Archive for the ‘General Wedding Music’ Category

Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major is Perfect for a Wedding Prelude Selection

J.S. Bach Air on a G String

Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. Major, Commonly referred to as Air on a G String, makes a great wedding prelude selection.

If you are looking to create a sophisticated wedding or special event there is no better way than by treating your guests to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach is currently attributed to writing at least 1,127 works in his lifetime. Many of these melodies are even recognized by audiences that are not very familiar with classical music. One such tune is the Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. Major.

Bach’s Air was written sometime between 1717-1723 while he worked as Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen’s Kapellmeister. It is interesting to note that Bach’s new position in the Prince’s court did not come easily. When his previous employer Duke William Ernest of Saxe-Weimar learned of J.S. Bach’s intention of accepting the Kapellmeister position, Bach was imprisoned for not following correct procedures in requesting release from his post.

The years that Bach spent working for Prince Leopold were clearly some of his most prolific and innovative. Aside from the famous Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3, Bach also wrote perhaps his most popular works the six Brandenburg Concertos while in the service of the Prince. This is perhaps because the Prince’s Court position allowed Bach creative latitude, which varied greatly from the stringent requirements of church. The fact that Prince Leopold was a violinist himself and an appreciative patron of the arts also certainly contributed to the innovative work that J.S. Bach produced during this part of his career.

The Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 is often referred to as Air on the G String due to an arrangement for Violin and piano composed in 1871 by the German violinist August Wilhelmj. Wilhelmj transposed the original key of the piece from D Major to C Major and also dropped the pitch down one octave so that it could be performed entirely on the G String of a violin.

This arrangement of the Air is very fitting for prelude music in wedding ceremonies because it is traditionally performed by a duet of piano and violin, which is suitable for almost any sized hall or wedding venue. The melody itself is also very appropriate for a wedding setting due to its slow and graceful tempo and haunting counterpoint. The soulful melodic interplay between the violin and piano creates a great deal of musical tension. This is especially prevalent between the walking bass line of the piano part and the slow sweeping melody maintained by the violin.

For those familiar with the intricacies of early music it is interesting to note the similarities between the counterpoint of this Baroque era work and the rhythmic polyphonies of Italian Renaissance music. No doubt this stems from Bach’s studies of the Italian Masters such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, pushing his innovations to new musical heights.

So there is no need to endlessly ponder what music should be performed during your wedding or special event in New York’s Hudson Valley. A great and appropriate choice is Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. Major, or in other words, Air on a G String.

Le Cygne Makes the Perfect Wedding Prelude Selection

A Swan Gracefully Floats Across the Long Island Sound

Le Cygne or a Swan Gracefully Floats Across the Long Island Sound
Photo: Eric Ortner

Choosing the proper prelude music for your wedding ceremony may seem like a daunting task. This is especially true for a bride and groom who are unfamiliar with classical music repertoire. If you are left wondering just what music should be in your wedding ceremony prelude, Le Cygne by French Composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns is an excellent choice.

Le Cygne or The Swan is one of Saint-Saëns best known pieces. It is part of a fourteen movement suite entitled Carnival of Animals. Apparently Saint-Saëns did not feel that the Suite was one of his finer works because he did not attempt to publish or perform it in his lifetime. The only movement that he made the exception of performing was Le Cygne, and this was for small private audiences.

It is easy to understand why this melody held a place in Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns heart. It is very poetic, and true to the Romantic style holds, a great deal of syncretism and expression.

Le Cygne, though seems perfectly fitting in a wedding ceremony atmosphere. The song was written with a long flowing melody line, which is intended to represent a swan gracefully floating over the water’s surface. The piano part paddles away with sixteenth notes beneath the surface. One could go so far as to compare this illustration to a beautiful bride gracing the aisle of her chosen wedding venue.

The Swan was originally written for cello and two pianos. However, Harmonious Music regularly performs an arrangement written for violin and piano in wedding ceremonies throughout the New York Metropolitan area and Hudson Valley. A recorded example of this arrangement is provided below.

