“The slower pieces we choose for the purpose of getting guests quiet and thoughtful. We pick pieces in a major key, not a minor one, so it doesn’t sound like someone died.”

This quote is from an article that is talking about the alternatives to the traditional music many are used to hearing although, to be honest, these days I am always surprised to hear Wagner’s Wedding March and I can’t even remember the last time I heard Mendelssohn’s music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream used for a recessional.

I recently played a wedding and I played a bit of the prelude and then the processional which was Bach’s “Bist du bei mir” and was chosen by the bride’s father. For the prelude I wondered, too, if I could play anything in a minor key without upsetting some listeners. So I played major key selections from Telemann’s Fantasies. Then, needing a bit more filler before the important entrances (which a brass trio played for) I just decided to invent something. It was easier, I thought, than dealing with turning more pages and dealing with clips and all. I kind of like inventing music; I actually don’t get nervous when I’m making it up. It’s just fun.

But back to what I really was pondering just now: does music in a minor key always “sound like someone died”? I really don’t think so, but when I was in a woodwind quintet we used to play weddings and one bride, when listening to our repertoire to choose music, said that the music we were playing sounded too sad and she didn’t want it. Yes, it was minor key music.

So … thoughts? Will you allow me to play music in a minor key for your wedding? I love that music. Maybe during a prelude. (Do people listen anyway? I don’t know that many heard the prelude during the recent wedding.)

I DO love playing weddings, and this was the first I’d done in nearly 20 years.

1 Comment

  1. I am a HUGE fan of music in minor keys.  In fact the great majority of my favorite pieces in any genre are in minor.  The major songs I like either have complex harmonies or turn minor at least for a little bit.  Music that stays in major is usually kinda of blah to me.  My favorite time of the liturgical calendar is Lent because almost everything is in minor.  I must be weird but my favorite keys are c, d, f#, and a, all minor.

    When I was 7 years old I had what to this day remains my favorite dream.  I was in a lakeside town and it was dusk.  The weather was tropical.  Everyone I knew happened to live in this town and at that time of the day folks were walking along the boardwalk which was lit by the occasional lamp.  Music was piping from somewhere and it was a merengue song that my mom used to listen to.  It is in c minor and the progression was a typical sequence like this:  (Cmin) – Fmin – B flat – E flat – A flat – D diminished – G7 – Cmin.  I don’t know if it’s because of the dream or if I already had the predilection for minor (probably the latter).  In the dream I was riding on a boat on the lake, watching the reflection of the moon on the water, and listening to the beautiful melody that was playing.  It was a feeling of complete happiness and fulfillment.  For me minor is can indeed be sad, but it is also the music I associate with the happiest, most peaceful, and most intense feelings in my life.

    For my wedding I had a small choir and a string quartet.  I did end up picking songs in major for the quartet but only because I didn’t think my guests would understand my picking Albinoni’s Adagio or Faure’s Pavane or something else in minor.  However, the choir sang selections from Haugen’s Mass of Creation which is mostly in G minor (though most of them do end with a Picardy third). 

    But anyway it does seem that to 95-99% of people minor is sad.  But to a few of us it’s just too beautiful to be sad.