Posts Tagged ‘counterpoint’

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.

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.