By Jayan Nandagopan
So the special day is approaching and you've picked out everything from the flowers to the color of the napkins at the reception. One thing that in my experience doesn't get as much attention as it should, is the choice of ceremony music. As this is probably the most exposed part of your wedding, it can turn from perfect to disaster in a matter of moments.
One of my most memorable experiences recently was a bride who kept changing her mind as to what music she wanted for the various parties walking down the aisle. That would have been fine if it wasn't whilst they were walking! The last thing you want is for the mother of the bride to be walking down in silence. The smoothest way we have found is to be set on two pieces, one for the wedding party and one for the bridal march. Anything more that that can cause confusion and silences. Remember also that the musicians aren't a CD player that can instantly change between songs, they need a few moments to change music and count in. A lot of the ceremonies we perform at are outdoors and with wind a factor changing music can be even more of a challenge. Our poor tuba player almost lost his music in the ocean on a windy West Hampton afternoon.
The Chamberlain Brass has an ever growing and evolving library of hundreds of musical pieces perfect for prelude, ceremony and cocktail hour for both contemporary and classic weddings. For those who want a touch of class we have a large variety of well known beautiful classical pieces tailored for our brass ensemble. Choosing these pieces from the multitude of music out there is no easy task. Every rehearsal involves trying out at least twenty new arrangements to see if they are appropriate, sound good and also equally important, enjoyable for us to play. There are songs on our list that we have tried three or four different versions of before we decided on the best sounding ones. For example, this Christmas season we read through over two hundred pieces only to select twenty we deemed of the quality to perform as the Chamberlain Brass.
For those who want a more contemporary wedding we have many modern and some pop pieces that we enjoy performing. Sometimes brides want their weddings to be completely original, a fresh start to their new life. This is where I come in as the resident arranger for Chamberlain Brass. Most contemporary or popular songs have not been arranged yet for a brass quintet, so I write new arrangements tailored especially for the brides. So far I have written over forty new arrangements for wedding ceremony and cocktail hour. This process is long and can take quite some time depending on the complexity and length of the music. Transcribing a song off the radio and translating it to five brass instruments is a challenge, but the outcomes are definitely worth every minute. When people come up and compliment us and say they haven't heard anything like that before it is great.
So whether you want a classic or contemporary wedding, or somewhere in-between I hope some of these points help you. Organizing a music program that you want early is essential to a smooth ceremony without any unwanted silences. Also the earlier you decide, the more you can think about your choices and change things before its too late. We also welcome brides to come and listen to us at a rehearsal to help get an understanding of what a brass ensemble and our arrangements sound like. Sometimes what you envision is not what you hear live. YouTube is another great resource for getting acquainted with the vast array of music that is available.
Congratulations on your engagement, and I hope this answers a few questions about wedding music repertoire.
Trombone, Arranger, Composer
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Founder and leader of the Chamberlain Brass and freelance trumpet player in NYC.