Emily and Joseph Sarnoski’s Old School Baptist Wedding

Joseph Sarnoski and Emily Kosior stand in front of the Old School Baptist Church in Warwick, NY Photo: Eric Ortner

Joseph Sarnoski and Emily Kosior stand in front of the Old School Baptist Church in Warwick, NY Photo: Eric Ortner

Harmonious Music had the privilege of performing at the wedding ceremony of Emily Kosior and Joseph Sarnoski on June 22nd 2010.  The ceremony was held at the Old School Baptist Meeting House in the Village of Warwick, New York at 10 a.m.

After a half-hour musical prelude, Emily processed to J.S. Bach’s Arioso from Cantata No. 156. This Arioso is a great choice for Brides that are looking for an alternative to Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride). Bach’s Arioso is a very light romantic-sounding piece. The “A” section of the song is relatively short and repeats or loops nicely to accommodate the varying length of processionals found in different sized halls.

Joe and Emily’s wedding ceremony was delightful in part because of its setting. The Old School Baptist Church is a wonderful wedding venue. The lovely old church is owned by the Warwick Historical Society. The Old School Baptist Church is not a grandiose hall by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is a proud testament to the puritanical history of the Hudson Valley and is an excellent and well-preserved example of early American religious architecture. Upon entry to the chapel, one can only contemplate the thousands of souls that have attended services there since the completion of its construction in the spring of 1811. The chapel houses an old electric organ; however, this instrument is not in the best of condition and keyboardists should plan on bringing their own equipment if they plan to perform there. The main seating area was originally designed to hold a congregation of 500 and is flanked by a marvelous choir loft. It is easy to say that the wooden Old School Baptist Church is truly elegant in its simplicity. The building itself is perched on top of a hill and is flanked by a large park-like lawn. Some past weddings held in the Warwick Old School Baptist Church have even included their receptions under a tent on the lush green space in front of the church.

Emily was a beautiful and delightful bride. Her face held a contagious smile for the duration of the wedding ceremony. Congratulations Emily and Joe, and thanks for allowing Harmonious Music to be an important part of your special day!

Violinist + Trumpeter = A Rare and Affordable Combination

A Violin and Trumpet Nestle Together on a Bed of Sheet Music. How Romantic! Photo Eric Ortner

A Violin and Trumpet Nestle Together on a Bed of Sheet Music. How Romantic! Photo Eric Ortner

One of the things that sets Harmonious Music apart from other wedding ceremony and cocktail acts in the New York Metropolitan Area is the violinist’s ability to also play trumpet. This added skill comes in particularly useful during wedding ceremonies.

Imagine this scenario: Your guests are being seated during the ceremonies prelude to the elegant sounds of a classical violin and piano duet. Soon the groom and wedding parties enter to the gentle sounds of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The energy level among the congregation increases as each bridesmaid walks down the aisle. Suddenly, the sound of a trumpet fanfare rings through the air announcing the arrival of the bride. The change in instrument from violin to trumpet has further heightened the grandeur of the Bride’s entrance and signifies the importance of the event

Historically trumpets have always been used to announce the arrival of royalty. So on your big  day why not get the royal treatment and stroll the aisle to the sounds of Trumpet Voluntary or Wagner’s Bridal Chorus performed on trumpet and Piano or Organ.

DJs Versus Bands at Your Wedding Six Myths DJs Use To Sell You Their Services

Djs Vs Bands Six Myths that DJs Use To try and Sell You Their Services

Djs Vs Bands Six Myths that DJs Use To try and Sell You Their Services Photos courtesy of James Farmer and Professor Alex

If you think that you are better off hiring a DJ instead of  live musicians for your wedding or special event, you should think again. There is a never-ending debate between musicians and DJs regarding which service vendors are better to hire. Most of the arguments that favor DJs are complete myths and this article aims disprove them.

