“I haven’t got a thing to hear!” Some hints for wedding music.
Choosing music for a wedding ceremony can be tricky. Get it right and no-one notices, but getting it wrong could be the single most embarrassing mistake you make. So, here are some helpful hints:
Plan the music for your wedding early. It can take as much time to get right as the wedding outfit or the caterers. For instance, you hear a piece of music you really like – say, this: Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley – and decide that it’s just the thing. But, you have to ask yourself, ‘how’s it going to be performed? Can you get a trumpeter? If so, where from? How much would s/he cost? How much notice would s/he need? Can it be played on an organ?’ (Actually, the answer to the last question is ‘yes, probably’, but you can’t just take it for granted). Which leads on to…..
Make sure the music you want is actually playable. The venue you’ve chosen could be a massive worship-space, a small but very beautiful country church, a hotel or any other building licensed for weddings. Each one of them will have different ways of dealing with either live or recorded music. The large worship space may have a full sound system, mics, full drum kit etc but no organ, the country church might have a tiny organ, an old harmonium or nothing at all, and the hotel or public building may be very limited in its ability to accommodate either live or recorded music (often they have a system for reproducing speech but which is just not powerful enough for music), so…..
Be aware that organs come in all shapes and sizes, which not everyone’s ready for. Take the utterly wonderful Toccata by Widor. It’s a brilliant piece and guaranteed to make you feel inches taller and/or more gorgeous as you walk down the aisle. But have a good look at the organ that it’s being played on. Four manuals, loads of stops to left and right, a big pedal board – in other words a beast of an instrument. Very few church or other venues have got an organ anything approaching this size. On a small single-manual instrument with about a dozen stops in a typical small country church – which you might have chosen because of its beautiful location – it’s well-nigh impossible to play even if the organist is the best in the world. Take another very popular and lovely piece the Canon by Pachelbel. As you can see from the video, it’s really for a small string orchestra or quartet, so you have to think very carefully not just about booking said quartet but whether they’ll fit inside the venue. Having said that, this is also a piece which has been adapted for the organ and is in most organists’ repertoires.
Make sure you can play your recorded music. Check it early and thoroughly. If you’re going to use a contemporary song or something by a living artist, you may need to get a license or at least check with the venue that they’ve got one. Also, some sound systems don’t recognise some CDs, especially if they’ve been recorded off the computer.
Have a good look round before you commit yourself. There’s shedloads of music out there which is both playable and highly enjoyable. There are a number of places you can go for advice and downloads, some of which are free and some are not:
RSCM - really useful for all sort of issues including copyright etc.
BBC - includes readings as well.
As far as classical music is concerned, Handel and Bach are good bets for instrumental / organ music. Three examples:
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - Handel
Hornpipe from Water Music - Handel
But many of their 17th and 18th Century contemporaries are worth considering – some examples:
There are also treasures to be mined in earlier and later eras as well – if you want to know more about any of this, please get in touch with me here.
I’m always ready to help.
For more information go to my Music Tailored for You page.