02.18.2009

Wedding Music, Part 4: All The Music

Posted by AJ Harbison at 8:30 pm

It’s here–the last week leading up to the wedding! I’ve been rather busy (as you might imagine) so I haven’t had much time to post. But I’m going to try to write a few entries over the next few days and then schedule them through the next week and a half, so even while I’m away on my honeymoon you can still get your TLB fix.

I thought that I’d post today, for anyone who’s interested, the overview of all the music I’ve planned for the wedding. The first three wedding music posts can be found at the following links: Wedding Music, Part 1, Wedding Music, Part 2, and Wedding Music, Part 3: Recessional.

For the ceremony, a member of our church community group agreed to play the piano for us–she has a master’s degree in performance so we were excited to bring her on board.

For the prelude, she’ll be playing a variety of classical music: some Bach, a little Debussy, etc.

There will be two hymns that the congregation will sing during the ceremony: “Be Thou My Vision” (careful; if you open that page a really crappy MIDI version of the hymn will start playing automatically) and a modern hymn, “In Christ Alone” (music starts automatically there too, but at least it’s a decent recording).

Then there’s the music I wrote, in three parts:

The processional: “Amazing Grace.” This is the song that all the bridesmaids and groomsmen will “process” to as they walk down the aisle. I wrote a flowing sixteenth-note pattern in D major (pretty cool, if I do say so myself) for the left hand and set a slightly altered version of the melody “Amazing Grace” over it. Then after a full verse of “Amazing Grace,” the left hand changes to portamento (i.e. slightly detached) single notes while the right hand plays an altered version of “In Christ Alone”–the two songs actually make for a pretty seamless medley, because they’re in the same meter (3/4) and have similar rhythmic patterns. After the last line of “Amazing Grace” returns to cap things off, there are four bars of anticipation while the piano plays around softly with a G major chord (the IV in D) and C-sharps, which create the feeling that something else has to come next. Then comes a hanging G major-add6-add7-add9 chord, the back doors of the church open to reveal the lovely bride, and the next piece begins:

The bridal processional: “Passion And Purity.” (See the Wedding Music, Part 2 post for details on this piece’s history.) The intro and outro of this piece are based loosely on the theme from the second movement of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, a piece that has a pretty fascinating history of its own. (If you happen to click on the audio sample from the Wikipedia article, please be advised that it does not contain the theme that my piece is based on.) It’s played in a simple, innocent-sounding setting in C major symbolizing purity. The main body of the piece is a setting of a simple melody I wrote a long, long time ago–the only musical connection in the wedding to anything else I’ve written. It begins in C major, but then transitions up to a more brilliant setting in A major (symbolizing, for me at least, passion), and includes a subtle quote of Bach’s piece “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” which is often used as a bridal processional itself. The conclusion of the piece, returning to the Górecki theme, remains in A major–suggesting a new kind of purity in the context of marriage.

The recessional: “With Joy.” (See the Wedding Music, Part 3: Recessional post for details on this piece’s history.) This piece was the most fun to write and is the rocking piece in the set. It is also in A major, continuing the idea of passion–and what a passionate piece it is. It starts with a high triplet pattern I stole from a Michael Card song, “The Voice of the Child” (click on the song’s title under “Song Clip” to listen to it–the triplet pattern is at the beginning; if that link doesn’t work, click here and click the play button next to track 7). The pattern builds as the pastor says “I now present to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. AJ Harbison!” at which point I will give our pianist two quick conducting cue beats. On the downbeat, the triplet pattern shifts into overdrive (in sixteenths instead of triplets), and the left hand crashes down into low octaves à la “Baba O’Riley” as explained in the linked wedding music post above. It’s gonna be awesome. The middle section calms down a bit–I think it’s at that point that the pastor will invite everyone over to the reception–and is I think the only passage in all three pieces that is newly-written and not referencing something else. It’s mostly chordal and follows simple progressions built around the IV, V and vi chords. Then the high pattern/”Baba O’Riley” theme returns, in a slightly modified form that eventually dissipates up into the original triplet pattern, quiet and way up high. There’s a faint echo of the theme from “Passion And Purity”–tyin’ it all together–and then it ends on a high held A, and a low A octave as quiet as possible. I’m telling you, it’s gonna rock.

(I’ve joked to Eleanor that I could never publish the wedding suite, if I ever wanted to–there’s way too much plagiarism in it. I’d bankrupt us paying all the licensing fees. But at least it’ll be awesome on the day itself!)

Then comes the reception! We decided to hire Bonne Musique Zydeco to be our live band, and we can’t wait to dance the night away with them. My lovely bride and I will have our first dance to Derek Webb’s song “Better Than Wine,” she will dance with her father to “Up Around The Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and I’ll dance with my mother to “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” James Taylor-style. All with dashes of zydeco thrown in to spice things up. We’ll eat, drink, dance and party; and then my bride and I will make our getaway and ride off into the sunset.

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Comments

  1. Gravatar

    ryan fleming on 02.19.2009

    Can’t wait to hear the music at your wedding. You must be really excited!

    By the way, on the link to Michael Card’s CD there was a song called Love Crucified, Arose. There is someone at my church who sings that every Easter service and I’ve always wondered who wrote it. Have you heard the song? It is really good. It is track 1 on the link you provided.

    Well, see you soon!

  2. Gravatar

    AJ Harbison on 02.19.2009

    Hi Fleming,
    I am very excited! Three days and counting!

    I love that song “Love Crucified, Arose.” Definitely a classic. My brother and I grew up listening to that Michael Card CD and a few others, so they’re embedded permanently in my mind….

    AJ Harbison

  3. Gravatar

    Darth_Harbison on 02.19.2009

    Just out of curiosity, is there a reason that almost all of the music is based on something else? Are the pieces they’re based on meaningful to you, or . . .?

  4. Gravatar

    AJ Harbison on 02.19.2009

    An excellent question! Let me see…. I just thought it would be cool to arrange “Amazing Grace” as the processional, and “In Christ Alone” presented itself as a worthy second half, as well as being a tie-in to when the congregation sings it later in the ceremony. I chose the Górecki just because I liked the melody, and it lent itself very well to an innocent and simple setting. The melody from my childhood was also simple and innocent, and I thought it would make a nice tie-in for myself. “Baba O’Riley” inspired the recessional just because of similar emotions in the House episode and the end of the ceremony; and I was trying to think of a fitting right hand pattern and the Michael Card riff presented itself as an excellent choice.

    So, there you have it. I guess the references don’t have any particular significance, except for the melody from my early years–they just happened to fit well in the overall scheme I’d planned out for the pieces. Thanks for a great question!

    AJ Harbison

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