Posts Tagged ‘ceremony’

Add Hollywood Style Sophistication to Your Ceremony or Cocktail Hour with Boccherini’s Minuet

Portrait of Luigi Boccherini

The Composer and Cellist Luigi Boccherini believed to have been painted around 1768. Courtesy of Dr Gerhard Christmann, Budenheim, Germany

There is one melody that is often used by Hollywood to emphasize a sophisticated atmosphere. That tune is the Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11 by Luigi Boccherini. Harmonious Music also includes the piece, often times referred to as Boccherini’s Minuet, regularly for both wedding ceremony and cocktail hour performances.

This Rococo hit is typically used as background music to depict high society durring the late nineteenth century in period films. It is actually a very fitting use of the music because the song was written while Boccherini was employed by King Carlos III’s brother the infante don Luis de Borbón in Madrid, Spain. In this post Boccherini was paid a handsome stipend of 30,000 reales as a cellist and composer.

The Minuet was written in 1771 as part of Boccherini’s second series of quintets under don Luis’s patronage. Boccherini’s quintets are unique from many other composers because he wrote for two violins, one viola and two cellos. Most other composer’s string quintets utilize two violins, two violas, and one cello. Boccherini’s preference certainly results from the fact that he was a virtuoso cello player in his own right. It is said that he was capable of performing the violin parts of string quartets in their original pitch on cello when musicians fell ill and a substitute was needed.

Luigi’s aptitude on cello was only one motivation for his unique quintet compositions. He had also befriended a family of string players by the name of Font who were also employed by don Luis. This highly esteemed quartet presented the opportunity for Luigi Boccherini to perform his own compositions with a skilled string ensemble on a regular basis.

Although Boccherini was Italian by birth and training, he is considered a Spanish composer. As a result many critics note a Spanish influence in Boccherini’s Minuet. This is especially evident in the original rendition written for string quintet, which utilizes pizzicato and syncopation between the various voices resulting in a guitar like effect. The following recording is a Piano and Violin reduction, which is performed regularly by Harmonious Music.

There is some misinformation floating around the internet indicating that Boccherini was dismissed by don Luis for refusing to change a passage of music. This assertion, however, is erroneous. Boccherini remained in don Luis’ patronage until the Infante’s death in 1785. Tragically in the same year Luigi Boccherini’s first wife Clementina also passed away after suffering a stroke.

The loss of his employer and his wife left Luigi Boccherini in a difficult position because he had suddenly become an unemployed single father of six young children. Fortunately, Luigi Boccerini was offered a pension from three sources, The Real Capilla (Royal Chapel), the Countess-Dukes of Benavente-Osuna and most significantly the appointment of composer to King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II’s court. Shortyly after the death of three of his daughters and his second wife, Boccherini passed away most likely from Tuberculosis in Madrid, Spain during 1805.

Although, the end of Luigi Boccherini’s life was wrought with tragedy, it does not change the fact that most of his earlier works are airy and uplifting. This is particularly true in the case of Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11. This fine composition properly earns its place as a staple in the films of Hollywood as well as Harmonious Music’s repertoire for wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours. It certainly is suitable for any event in New York’s Hudson Valley where an atmosphere of sophistication is required.

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!

Turkeylony From William Ballet’s Lute Book

Facsimile of Light o’ Love from William Ballet’s Lute Book. This song was mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Modern musicians will appreciate the number of lines per staff and the lack of time signature. Sheet music or pricksong for Lute was comparable to modern guitar tablature where each line represented a string of the instrument.

Facsimile of Light o’ Love from William Ballet’s Lute Book. This song was mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Modern musicians will appreciate the number of lines per staff and the lack of time signature. Sheet music or pricksong for Lute was comparable to modern guitar tablature where each line represented a string of the instrument.

Turkeylony, sometimes spelled Turkeyloney was a popular dance from the renaissance era of King James I and Queen Elizabeth I.  There is no certainty where the name originated. It has been surmised that the word Turkeylony is derived from the Italian Tordiglione.  A Tordiglione was a type of Italian Galliard which is a dance that utilizes five steps to a measure .
In England, the Turkeylony was originally a country dance. However, as with many popular country dances it made its way into aristocratic circles as a court dance where it most likely earned its name.
There are at least two known songs from the English Renaissance entitled Turkeylony.  One of the versions is also known as The God of Love. However, the rendition of Turkeylony presented here was originally transcribed from William Ballet’s Lute Book. Ballet’s original manuscript resides in Trinity College in Dublin. William Chappell transcribed the tune in 1859 in his work Popular Music of the Olden Time. Vol. 1.