Myth #1 DJ’s Are Capable of Playing a Greater Variety of Music.
This may be the case in some situations, but with modern technology and the use of digital effects that statement is quickly dissipating. In addition, if you know you are seeking a variety of music, most musicians welcome the opportunity to take your requests as an opportunity to add to their own repertoire. I have met very few serious musicians that listen to only one style of music. You probably wouldn’t seriously consider hiring the individuals that fit into this category for a wedding or special event anyway. Besides, most DJs tend to limit their libraries to pop music, so if you have an off the wall request that has a significant importance to your family, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to fulfill it on the spot anyway. Believe it or not, too much variety can actually be a  hindrance to an effective performance. Let me elaborate, not very long ago, I attended an anniversary party. Someone requested the song Dancing Queen. The DJ with his hi-tech computer system, and most likely free downloads, managed to perform some awful techo-remix version that he ended up having to fade out half way through the track because someone literally booed (It wasn’t the author either).

Myth #2 Bands Are Too Expensive.

The same can be said for DJs. I’ve performed in bands with five members laying down tight covers with vocalists that you would swear were the original singer. We often only charged $500 for a public show. The smallest ensemble that Harmonious Music offers only costs $300 for the first hour of performance. The DJs that I see in the New York Metropolitan area charge $1,000 on average. That’s $1,000 in one person’s pocket. Most of the larger bands in the area rates range between $3,000-$5,000.
However, when you hire a musician, you are getting a lot more for your money. Let’s face it, not everyone at your party is going to want to dance. Some of your guests physically aren’t able to dance and some of them just don’t like to, so why not entertain them with a real performance. Live musicians add an extra element that a DJ just can’t provide, and that is multi-person showmanship. At many performances I’ve noticed the majority of the audience just enjoy watching the band perform. Musicians have skills that are easy to appreciate on their own, and the best ones are consummate performers with quick senses of humor, off the wall antics and expressions that aim to impress. You’ve probably been to countless weddings and events where the DJ is annoying at best and rude or inappropriate at the worst. Most DJs have no performance training, while almost all serious musicians take a class somewhere along the line about good showmanship. In fact, the best musicians tend to have studied at least some music in college. When you pay a premium for a live musician, chances are, you are paying in part for their education. How many pro DJs do you know that went to DJ college and came out with a BDJ? Let’s face it, when you hire live musicians you just get a lot more for your money.

Myth#3 A Band Will Be Too Loud for the Size of the Venue
This myth is just plain ridiculous. Most professional event bands can play at any volume. If you hire an ensemble like Harmonious Music that specializes in classical or jazz styles of music, volume is never an issue. In fact, with many classical ensembles, you may run into the opposite problem. That is why Harmonious Music has the equipment and ability to play directly into a PA system. The only time that volume becomes an issue with bands is when they are performing with a drummer. However, once again modern technology has changed this. Most of the serious professional drummers today own an electronic drum set that can be adjusted to any required volume level. Moreover, think of all the events that you have attended that used DJs. Now, at how many of them was the P.A. system cranked so loud that you couldn’t hear the person next to you? Probably most of them, DJs tend to like to show off the power of their equipment. Professional event musicians tend not to play overly loud for a number of reasons.

  • The first is it can damage their own hearing, and that would put them out of a job.
  • Second they understand that the music shouldn’t interfere with the most important aspect of a social event and that is the conversation.
  • Finally, professional event musicians understand that it easier to appreciate music when it isn’t too loud and in your face.

So by planning a correctly sized ensemble  with proper equipment, an event band won’t be too loud for a smaller venue.

Myth #4 DJs Are More Reliable than Bands Because There is Only One Member to Worry About.

