Monday, June 10, 2013

Catholic Weddings and Non-Traditional Music


In my time as a Catholic Cantor, I have had many brides request some very interesting non-traditional pieces of music for their weddings. Now, I am usually totally fine and often excited to oblige these requests when I can. Often times, the pieces chosen have some personal significance to the bride and groom, and I love to see the way they light up when a non-traditional piece is played. However, the Catholic Church has some guidelines to follow that sometimes restricts what can and can't be played during a wedding.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Piece
The Catholic Church has 3 criteria for the music chosen for a wedding. My descriptions are below, but if you want a more "expert" opinion, check out catholicweddinghelp.com for additional help.

  1. Does it help/inspire people to pray? If you have chosen to have a wedding in the Church, then you want to have the sacred component in your wedding and therefore should choose music that will set the tone for the ceremony or Mass. Now, this doesn't mean you need Gregorian Chant, of course-- there are plenty of contemporary pieces that are uplifting and inspire spirituality... lets just save the techno, rap, metal, and hip-hop for the reception.  
  2. Can the congregation be included? Is the music simple enough that the congregation can join in song if they so chose? This is of course not applicable to instrumental music. However, there are a few pieces  during the ceremony or Mass that are sung (such as the responsorial psalm, Alleluia, etc), and you want to be sure that if aunt Kathy wanted to sing along, she wouldn't have to have a degree in music to do so. If you want an aria, original song, or otherwise complicated material to be sung/played, do it during communion, prayer of the couple, or for meditation. 
  3. Is it beautiful? I know this one sounds silly, and when I ask this, many brides give me a look that says "Duh, or I wouldn't have chosen it." Beautiful music is not only a great way to ensure happy tears all around, it also helps with rule #1 as the catechism states that "beauty is a window onto the divine." This rule doesn't just count toward your choice of music, but to your choice of musicians. ALWAYS audition your musicians before choosing them. Many have MP3s or would be more than happy to sing/play for you beforehand. You don't want to show up on your wedding day and find out that your musicians are tone-deaf. YIKES!

The Two "No No's" Of Wedding Music
Different parishes have different views on the appropriateness of certain pieces of music, but as a general rule, its a bad idea to use the following pieces for your wedding.

"Here Comes The Bride" Wagner's Bridal March
When most western couples think of wedding music, this piece tends to be the first piece to come to mind. You can thank the big-bad media for that one. Despite it's renown, very few brides and grooms choose this as their processional anymore. However, if you ARE considering this piece, I STRONGLY suggest you choose something else. Here is why:

Traditionally, we don't like to use Wagner's Bridal March in the Catholic Church for a couple reasons. It is from the opera Lohengrin and isn't played when the bride is processing into the church, but as part of the bedding ceremony thereafter (Bow chika bow bow). Although the lyrics aren't sung at weddings, they are quite bawdy (perhaps not by today's standards, but the meaning remains), and the church doesn't find it appropriate for a sacred ceremony. Secondly, the marriage the piece was composed for was kind of a joke--the two ended up splitting up in the next scene because the bride wanted to know her husband's name, and she dies dramatically as a result. Lovely. For this reason and the whole nature of the opera, the Church generally feels that the whole opera is making fun of marriage. Not a great way to express your undying love if you ask me.


The Bridal March From "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Mendelssohn

Equally as famous as "Here Comes the Bride," this piece is often played as the recessional at weddings. It's popularity has also waned in recent years, but it can still be heard jubilantly played after the bride and groom have sealed the deal. However, this piece is also on the "no no" list.  

If you remember your Shakespearean studies from high school, you may recall the story of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Well, this piece is played as the opening to the scene where Titania, the fairy queen, has "married" (well, more accurately, bedded) a man named "Bottom" whose head has been transformed into that of a donkey. Kinky? Anyway, the whole reason Titania bedded Bottom in the first place was because her husband (yup...that's right) was trying to punish her for disobedience and used a potion to force her to fall in love with said donkey-face to teach her a lesson (apparently they didn't get the part where you are supposed to marry of your own free will). There are many things about this that the Church frowns upon--adultery, beastiality, abusing ones wife with black magic... the list goes on. And, just like with the Wagner, the biggest grievance the Church has with the piece is that it makes a joke of the sacrament of marriage. 