The following recording of Turkeylony uses an arrangement of Violin, Viola and Piano. In William Ballet’s time this would have been considered a mixed, or broken consort because there were more than one instrument families performing the song.

It is believed that although William Ballet started the book, there was more than one author.  This is because there are different hand writing styles and colored inks used throughout the manuscript. Ballet’s Lute book was most likely a student work used for the instruction of music theory and site reading.
William Chappell paired Ballet’s Turkeylony with the ballad If Ever I Marry, I’ll Marry a Maid.  This was clearly a rather crass song favored by young men. It is a ballad probably more suited to a bachelor’s party than a modern wedding ceremony. Still, reveler’s of today will certainly appreciate it’s comic approach toward picking one’s spouse. The following lyrics are from the broadside If Ever I Marry, I’ll Marry a Maid.

1

If ever I marry, I’ll marry a maid
To marry a widdow, I’m sore afraid
For maids they are simple and never will grudge
But widows full oft, as they say know to mutch.

2
A maid is so sweet, and so gentle of kind,
That a maid is the wife I will choose to my mind;
A widow if frowned and never will yield;
Of if such there be, you will meet them but seeld.

3
A maid ne’er complaineth, do what so you will;
But what you mean well, a widow takes ill:
A widow will make you a drudge and a slave,
And cost ne’er so much, she will ever go brave.

4
A maid is so modest, she seemeth a rose,
When first it beginneth the bud to unclose;
But a widow full blown, full often deceives,
And the next wind that bloweth shakes down all her leaves.

5
That widows be lovely I never gain say,
But too well all their beauty they know to display;
But a maid hath so great hidden beauty in store,
She can spare to a widow, yet never be poor.

6
Then, if ever I marry, give me a fresh maid,
If to marry with any I be not afraid;
But to marry with any it asketh much care,
And some bachelors hold they are best as they are.

For those interested in the performance of early music, I’ve included a PDF of this version of Turkeylony sheet music complete with the If Ever I Marry broadside. Simply Click Here to download it.

Renaissance Wedding Music

Two Newlyweds dance to the sounds of a Violinist during a wedding</br> from the time of the renaissance.

Two Newlyweds dance to the sounds of a Violinist during a wedding from the time of the renaissance.

There were several factors influencing the music that was being performed for weddings in England during the mid to late 1500s and early 1600s. The first major influences were the Protestant Reformation and Puritanical beliefs. Another driving force was the newly emerging educated middle class and its quest to follow the fashions of nobility. All the while newly invented musical instruments were improving sound quality and versatility allowing for more complicated and intricate instrumental music. These conditions set the stage for music to manifest itself in every walk of life during the Renaissance. Therefore, music was certainly an important element for a memorable Renaissance wedding.

By the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the church had become an important part of any marriage. In fact, for a marriage to be legal, the pending union needed to be announced in church on three consecutive Sundays. It is important to understand, though, that in England the church was in a tremendous period of transition. This was a result of Henry VIII’s excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church and his subsequent creation of the Anglican Church. When Queen Elizabeth I rose to power she made a concerted effort to maintain peace in the potentially volatile struggles between Catholics and Protestants. As a result, a group of highly educated Protestants became extremely critical of the Queen’s religious compromises. This group became known as Puritans because they wanted to purify the Anglican Church of Catholicism. Since Marriage was so intrinsically tied to the church, the Puritan’s religious principles managed to manifest itself into most aspects of wedding music.

