Wedding Music: The Jeremiah Clarke Trumpet “Mystery”

The Jeremiah Clarke Trumpet Tune and Ayre and Trumpet Voluntary or Prince of Denmark’s March

The English composer Jeremiah Clarke (c. 1674 – 1707) has had the great misfortune to have his two best compositions wrongly attributed to his much more famous contemporary Henry Purcell (1659-1695):

Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Tune and Ayre:

Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary or Prince of Denmark’s March:

The Confusion between Jeremiah Clarke and Henry Purcell

Jeremiah Clarke (1659-1707)

Jeremiah Clarke (1659-1707)

You will still, quite often (as in one of the above videos), hear both of these pieces being attributed to the wrong composer: i.e. the Henry Purcell Trumpet Tune and Ayre and the Henry Purcell Trumpet Voluntary or Prince of Denmark March.

Music historians have known better for at least 50 years. The rightful composer of both works is Jeremiah Clarke. Now, when dealing with 400-year old music it is expected that there will be, from time to time, some confusion regarding who wrote what.

When I was in college as a music major  I learned Eight Little Preludes and Fugues by “Bach” on the pipe organ only to later find out that these pieces are actually now believed to have been written by the virtually unknown composer Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780).

These things happen. It seems to me, however, highly suspect that Jeremiah Clarke should have be robbed of his fame the way he has been for several centuries.. Of  course, as with the Eight Little Preludes and Fugues, the confusion over the authorship should not in any way detract you from enjoying or using the wonderful music for your Wedding.

I have no evidence to back this up, but I would suspect that Jeremiah Clarke ‘s lack of acknowledgment originally may have stemmed, at lest in part, from the fact that he committed suicide:

“A violent and hopeless passion for a very beautiful lady of a rank superior to his own” caused him to commit suicide. Before shooting himself, he considered hanging and drowning as options, so to decide his fate, he tossed a coin—however the coin landed in the mud on its side. Instead of consoling himself, he chose the third method of death, and performed the deed in the cathedral churchyard.Suicides were not generally granted burial in consecrated ground, but an exception was made for Clarke, who was buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral(though other sources state he was buried in the unconsecrated section of the cathedral churchyard.” Wikipedia

With such narrow-mindedness being the prevailing attitude in the early 18th Century it is quite easy to imagine that the name of hugely famous Henry Purcell was substituted for that of the out cast “suicide” Jeremiah Clarke.

The Jeremiah Clarke Trumpet Tune and Ayre

The Trumpet Tune and Ayre written by Jeremiah Clarke for the stage production The Island Princess which was a joint musical production of Clarke and Daniel Purcell (1664-1717), Henry Purcell’s younger brother.

The “Ayre” or “Air” is the quieter song-like section sandwiched between the main Trumpet Tune:

The Jeremiah Clarke Trumpet Voluntary or Prince of Denmark’s March

Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, also known as the Prince of Denmark’s March, is believed to have been written in honor of Prince George of Denmark, husband of Queen Anne of Great Britain.

The Royal connection has come down the centuries as Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary was used as the Processional for Lady Diana Spencer on the day of her marriage to HRH Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral (1981, about 2:18 in the video below).

So, Jeremiah Clarke did eventually receive the recognition that he was due. If he was listening, he would be pleased to hear his music accompany Princess Diana’s walk down the aisle at St. Paul’s Cathedral where he had been organist in the late 17th Century.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

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