PHEW!!

Now that all this knowledge has been crammed into your head, I hope that it will be easier to choose the music for your wedding. If you need some suggestions for what to choose, visit my blog "Confessions of a Wedding Singer: Top Songs for Christian Wedding Ceremonies" for some of my favorites. 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Confessions of a Wedding Singer: Top Songs for Christian Wedding Ceremonies

For those of you who didn't know, Lance and I got married in April of 2014.  Through preparing for our wedding, I have discovered there are a TON of resources to find the best (or worst) music for the reception, yet not many good resources to find music for the ceremony.

To fill this gap, I have compiled a list of the most popular Christian and secular wedding hymns and songs that I have come across in my 10+ years of being a wedding singer. Below you can find my list--click on the title to listen! The recordings aren't all stellar, but should give you a good idea.

**Note--The list is set up with the Catholic wedding traditions in mind, however the majority of the music below could be used in any denomination**


Wedding Song/Hymn Suggestions
(BL) = Bilingual
(L) = Latin
Any hymn may be played as instrumental for Processional/Recessional at Bride’s request.

Cannon in D (Pachelbel) 
Air (Handel) 
Prelude in C (Bach) 
Clair De Lune (Debussy)
Your Song (Elton John) 
Holy Is His Name (Talbot) 


Psalms:
I will Praise your Name (Timothy Smith) 
Taste and See (Moore)
To You O Lord (Manion)

Gospel Acclamation:
Celtic Alleluia (Walker)


Mass Settings

Offertory/Communion/Unity Candle/Meditation
For the Rest of Our Days (An original written by my husband and I for our best friends' wedding)
One Bread One Body (BL) (Foley) 
Pan De Vida (BL) (Hurd)
Envía Tu Espíritu (BL) (Hurd) 
 This Marriage (Whitacre) - CHORAL
As the Deer Longs (Hurd, Bob) 
I Have Loved You (Joncas, Michael)
Many and Great  (Manalo)
Love One Another (Dufford)
Only a Shadow (Landry, Carey )
Ave Maria (Latin) (Gounod/Bach) 
Ave Maria (Latin) (Schubert) 

Recessional
Joyful, Joyful (Casting Crowns)
PM Love Theme (Love Actually)
Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke) 
Rondeau (Moret) 
Allegro Maestoso - HORNPIPE (Handel) 
Spring (Vivaldi) 
Autumn (Vivaldi) 
La Rejouissance – Handel 

If you have any more I should look into, Click Here to post the title and artist to my facebook page. If I like it, I'll add it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Baby-Munching Weight Loss Freaks

Lately, I have been feeling like my musical career is doomed to become, well....This guy:

Yup, a baby-eating, creepy monster with eyeballs in his hands who looks as though he lost a TON of weight but didn't have the funds to tuck the excess skin...

You can thank Pan's Labyrinth for that delightful image. *shudder*

 Let me explain...
The excess skin part is EASY. I have been owning my image and have successfully lost almost 20 lbs. since coming back from Italy (I likely lost 10 while over there). I feel great, but need to find some new ways to tighten wonged out skin....

As for the monster...
I have always been aware that the music industry is for the most part a game of youth and money. However, I have always known I had youth on my side, and therefore has decided to do the "right" thing by staying in school, staying out of drugs, and graduating college, despite the tug in my heart to leave it all and run away to become some crazy rock-star babe. Hurray me! I'm educated!

I always assumed I had loads of time ahead of me to focus on making music my life, so I put it on the back burner.

Now that I am graduated, I am realizing that this time is running out in short order. Sure, I can always perform-especially if I study opera--but who would you rather listen to: A hot young thing that seems to have the world at her fingertips, or the baby-muncher shown above?

