Posts Tagged ‘wedding’

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.

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.

Violinist Eric Ortner to Perform with The Virginia Wolves at High Falls Cafe

Front of High Falls Cafe

Front view of the Hudson Valley's High Falls Cafe.

Eric Ortner, the violinist from Harmonious Music, will be performing with The Virginia Wolves at High Falls Cafe on Saturday, January 15th from 8-11 p.m. The Cafe is situated in the beautiful old canal town of High Falls in New York’s Hudson Valley. Eric has played with The Wolves several times in the past and he is always flattered when they invite him to join their pack.

Kelly McNally, The Virginia Wolves guitarist and song writer, also shares commonality with Harmonious Music in that she performs wedding ceremonies herself. She is an ordained non-denominational minister. She also practices Reiki professionally at hospitals and retreats, so if you are looking for a powerful priestess for your wedding, be sure to contact Kelly.

The Virginia Wolves always put on a great show.  The Virginia Wolves core membership consists of Kelly McNally singer/songwriter, ( lead vocalist, guitar, tambourine, harmonica), Adele Schulz (french horn, trumpet, vocal harmonies, tambourine) Alan Macaluso (electric guitar, pedal steel), Chris Macchia (bass) & our drummer that evening will be Just Jed (of The Wood Brothers..Medeski, Martin & Wood)

Kelly and Adelle’s voices combine to form incredible vocal harmonies that can honestly be described as angelic.   You don’t see the French Horn mixed into Organic Rock music everyday so be sure to go and check out the show!

The High Falls Cafe is located:

1219 State Rt. 213 and Mohonk Rd.
High Falls NY 12440
845-687-2699

Also be sure to visit the Virginia Wolves online for some auditory satisfaction at http://www.TheVirginiaWolves.com.

The Grateful Dead, Scarlet Begonias and Grosvenor Square

Wedding party in front of September 11th Memorial

Wedding portraits are taken in front of the September 11 Memorial in Grosvenor Square. An inscription on the memorial reads, "Grief is the price we pay for love."

The lyrics of the Grateful Dead are often ambiguous and open to interpretation. However, Robert Hunter’s poetry in the song Scarlet Begonias is fairly easy to interpret. The songs first stanza begins with “As I was walking ‘Round Grosvenor Square, Not a chill to the wind but a nip to the air.” I had always wondered just where exactly Grosvenor Square was. I always imagined it to be somewhere in San Francisco or some other United States Location. By Saint of Circumstance I discovered its geographic location while traveling from The Handel House to Hyde Park in London, England.

After a long day on our feet we decided that a rest was in order. So we looked for a public park to take a break. Low and behold, the closest park just so happened to be Grosvenor Square. Upon our arrival, much to our disbelief, we discovered Grosvenor Square is actually a hot spot for wedding photography.

Bike Rider on FDR sculpture in Grosvenors Square

A freestyle bike rider performs stunts at the base of a statue of former Hyde Park, New York, resident Franklin Delano Roosevelt in London's Grosvenor Square

Those suffering from the U.S. Blues will find themselves right at home in Grosevenor Square. The park has been the site of The United States’ military headquarters and Embassy since World War II. As a result there are monuments to Franklin D. Roosevelt,  and Dwight D. Eisenhower along with a memorial to the September 11th attacks on New York.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Sculpture infront of U.S. Embassy

Sculpture of West Point Graduate, Dwight D. Eisenhower in front of the U.S. Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square

Robert Hunter, The Grateful Dead’s lyricist, most likely became familiar with Grosvenors Square on the Europe ’72 tour. The Dead finished their famous tour with performances at The Strand Lyceum Theatre on May 23-26. The Strand Lyceum is actually remarkably close to Grosvenor Square. The two sites are only about a 30 minute walk from each other. Therefore, it is a safe assumption that hunter probably relaxed himself in the exclusive May Fair neighborhood park. One can only imagine that hunter actually did meet someone, with rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes, with scarlet begonias tucked into her curls.

The music of The Grateful dead is always a great Deal of fun to perform. The following arrangement of Scarlet Begonias performed on piano and violin can make for some great entertainment during cocktail hours or dinner parties.

So if you Need a Miracle because you want both a hi-class event and some good chilling vibes at the same time, relax, Harmonious Music has The Grateful Dead covered.

