Here are a few tips for playing at Weddings
Playing the organ at a wedding for an organist of modest ability can be very demanding. Pieces that are requested by the ‘happy couple’ can often be difficult to play, even for an experienced player!
Widor’s Toccata and The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba are two pieces that spring to mind.
The first step is to be realistic – if your ability is such that even a simplified and edited version (available on the shelf for most pieces these days) is too much for you, then say so at the very beginning.
You could tell the Vicar that those who request difficult pieces for weddings be guided (gently of course) to alternative pieces that sound just as good and more suitable for your church setting and organ sound.
Using a midi file – a last resort!
When I first started as an organist, I was asked to play the Arrival of the Queen Of Sheba at a wedding and I knew it would be a struggle.
I asked the bride if she minded if I played the piece on a keyboard, she said that’s fine, so I prepared a midi file and mimed!
The choir was very amused when I lifted my hands off the keys and the piece was still playing!
Playing The Organ At Funerals
The organ at a funeral is mainly about choosing music that is suitable and sensitive for the occasion.
Generally, stay away from minor keys
For example, music in minor keys while the mourners are waiting for the cortege to arrive, is too depressing. The opposite is true if playing loud jolly pieces and would be a bit insensitive.
Slow major keys with a warm flute
The best pieces to play are slow to medium in tempo and in major keys such as Lead Me Lord and Liebster Jesu. Choose a nice warm flute sound that is just loud enough to help cover the sound of anyone who is crying.
Count the verses
People sometimes struggle to sing at funerals and perhaps many of those who attend may be unfamiliar with the hymns. This means that you can’t rely on hearing people sing to tell you which verse you are playing, so make sure you count the verses as you go!
Further tips on playing the organ at wedding and funerals
- One tip is to call the verse number out loud as you play through a hymn – this help prevent getting lost.
- Calling the key of a hymn out loud just before you play it, helps you remember the key. It is very easy to get half way through a long piece and forget the key signature!
Remember, don’t be too thin skinned and over sensitive, the only person who has the right to criticise is someone who can play better than you and if there is someone better than you in the congregation, they will probably be full of encouragement for your efforts.
Just make sure that you have prepared the music as best you can with the time you have available.
Don’t give up – get organised!