Once the intention to marry was made public in church through Crying the Banns it was possible to hold a wedding ceremony. Then as now, the first part of a wedding ceremony was the procession. In the time of Renaissance England the procession was a noisy and raucous affair. It began at the bride’s house where the bride would prepare for the ceremony with her bridesmaids. The groom and his family would often meet at the bride’s home and commence the procession following the bride’s family. The procession would then travel to the local church accompanied by musicians who performed on flutes, viols, drums and other “haut” (loud) instruments. Through the first half of the 16th century Bagpipes were also used in processionals and there is documentation of ministers performing on them during the procession. However, by the end of the century the popularity of bagpipes had waned significantly. There are records that indicate that the Puritans objected to the processionals and even brought the matter before Parliament.

The procession would eventually arrive at a Christian worship service that was quite a bit different compared with the customs of today. One of the most noticeable differences would have been the lack of seating. There were no pews, and the congregation stood for the duration of the service.

The Renaissance wedding ceremony was a very solemn service. There would have been little to no music performed during most ceremonies. If music was performed it would have most likely been Madrigal or vocal. The sparse presence of music resulted from the Puritan’s believe that most of the traditional religious music should be discarded. This was largely because the Anglican Church service was to be held entirely in English as opposed to Latin. Unfortunately this has resulted in a great deal of early English sacred music performed in Latin being lost to the sands of time.

The Puritans were also quite vocal about the style of music used in religious services especially when it regarded Polyphony and instrumentation. Polyphony is music with two or more independent melodic parts sounded together. This counterpoint had become the mainstream in music throughout Europe during the Renaissance. The Puritans believed that the gospel sung in polyphony interfered with the congregation’s ability to comprehend the word of God. The Puritans also believed that the use of musical instruments during a church service was an element of Popery. They deemed instrumental music in worship services to be profane leaving the worshipers more interested in the musical performance than in the word of God. This mindset resulted in the removal of 100s of organs from churches by the over zealous reformers throughout England and much of the rest of reformed Europe. Interestingly, though, many smaller organs created by the same craftsman who had previously built instruments for churches began appearing in private homes.

During the Renaissance the chief benefactor to the arts was the Church. Unfortunately, the Puritans pious and hard-nosed stance on sacred music created a great void in the labor market for instrumental musicians. Many of the most talented musicians were forced to work abroad or even gave up the trade entirely. The performers that managed to scrape by found work performing in weddings for wealthy and middle class families with enough status to ignore the Puritan’s creeds. A select few musicians were lucky, or perhaps talented enough to gain patronage from the extremely wealthy nobility in private chapels. One example of a private house of worship was Queen Elizabeth’s own Chapel Royal. Chapel Royal was the primary venue for several famed Elizabethan era composers including William Byrd.

William Byrd became one of the most renowned composers of the renaissance in England and specialized in music utilizing polyphony. Some of Byrd’s Hymns are still favorites of the Anglican Church today. Although it is unclear whether any of Byrd’s work was actually performed during weddings of the Elizabethan Era, some of his compositions used subject matter directly related to marriage. Two prime examples The Match That’s Made and La Verginella were contained in his 1588 volume Psalms, Sonnets & Songs of Sadness and Piety.

Eight pieces for Virginal by William Byrd were also published in Parthenia, a wedding gift for Elizabeth Stuart who was the daughter of King James I. Parthenia was published between 1611 and 1613 and has the added distinction of being the first published collection of English keyboard music.

Composition II by William Byrd from the Virginal Work, Parthenia. This is an excellent example of the pricksong of the time. Notice the extra number of  lines on the staff and the interesting rythmic markings.

Composition II by William Byrd from the Virginal Work, Parthenia. This is an excellent example of the pricksong of the time. Notice the extra number of lines on the staff and the interesting rythmic markings.

There may have been little or no music performed during Renaissance wedding ceremonies, however, melody filled the air during wedding feasts. The music performed at a feast would have varied widely depending on the social class of the newlyweds.

The newly emerging middle class had an extremely strong appreciation of music. Most nobleman and merchants were able to read pricksong or sheet music. In lieu of video games and television, Elizabethan families would sing and play instruments following dinner in their newly found leisure time. Lutes were by far the most popular instrument and at least one could be found in most middle and upper class homes. Music was so important that if it was found that a dinner guest could not sing pricksong at sight, (sight read) he would be looked at in disdain in many circles and considered to be of unsavory character. With an appreciative audience like this it is easy to understand the importance there would have been in hiring the best professional musicians during a wedding feast.