I know, I know. I'm 23--still a baby. But the reality is that the music industry has turned into a gentleman's magazine of pin-up girls, whether I like it or not, and if I want to do something with my voice I have do get to it while I'm still young enough to jump through their hoops. One day I may be content to just sing in Opera Chorus or in a local band, but if I don't try for excellence now, I will always regret it. It's like they say in The 5Choices to Extraordinary Productivity (FranklinCovey shameless plug. Check it out...its SHAWEET!), you must "go for extraordinary-don't settle for ordinary."

Right now I feel ordinary, which I hate, and I definitely don't want to turn into a baby-munching, musical crone. I guess that leaves extraordinary! In order to become extraordinary, I have to decide what genre to put my energies into...but that's for another blog.

Knowing what you want is half the battle, now I just have to figure out how to get it.


Monday, July 25, 2011

LML: The Final Days (Dun dun DUHHHH)



July 25, 2011
After five weeks of rehearsals, classes, performances, and spiders, my epic adventure has come to its end.  Unsurprisingly, my final days in Italy were just as busy and exciting as all those previous. 

Thursday marked my final Don Bucefalo Performance, held at the Teatro in Novafeltria. I started the day off by having a lesson with Dr. Breault, where we worked “Poor Wandering One.” I feel like I learned more about my voice in that one hour than I had the entire 5 weeks here. The techniques Dr. Breault gave me opened up my voice and gave it a spin—which he helped me to sustain on high E’s, I might add—that I had not known I was able to produce. He worked with me privately first, then took me over to the Teatro to where Jeffery was and had me sing for the two of them. It felt completely different and by the end of it I felt like I had just run a marathon. 

When we get back to the states I will be sitting down with Dr. Breault to discuss possible voice teachers to help me further this new sound, as well as to gain some advice on what I need to do to have the best audition I can for the Masters of Music program at the U.

Yes, I have decided. 

I wasn’t sure about whether I wanted to go back to school or not, and I was definitely unsure whether I would go for psychology or music. After this experience, there is no shadow of doubt in my mind that music is what I am supposed to be doing.

This means I have 6 months to get my voice to be the best it can be before the audition. Phew.

The Don Bucefalo performance was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was so excited for it to be over! No more rehearsals, no more sweating buckets in 40s garb and fairy costumes, no more long hours on busses and lugging set pieces over cobblestone. On the other hand…this was the first opera I had ever been in, and my heart ached as we took our final bows.

Friday was a day of graduation (yes, I passed Italian, yall!), packing, scenes, and goodbyes. Amid this quagmire of activity, Maestro Joe Rescigno decided he wanted to hear me sing. He had asked me the night before, and despite my nerves (the man is…critical…of singers), I accepted. I worried about it all morning, warming up an hour and a half before I was to meet with him. I am not quite sure what I expected—a coaching, a critique, maybe—but whatever I thought it would be like to sing for the Maestro, it was nothing like what happened. Joe grabbed my music (I decided to sing In Van Preghi, since he wanted to hear a Tosti piece), thumbed through it to see if there were any problem spots, then played. I sang. Afterward, he commended the piece, I thanked him deeply, and he was gone.

It was a very very strange encounter.
I was still honored all the same.

After that point, I focused my energies on the two scenes I was to perform that night. Get excited, people, they were taped!!! I should be receiving a DVD shortly after getting to the states. I think they went well, despite my awkwardly attempting to walk like a man in one and my colleague getting a little too excited and pulling out some of my hair in the other. I will be interested to watch the DVD.

My voice has grown so much over this trip. I have noticed it, the faculty I’ve worked with have noticed it, and even faculty I didn’t work with made a point to tell me they noticed a difference. It gives me hope that maybe one day I will be able to make a career of opera. For now, it gives me the resolve I need to work on improving my voice, learning my languages (I need to become conversational in Italian, French, and German at least.), and moving forward.

I didn’t stay out as late as I thought I would that final night in Novafeltria, more because I wasn’t fully packed than anything. I spent hours packing and cleaning, finally crawling into bed around 3:30am. Surprisingly, I woke up promptly at 6, and was to the bus stop by 6:40 with most everyone who was departing.