Hmmm, let’s do the math here. A one man show gets stuck in traffic or lost on the way to a wedding. What is the likely hood that this person will make it to the beginning of the cocktail hour or reception? None. A band with 3-10 people are on their way to a Wedding there is a traffic jam and a few members get stuck in traffic. What is the likelihood that at least some of the music will start on time. Fairly good. Anyone, even the bride and groom can get stuck in traffic. It’s a fact of life especially around the New York Metropolitan area. However, Harmonious Music has been in the area long enough to know their way around traffic congestion. Harmonious Music, always pads their arrival time by one hour to ensure enough time for proper set up prior to the wedding.
Again, when it comes to reliability professional event musicians depend on their reputation as a large part of their lively hood. They aren’t going to tarnish their reputation by stiffing a client and simply not show up to a Gig. Being the consummate entertainers they are, they truly believe “the Show Must Go On.” I know a drummer who played a show with a broken arm. He didn’t want to risk loosing the gig. I’ve personally played many shows where I was extremely ill. When you are a musician, the concept of calling in sick to work is simply non-existent. I’ve never really heard of a DJ calling in sick either. However, to say one is more reliable than the other simply is unfounded.

Myth #5 A Band Will Need To Take Breaks
O.K. this one isn’t a myth, but it isn’t really an actual issue either. The human body can only do so much repetitive physical activity before it needs to stop or it will start making mistakes. At weddings there are plenty of opportunities for musicians to take breaks. One prime example is just following the cocktail hour while people find their seats to be served dinner. Honestly, music can just add to confusion during this period. It’s easy to stop the music and direct people to their seats. In-fact, you can even have the bandleader make the announcement that dinner is about to be served, just let them know what time to do it. Once everyone is finally seated, hey what-a-ya-know, the band kicks in to its quiet dinner music with volume set at the perfect level for conversation. Another great breaking point for event bands are toasts and speeches this even works at corporate functions, because most of them require awards and announcements too. The band usually needs to give up the microphone for these anyway. Then there are other opportunities during typical wedding traditions after dinner such as cutting the cake, and throwing the bouquet or garter. Hey with a little bit of planning, you can break from the dancing and do these on stage as the band steps down so that everyone can see. Guess what, you are supposed to be the centerpiece of your wedding, shouldn’t everyone be paying attention to you and not distracted by what those amazing performers are doing at these points anyway?
So look at that there really are plenty of opportunities for the band to take breaks and not stop the action at weddings and events after all.

Myth #6 There isn’t enough space for a band.
Now this can be true of a 10-piece band, but there are certainly plenty of ways to book a live band and have them fit into smaller rooms. For example, Harmonious Music can fit its core ensemble into a six foot by four foot area without any problems. Most DJs can’t even fit their gear into an area that small. Think about it, a DJ has a table with speakers on either side plus another table filled with CDs and amplifiers. Most larger dance bands can pare down their set to fit into a surprisingly small area that doesn’t take up anymore space than a DJ would. For example the instrument that tends to take up the most room is the drum set, but most professional drummers possess what is termed a “road set” which can fit into a three or four foot area. The rest of the musicians don’t take up more space than any other adult standing upright. In really tight quarters the guitar, bass, and keyboards can go directly into a Power Amplifier to save space. The short and long of it is DJs require a lot of space also, and a professional band’s past experience has taught them how to use the space provided efficiently to present a brilliant performance.

The Bottom Line
When trying to decide whether to a hire a live band or a DJ it really comes down to what type of atmosphere you want to present to your guests. If you are trying to present an aura of sophistication and elegance then hiring a live band is really a no brainer. The myths listed above can actually work in a hosts favor. For example don’t you want it to look like you spared no expense to entertain your guests and hired a live band? Simply put won’t your guests enjoy watching a stage packed with multiple professional entertainers more than watching someone put a CD into a Drive? Don’t forget that all a DJ is really doing is reproducing the work created by actual musicians, wouldn’t you and your guests prefer to be entertained by the real thing.

Even if you decide that the classical style performed by Harmonious Music is not the proper backdrop for your event, hopefully this article has swayed you to hire a live band instead of a DJ for your wedding or special event.

Once You Get On Stage Anything Can Happen

Violin, Piano Saxophone and flowers

Violin, Piano Saxophone and Flowers — Montage by Eric Ortner

Experienced Musicians learn quickly that you really never know what to expect when you step into the spotlight. You simply must be able to role with the punches and be confident enough to play no matter what happens around you. We had a case in point while performing for Jessica and Jeffery’s cocktail hour on October 17th at Villa Barone in Mahopac in Westchester County, NY.

