After I wrote that last post about the wedding music on Downton Abbey, I received a question as to whether the John Stanley Trumpet Voluntary in D would really have been used in that era (1912–1921). My colleague from Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, David Link, wrote: “It’d be interesting to know if that was a piece that actually would have been played for a wedding in England during that period. There was quite a bit of Mendelssohn worship going on in the motherland in those days.”
Indeed, I found out that it was Queen Victoria who selected Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” for her daughter’s wedding to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858. Queen Victoria was said to have loved Mendelssohn’s music and invited the composer to dinner numerous times at Buckingham Palace. It was later reported that Mendelssohn said that “the only really nice, comfortable house in England… where one feels completely at home, is Buckingham Palace.”
However, from the time I started playing the organ in junior high school, my organ teacher told me that so-called “traditional” wedding tunes such as Wagner’s “Bridal March” and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” were less than desirable choices. In fact, he told me they were inappropriate for a church wedding because of their secular connotations. In the case of the Wagner (“Here comes the bride” from Lohengrin) the Bridal Chorus is music which accompanies the couple not to the altar but to the bedroom! And the Mendelssohn’s music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream is for a wedding which is a comedic farce.
In fact, here’s what the Diocese of San Diego wrote in their wedding music guidelines:
The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not to be used. Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy. . . . More importantly, they have been used to accompany “weddings” in countless movies, TV shows and game shows. The majority of images these pieces conjure in the minds of the congregation may have a lot to do with sentimentality but very little to do with worship. Because of this, even though they are frequently used in the United States in Protestant churches or non-religious wedding settings, they are rarely used in Catholic churches.
Someone else heard Bach’s Jesu, joy of man’s desiring as part of the prelude music for that Downton Abbey wedding (I heard it, too!) and I’ll write about that piece in another post.