Sunday, April 24, 2011

Royal Wedding Ceremony Music

In a series of blogs leading up to the Royal Wedding, our music expert Susan Heaton-Wright tells us her thoughts about the type of music that the Royal couple might choose for their big day.  Susan tells us:

"As with any wedding ceremony, the music chosen defines the taste of the couple and also creates a unique atmosphere for the occasion. In the case of a Royal Wedding, where a huge venue like Westminster Abbey is being used, the chance to be grand and over the top isn’t too much, but a requirement! Also, research has shown that music that makes you happy, excited or provokes positive memories results in dopamine to be produced by the brain. This has more ‘feel good’ effects than chocolate!!

The royal couple have at hand, some of the world’s most talented and experienced professional musicians to perform at their wedding, and they will have benefited from their experience and advice, although ultimately the music is their decision.

In a statement, St James's Palace said: "Both Prince William and Miss Middleton have taken a great deal of interest and care in choosing the music for their service, which will include a number of well-known hymns and choral works as well as some specially commissioned pieces." – so we can be clear that the music will reflect their tastes.

Also, this country isn’t good at celebrating its musicians’ talents, but here is an international occasion where we can showcase our outstanding talent and standards. That can only be good for our country!

So from what we have gathered, there will be the excellent Westminster Abbey Choir and London Chamber Orchestra led by conductor and music director Christopher Warren-Green. They will lead and accompany the hymns; and be able to give the best advice on what will work best acoustically for the Abbey.

As you can see from the video, the young choristers are rehearsing hard: I doubt if they will have had an Easter Holiday, but what a brilliant experience for them, and how proud their parents will be.

There will be a fanfare from the Central Band of the RAF; they will play as Catherine enters the Abbey, and possibly as the couple first appear as a married couple before leaving the Abbey.

Thinking about the music for the ceremony, Catherine will need to choose a striking piece of music to walk up the aisle to. Perhaps she will have the choir and orchestra playing; possibly the organ playing as an ‘entrance’ piece of music. This can be the most exciting part of the ceremony; when we first see what the bride is wearing and how she wishes to portray herself with the music.

Since it is a church wedding – and the Queen is head of the Church of England, there will be hymns. We will discover what William and Catherine will have chosen on the day, but sensibly they have a choir to lead the singing. For other weddings, a solo singer or choir to lead the singing is a good idea since guests feel less self conscious if there is a ‘lead’. They will also have the benefit of a strong orchestra; for normal weddings an excellent organist or small instrumental ensemble are great.

During the signing of the register, there will be further music. Given that there will be pressure for Catherine to adjust her veil, two or three pieces will be performed. Will these be by the choir? Orchestra? Or will there be a surprise performer?

When William and Catherine re-appear, it will be their first appearance as a married couple. Possibly there will be another fanfare before the exit piece of music is performed whilst they walk down the long aisle at Westminster Abbey. Again, they will have been advised as to how long the music will need to be, to ensure they are actually leaving the Abbey as the music ends.

One point I should mention is that music will play prior to the ceremony starting (and Catherine arriving at the Abbey), but also after they leave. We have all attended weddings where it is silent until the bride arrives, and after the bridal couple leaves; no one wants to speak! Be rest assured, the Royal Wedding won’t have this; there will be musical entertainment for the guests before and after in the Abbey – inside and out!"

Credits:  our thanks goes to Susan Heaton-Wright for her thoughts on music for the Royal Wedding Ceremony.
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