The caterers had just finished setting the tables and were opening the doors for guests when a tall man with a saxophone walked up to us and said, “Um, are you guys playing here, because I was told that I was supposed to be here at 7 to play the cocktail hour with a keyboardist.”

Self-doubt set in for a fleeting instant, but we had already spoken with Barbara, the bride’s mother and we knew we were in the correct hall. I had a signed contract that stated we were to play the cocktail hour and we’d even been paid in full prior to the performance. He introduced himself as Mark and that he lived in Ossining, NY. He went on to explain that he was brought in by the DJ. We told him he was probably in the wrong room, because Villa Barone is a large establishment. Mark commented that he was sure he was in the correct location and described Barbara in order to verify it. He ran out to find his boss the DJ who was setting up for the reception in another room to figure out what he should do.

By this point the Bride and Groom’s guests were beginning to file in so we opened our set. We usually start out our performances with a few short easier pieces to warm up before moving into the more taxing compositions. As we began the third song Mark came back in with a plate of food and watched us work. As we finished up the tune Blessed Spirits, Mark put his food down and walked over to us with his Saxophone informing that, “I don’t know where he is, he must be running around somewhere. I’m being paid to play here, so do you mind if I sit in.”

I assessed the situation and noticed that the hall was quite full now. I could see Barbara was across the room, but I decided it was best not to stir up any drama with her or Mark.  I thought to myself, well I suppose Dave Mathews Band arranges with Sax and Violin, if this guy is any good it probably won’t sound awful. So I said, “Sure. Can you read music?”

Mark looked down at the music, which was Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons at this point in our set and asked, “I suppose this stuff is all written in C, huh?” I momentarily forgot that Saxophones are tuned to B flat and said, “Oh you want something in C, O.K. We should probably start playing something easier anyway to make sure this is going to work out first.”

I flipped through the pages of my binder looking for something less complicated in C and found an early American composition by the name of Elegance and Simplicity. I put the bow to violin and began to count it off.  To my amazement Mark blew through that tune sight reading, and didn’t miss a single note. I commented, “Wow, way to go! I guess we can try something harder.”

Mark replied, “Yea, it’s not really the site reading that’s hard for me. It’s just a little tough because I have to transpose everything from B Flat.”

We went back to Spring and performed it. We really lucked out in this situation because Mark was a phenomenal saxophonist. He proceeded to play through Spring and Autumn of the Four Seasons, with about 95% accuracy sight reading the music while transposing every note.

The next song in the set following The Four Seasons was a composition entitled Allegro from Pièces de Clavecin Op. 1 by Joseph-Hector Fiocco. I looked down at the page and saw that it was blackened with 16th notes and remembered that this tune just flies by as you run through it. Moreover one stumble on any section and it was next to impossible to get back on track. So I looked over at him and said, “You better sit this one out.” He agreed and said, “I’m going to go find the DJ.”

We were on the last page of the Fiocco when Mark walked back in. He listened patiently and applauded as we finished up the tune. He then grabbed his sax and stand and said, “Well I spoke with DJ and he told me he just wanted me to play a few songs with you guys, so I guess I’ll see you later.“

I don’t think the guests really had any clue what had just transpired before them. It’s not every day that you hear classical tunes performed in an arrangement of Sax, Violin and Piano and especially not one that had never been rehearsed. As far as I’m concerned, they just received a once in a lifetime amazing and impromptu performance by three accomplished musicians who know that you’re never really sure what to expect in show business.

Pachelbel’s Canon as a Processional

Pachelbel's Canon in D arranged for Violin and Piano. The original version was written for three violins and bass.

Pachelbel's Canon in D arranged for Violin and Piano. The original version was written for three violins and bass.

