Wedding music: A Baroque and Classical program

La Rejouissance (G.F. Handel) from Music for the Royal Fireworks
Jet Set Strings


This weekend, Jet Set played as a quartet, and I had the opportunity to choose wedding music from our Baroque repertoire. Even though the Baroque is part of the larger Classical genre, it’s a subset that was written between about 1600-1750. The list is long, but some of the big players in the composing world were Handel, Corelli, Bach, Telemann, Purcell, Rameau, Vivaldi and Pachelbel (Canon in D). Technically, the progression goes like this: Renaissance music, then the Baroque, then the Classical. In today’s terms, when clients are looking for the Classical sound for their wedding, it includes all below. One of my faves is La Rejouissance. It was part of a suite to accompany fireworks in London in 1749, and yesterday in 2016, I put it in the prelude. It would also be a good exit/recessional piece for a wedding ceremony – it’s a celebration!

Menuetto (Corelli)
La Réjouissance (Handel)
Passacaile (Handel)
Corrente (Corelli)
Air (Handel)
2 Minuets (Bach)
Largo from Winter (Vivaldi)

Seating of the Mothers:
Flower Duet from Lakme (Delibes)

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bach)

Canon in D (Pachelbel)

For the Beauty of the Earth
Blest Be the Tie that Binds

Hornpipe II/Allegro Maestoso (Handel)

Gearing up for fall ceremonies with Bach’s help

20160902_193232This Friday and Saturday happened to be beautiful in Nashville – low humidity, breezy, and down into the mid-80s during the day. It felt great to be outdoors, glancing up to see dusk settle over a clear blue sky. Here’s to more weather like that, and I hope your day is just as beautiful. Chances are, as we head into the months of September and October around here, that it will be just so. If you are planning your ceremony music, here are a few suggestions to help get you started.

The cool thing about Bach is that his compositions are largely independent of instrumentation – his keyboard works can be played on the violin, saxophone, accordion, and cello, for example. His works for solo violin cross over to banjo and mandolin. He was an employee of the church for most of his life, and the volume of his sacred works is pretty massive – being paid every week to conduct the choir and produce music for that Sunday’s service really adds up! Not to mention he lived a long life, and most likely, played his fair share of weddings.

  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bridesmaids, any Wedding Party Processionals)
  • Arioso from Cantata No. 156 (Seating of the Mothers or Grandmothers, Bridesmaids)
  • Bist Du bei Mir (Prelude/while guests arrive)
  • 2 Minuets in G, from the notebook for Anna Magdalena (Prelude. Anna M. was Bach’s wife; she also transcribed many of his works)
  • Suite No. 3 in D Major – includes the Bach Air (For Seatings – Mothers/Grandmothers/Family, or the Bride if she wants a softer entrance)
  • Prelude from Suite No. 1 – Unaccompanied Cello
  • The Bach Inventions – Examples: Invention in C, Invention in G (Jeff and I play these on violin/accordion. Great for violin/cello too. Prelude, or Exit/Recessional for the big Bach fans 😉
  • My Heart Ever Faithful (An Exit/Recessional option that’s not the traditional Mendelssohn Wedding March)

The Wedding Processional: I’ll take Pachelbel’s Canon, please!

It’s no wonder that Canon is one of the most requested pieces of music at weddings – it makes all of the ‘best of’ lists, it’s on every classical music hit list, and the chord progression and melody itself have been worked into many pop songs and commercials. Jet Set Strings even has an arrangement of Piano Man in which Canon sneaks in at the end – to which one of my cellist colleagues said “I knew it! I knew I couldn’t get through a wedding without playing Canon!” So there you have it – Canon + Billy Joel in a modern day mash up. Whatever or wherever you choose the Canon, or if you don’t choose it at all, it’s the opening phrase that has come to accompany life’s important moments and hush the fidgety crowd for so many brides. It works, trust me.

As musicians we all have a little fun with it – in the string quartet, the cellist has the 8-note phrase, played over and over again, 28 times through. Repeat, repeat, repeat. On top of the cellist’s 8 note phrase are the two violins and viola, playing the melody line in a round. What we play now is very close to the original; he wrote it for a bass instrument and 3 treble (violins). The Piano Guys also have a humorous take with one of their recent recordings.

No doubt Pachelbel knew what he was doing back in about 1680, although the Canon was one of thousands of works that he completed during this lifetime. He was a composer of the High Baroque, and left quite the framework for Bach, Mozart and many, many of the later classical composers. Even though we solely identify him with Canon, I don’t even think there’s a system yet to categorize his volume of work. (For example, with Mozart’s, someone came along and numbered and categorized them, which is why each of them begins with a K. followed by a number).

Since then, countless ears have taken the Canon and adapted it, rearranged it; and then musicians played it with different configurations of instruments, sang it, played in on street corners, played it in churches, and played it for friends. I’ve played it with my quartet, with piano, with accordion (my husband Jeff Jetton graciously took over those 8 famous notes), and as a solo.

If you do want the Canon, I am at your service! And even if you don’t, know that the famous framework may just be the foundation of some of your dance-grooving favorites at the reception.