From Our Hudson House to The Handel House

Front of the Handel House

The Front of the Handel House Museum located at 23 and 25 Brook Street in London England. The white building on the left is #23 where Jimi Hendrix lived and the gray building on the right is #25 where George Frideric Handel Lived from 1723 - 1759 Photo: Eric Ortner

When brides request specific music for their wedding ceremony in the Hudson Valley they often choose the compositions of George Frideric Handel. So when Harmonious Music decided to take a trip to London it was thought that the voyage would not be complete without a visit to the Handel House Museum at 25 Brook Street. Anyone with an interest in music history should make a concerted effort to visit this wonderful treasure.

G. F. Handel moved into the home in 1723 shortly after his appointment as Composer to The Chapel Royal. Prior to  this he had lived as a guest in the homes of some prominent Londoners after immigrating to England in 1712. The Chapel Royal Appointment and its hefty salary of  £400 must have certainly made Handel feel secure enough to find a place of his own.

Handel’s Chapel Royal appointment and overall success in London was largely a result of England’s cultural inferiority complex. At the time many well to do Englishmen went on “Grand Tours” of continental Europe. They brought back artwork and an appreciation of contemporary music along with the belief that England’s artists did not compare to those from abroad. As a result foreign musicians and artisans were given access to greater opportunities in London than they could find on the mainland.

Handel moved into 25 Brook Street soon after it was built. It was constructed by George Barnes along with five other units. The Brook Street neighborhood near Hanover Square was a new hot spot for a growing upper middle class elite. Surprisingly, Handel did not purchase the home outright. Instead he opted to lease the property. This is likely because musicians and composers of the 18th century often needed to remain mobile so that they could move from opera house to opera house.

Visitors to the Handel House Museum are first ushered up to the third floor where they are treated to an informative film over-viewing Handel’s life and achievements. They are then free to wander the painstakingly restored residence starting with a wonderful hearth room, the museum calls the “London Room.” Handel would have used The London Room as a dressing room. You quickly notice the amazing wide plank flooring that appears as if Handel himself certainly must have traversed.

Visitors then meander into Handel’s bedroom complete with a period canopy bed. Although, none of the Handel’s original furniture remains, the Handel House Trust exhaustively researched the records of Handel’s estate to recreate the original appearance as closely as possible.

Nearby visitors find an exhibition room complete with a beautiful reproduction harpsichord. Signs indicate that visitors are forbidden to use it. But it certainly beckoned to our resident keyboard expert. The exhibition room also contained some original manuscripts behind glass. One of which was in the hand of Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart. A sign nearby explained that one of Mozart’s best clients, Baron Gottfried van Swietenwas, an admirer of Handel and requested that Mozart perform his work regularly. Mozart wrote of Handel:

Handel Knows best what produces effect. Where he wants it he strikes like a thunderbolt.

The Handel House Museum clearly made a great effort to make the exhibit interesting for children. There is a computer setup with a keyboard for guests to compose their own music. There are also period costumes sized for children of all ages to adorn. There are also “fun trails” throughout the museum and quizzes to help keep the kids interested in the museum.

Sarah poses next to a reproduction harpsichord in the Handel House Museum

Sarah Lawlor poses in period fashion near a reproduction harpsichord in the Handel House Museum.

Treading down the stairs from the third floor to the second, one quickly notices the amazing wood railings and paneling. The Handel House trust pealed back 28 layers of paint to determine the original appearance of the Georgian era home. A great deal of effort was needed in restoration in part due to the arrogance of CJ Charles who was an art dealer. He chose to turn the residence into a shop and greatly altered the former homes appearance including the removal of the Façade on the first and second floors. The Handel House Trust also holds a lease for neighboring 23 Brook Street, which was the residence of the 20th century musical genius Jimi Hendrix. 23 Brook Street managed to maintain its integrity from the Georgian Era and as a result was used as a model for the restoration of #25.

Because Handel never married and remained celibate for most of his life it is safe to say that the first floor of the home is where the action took place. It was here that Hadel received guests, held closed door rehearsals, and composed his masterpieces. He also used the first floor of his house to sell subscriptions  to his performances and he also sold some of his published music there. Today the area is still used for modern performances of Handel’s Music on another reproduction harpsichord. However, the real treasures of the first floor are the authentic harpsichord from the period of Handel’s lifetime, along with a wonderful painting of Handel.

