Tag Archive | organ

Wedding Music: The Bach Air on the G String

The Bach Air on The G String

The Bach Air on the G String has nothing to do with either breathing or ladies undergarments.

Here is a performance of J.S. Bach’s original orchestral version played on 18th Century-style instruments. There is not a thong in sight:

J.S. Bach and The Air on the G String

Wedding Music Bach Air on the G String

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) possibly the greatest composer of all time

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) was probably the greatest composer who ever lived. He wrote over a thousand pieces that we know of and a very high percentage of these — like The Air on the G String — are true masterpieces. It is interesting to note that, even with over a thousand compositions of Bach’s that have survived, many more have been lost over time.

It is not unusual for famous compositions like The Air on the G String to acquire fanciful new names never intended by their composer. J.S.Bach never called this piece “Air on the G String”. He wrote it about 1720 as the second movement, Aria, from the third of his four Orchestral Suites which is how it is performed in the above video.

In J.S. Bach’s day, the terms aria and air were simply used to denote a melodic, song-like piece in contrast to the many dances and marches that were written at the time.


An New Arrangement and a New Name

Wedding Music Bach Air onthe G String

August Wilhelmj (1845-1908)

All through the 19th century there was a movement begun by Felix Mendelssohn to popularize the music of J.S. Bach with the general public. Composers and academic musicians had long appreciated J.S. Bach but Mendelssohn and others wanted to bring this great music to a wider audience.

Among these fans of J.S. Bach was the German violinist August Emil Daniel Ferdinand Wilhelmj (1845-1908) who arranged the Bach Aria from the Orchestral Suite for solo violin and piano (the Air starts after interview at 3:32):

In arranging the Aria for solo violin, Wilhelmj changed the key from D to C so that the exquisite melody could be played on one string. Hence the new name Air on the G String.

Wihlemj arrangement of the Bach Air on the G String became very popular. In fact, this was the very first piece by J.S. Bach to be recorded during the early years of sound recording. It was recorded in 1902 by the Russian cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich and an unknown pianist as the Air from the Overture No. 3 in D major.

The Bach Air on the G String and Your Wedding Music

Such a beautiful melody should be on any list of Wedding Music.

Because of its slow, thoughtful pace it should be used as one of the Preludes before the Ceremony. If there is a Unity Ceremony during the Wedding service, and you need quiet music for a minute or two, the J.S. Bach Air on the G String is a perfect choice.

It can be played on either piano

…or organ:

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.


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

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.


Wedding Music: The Pachelbel Canon in D

The Pachelbel Canon in D

The Johann Pachelbel Canon in D is one of my personal favorites. I am always happy to see it requested by a Bride.

Here is this beautiful piece in its original version as composed by Pachelbel in the 17th century.

Pachelbel and his Canon in D

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1709) lived a long-time ago. He was born 35 years before J.S. Bach (1685-1750) who, for most non-musicians, is about as far back in time as they care to listen.

Like Bach, Pachelbel was a hard working German musician who composed a great deal of music during his life time. As is the case with most of the pre-Bach composers, most of their music has long been forgotten unless you are into “early music.”


Pachelbel is thought to have composed his Canon in D for Johann Cristoph Bach’s wedding in October of 1694. Johann Cristoph (1671-1721) was J.S. Bach’s oldest brother and a pupil of Pachelbel.

Much of the music of the Baroque Period (which is the era that we are dealing with here) was written for a specific occasion, such as a Wedding, and then forgotten.

This is apparently what happened to the Pachelbel Canon in D which was not published until 1919.

The Pachelbel Canon in D becomes a Hit!

Jean-Francois Paillard's hit record

Jean-Francois Paillard’s hit record

Being published doesn’t necessarily mean being played and the Pachelbel Canon in D remained virtually unknown for another half century.

The Canon in D was recorded by Arthur Fiedler in 1940 but again didn’t get much notice.

That was not the case when Jean-François Paillard (1928 –2013) recorded the Canon in D in 1968.




At the time that this recording was released I was just getting into Classical music. I well remember what a sensation Paillard’s recording of the Canon in D caused first among Classical music fans and then the general public. To think that this beautiful piece had been virtually unheard of for 274 years was hard to understand.

Naturally, Brides immediately fell in love with the Pachelbel Canon in D and it soon began to challenge the Wagner “Bridal Chorus” for the title of most-popular Processional or entrance song. It was perfect: a Classical piece that helped the Bride break with tradition. Boomer brides were a rebellious lot!

Of the many recorded versions of  the Pachelbel Canon in D the one I like best is by pianist George Winston (b. 1949).

George Winston's December

George Winston’s December

Winston’s Canon in D was recorded in 1982 for his album December. Thanks to Winston, the Pachelbel Canon in D hence became associated with Christmas in addition to weddings  and is sometimes even referred to as the Christmas Canon. I like Winston’s version because, while honoring Pachelbel’s original “Canon”, he explores it almost like a Jazz musician would.





What is a “Canon” Anyway?

The term canon can be confusing. In the world of music it has nothing to do with howitzers or other military usages. Canon is a cousin of rounds and fugues where melodies are echoed by one another in different voices or instruments.

In addition to the intertwined polyphonic melodies, Pachelbel achieved the hypnotic effect of his Canon in D by supporting the swirling melodies with a musical technique called a ground bass. The ground bass in the Canon in D can easily be heard in the first eight notes of the piece. These eight notes repeat over and over for the entire Canon in D forming its hypnotic foundation or “ground”.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.

Wedding Music: Mendelsson Wedding March

Music for the Start of Your New Life Together

In the repertoire of wedding music there are two traditional bookends: for the Bride’s entrance: Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” (covered in a previous post) and for the Couple’s exit: the Felix Mendelssohn “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Here is what the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” sounds like in the original orchestral arrangement:

Mendelssohn and his “Wedding March”

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelsohn (1809-1847) composed the “Wedding March” to be part of the incidental music that he wrote for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare was all the rage on the Continent during the 19th Century and inspired many composers to write operas and orchestral pieces based on his plays.

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music was premiered on October 14, 1843 in Potsdam. The production was a spoken play and not an opera so Mendelssohn’s “incidental” music was used to introduce and enhance the stage play.

Thirteen of the fourteen pieces in the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream were composed by Mendelssohn in 1842 specifically for the Potsdam production. Amazingly, what eventually became the opening section or Overture to this production was completed by him on August 6, 1826 when he was a lad of only 17!

The “Black List”

As I mentioned in my earlier post on the Wagner “Bridal Chorus”, despite the popularity of both of these pieces with Brides, for many years they were both “Black Listed” by some denominations due to their originally being “theatrical music.”

In most cases, such attitudes now seem as old-fashioned as a horse and buggy. Surprisingly, at the end of the Wikipedia article on the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” there is a link to an article in which Gary D. Penkala still vainly attempts to argue against the use of this music for a Wedding. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me!

Even more Felix Mendelssohn

Musically, the “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is wonderful as a Recessional to accompany the newly married couple as they walk down the aisle after the Ceremony.

Mendelssohn composed many beautiful compositions during his short lifetime which would be well worth your exploring as well. In addition to the Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream give a listen to his other orchestral works such as the Italian Symphony and his Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave). For piano solo he also wrote many short “Songs Without Words” that are miniature masterpieces.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.