Harmonia Early Music

The Wedding Planner

Suggestions to lend a wedding ceremony some early music flair.

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painting of musicians in front of jesus

Photo: Anonymous

A detail from Veronese's "Wedding at Cana," painted in the 16th Century (Louvre, Paris).

One way to incorporate a love of early music into a marriage ceremony is to borrow music written for one. Johann Helmich Roman composed “Drottningholm Music” for a royal Swedish wedding in the 1700s. These compositions are found on the recording entitled Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding, with the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra.

Another appropriate selection is Johann Pachelbel‘s setting for organ on the famous Lutheran hymn “Von Himmel hoch,” which includes a lovely chaconne, which is essentially a set of variations, which your organist may pick and choose as many as needed. Organist Joseph Payne performs on the CD release entitled Johann Pachelbel: The Complete Organ Works, Vol. 2.

If you’d rather avoid church music, there are plenty of secular pieces for organ. May we suggest another recording by Joseph Payne entitled Early English Organ Music, Vol. 1, which highlights many of the delightful secular tunes.

The final chorus and chaconne in Henry Purcell‘s “The Fairy Queen” are both charming and singularly appropriate for a festive wedding. Les Arts Florissants performs on the Harmonia Mundi release of a version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Another great selection by Purcell is the song “If music be the food of love,” performed by Nancy Argenta on a release entitled, Purcell: Songs and Airs.

Another excellent source of wedding-friendly songs with English words is the music George Frideric Handel. His air “Where’er you walk,” performed by tenor John Aler on the Deutsche Grammophon recording of the composer’s opera, “Semele,” could be sung by a female just as well. Handel’s “Water Music” was recorded in 1990 by The English Concert, directed by Trevor Pinnock. The overture to the second suite would make a grand processional, indeed.

If there is no keyboard available, a guitarist can provide solo pieces as well as accompaniment. John Williams performs Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Cello Suite No. 3 in C major transcribed for guitar on the CD entitled The Art of the Guitar.

The harp is another instrument that seems to conjure visions of romantic serenades for many of us. Cheryl Ann Fulton performs on The Once and Future Harp, including multiple appropriate pieces in the case you are lucky enough to hire a harpist.

For grandeur, Giovanni Gabrieli‘s 16th-century instrumental works can scarcely be matched. A mixed ensemble of period instruments, the Gabrieli Consort and Players performs a canzona on the recording Music for San Rocco.

Music Heard On This Episode

Johann Helmich Roman: Drottningholm Music: Grave
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Anthony Halstead, conductor) — Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding (Naxos, 2009)
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Johann Helmich Roman: Drottningholm Music: Grave
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Anthony Halstead, conductor) — Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding (Naxos, 2009)
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Johann Helmich Roman: Drottningholm Music: Allegro
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Anthony Halstead, conductor) — Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding (Naxos, 2009)
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Johann Pachelbel: Vom Himmel Hoch: Ciacona, D
Joseph Payne — Johann Pachelbel: The Complete Organ Works (Vol. 2) (Centaur, 1997)
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Anon.: The Mulliner Book ~ Galliard
Joseph Payne — Early English Organ Music, Vol. 1 (Naxos, 1993)
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Anon.: The Mulliner Book ~ La Bounette; La Doune cella
Joseph Payne — Early English Organ Music, Vol. 1 (Naxos, 1993)
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John Playford: Greensleeves and Yellow Lace
Joseph Payne — Early English Organ Music, Vol. 1 (Naxos, 1993)
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Henry Purcell: They shall be as happy as they are fair
Les Arts Florissants (William Christie, conductor) — The Fairy Queen (Harmonia Mundi, 1992)
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Henry Purcell: Chaconne
Les Arts Florissants (William Christie, conductor) — The Fairy Queen (Harmonia Mundi, 1992)
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Henry Purcell: They shall be as happy as their are fair
Les Arts Florissants (William Christie, conductor) — The Fairy Queen (Harmonia Mundi, 1992)
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Henry Purcell: If music be the food of love
Nancy Argenta with Richard Boothby and Paul Nicholson — Purcell: Songs and Airs (EMI, 2001)
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G. F. Handel: Air: Where'er you walk
English Chamber Orchestra / John Aler — Semele: George Frideric Handel (Deutsche Grammophon, 1993)
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G. F. Handel: Overture
The English Concert (Trevor Pinnock, director) — Water Music (Archiv, 1990)
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Anon.: Romanesca
Cheryl Ann Fulton — The Once and Future Harp (Gourd Music, 2001)
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J. S. Bach: Gigue
John Williams and Andres Segovia — The Art of the Guitar (Legacy, 1994)
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J. S. Bach: Menuetto I & II
Hans-Martin Linde and Konrad Ragossing — 18th Century Flute and Guitar Masterpieces (Tuxedo, 2000)
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Johann Helmich Roman: Drottningholm Music: Lento
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Anthony Halstead, conductor) — Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding (Naxos, 2009)
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Johann Helmich Roman: Drottningholm Music: Allegro
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Anthony Halstead, conductor) — Johann Helmich Roman: Music for a Royal Wedding (Naxos, 2009)
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Karel Berman: Canzona No. 14 À 10
Gabrieli Players & Paul McCreesh — Music for San Rocco (Archiv, 1996)
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Giovanni Gabrieli: Canzona per Sonare No. 28
Cleveland Brass Ensemble — The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli (Sony, 2005)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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