Handel was actually a serious art collector in his own right as were most of the elite from the Georgian Era. His estate listed hundreds of pieces and it is, believed that his walls would have been covered in artwork. Handel’s collection was auctioned off in 1760, but the contents of the auction sale catalog weren’t published until 1985. His art collection contained 64 engravings, which were reproductions of topographical views, landscapes and famous paintings.  Another 87 pieces of Handel’s collection were paintings. Of those, almost half were landscapes. The rest of his art collection encompassed genre paintings, history paintings, erotica, and biblical histories. There were very few portraits documented in the auction, which leads authorities to believe that the collection may have been incomplete at the time of auction. This is due to the fact that portraits were the most popular form of painting during the Hanoverian period. Unfortunately we only know what happened to a handful of works from Handel’s collection because he did not label it in anyway. Because of this the Handel House Trust has adorned 25 Brook Street’s walls with portraits of Handel’s associates as well as prints that depict the major influences in Handel’s works.

The first floor of 25 Brook street is where Handel composed many of his masterpieces including the three operas Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda. He also worked in the study to write Music for the Coronation of King George II including Zadok the Priest, which has been performed at every British Royal’s Coronation henceforth. Other manuscripts that poured out of 25 Brook Street’s study included Music for the Royal Fireworks and a slew of Oratorios. Handel is largely credited as being the original master of English Oratorio or in other words  instrumental music with vocals set to religious text. Perhaps Handel’s most famous work written in 25 Brook Street’s study was the Oratorio Messiah.

Harmonious Music regularly performs portions of Water Music at weddings in The Hudson Valley. While wandering the halls of Handel’s personal study we could not shake the sense that Handel’s spirit was emanating from the walls around us and that this visit to his private residence would carry through in our performance of his work back in the United States. The following is a recording of Handel’s Hornpipe from Water Music arranged by Harmonious Music for Piano and Violin.

Handel actually wrote Water Music prior to his tenure on Brook Street. Yet the piece was certainly partly responsible for his ability to naturalize in England in 1727 along with his appointment to the Chapel Royal. King George I was so pleased with the inaugural performance of Water Music that he requested it be performed a second time in its entirety.

When Handel first immigrated to England he was largely known for his mastery of Italian Opera. The first floor of the Museum described in detail Handel’s sometimes turbulent relationships with his male Castrate tenors and the original Prima Donna performers. These star’s prominence did not diminish, even as London’s taste for Italian Opera began to move towards English Oratorio following John Gay’s masterpiece The Beggar’s Opera.

Handel is sometimes remembered for his fiery temperament. However, in order for him to maintain a leadership role with talent such as the diva sopranos Francesa Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni he would have needed a strong explosive will himself. A visit to the Handel House Museum enlightens the patron that many of Handel’s vocal pieces were written for specific performers, and that he needed to take the star performer’s vocal range into account during a work’s initial composition.

Towards the end of his life Handel began to lose his eyesight and thus became dependent on his copyist John C. Smith’s assistance in composition. To correct the problem with his vision Handel sought the expertise of oculist John Taylor. Interestingly Taylor was the same doctor who conducted eye surgery on J.S. Bach. The doctor’s hand left both composers completely blind. Handel survived for eight years following his botched surgery, but Bach was not so lucky.

Due to John Smith’s devotion to Handel in the composer’s twilight years he was bestowed over 100 volumes of Handel’s manuscripts. Smith in turn presented them to King George III and as a result they are still maintained by the British Library. King George III was one of Handel’s biggest fans, and it is safe to say that Handel’s continued popularity can be partially attributed to the King’s musical appreciation.

George Frideric Handel passed away on April 14, 1759. The lease of 25 Brook street was given to Handel’s servant John Du Burk. Records indicate that Du Burk subsequently turned the residence into a boarding house.

Saint Georges Hanover Square

Saint Georges Hanover Square Church in England was the parish that Handel attended regularly. Handel actually helped to fund the installation of the original organ in this church and it is likely that he played it on ocasion. The organ and church are both currently being restored. Photo: Eric Ortner

While at the Handel House we learned that the chapel that Handel attended regularly was located near by. So we decided to stroll over to Saint George’s Hanover Square and see the pipe organ that Handel likely performed on and perhaps even helped fund the creation of. Unfortunately the chapel was closed when we arrived. However a sign made it clear that the structure and organ inside were being extensively renovated. So it has been decided that a return trip to both the Handel House Museum and St. George’s Hanover Square is required.

The museum is well worth a visit for anyone with an appreciation of Baroque music or British history in general. As a musician who routinely performs the work of Handel in New York’s Hudson Valley, I can’t help but believe that I am more inspired to perform a heartfelt rendition of his works now that I’ve visited the master composer’s home.

