The world is still a few hours away from knowing what Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress looks like, but let’s focus on the important information we now know: the music which has been selected. After all, if you have the Westminster Abbey organ, the London Chamber Orchestra, two choirs, a fanfare team, and trumpeters galore at your disposal, well, let’s hope you make good use of them.
So the royal bridal couple, apparently in consultation with Prince Charles and other important folks, by and large has selected some nice favorites; safe, some would say, but nice: Elgar’s “Serenade for Strings,” Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” and William Walton’s “Crown Imperial.” Her Majesty, the Queen recesses to a piece I particularly like, the Widor “Toccata” (better be nice to your organist if you are requesting that piece any time soon). A commissioned piece was hoped for, and John Rutter got the nod to compose an anthem for this occasion. Let’s see what it sounds like. If our ward music committee really likes it, fans of Rutter that we are, perhaps we’ll push some budget and maybe some contributions together to order it, undoubtedly expensive though it will be.
I’m glad the bride will process in to Charles Parry’s “Jerusalem” and not the well-worn snippet from Wagner’s “Lohengrin.” Although I don’t consider myself an organist by any means, I’ve been honored to play the organ for two weddings, one of which was for my girlfriend Linda in Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel. I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to play for another wedding, but if I were to, I’d make the case for the Parry or the Clarke/Purcell “Prince of Denmark’s March” instead of “Here Comes the Bride” for the processional.
It’s a fine art and a puzzle, I think, to select music for church services. They’re not concerts, so the music should enhance and never detract from the spirit of the services. Whether stirring and exhilarating or contemplative and reverent, the music should be at all times inspirational and uplifting. And yet, IMHO, the selections should be interesting, different just enough to keep everything from being entirely predictable and trite. I have a particular fondness for the majestic Anglican sound – Easter at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and vespers at King’s College Chapel in the University of Cambridge are among my favorite life experiences.
No doubt the Kate wedding dress will set the fashion trend for bridal gowns for the foreseeable future, just as Princess Diana’s set the look for those of us married in the 1980s. The music in this royal order of service may not be breaking any real new ground, but this combination of pieces now will have its identity with this royal wedding. Let the church bells peal!