What do weddings, funerals, football games, and graduations all have in common? Did you ever consider that landmark events in life are almost always accompanied by music? Indeed, are inconceivable with music to frame and highlight the festive occasion, and provide ambience? They are all also meat-and-potatoes nonsymphony opportunities for musicians to perform, and perhaps earn another payment on their instruments while bringing joy and delight to the celebraters, a real win-win situation.
Weddings provide the most frequent chance to play as a soloist (solo or with piano or organ accompaniment). What to play? Very often the bride (and occasionally the groom) will have definite ideas about what she wants played at her wedding. This could be just about anything, but usually the choice is fairly predictable. The ideal wedding solo will have a beautiful and probably well-known melody that lies in a comfortable range so that 1) you don’t have to spend months or even weeks working on it; 2) a wedding requires a number of tunes, and the ideal tune should not tire you out; and 3) this “comfortable” tune thus guarantees you a high rate of scratch-free success to make and keep everyone happy (you may be playing for people who, like most people, listen much more to CDs than live performances, and the guy on the CD never misses…).
Repertoire: since you need a number of tunes (figure a half hour of prelude music, a down-the-aisle tune, candle and other incidental service music, plus a rousing send-off tune), the most practical approach is to have a whole collection (or two or three) of music for this purpose. The horn has a long list of gorgeous repertoire that would sound good in these settings, but truth to tell, pieces like the slow movement to Mozart 4, the Glazunov Reverie, or even one of the short Glierè’s (Intermezzo, Romance, Valse Triste, Nocturne) don’t fit the above criteria as well as we would like (and I say this as one who once played the Adagio from the Schumann Adagio and Allegro at a wedding. What was I thinking? Fortunately for me I only had to play one tune; the organ supplied the rest of the music. It makes a difference in your choices if you’re responsible for all the music or just one piece).
I would be delighted to have readers send in their suggestions, but here, short and sweet, are my suggestions for tune collections for wedding gigs:
1) Wedding Masterworks, for horn and piano, arr. Frank J. Halferty (Almitra Music). Contains a dozen Greatest Hits in (mostly) comfortable ranges, with fairly easy piano parts. To wit: Air from Water Music – Handel, Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin – Wagner, Canon in D – Pachelbel, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach, Trumpet Voluntary – Purcell/Clarke, Trumpet Tune – Purcell, Air on the G String – J.S. Bach, Ave Maria – Schubert, La Rejouissance (from the Royal Fireworks Music) – Handel, Rondeau – Mouret, Wedding March – Mendelssohn, Hornpipe (from Water Music) – Handel.
Last Resort Music has two collections that, while not aimed specifically at weddings, work very well in many cases for nuptials:
2) Eighteen Sacred & Spiritual Solos. All arrangements for horn and piano. Most a bit more difficult than the Wedding Masterworks arrangements, but most not much more. Alleluia (from Exsultate, Jubilate) – Mozart; Amazing Grace; Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod, Ave Maria – Schubert, Ave Verum Corpus – Mozart, Children’s Prayer from Hansel and Gretel – Humperdinck, Deep River – Spiritual, Give Me That Old Time Religion – Spiritual, Go Tell It On the Mountain, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – JS Bach, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen – Spiritual; My Heart Ever Faithful – JS Bach, On Wings of Song – Mendelssohn, Panis Angelicus – Franck, Sheep May Safely Graze – JS Bach, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and Were You There?
Not all are for weddings, but this collection could also be used for more solemn occasions, such as funerals. And all books mentioned here have material that could be used as repertoire for students (the better to keep the young ones away from attacking the Mozart Concertos until they can transpose, trill, and understand the style…).
3) Twenty Encore and Recital Pieces – horn and piano, same comments as above: Air on the G String – JS Bach, Waltz in Ab Major – Brahms, Nocturne – Chopin, Humoresque – Dvorak, Tambourin – Gossec, Waltz – Gounod, Rag Time Dance – Joplin, Le Basque – Marais, Rondeau – Mouret, O Mio Babbino Caro – Puccini, Rondeau – Purcell, Piano Concerto #3 theme – Rachmaninoff, Menuet – Ravel, Pavane… – Ravel, Gymnopedie No. 1 – Satie, Adagio – Schubert, Serenade – Schubert, Serenata – Stravinsky, Adagio – Vivaldi.
Incidentally, Last Resort has another useful collection with Christmas holiday opportunities: 18 Traditional Christmas Solos. It’s not for any of the above occasions, but might be just the thing for December student recital or impromptu concert at a hospital, school, assisted living home, family reunion, etc.
To get back to the original subject: wedding gigs. There is one more item to mention: marketing. If you’re interested in wedding gigs – quick & easy, well paid, happy & grateful customers – let them know you’re out there. Of all the many areas of my ignorance, one of the larger territories is marketing, but I have a few ideas:
1) Get the world out to friends and people in the area that you’re open for business. Post your services in music stores, Craig’s list online, and perhaps even churches or specialized wedding locations nearby. Readers: what do you do to advertise?
2) Read what experts have to say on the subject. I’m thinking of Angela Myles Beeching’s book Beyond Talent and David Cutler’s book (and web site) The Savvy Musician. They spell it out in great deal (and a lot more). Must-have books for working (and hoping to work) musicians, both.
I/we await more suggestions on wedding gig repertoire and marketing from readers!