Someone was missing.

Emily beckoned me over, an unreadable look on her face. Apparently, Jeffery was not there and she couldn’t get ahold of him. She laid out my mission (to make sure Jeffery made it to the bus at all costs), and I gravely accepted it, sprinting up the hill (in heels) to buzz Jeffery’s door.

BUZZ Buzz buzz!!

No answer…

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! BUZZZ!!

For ten minutes I rang his doorbell, until I finally buzzed the bell below, which was to his Landlady’s apartment. The poor 90-somethin’ little lady unlocked the door and I raced up the steps to Jeffery’s apartment.

Knock Knock Knock!!!

BUZZ!! BUZZ!!

BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!!

I tried everything. Knocking, ringing the doorbell, kicking the door…no answer. I could even see Jeffery in there, sound asleep on his bed. After 20 minutes of making a racket that would have even woken my brother out of his deepest slumber (Love ya, Dom), I began to worry that perhaps Jeffery decided he didn’t want to go back to the states and passed on!

Worry gripping me, I sprinted back down main street and got reinforcements. Emily, exasperated at this point—as she had been trying to wake him too—made her way up to Jeffery’s apartment with me once more where we made even more racket. Finally, we had to beg the spare key off the land lady (who had surprisingly not succumbed to heart attack at the unearthly noise we had been making), break in, and shake Jeffery violently before he woke up. Thank GOD, he wasn’t dead.

It took him a bit to figure out where he was, and couldn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about.
Nor did he seem to realize that he was clad only in boxers—a sight that has damaged my brain for life. We promptly took our leave—after figuring out that he was indeed going to get his arse to the bus—at the point that he stumbled into the bathroom, still seemingly unaware that there were two ladies following him around. There’s only so much my poor eyes can witness, and I fled.

It was an interesting morning.

I slept most of the trip back to Rome, partially due to the lack of sleep the night before, partly from the exhaustion of running a 5k in heels that morning, and partly as a way to banish away the melancholy that was slowly settling over me. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

When finally we reached Rome, I had come to terms with the fact that I was leaving this glorious place, but was still coming to terms with leaving the people.

Justin and Irina… Saying goodbye to my two newest friends was far more difficult than I thought it would be. They had been so good to me these last few weeks, and It’s strange to think that I may not ever see them again. However, Dr. Breault is very interested in having Justin come sing for him at the U, and I offered both he and Irina a place to stay if/when they decided to come down. I hope they do.  If not, I might be interested in going to check out Canada (first international flight, Lance? :-D).  They are wonderful people and I will miss them deeply until we meet again.

To be continued…

LML: The Final Days (Dun dun DUHHHH)



July 25, 2011
After five weeks of rehearsals, classes, performances, and spiders, my epic adventure has come to its end.  Unsurprisingly, my final days in Italy were just as busy and exciting as all those previous. 

Thursday marked my final Don Bucefalo Performance, held at the Teatro in Novafeltria. I started the day off by having a lesson with Dr. Breault, where we worked “Poor Wandering One.” I feel like I learned more about my voice in that one hour than I had the entire 5 weeks here. The techniques Dr. Breault gave me opened up my voice and gave it a spin—which he helped me to sustain on high E’s, I might add—that I had not known I was able to produce. He worked with me privately first, then took me over to the Teatro to where Jeffery was and had me sing for the two of them. It felt completely different and by the end of it I felt like I had just run a marathon. 

When we get back to the states I will be sitting down with Dr. Breault to discuss possible voice teachers to help me further this new sound, as well as to gain some advice on what I need to do to have the best audition I can for the Masters of Music program at the U.

Yes, I have decided. 

I wasn’t sure about whether I wanted to go back to school or not, and I was definitely unsure whether I would go for psychology or music. After this experience, there is no shadow of doubt in my mind that music is what I am supposed to be doing.

This means I have 6 months to get my voice to be the best it can be before the audition. Phew.