Any wedding feast, regardless of class, would have included dancing. Dance was a popular form of social exercise. Queen Elizabeth herself would dance every morning. During the English Renaissance dances would be set to a variety of instrumentation including a cappella, instrumental or a combination of both. The Dancers would follow the periods “pop” music, which tended to be Broadside Ballads. One of the period’s most popular broadside dances was called Turkeylony. The following lyrics were printed in 1557 or 1558 and are believed to have been sung along with the Turkeylony melody.

If ever I marry, I’ll marry a maid
To marry a widow I’m sorely afraid;
For maids they are simple, and never will grutch, (grudge)
But widows full oft, as they say, know too much

The dances at wedding feasts for all classes would have most likely been stepped in circles or in rows that could support an unlimited number of participants. However, There were other popular dances of the time that included a fixed number of dancers such as two or three couples.

Although the upper and middle classes did partake in the dances of the commoners, they also had a long list of specialized dances known as Court Dances. Court Dances could be divided into two categories basse which were slower dances or Haute or fast dances. A dance party during the Elizabethan Renaissance would begin with basse dances. Basse Dances were considered “low” dances because the dancers would stay on the ground. As the wedding feast progressed, the music’s tempo would increase to tempos suitable for haute dances. Haute Dances were considered “high” because the dancers would actually skip, hop and jump during them.

The slower basse dances included the Allemagne which was considered the most sentimental court dance, and would have certainly been suitable as the first dance for a pair of newlyweds. The couples partaking in Allemagne or Alman held each others hands through the entire dance. The beauty of this dance didn’t come from fancy steps and flourishes, but rather from its grace and tenderness.

A consort performs on viols at an outdoor renaissance wedding for reveling dancers. Puritan's look on in disdain in the background. Painting by Joris Hoefnagel Fete 1859

A consort performs on viols at an outdoor renaissance wedding for reveling dancers. Puritan's look on in disdain in the background. Painting by Joris Hoefnagel Fete in 1859

At a racier wedding, the married couple might dance a Lavolta, which were written for two people. This haute waltz was one of the most difficult dances because men would lift their dance partner into the air. The leap often caused the lady’s skirt to lift. In some circles this would be far too obscene. The more conservative members of the court were dismayed that a lady’s knees would be shown and in some cases their garter would be revealed. A Fashionable woman who planned to dance the Lavolta would be sure to pick a garter that was adorned with gold or silver. Onlookers would laugh as the newlywed’s grasped and bumped parts of the anatomy that were considered taboo by most. The groom would place his right hand on the bride’s back and his left hand just under her bosom. The groom would then use his thigh to push the bride’s hindquarters further into the air as she twirled. Many preachers and Puritans condemned the Lavolta because it could lead to much debauchery, and at a wedding feast this would certainly be the case.

The peasant or servant class during the time of the Renaissance also was very fond of dancing. There isn’t a great deal known about the daily lives of the peasant class, however, their dances eventually became popular with the nobility as well. As a result there is a fair amount of documentation regarding the peasant “country dances.” Some of the dances that found their way into noble society included Brawls, Gavottes, Jigs, hornpipes and reels.

Many of the peasant wedding customs were passed down from pagan traditions. One key example of this would be Morris Dance. Morris Dances were especially associated with May Day or May 1st, but they were also common at country wedding feasts. The May Day celebration originated in England as far back as the time of the Druids. The tradition continued with the Roman occupation of England as it became a time of praise for the God of Spring, Flora. The May Day tradition had further evolved by the time of the renaissance due to many centuries of European conflation and conflict. As a result a new set of characters was associated with Morris dance. They included the Queen or Lady of May, a Jester, A Piper, and up to six Morris Dancers.

The Piper in a Morris Dance would have most likely been a Pipe and Tabor player. The pipe and tabor was perhaps the earliest version of the “one man band.” The “pipe” in this case was a home made three holed whistle or flute played using the thumb, index and middle fingers. While the performer blew away on the pipe, he would pound out a lively beat using a stick on a drum slung over his shoulder called a tabor. It also wasn’t uncommon for other percussionists, fiddlers, harpists and bagpipers to perform during Morris Dances. Although still popular in the lower class during the time of Elizabeth I, the pipe and tabor was quickly being replaced by more modern woodwind instruments in more affluent circles.