There is certainly no set rule on what song must be performed for the Bridesmaids processional. However, in the many weddings I’ve performed in the Tri-State area, there certainly is a popular choice that works quite well, and that is Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major.

The reason for this is actually quite simple and it stems from the bass line of the composition. The song in its entirety is 56 measures long, but the ground bass chord progression repeats itself every four bars. This makes it very easy for an ensemble to find a suitable ending spot every four bars or so. That is very handy when you need to time the music to people marching down the isle.

You see, bridal parties rarely take the same amount of time to process. Aside from the varying numbers of participants processing, most halls will have a longer or shorter distance to traverse. This further complicates perfectly timing a piece of music to match the length of a processional. Therefore, it is necessary for the song to have numerous places to end the song.

Being a Canon, Pachelbel’s composition further lends itself to being great for stopping midstream. A canon by definition has two or more melodies dependent on each other. One melody is the leader, while the other is the follower. The simplest versions of Canons are rounds like Frére Jacques or Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It is important to note that one of the melodies is always resolving or ending itself while the other melodies are in the middle of their own unique phrases. When musicians emphasize the resolving line during a performance and add a retard, or slow the tempo down, they can end the composition early and the song will still sound like it has completed.

Most importantly, though, Pachelbel’s Canon in D has a beautiful familiar, flowing melody that is elegant and timeless. What better piece of music could there possibly be for bridesmaids to walk down the isle to? If you have other suggestions, please feel free to share your experiences them below…

The Use of Hymns in Wedding Ceremonies


A collection of Hymnals from several Christian Denominations. — Photo Eric Ortner

On August 1st, 2009 I had the privilege of performing in a small orchestra for a wedding at Overlook Methodist Church in Woodstock, NY.  The bride came from a very musical family. Most of the members of her extended family had training on a traditional classical instrument, so there was a nice balance of brass, woodwind and strings. Because time did not allow for this diverse crowd from all across the country to rehearse, the bride decided to pick out several of her family’s favorite hymns.

Religious Hymns can be a wonderful and important addition to any wedding ceremony. The pieces are always well written with great four-part counterpoint. This makes it very easy for a string or brass quartet to perform them for preludes or postludes. Performed solely as instrumental music in this manner a series of hymns makes for perfect background music because the melodies tend to be simplistic, yet rich in tone. The lyrics of these compositions also consist of the appropriate themes of love, commitment, and strength, which all easily tie into a meaningful wedding service.

Hymns can also be very useful to help heighten the feeling of unity within a family during a wedding ceremony. Two sides of a family singing a familiar hymn can create a tremendous bond, where both sides sing the praises of the happy couple as one.

In longer ceremonies hymns are helpful in keeping the congregation involved and attentive. Hymns also give members of the congregation more of a sense of involvement in the ceremony. Rather than just bearing witness to the vows, hymns enable family members the opportunity to actively participate in the service. The best part is that if your ceremony takes place in a church, every member of the congregation will have the music in a hymnal right in front of them. Therefore supplying music is one less element of planning that you have to worry about.

Families with a strong base in faith often have favorite hymns that have major significance to their spiritual and physical lives. What could be a better music to include in a marriage ceremony than music with this sort of personal meaning.

The following is a list of suggested hymns appropriate for weddings:

• Eternal God, Before Your Throne We Bend
• Blest Be the Tie That Binds
• Breathe on Me, Breath of God
• Earth and All Stars
• For the Beauty of the Earth
• Greensleeves
• If You But Trust in God to Guide You
• In Christ There is No East or West
• Jesus Thy Boundless Love to Me
• Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee
• Let Me Be Yours Forever
• Lord of All Nations Grant Me Grace
• Morning Has Broken
• O God, I Love Thee
• O God, Our Help in Ages Past
• Oh, Blest the House
• One There is, Above All Others
• Our Father, By Whose Name
• Thee Will I Love, My Strength My Tow’r

Maybe you have other titles that you used in your own wedding or sang at weddings you attended that have special meaning to you. Please share them below and explain why they make a great hymn at a wedding.