If music be the food of love, mine’s a large sausage!Unless you are a regular churchgoer, you are more than likely unfamiliar with the concept of corporate singing. I’m not talking about mantra chanting or ciggy-lighter-anthem-scarf-waving- hooks, obligatory at every nostalgic or pop concert. More like the rally cries of political or religious organisations that aim to bring together thoughts, beliefs and ideals in one relatively short moment of time before the unending rhetoric starts from the podium.
I think that in political gatherings there is the choice of singing around a flag, an emblem, a picture or meaningful banner that encourages the supporters to focus and sing in unity.
Most people will be familiar with National Anthems and how this unites, providing a suitably feel good moment particularly if you don’t especially agree with the sentiments and requests therein. (see below for examples) *
Planning the wedding ceremony and one that is church based, will include at some point the discussion about Hymns, Psalms, Spiritual, Secular and Favourite songs.
I have played at many. Either as an accompanist on piano and guitar, or as a featured musician playing a favourite piece or two as requested by one of the Wedding party.My first was when I was a skinny, spotty, sixteen years old. With some reluctance, fear and many hours practice, I was asked to do a rendition of Bach’s ‘Jesu joy of man’s desiring’, followed by ‘Lara’s theme’ from Dr. Zhivago. Convinced that my fingers had reached the end before my brain, I finished as if I’d just done a Butlin’s talent show!
Not sure if the happy couple are still married but I am sure I can take no credit or blame whichever way! On one occasion, I had played several songs as part of the service and as far as I knew, this had gone well, with people singing heartily and pretty much from the same hymn sheet.
I also knew that I had been asked to ‘noodle’ something during the signing of the register, mainly to plug the necessary gap, and allow people to chat casually in whispered and reverent tones.
As the service came to an end, the vicar announced that the Wedding party would be leaving to sign the register while ( long pause to check notes) “Dave Cooke will play for us something he has composed especially for the occasion.”
What? That’s not what we agreed. Serious sweaty hand moment.
It was the longest walk to the piano ever, while I girded my loins and thought of all the chops I could muster that would sound like a half decent piece of composition and execution. (it did feel like mine as I ascended the 88 note gallows, with black and white notes merging into a hazy 12 tone blur) With one hand I started playing, wishing that I had a large shovel in the other, so I could dig the deep hole! Needless to say, I ran away afterwards to avoid comments.
I even had an amazing wedding where the Bride had composed a song, asked me to play the piano, while she came down the aisle, singing it! That was bum-numbingly scary, as one slip for me could have ruined the whole procession, never mind the vocal performance and the dress!
But it never ceases to amaze me the strange and quite meaningless choices people make when deciding on what they feel should be sung at a Wedding. The countless times I have stood to sing about ‘England’s green and pleasant lands’, while requesting ‘Bows, arrows, spears and chariots’, and discrediting those ‘Dark Satanic Mills’.
Equally, if we’re into the popular contemporary treatment, we get offered very badly written choruses boasting that ‘Jesus is my Girlfriend’, or ‘He’s the apple of my eye’, and banged out, guitar requiring serious tuning, with no form, structure or a clear and present ending.
So here I am suggesting at this point in the planning that I take on the ‘music’ in the church. I used to do it regularly, but haven’t for a few years.
I have some fine players standing by, all hopefully doing it gratis, and I look forward to the run through and giggling that so often accompanies such a solemn and yet happy occasion.This will also be my first time of walking down the aisle to a canon, fugue or Bob Marley song, with top lip glued in place, unable to do anything except move ‘arm-leg-arm-leg’ in one direction towards the altar. I may need a stiff drink for that one!
However since writing this, we have had an idea for the ‘Entrance of the Bride’. Certainly not the conventional soundtrack.
So if you’re invited, seriously look forward with anticipation, and bring a hanky. If not check YT for the viral sometime after September! ( Jem and Olli permitting, of course )
Now, verse 4 (and 6 depending on versions) of our national anthem:
Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the King
O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies (great rhyme?)
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all