The Don Bucefalo performance was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was so excited for it to be over! No more rehearsals, no more sweating buckets in 40s garb and fairy costumes, no more long hours on busses and lugging set pieces over cobblestone. On the other hand…this was the first opera I had ever been in, and my heart ached as we took our final bows.

Friday was a day of graduation (yes, I passed Italian, yall!), packing, scenes, and goodbyes. Amid this quagmire of activity, Maestro Joe Rescigno decided he wanted to hear me sing. He had asked me the night before, and despite my nerves (the man is…critical…of singers), I accepted. I worried about it all morning, warming up an hour and a half before I was to meet with him. I am not quite sure what I expected—a coaching, a critique, maybe—but whatever I thought it would be like to sing for the Maestro, it was nothing like what happened. Joe grabbed my music (I decided to sing In Van Preghi, since he wanted to hear a Tosti piece), thumbed through it to see if there were any problem spots, then played. I sang. Afterward, he commended the piece, I thanked him deeply, and he was gone.

It was a very very strange encounter.
I was still honored all the same.

After that point, I focused my energies on the two scenes I was to perform that night. Get excited, people, they were taped!!! I should be receiving a DVD shortly after getting to the states. I think they went well, despite my awkwardly attempting to walk like a man in one and my colleague getting a little too excited and pulling out some of my hair in the other. I will be interested to watch the DVD.

My voice has grown so much over this trip. I have noticed it, the faculty I’ve worked with have noticed it, and even faculty I didn’t work with made a point to tell me they noticed a difference. It gives me hope that maybe one day I will be able to make a career of opera. For now, it gives me the resolve I need to work on improving my voice, learning my languages (I need to become conversational in Italian, French, and German at least.), and moving forward.

I didn’t stay out as late as I thought I would that final night in Novafeltria, more because I wasn’t fully packed than anything. I spent hours packing and cleaning, finally crawling into bed around 3:30am. Surprisingly, I woke up promptly at 6, and was to the bus stop by 6:40 with most everyone who was departing.

Someone was missing.

Emily beckoned me over, an unreadable look on her face. Apparently, Jeffery was not there and she couldn’t get ahold of him. She laid out my mission (to make sure Jeffery made it to the bus at all costs), and I gravely accepted it, sprinting up the hill (in heels) to buzz Jeffery’s door.

BUZZ Buzz buzz!!

No answer…

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! BUZZZ!!

For ten minutes I rang his doorbell, until I finally buzzed the bell below, which was to his Landlady’s apartment. The poor 90-somethin’ little lady unlocked the door and I raced up the steps to Jeffery’s apartment.

Knock Knock Knock!!!

BUZZ!! BUZZ!!

BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!!

I tried everything. Knocking, ringing the doorbell, kicking the door…no answer. I could even see Jeffery in there, sound asleep on his bed. After 20 minutes of making a racket that would have even woken my brother out of his deepest slumber (Love ya, Dom), I began to worry that perhaps Jeffery decided he didn’t want to go back to the states and passed on!

Worry gripping me, I sprinted back down main street and got reinforcements. Emily, exasperated at this point—as she had been trying to wake him too—made her way up to Jeffery’s apartment with me once more where we made even more racket. Finally, we had to beg the spare key off the land lady (who had surprisingly not succumbed to heart attack at the unearthly noise we had been making), break in, and shake Jeffery violently before he woke up. Thank GOD, he wasn’t dead.

It took him a bit to figure out where he was, and couldn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about.
Nor did he seem to realize that he was clad only in boxers—a sight that has damaged my brain for life. We promptly took our leave—after figuring out that he was indeed going to get his arse to the bus—at the point that he stumbled into the bathroom, still seemingly unaware that there were two ladies following him around. There’s only so much my poor eyes can witness, and I fled.

It was an interesting morning.

I slept most of the trip back to Rome, partially due to the lack of sleep the night before, partly from the exhaustion of running a 5k in heels that morning, and partly as a way to banish away the melancholy that was slowly settling over me. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

When finally we reached Rome, I had come to terms with the fact that I was leaving this glorious place, but was still coming to terms with leaving the people.

