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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

May 24, 2017

Bridal chit-chat (24): which Ave Maria?

evelyn @ 8:08 pm

Bride: I would like Ave Maria at the signing of the register.

Me: Which one?

Bride: Are there more than one?

Me: The two best-known are Bach-Gounod and Schubert.

Bride: Who’s Bach-Gounod?

I try to explain the nature of the hybrid piece, then give up and say ‘Gounod wrote the tune, Bach the accompaniment’. It makes Bach-Gounod sound like Lennon-McCartney, except that Lennon and McCartney knew each other, whereas Bach died in 1750 and Gounod wasn’t born until 1818. I suppose I could call it Gounod’s Ave Maria, but the underlying prelude is the making of the piece, and really J S Bach should get the credit for that. It’s such a pity that you can’t play Prelude 1 of The 48 at a wedding without the guests expecting a song to come in at bar 5.

Schubert’s Ave Maria is equally well-known, and goes well on two manuals and pedals.

If there is a soloist, however, neither the original German words nor any English translation I have found is directly equivalent to the Latin Ave Maria prayer. The bride might not mind this, of course, but soloists seem to want to go for the Latin words. Although these are tricky to fit in, they can be made to work using a lot of repetition.

Then there is the ‘fake Ave Maria’, the popular 60s song, The Wedding, which finishes with the bit of Schubert above. Brides have been known to confuse unwary organists by insisting that this is ‘Ave Maria’.

The guests frequently sing along, so I usually treat this one as a laid-back sort of hymn.

The first time I was asked to play The Wedding, I did a bit of research. I discovered the original melody was entitled La Novia (The Bride), and was written by Latin-American composer Joaquín Prieto. I suggested our own bride should put ‘The Wedding (La Novia)’ on her order of service, giving Prieto as the composer. What finally emerged on the day was ‘The Wedding’ with ‘La Novia’ as composer. I hoped there were no Spanish-speakers in the congregation.

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