Monday, September 5, 2011

The Classics

Very often my clients ask for advice for processional and recessional music.  Below are the standard selections that I like to use, and why they work well.

Family seating:  Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

This classic music by J.S. Bach contains a beautiful 9/8 lilting melody, interspersed with a chorale melody.  The great thing about this music (besides it being Bach!) is that it can be stopped at a number of points and brought to a logical close, so when the family is seated, we are ready to move on.

Bridal Party:  Canon in D

This masterful piece by baroque composer Johann Pachelbel is familiar yet elegant.  It is written in four bar phrases that can be ended as soon as the last member of the bridal party is in place.  To get the true "canon" effect (a canon is a "round" like "Three Blind Mice", where melodies are played and then played again on top of each other), a second or third instrument is needed, like violin, flute, or cello, but it is perfectly playable as a solo.

Bride:  Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin"

This is the classic "Here Comes the Bride" with which everyone is familiar, but many people do not know that it's origin is operatic, coming from Richard Wagner's music drama "Lohengrin", and is actually sung by a women's chorus during the opera.  Like the other two pieces mentioned above, it has a number of points where it can be easily ended, making it a classic and excellent choice for a processional.

Recessional:  Wedding March from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Incidental Music

The music played as the bridal party recesses at the conclusion of the ceremony is from Felix Mendelssohn's music that he composed to accompany Shakespeare's play.  This joyous piece makes everyone think "wedding" immediately, and can be repeated as often as needed to accompany everyone as they exit the wedding area.

Other choices:

For those couples wanting other choices, here are some other pieces that work well as substitutes:

Processional Music (for family, bridal party, or bride):  Any of the three pieces mentioned above can be switched around and used in place of each other ("Canon" for family or bride, :"Jesu" for bridal party or bride, etc..).  Other choices would include the Handel "Air", Purcell's "Trumpet Voluntary".

Recessional Music:  Other excellent selections include the Handel Harp Concerto, Handel's "Hornpype", and "Spring" from "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Harp at the (Royal) Wedding

Many friends and colleagues told me about the harpist that they saw at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  This harpist, Claire Jones, is the official harpist to the Prince of Wales (Charles), and often performs at royal events.  This, however, was the wedding of the century for any harpist!  In a recent interview, Miss Jones mentioned some of the beautiful repertoire that the couple chose, including pieces by Handel (his Harp Concerto, written for a former royal harpist in the 18th century!), C.P.E. Bach, and Tchaikovsky.  The instrument on which she performs is a special design, donated by the Italian harpmaker Salvi, and has been used by the Royal Harpist since the year 2000.  Here is a clip of Miss Jones performing and being interviewed shortly before the wedding:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Long Beach Chorale Concert Review

Jim Ruggierello's concert review of the Long Beach Chorale's season-ending performance on June 12, 2011:

    The Long Beach Chorale ended its 2010-2011 the other day at Grace First Presbyterian Church with a program called “Music of the American Stage,” and a good time was had by all.
    Especially the performers. It was nice to see this dedicated band of amateurs in somewhat casual dress (matching LBC polo shirts) taking on songs from the Broadway, concert and opera stage, all of it written by American composers. There’s some great stuff in there. I guess America’s got talent.
    Led from the keyboard, mostly, by guest conductor Bob Gunn, who is the group’s regular accompanist, and ably assisted on harp and flute by Brian Noel, the Chorale and soloists from its ranks delivered a generous, lively and varied program lasting close to 90 minutes to a large and appreciative audience which included artistic director Eliza Rubenstein.
    The songs ranged from the familiar (“Summertime,” in an effectively bluesy choral arrangement) to the not so much (“Pretty Young Men,” from a show called “A … My Name is Alice,” delivered with humor, energy and style by the delightful trio of Lisa Pan, Kimberly Hall and Denice Pearlman).
    Two fine tenors, Jim Howeth and Aaron Forbes, did a nice job with “Agony” from “Into the Woods.” The real-life married duo of Lee and Don Carlile (together for 37 years rather than the scripted 25) were just adorable in “Do You Love Me?” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and Amaridis Quintana played “Glitter and Be Gay” to the hilt.
    Speaking of Bernstein’s “Candide,” I hope someday to attend a choral concert of Broadway selections that doesn’t end with “Make Our Garden Grow,” but this was not that time. Fortunately the Chorale sounded great, and ended the afternoon in triumph.
    The guys sang “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” A substantial medley from Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” reminded us all what a skillfully crafted work of genius this score is.
    Musical highlights included “The Promise of Living” by Aaron Copland, from his opera “The Tender Land,” and two concert selections. The ubiquitous Eric Whitacre’s a cappella “Water Night” was beautifully done, and the concert began with “Sacramento — Sis Joe,” a bouncy riff on a couple of American folk songs by Jackson Berkey, a member of Mannheim Steamroller.
    You get the idea. There was a lot more. One came away impressed with the intelligence of Gunn’s programming, the excellence of his pianistic abilities and Noel’s masterful harp (and flute, in a selection from Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa”) contributions. In addition, one marveled anew at the quality of Long Beach Chorale and at the solo talent within its ranks. And finally, one was reminded of the richness of the Great American Songbook.