Archive for May 28th, 2007

“Here Comes The Bride” (And Other Nazi Melodies)

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Adolf Hitler l-o-v-e-d the big, bold, bombastic music of Richard Wagner (pronounced “REEK-hart VOGG-ner”). Mark Twain, on the other hand, once famously remarked that “Wagner’s music isn’t as bad as it sounds.”

If Wagner had confined his bluster to the Ring Trilogy and other operatic works extolling the superiority of Aryan Germans, he wouldn’t be held in such personal disrepute today. Unfortunately, his anti-Jewish rantings – which Hitler also found brilliant – were as numerous and noisy as his musical compositions.

Which brings us to “Here Comes The Bride” (“The Bridal Chorus”). Wagner composed it for his opera Lohengrin. Millions of brides have marched down the aisle to this familiar tune. Few of them, however, were Jewish. And I strongly recommend that any bride who is Jewish, is marrying into a Jewish family, or expects Jewish guests at her wedding, should go to “Plan B,” (which is:anything but Wagner, please!)

Or – perhaps I should say – almost anything but Wagner. Because most American brides and grooms promenade back up the aisle at the conclusion of their wedding to a recessional written by Felix Mendelssohn. This, too, poses a problem.

The composer’s grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn, was a brilliant Jewish scholar and philosopher. Felix, however, repudiated the faith of his ancestors. For a Jew living in Germany in the 19th century, this was a shrewd – if weasel-like – career move. It opened doors for him which would otherwise have remained shut. But it didn’t win him any points for personal integrity. Thus Mendelssohn is also a poor choice for any wedding with a Jewish component.

But, if the two most common pieces of music for American brides are off-limits, what can you play? Well – how about these?

Pachelbel’s “Canon In D” is a majestic work and a wonderful processional. Vivaldi’s “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” is lively, and works equally well whether the bride is entering (the pro-cessional) or exiting (the re-cessional.) You should also check out Bach’s “Arioso” and Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy.”

“Trumpet Voluntary” is frequently used for the entrance of the bridesmaids, but – especially with real trumpet(s) – it makes a terrific processional. The similarly-named “Trumpet Tune” was composed for the wedding of the Prince of Denmark. If you have already hired a trumpeter anyway, it makes a great musical bookend as the bride and groom depart.

Depending on the rules where you say your vows (and some places have LOTS of rules), more modern music is also a possibility. In fact, one mature bride of my acquaintance got a huge laugh recently by entering to Etta James’ “At Last.”

Best of all, none of the above-named pieces will involve you in a major religious controversy (when all you really wanted to do was get in and out of the ceremony!)