Justin and Irina… Saying goodbye to my two newest friends was far more difficult than I thought it would be. They had been so good to me these last few weeks, and It’s strange to think that I may not ever see them again. However, Dr. Breault is very interested in having Justin come sing for him at the U, and I offered both he and Irina a place to stay if/when they decided to come down. I hope they do.  If not, I might be interested in going to check out Canada (first international flight, Lance? :-D).  They are wonderful people and I will miss them deeply until we meet again.

To be continued…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

LML: Deep Thoughts and Cross Dressing


July 20, 2011
Somehow I had this delusion that the last week of LML would be a nice, relaxing week of sight-seeing, swimming, and performances…

HAHa yeah…THAT didn’t happen.

If anything, this week has been more packed than the last 4! Not that I’m complaining—I’m learning a lot and am so happy to be performing. It’s just not what I expected.

After the test on Friday things began to settle into a routine. Load the bus for Don Bucefalo, try not to hurl on the bus, become even further in Jeffery’s debt for seeking out the Italian equivalent of Ginger Ale for me, sweat off half my body weight on stage, then sleep all the way home. Thankfully, our third performance was in Novafeltria, and I was happy to not experience a performance with motion sickness. J

I do love the lifestyle, despite my weak stomach. I love seeing new places, figuring out what changes to staging need to be made for each venue, and singing in venues that have been performed in for centuries. It is an amazing feeling. Perhaps one day I will be doing it steadily. For now, I am cherishing what little time I have.
Tuesday came with more master classes, and I was excited to sing for one of them, performing my final piece, Quia Respexit from Bach’s Magnificat.   Brian, the maestro, told me he thinks I have considerably more sound in me than I’m letting out, which I am slowly beginning to believe. The only issue is, how do I get it out without pushing (which is bad)? It all comes back to faith, I suppose.

I have always felt that music was my venue of prayer. Singing hymns has always made me feel closer to God than speaking prayers, and often I sing wordless prayers to comfort myself and others. However, the faith I am speaking of in regards to opera is a wholly different kind of prayer. It is a prayer of submission to the will of something higher than one’s self. You don’t make the sound go where it needs to go; you trust that it will get there. You don’t make your voice louder, softer, higher, lower; you let go of everything and free-fall into your sound, having faith that the voice will do what it is meant to do.

This kind of prayer, especially for a control freak like myself, is one of the most difficult kinds to make. It’s a good analogy to faith of any kind, I think, whether that faith is religious or not. Faith in itself is blind and takes the control out of the hands of the human. I would argue that faith is foreign to the human race that constantly wants to shape and control its surroundings. Much like a priest or deacon must lie in total surrender before the lord on their ordination, so must singers surrender their choke-hold on their voices in order to allow the natural sound to spring forth as it was intended.

The master classed showed me that I need to make that step, I need to give up everything in order to get where I need to be. Learning to sing this way will be a good exercise in trust for me—and perhaps will bring further healing to the wounds cut deep by the betrayals of my trust in the past.

Deep, right?

Today, Wednesday, I slept through a master class (bad, bad, BAD Kiwi!), and am committing the day to figuring out how to strap down the ladies that my mother so generously bequeathed unto me. It’s very, VERY difficult to turn my figure into something that can pass as a man, but I am performing my first pants role on Friday and I want to do it right. Therefore, I am testing out different ways of masculinizing myself, from posture to walking to strapping down the girls. Ah the life of an opera singer.

So far, I think if I use a combination of ace bandages and tightened corsetry, the issues with the top half of me will be solved. Now I just need to work on erasing the decidedly feminine sway that so naturally comes to me when walking and somehow adopt a more Gene Kelly kind of gait. It will be easier than attempting to be something like “Ahnold,” but I still feel like I’m in the Birdcage, walking like an idiot in public.
It will come. I will likely not sing many pants rolls, being a high Sop, but the experience will be good either way.

Tonight the plan is to do some photography and then head up to Talamello again for some gift shopping and more pizza. I am home in 5 days, and am bringing cheese!!