Published February 9, 2017
art , culture , history , learning , life , music , religion
Tags: art, classical, culture, history, learning, life, music, religion, ritual, romance, voice, wedding
The guests are invited and you’ve drawn up the lists, but what music should be playing at your wedding? Jeremy Nicholas explains the history of wedding music and gives some advice.
With a fair wind behind me, I can just about stagger my way through Widor’s Toccata on the three-manual organ of our local church (as long as no one’s listening too closely). I’ve lost count of the number of weddings at which I’ve played and the hours I’ve spent guiding friends and strangers through the hymn book and the vast wealth of music they can choose to have played at their service. I have learnt that you can divide the happy couples into two groups: those who have precise and definite ideas on the music they want, and those who ask for Wagner’s ‘Bridal Chorus’ and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
It’s strange that it is two pieces of theatre music that have become the most popular accompaniments for a church wedding. One is from an 1850 opera, Lohengrin, the other from the incidental music to a play (Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream). It’s stranger still that this religious ceremony has attracted so little ‘entrance and exit music’ that is non-secular. Few of the popular alternatives are the products of Christian belief – ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ (oratorio?), trumpet voluntaries by the likes of Purcell, Clarke and Stanley, or the ubiquitous Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony. So how did the Wagner and Mendelssohn pieces become inseparable from the wedding service? And, before their composition, to what music did newly weds walk down the aisle?
Continue reading ‘Music that Ties the Knot’
Published December 22, 2016
art , christianity , culture , history , music , religion , women
Tags: art, christianity, creativity, culture, germany, gregorian chant, history, inspiration, middle ages, music, religion, voice, women
When a medieval German nun was struck at the age of 43 by a vision – flames descending upon her from heaven – it signified to her that she should write music. 900 years after her birth, the chant of Hildegard of Bingen has never been more alluring. Barry Witherden tells her story.
Circa 970 AD, just outside Bingen, Archbishop Hatto II was eaten by mice as punishment for mistreating his flock. In the late 1140s a more dignified kind of fame returned to the neighbourhood when Abbess Hildegard – Saint Hildegard, according to the Roman martyrology and some German diocese, though she was never formally canonised – established a new convent at Rupertsberg just a few miles away. Hildegard was born at Bemersheim in 1098, the tenth child of aristocratic parents who sent her to be educated at the Benedictine convent at Disibodenberg when she was eight. She stayed until about 1147, succeeding as prioress in 1136. By 1150 she had founded her own community at Rupertsberg. She had had visions since she was a child, but in her forty-third year she saw tongues of flames descending onto her from heaven. After a council appointed by the Archbishop of Mainz confirmed the authenticity of her revelations, a monk, Volmar, was commissioned to record them. He continued to act as her secretary at Rupertsberg, and collected 26 of her visions in Scivias (Know the Ways), completed in 1152.
Continue reading ‘Sounds of Heaven’