Harmonious Music actually still regularly includes a Morris Dance in their wedding ceremony set. The name of the tune is English Country Gardens. Although the ensemble does not include vocals for the performance they are as follows:

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian, lupin and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots
In an English country garden

How many insects come here and go
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Fireflies, moths and bees
Spiders climbing in the trees
Butterflies drift in the gentle breeze
There are snakes, ants that sting
And other creeping things
In an English country garden

How many songbirds fly to and fro
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Bobolink, cuckoo and quail
Tanager and cardinal
Bluebird, lark, thrush and nightingale
There is joy in the spring
When the birds begin to sing
In an English country garden

Other variations of Morris Dances would include the use of a “Hobby Horse.” A Hobby Horse was a man wearing a wicker frame in the shape of a horse. He would prance around and mimic the movements of an actual horse. In some versions another person would wear a similar costume intended to resemble a dragon. The Hobby Horse Knight would then slay the Dragon reenacting the story of St. George.

The Morris Dancing at spring wedding feasts took place around the May Pole. The May Pole was another relic of England’s pagan past and most likely originated in Germany. It was a large tree of varying sizes sunk into the ground. This giant post would be painted and adorned with flowers and wreathes. The May Pole was considered a phallic symbol, and dancing around it was actually a fertility right. Visitors to modern renaissance fairs will watch dancers weave ribbons around the May Pole. However, this tradition did not start until the 19th century as England reexamined its “Merry-Old” past. Puritans despised the May Pole believing May Pole dancing to be a form of idol worship. As a result, it was banned in England by the Mid-Sixteen hundreds.

Conclusion

Although, the customs were somewhat different, there are still many parallels between music that was performed in religious and wedding ceremonies from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the contemporary United States. Currently, as houses of worship struggle to maintain membership many are stripping away the more traditional music in favor of more contemporary sounds. However, customs and traditions still remain varied in the United States, often depending on socio-economic conditions and religious and cultural differences. Meanwhile, the innovations of electricity and the resulting modern instruments such as electric guitars and MIDI keyboards continue to push the use of music in wedding ceremonies to new heights.

Sources

Music from the Age of Shakespeare: A Cultural History
by Suzanne Lord

William Byrd’s Fall From Grace and his First Solo Publication of 1588: A Shostakovian “Response to Just Criticism”?
By Jeremy L. Smith

William Byrd: The Collected Works of William Byrd.
Edited by Edmund. H. Fellowes

http://www.elizabethan.org/compendium/62.html

http://celyn.drizzlehosting.com/mrwp/mrwed.html

http://www.archive.org/stream/popularmusicofol01chapuoft/popularmusicofol01chapuoft_djvu.txt

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/lod/vol2/ecd_16th.html

http://www.hago.org.uk/free/country-garden/lyrics/

The lute in Britain: a history of the instrument and its music
By Matthew Spring

Courtly Dance of the Renaissance: A New Translation and Edition of the Nobilitá di Dame (1600)
By Fabrito Caroso, Julia Sutton, F. Marian Walker

The Lute Books of Ballet and Dallis Music and Letters Journal
by H. Macaulay FitzGibbon

Popular Music of the Olden Time Vol. 1
by William Chappell

Shakespeare’s Songbook Vol. 1
by Ross W. Duffin

The Onteora Mountain House is an Amazing Venue

Esopus Valley From Onteora Mountain House Photo Eric Ortner

Esopus Valley From Onteora Mountain House at sunset. This scenery often becomes the backdrop for wedding ceremonies. Photo Eric Ortner

We performed a wedding ceremony and cocktail hour at Onteora Mountain House in Boiceville, NY on October 1st. This is the second time I’ve been to a wedding there and I have to say that I would rate it one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

It is designed extremely well and is easily adjustable for varying weather conditions. In fair weather guests are seated under towering white pines as they view the ceremony conducted on a large deck overlooking the Esopus Valley.  The weather was questionable on October 1st. It was lightly sprinkling with heavy skies and a little chilly so the friendly event staff held out until the very last minute before the ceremony to decide where to place their fashionable moveable chairs. Watching the weather closely they decided it wasn’t going to pour and placed their chairs on the overlook. However, they could have just as easily placed the chairs inside the giant pavilion with another amazing deck overlooking the Catskills.

