Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vickie & John Poulos wedding, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

Saturday, April 29th I played from about 2:40 to 5:30 or so at the beautiful St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tacoma (though I did not play during the actual service itself, which began a bit after 4:00 and took about an hour). Other than movies and television, this was my first experience seeing a Greek Orthodox wedding, and it really was wonderful; seeped in meaningful traditions, including the wedding crowns. Every piece of art in this church, every word sung or spoken during a service has meaning. I sat near the Cantor, and played as people came in and were seated; and of course the processional and recessional, and as people departed.
I would like to thank Vickie (Stacey) and John Poulos for hiring me, and also Father John Kuehnle for his guidance. I would also like to thank Vickie and John for their beautiful card, which reads, "Thank you for all your effort. You've been so open and co-operative... you've made our wedding day special." To match the mood and traditional setting, my program of unaccompanied cello solos included the following pieces for this wedding:
Sarabanda by Jean Marie Leclair (1697-1764) is a slow, syncopated baroque-sounding melody with triplets and trills that is simple, yet sophisticated.
Air by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) has these same qualities, but is a bit more up-tempo and has a certain distant familiarity.
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) composed his Andante cantabile with a great deal of expressive movement and interest; the version I play is pretty short, and I am on the lookout for more of his work.
The Sarabanda by Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) shares many qualities with the Sarabanda by Leclair; expressive, meaningful and haunting.
The Rondeau by Giovanni Battista Buononcini (1670-1747) is bright and fun, with a quick, catchy staccato theme; a toe-tapping quick-waltz with wonderful articulation.
Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) wrote his Gavotte und Musette with a wonderful change of keys (and moods) in the middle section, recapitulating to the bright original theme to finish.
I wrote a cello solo arrangement for myself from the violin part of Luigi Boccherini's (1743-1805) Minuet from String Quartet, a well-known melody often featured in television and movies when string quartets are depicted, and one I remember fondly from my Mt. Hood Pops quartet days.
La Villageoise by Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) is another good fit for a formal setting, with lots of energy and expressive dynamics including stacattos, trills and ending with triple-and double-stops; this piece has a familiar folk song mood to it.
Zwei Tanze (Two Dances) by Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) features a Bourree in D, with a Menuetto in F, with a da capo to the Bourree; this is a nice song that fits in with the mood of the songs listed above.
Air by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) sounds like it was written to be heard in a place of worship. Perhaps it was.
Suite No. 1 for CELLO by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) has six movements: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuet I & II, and Gigue. In my opinion, this is some of the greatest music ever written for the cello; Bach was such a genius at composition that his work shines as brightly now as it did when it was first heard centuries ago. Physically, to play this I absolutely have to take off my tux jacket.
Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel is a well-known song, made even more famous by the GE Soft Light TV commercials a few years ago. It is traditional for weddings and other formal events, and works great as a cello solo.
Another wedding standard, J. Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary, does not by any means need to be performed on a trumpet. It is a very uplifting piece of music.
Processional: Richard Wagner's Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin" is heard at virtually every wedding; in our heads, most of us are silently singing, "Here comes the bride." Interestingly, driving up on the day of Vickie and John's wedding, I heard a live orchestral version of this piece on the radio!
Recessional: F. Mendelssohn's Wedding March. The cello solo arrangement I play uses a lot of double-stops and shows off the wonderful, full range and richness of the instrument. With its swooping lines and sustained vibrato notes, this piece truly is great, both as a song and as an auditory signal of the official joining together of two lives. Every time I play it at a wedding it lifts my heart and brings tears of happiness to my eyes.
As people exit, I play J.S. Bach's Minuet in C, because even though it's a simple song, it sounds great. I find it to be kind of a restful interlude between other pieces. A lot of the time, I follow it up with his Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and then another Bach classic, the Musette. Often, I follow that with some lesser-known Bach, the March in G, Sarabande, Arioso, and March in D, Minuet No. 2, the Bourree I and II (from Bach's Third Cello Suite), and Zwei Menuette (Two Minuets).
To break up that big block of Bach, I play some selections from G.F. Handel's Water Music: Air, Bouree, Hornpipe and Finale. This is some really great music and is popular at weddings.

...And yes, the next time I play at a reception, I'll be sure to include Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini's Moon River (from "Breakfast at Tiffany's") and Come Away With Me (2002) by Norah Jones.

Thank you again for choosing me to play.