Friday, July 9, 2010

wedding ceremony music

When I posted previously about our wedding music, we were still in the conceptual stages of programming our service. It occurred to me yesterday (as I was pondering potential blog topics) that I never followed up on that and wrote about what we ultimately selected! In fact, I thought I wrote about our music meeting with Norman, but it doesn't appear I did that either... ah well.

As I think I mentioned before, our church has rules aplenty when it comes to what music can and cannot be a part of a worship service. Fortunately for me, I'm the type to save the popular tunes for the reception and keep the service music classical, so these guidelines didn't really cramp my style.

Since Jon and I both studied music in school and I'm a church musician and chorister now, we felt like we needed really awesome music for our wedding; and not the stuff you always hear at church weddings, lovely though some of it may be. We took home a CD sampler of organ music the church gave us quite early in the planning process and nixed all 21 tracks, either because they were too common or just didn't float our boat. From there, we moved into the research phase, dedicating a couple of Friday evenings to trawling Rhapsody's organ music so we would have ideas when we met with the organist.

Our meeting with Norman (the organist) was a hoot. We sat up in his office for about 20 minutes and tossed ideas and names around, and then he took us down to the sanctuary where he tore through some fifteen pieces, each entirely from memory. Jon and I were sitting, bug-eyed, in the pastor chairs between the organ and the pulpit as Norm played one face-melting fugue after another. (I should note that Norm is probably one of the best organists in town -- and he's my church's! What luck.) After that meeting, our music was pretty well set -- all we had to do, aside from ordering the piece I found that Norm didn't know, was tweak the order and determine the right number of selections for the prelude.

So, I bet you're wondering what we picked, right? Here's the prelude:
Sonata IV in B-flat, Allegretto -- Felix Mendelssohn
Prelude in G, BWV 541 -- J.S. Bach
Suite, Op. 5, "Sicilienne" -- Maurice Durufle
Toccata in D, "Dorian," BWV 538 -- J.S. Bach
Meditation (trans. Maurice Durufle) -- Louis Vierne
Sinfonia, "We Thank Thee, Lord," BWV 29 -- J.S. Bach
After the prelude, our mothers were seated. For this bit of ceremony, I asked my best friend George, who has a lovely tenor voice, to sing. He recommended Reynaldo Hahn's A Chloris, an art song sung in French that sort of resembles Pachelbel's Canon in D in its tempo and character (only it's way better ;)). It was perfect walking music, and it sounded amazing in his voice!
Seating of the mothers: A Chloris -- Reynaldo Hahn
For the processional, we used the wedding march that Felix Mendelssohn had written for his sister, Fanny, back in 1845. It was pretty stately and grand, so for the groomsmen and bridesmaids we went for something a little brighter and more upbeat.
Wedding party processional: Prelude to a Te Deum -- Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Bridal processional: Sonata III in A, Introduction -- Felix Mendelssohn
During the service, we sang a hymn -- Come thou fount of ev'ry blessing (my favorite) -- and had a solo among the scripture and poetry readings. This solo was really special for me. The woman who was my voice teacher in Syracuse, and who was also the focus of my graduate thesis, sang a setting of the e.e. cummings poem i carry your heart with me* by a young composer named Jocelyn Hagen. It was absolutely breathtaking. I knew from the rehearsal if anything was going to set me off crying during the ceremony, this would be it; but I made it through all smiles.
Come thou fount of ev'ry blessing -- traditional
i carry your heart with me -- Jocelyn Hagen
Last but not least, we picked a totally kickass recessional. As a bonus, I'm pretty sure it was long enough to get all of us out of the church and have our brothers go back in for our mamas with time to spare.
Symphony no. 1 in D, Final -- Louis Vierne
So, there you have it! A slightly off-the-beaten-path but fully classical and (mostly) sacred program of wedding service music. I hope this gives any of you hunting for ceremony music some ideas!

--
* the overtly secular nature of the text gave Norman pause -- he didn't want to open the door to other brides who might want more contemporary (read: popular) or less serious music -- but eventually I persuaded him that this piece fit our service perfectly. Victory!

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