The first wedding I performed at in this location took place in early July so the cocktail hour was held on the Onteora’s stone paved patio in front of the guest house. In cooler weather, such as the wedding I worked in October the guesthouse is opened for the cocktail hour.  The performance space inside is much tighter than on the patio. There is really only enough room for a small ensemble to perform next to the fireplace inside the house. We managed to squeeze a stage piano and violinist, but it would be next to impossible to fit a drum set inside; and a set would most certainly be too loud for the venue anyway. However, the exquisite decoration inside this venue more than makes up for its somewhat tight quarters. Enormous vases and Buda statues line the walls, while the Catskill Mountains are, once again, framed by a large enclosed wrap around porch.

Although, we did not have the opportunity to perform on it at either of the weddings I attended, the large pavilion space has a well constructed stage large enough to hold most dance bands and a beautiful hardwood dance floor to match. All in all performing at weddings in the Onteora Mountain House really makes one want to get married there. Please feel free to reminisce about your wedding day at the Onteora or simply a wedding you attended below.

The Use of Hymns in Wedding Ceremonies

Hymnals_DSC_7274

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.

The Ancient Roman Wedding Processional

Many of today’s wedding traditions base their origins from the customs of Ancient Rome. A key example is the Wedding Processional. However, many of the Roman’s customs have changed quite a bit over the past 2,000 years.

In ancient days, the Roman wedding processional began at the bride’s house where the wedding vows were exchanged. The deductio in domum mariti or pompa, procession, was a necessary part of the Roman wedding ceremony, it publicly acknowledged the rites of marriage and anyone in the community was allowed to join in the procession as it moved to the groom’s home.

Music was certainly a part of the processional. The groom would take part in singing the Fescennine verses. A surviving specimen of the Fescennines used at weddings is the Epithalamium of Manlius. These verses are distinguished by their licentiousness.

The groom would also take part in lighting a wooden torch called a  Spina Alba from the bride’s hearth. At the door of the bride’s house, the bride and groom would re-enact the scene of the seizure of the Sabine women. The bride would clutch her mother’s arms, only to be pried away by the groom.

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. courtesy New York Public Library

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. Courtesy New York Public Library

The bride was then escorted by three boys as she traveled to the groom’s home. One of the boys would hold the Spina Alba.  Priests would lead the bride to her future home followed by her family, friends, musicians and slaves. The slaves would carry gifts that would no doubt be needed for the bride’s new life.

As the bride processed, her guests and on lookers would take part singing the hymen hymenaee, and shouted Talasio, or other crude jokes. Hymen Hymenaee is an epithalamium or bridal song. It was to be sung by a chorus of youths and maidens singing alternately, but not always with precisely equal stanzas. The youth would sing sections praising the Hesperus and marriage, while the maidens would recite the stanzas pertaining to the fears and sorrows of surrendered maidenhood.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on syrinx and aulos, and tympani.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on aulos, Cymbalum or cymbals and tympani.

The procession was often accompanied by musicians performing on, flutes, pan-pipes, syrinx and aulos (reed instruments), the kithara (a Greek lyre), and tympani (early tambourine). It is interesting to note that musicians in the time of Ancient Rome held low social position, although, they sometimes enjoyed public patronage and even imperial patronage.

The groom would need to arrive at his home to greet the bride as she arrived so the procession would split into two parts giving the groom time to arrive home first. Once the bride arrived the torches were thrown away and the bride would rub the doorway with oil and hang wool over the door. She was then lifted over the threshold. It is believed that the threshold was sacred to the goddess Vesta and stepping on it could lead to infertility. The Ancient Romans were also very superstitious and should the bride trip while walking through the door it would have been a sign that ill fortune would be ahead for the marriage.

Resources:

http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-life/roman-weddings.htm

http://www.jstor.org/pss/3297312

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fescennine_Verses

http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/ancientweddings7.html

http://www.wedthemes.com/ancient-roman-wedding.shtml

http://www.aug.edu/~cshotwel/2001.Rome.htm