Sources

Handel House Museum Companion
Jacqueline Riding

Early Music:
Handel as art collector: art, connoisseurshipand taste in Hanoverian Britain

Thomas McGeary

Bach And Handel (Their Influence On Future Composers)
Jeffrey Langlois

Musician’s and Music Lovers
William Foster Apthorp

Norwich Sculpture Commemorates Elizabethan Performer Will Kemp

Kemp's Sculpture in Chapelfield Gardens

Sculpture of Will Kemp's famous Morris Dance between London and Norwich in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich, England Photo: Eric Ortner

Norwich, England is a wonderful city filled with history dating back to the Roman Empire and before. There are glimpses of it everywhere, including remnants of ancient walls and even an intact Norman style keep. One reminder is this carved log, which stands near the bandstand that Glenn Miller performed on in Chapelfield Gardens. The relief wooden sculpture was carved by Mark Goldsworthy and was dedicated in 2000.

The sculpture is reminiscent of a Maypole, with Morris Dancers being led by a Pipe and Tabor player. Pipe and Tabor was a favorite folk dancing instrument during the medieval and early renaissance periods and would have been an important part of a peasant class wedding celebration.

It turns out, though, that the sculpture commemorates Will Kemp an actor, Morris Dancer and personal friend of William Shakespeare. There is conjecture that several of Shakespeare’s works had parts written specifically for Kemp.  Will Kemp was especially renowned for dancing all the way from London to Norwich in 1600 which was towards the end of his life. The 125 mile trip only took him nine days, which means he would have danced for roughly 14 miles a day. He must have had sore feet by the end of that gig.

Will Kemp also was famous for his Jigs. In the Elizabethan Era, a Jig was a comic song and dance routine that was often performed between the acts of a dramatic performance. One Jig performed by Will Kemp has survived to this day and is named, fittingly, Kemp’s Jig. The following recording of Kemp’s Jig by Harmonious Music is based on an arrangement by Tom Wills. This version includes both violin and piano parts with a nice improvisation added.

A visit to Norwich should not be completed without a stroll through Chapelfield Gardens. The public space is a testament to music history and the human spirit.

Bandstand in Norwich England is a Tribute to Swing Era Great

Monkey Puzzle Tree and Bandstand

Monkey Puzzle Tree and Victorian Bandstand in Norwich, England where Glenn Miller performed on August 18, 1944. Photo: Eric Ortner

Recently, we had the opportunity to attend a wedding near Norwich, England. While there we stumbled upon a very interesting park called Chapelfield Gardens. In the center of this quant park stands a nicely appointed Victorian era bandstand.

At the time, I was primarily captivated by a young Monkey Puzzle tree growing near the pavilion. Later, I discovered that the bandstand behind it was of great interest to those with an appreciation for Big Band and Swing Music. You see it was there on Friday, August 18, 1944 that Glenn Miller and members of his band put on what seems to be an impromptu performance for the residents of Norwich.

Official U.S. Military records indicate that the set took place sometime after 9 p.m. Glenn Miller and the American Band of the AEF were the entertainment at a 100th mission celebration in a B-24 base in Attlebridge until 9 p.m.  They then made the short ten mile trip to the bandstand in the center of Norwich. It seems following the performance in Chapelfield Gardens, they moved onto play a set at Samson and Hercules Ballroom downtown.  Samson and Hercules was a popular haunt for enlisted men during World War II and the building it was in still stands today. The band then returned to Attlebridge where they stayed the night due to inclement weather.

These performances in Norwich were only two sets out of six that took place on August 18th. It is also interesting to note that Miller received the promotion to Major the day prior. Apparently the band gave Major Miller a promotion party and they stayed up late as a result. Therefore, they must have been pretty exhausted by the end of their set at Samson and Hercules.

Glenn Miller played around 800 sets in England between July 8th and his disappearance on December 15th 1944. It was common for this group to work grueling 18 hour days. It’s very difficult to fathom modern American pop-stars maintaining a schedule that packed.

Although the Norwich bandstand performance took place more than sixty-five years ago, Glenn Miller’s sophisticated sounds seem to be enduring the test of time. Glenn Miller Orchestra’s songs are still performed routinely today by events musicians. Songs like In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, String of Pearls, Pensylvania 6-5000, and American Patrol can make for great atmosphere at any formal event. This is especially true for cocktail hours and wedding receptions. The next time you hear them, be sure to remember that the composer/bandleader was a dedicated patriot in addition to a talented performance artist.

Source

The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band
Sustineo Alas / I Sustain the Wind

Volume One by Edward F. Polic 1989

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!

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

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.