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8.578196-97 - CHORAL WEDDING (A) - A Selection of Favourite Choral Anthems and Hymns for Church Weddings
A CHORAL WEDDING
Choosing the music for your wedding can be a daunting task. There are so many choices and so many questions to ask. Where do you start? Whom do you ask for advice? Should you go for your own favourites? Should you satisfy as many guests as possible and choose the expected traditional tunes? Should you try something new? This 2 CD guide is intended to be a helpful compendium for brides and grooms who are planning a church wedding ceremony, complete with church choir. CD 1 is a selection of favourite anthems, many of which stem from the Anglican choral tradition and are popular choices for many good church choirs. CD 2 is a selection of favourite hymns, well-known to many people and will provide either contemplative or rousing fare for your congregation.
CD 1 – Favourite Wedding Anthems
The collection opens with a motet Rise up my love by Healey Willan (1880–1968). Willan emigrated from England to Canada in 1913 where he composed large numbers of service settings, anthems, introits, hymns, and organ music. Rise up my love is often grouped together with two other motets I beheld her and Fair in Face. The arching opening phrase beautifully matches the words from the lyrical Song of Solomon. Gerald Finzi (1901–1956) is another composer whose musical response to words often mirrors the essence of a poet’s thoughts. My lovely one (track 2) with words by Edward Taylor was composed for the marriage of Finzi’s sister-in-law in 1946. Its opening and closing sections are set to a lilting rhythm, as the voices enter in turn. In the middle is a change of metre, and a rapt outpouring of emotion that brings the music to its climax at the words ‘Lord, melt me all up into Love for thee’. Gerald Finzi similarly sets God is Gone Up (track 16) to the words of Edward Taylor. Overall it has an exultant air, with its fanfare-like opening mirroring the words ‘The Lord with sounding trumpets’ melodies’. Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) was the pre-eminent organist-composer of the early Victorian era. During his career he worked tirelessly for over forty years to raise the standard of music offered in English cathedrals. One of his best-known anthems is Blessed be the God and Father (track 3), from his time at Hereford (c.1835). It includes the exquisite treble solo ‘Love one another’.
Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986) belongs to a group of French Catholic composers whose career was closely associated with the organ. His Four Motets on Gregorian Themes for unaccompanied choir date from 1960. The first of these, ‘Ubi caritas et amor’ (track 4), is a meditative setting from the liturgy for Maundy Thursday. French Romantic composer César Franck (1822–1890) wrote a number of large scale choral works on Biblical subjects, with smaller scale works for occasional or liturgical use. This last category includes the well known Panis Angelicus (track 6), originally for tenor, organ, harp, cello and double bass. It is a deeply felt hymn to the Eucharist, and thus particularly suited to the middle section of a church wedding. As the son of a musician in the service of the ruling archbishop, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) had an early and inevitable involvement in church music. One of the most serene and memorable melodies from his choral output includes the well known Laudate Dominum (track 7) from his Solemn Vespers for a Confessor.
The choral music of Lennox Berkeley (1903–1990) is marked by his strong personal faith. The Lord is my shepherd (track 5) was the second of Berkeley’s works dedicated to Walter Hussey, the remarkable cleric who initiated a series of commissions from composers including Britten and Bernstein. This setting of Psalm 23 was commissioned to mark the 900th anniversary of the foundation of Chichester Cathedral and was first heard in 1975. The instantly memorable melody of the solo treble would be an unforgettable addition to any wedding ceremony. Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) played a major role in the English musical renaissance through his legacy of teaching and composing. The unaccompanied Three Latin Motets have justly remained among the most enduring of Stanford’s sacred works. Coelos ascendit hodie (track 8), the middle motet, is a setting of a medieval hymn whose words describe the glory of the ascended Christ. The music is exultant throughout, and would be a fine contrast to a slower more contemplative choral work included in the wedding service.
Anton Bruckner (1824–1896) wrote various motets, and Locus iste (track 9) was written to celebrate the dedication of the votive chapel of the cathedral at Linz. It is used most frequently in Mass services for the dedication of a church although the sentiments can be transferred to the sacrament of marriage, and it is such an evocative piece that it is often sung at weddings. Modelled on the great passion settings of J.S. Bach, The Crucifixion by John Stainer (1840–1901) is amongst the most popular of all English choral works and vividly portrays the events of the Passion of Christ. Scored for tenor and bass soloists, organ and mixed choir, the piece combines recitatives, solos, and masterful choruses. The ethereally beautiful meditation at the work’s centrepiece God so loved the world (track 10) would be an apt choice for an Easter wedding.
Over a span of some sixty years, William Walton (1902–1983) created a relatively small corpus of choral sacred music which includes some of the finest works in the Anglican canon. His anthems and canticles are still performed and admired in churches and cathedrals throughout the English-speaking world. Set me as a seal (track 12) was composed for a wedding service to the famous text from Song of Solomon and the drama of the music would add a sense of profundity to any ceremony. Benjamin Britten (1913–1976) wrote a large catalogue of choral works which made a great impact on English choral music in the 20th century. The Jubilate Deo (track 15) was the first fruit of a proposal from the Duke of Edinburgh to write some music for St George’s Chapel at Windsor. It is a joyous, dancing work, with pert rhythms, sparkling organ accompaniment and masterly word-setting.
John Rutter (b. 1943) is one of today’s most popular composers of choral music. Wedding Canticle (track 13), a setting of one of the psalms used in the Anglican marriage service, was a present for Tim Brown in 2004 to mark his 25th anniversary as Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge. Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) is America’s pre-eminent composer of choral music. O magnum mysterium, for a cappella chorus, is a setting of a Christmas text that has been inspired by composers from Victoria to Poulenc. It is now a treasured part of the choral repertory for the Christmas season, and would add a magical atmosphere to any Christmas wedding.
Hubert Parry (1848–1918) composed some of the most masterful and moving choral music of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. One of his best known works is the setting of verses from Psalm 122 in the Coronation Anthem I was glad when they said unto me (track 17). Written for the coronation of Edward VII, it has since become a traditional element in subsequent coronations. It is an opulent choice, and would make rousing and memorable exit music.
CD 2 – Favourite Wedding Hymns
The inspired poetry and musical genius of Anglican hymns down the centuries are all showcased in this wide-ranging collection. At weddings, it is often preferable to pick choices so that many of your guests as possible can sing along. Hymns such as Come down, O Love divine (track 11) and My song is love unknown (track 17) are often popular choices for their obvious love themes, but hymns such as Jerusalem (track 13) and Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven (track 21) can often rouse the most reluctant of singers! When you have chosen your hymns, your church organist will need to know the version you would like to have played at your wedding. All you need to do is mention the ‘Tune’ listed below.
CD 2 is also available as a single ‘Abide with me’(Naxos 8.557578)
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