed in a fire.

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Tom Driberg, the British journalist, politician, High Anglican Churchman, friend of the Kray twins and possible Soviet spy, was married at at St Mary the Virgin, Pimlico on 30 June 1951. The bride entered the church to a chorale arranged from the Labour Party anthem “The Red Flag”. I wonder who the organist was.

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For my own wedding (58 years ago) the bride entered to "Sheep my safely graze" and we went out to a Stanford Postlude in D. It starts in  d minor but ends in a very triumphant major. My late wife said she preferred the Mendelssohn, so at our ruby wedding "renewal of vows".we had it. She didn't want another renewal after 50 years. 

I recommend the Pachelbel Canon for the register signing if the couple do not specify anything. It is the longest part of the ceremony as anyone who had any connection with the bride insists on getting in on the act. The Pachelbel can be used over and over again and can easily be interrupted when necessary. 

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The custom in Canada is for the bridesmaids to come in first, followed by the bride.  The Pachelbel Canon is by far the most popular choice for the bridesmaids, and the Purcell (?) Trumpet Tune ("Cheer, boys, cheer! My mother wants the mangle") much favoured for the bride.  I can't remember the last time I had to play "Here comes the bride", although I will do it if asked.  When I started playing the organ, about 50 years ago, I got the impression that brides wanted it because their mothers had it.  Nowadays, I am quite sure that brides request it because their mothers had it, because their mothers had it.  "Jesu, joy" is sometimes requested for one of the quieter pieces, such as entrance or signing.  Going out, the Mendelssohn still gets the odd airing (a good march, when all's said and done, and easy to walk to), but the Hornpipe from the Water Music is a lot more popular.  Hollins' Trumpet Minuet  sometimes finds favour.  I played the Widor Toccata last week, but it's rarely requested, unlike what was the case when I was in the UK (four weddings in a row on the same day, all with the Widor,  is not good for the wrists!).

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I have had some rather strange requests for exit music, including Mendelssohn’s War March of the Priests. It makes a nice change to the wedding march. Also one couple wanted the theme tune to the A Team (that was a lot of fun to arrange for the organ). 

For entry music I’ve probably had Pachelbel more often than any other. For a couple who didn’t have anything in mind, but wanted something reflective for the entry of the bride, I chose Morning from Peer Gynt, which worked well. 

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Theme music from "Game of Thrones" had a few outings some years ago, and I once perpetrated the manual parts from the Widor Toccata combined with the main theme from Star Wars in the pedals....

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We've just had some of the middle movement of Pièce d'Orgue for the way in, and the Vierne Final from Symphonie 1 to retreat to, at St George's, WIndsor, today. Great choices as far as I am concerned and a successful 'splice' in the Bach to accommodate the length of the aisle. Mind you, you would need a heck of an aisle for a bridal procession to take in the whole of that!!

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Following on from yesterday, Princess Eugenie's marriage service (ITV) is well worth a listen - two magnificent descants by James Vivian (to be published by Encore), beautiful performances by the choir of a Gaelic Blessing, My Spirit sang all day and Ubi Caritas... and an exquisite little improvised filler by Luke Bond taking on from the orchestra's Pieds en l'air - a magical example of just how it should be done - and the whole service accompanied outstandingly by him, too. 

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Ah yes, Star Wars. I was once asked to play the theme from the Throne Room as the final march. The bride entered to Parry's "I was glad", accompanied by organ, choir and orchestra (the groom happened to be a well known cathedral organist with impeccable musical taste).

Another time I played Stevie Wonder's Ebony and Ivory (on pipe organ, not Hammond) by special request as the bride (Caucasian) and groom (African) left.

For my own wedding my wife to-be entered to Liszt's D flat Consolation and we left to War March of the Priests (written in the German, Kriegsmarsch der Priester, in the order of service to avoid too many eyebrows being raised - her father is a minister.) Both were accompanied on the piano as the venue didn't actually have an organ.

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