Wedding gifts

Which works from Friday's royal wedding will make it into marriage vernacular?, asks BBC Music's editor Oliver Condy


The music for any royal wedding is closely scrutinised and, more often than not, carefully copied for decades to come. After all, we have Queen Victoria to thank for persuading her daughter, Princess Victoria, to use Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in 1858, for instance, and Princess Margaret is one of two royals who opted to use the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony for their recessional. It’s a rare wedding today that features neither of those pieces.

So, from all the pieces featured at William and Kate's wedding, which pieces are we likely to hear played at marriage ceremonies from now on? Parry, after so much prominence, is currently enjoying something of a revival in the public consciousness. That three of his works made their way onto the order of service says something for Prince Charles’s hand in the choices – his love of the composer is well known, and a documentary on Parry presented by the Prince himself is due to be broadcast on BBC Four in May. If Friday’s wedding wasn’t a trailer for his programme, I don’t know what was. So are we likely to hear much more from this British composer in wedding ceremonies? Only if the lucky bride and groom can muster a decent choir – excepting Jerusalem, of course, which is congregational hymn (and a strange wedding choice at that) the other two Parry works, I Was Glad and Blest Pair of Sirens, require large choral forces, and a rather decent organist…

We’ll take it as read that the other hymns at the wedding, Guide me, O thou great Redeemer (to the Welsh tune Cwm Rhondda) and Love Divine (to another Welsh tune, Blaenwern), will be popular choices at this summer’s nuptials, but what of the anthem and the motet? Rutter’s anthem disappointed many for its lack of direction and general soppiness, but I think it’ll be a popular choice for an engaged couple. Rutter was chosen to write something for the wedding, presumably because both William and Kate liked his approachable style and sweet harmonies. As he tweeted the day after, ‘I was honoured to be asked to write for the RW, and I did my best though you can never please everyone.’ Quite. This is the Day may not have broken boundaries – least of all his own – but it provided all the ingredients that the happy couple were after: something to tug at the heartstrings and provide that atmosphere of prayerfulness that was much needed up until that moment in the service.

The star of the show, however, was the unknown Welsh composer Paul Mealor, whose motet Ubi caritas enthralled the Abbey and, no doubt, most of the 2 billion viewers around the world. It may have contained more than a hint of Eric Whitacre, with its scrunched harmonies and unresolved clashes, but no matter. (Who, among all those watching, will have heard of Whitacre, anyway?) His motet was perfect for the occasion – a traditional, tonal piece with a modern slant. A little like the day itself, perhaps. Straightforward to sing and requiring smallish forces, you can guarantee that couples up and down the land will be clamouring in the next few years to have it performed during the signing of the register.

Will William Walton’s Crown Imperial displace our familiar friends, Widor’s Toccata and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March as recessional music? It’s a nice thought, but I can’t see it happening…

Oliver Condy

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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