We are well into Phase 3 of the Post-lockdown reopening strategy and it has been so nice to be able to get out and sing/play the piano again. Myself and Douglas have been having regular WeddingDuo rehearsals and St. Luke’s is back to Sunday worship, so my duties there have resumed albeit in a slightly altered fashion. How have you coped during lockdown? Are you enjoying the reopening of the Country?

One thing that is very exciting is that Weddings are going ahead. I have a few weddings still in the diary for the summer so I am very much looking forward to getting out on the road and heading to various churches around Munster to perform. It has been great to help couples plan their music. During lockdown I started the #planningyourceremonymusic social media posts. I am taking each key section of a Catholic wedding ceremony and giving advice on how to choose the best music for it. So far we have had the Bridal Entrance, Lighting of the Candles and the Psalm. In this installment we are looking at the ‘Liturgy of the Eucharist’ starting with the Offertory and looking at other areas in this part of the Mass that might require music. I will give Communion it’s own blog in the coming weeks.

Gifts of Bread and Wine

Congratulations! At this part of the wedding ceremony you have said ‘I Do!’ and the Priest has pronounced you Husband and Wife. You have kissed, the guests have applauded and now it’s time to move on with the rest of the Wedding mass so that you can sign the register and then head on to celebrate with your loved ones. The offertory procession is usually the Mothers of the Bride and Groom each taking up the bread and wine to be consecrated and distributed during communion. It is usually short and the length of the aisle and where the gifts are kept would have an impact on how long this part will take. Sometimes, however, if the Couple are making their ceremony extremely personable then other gifts are brought forward to represent the couple and the personalities that they are bringing into their marriage. I have witnessed the Books that each one would take to a desert island, the CD of the music that was playing on their first date, the GAA jersey of the team the Groom plays for etc. all be brought up as a guest reads out the significance of each item. This is NOT the norm so don’t start stressing about the fact you have thrown out your CD’s and you don’t read books because you now have a Kindle. If this is something you would like to do then it does add a personal touch to the ceremony. If this is the case than Music at this point would need to be woven into the offertory carefully so that the piece is long enough and doesn’t drown out whoever might be speaking at the time.

Ag Críost an Síol

So what music works best for the offertory? In religious terms we are entering into the most sacred part of the service. The offertory begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist where Catholics believe the bread and wine are turned into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Music at this point is pretty significant.

It also comes just after the bidding prayers and often the ‘Hail Mary’ isn’t said so using ‘Ave Maria’ at the Offertory is a good way of making sure Mary is included in the mass. (Would it be a mass without Mary?!) There are few versions of ‘Ave Maria’ but the most popular one is composed by Schubert and can be listened to here.

A really good choice though is this beautiful Irish piece by Seán Ó Riada. ‘Ag Críost an Síol’ is short and the words translate to a poem about Christ being the harvest both on land and sea, and that he is with us throughout life and after when we join him in Paradise.

Douglas and I recently recorded this peace just using a simple Cello drone and solo vocal line, it sounds so haunting. What do you think?

Other pieces that will work here are:

  • Song of Ruth (Wherever you go) – this is also a popular reading at weddings but if it isn’t being used as a reading works well at the offertory if you want to have a theme about love and unity.
  • Be Still for the Presence of the Lord – a classic hymn that is reflective and prayful.
  • In Bread we Bring you Lord – keeping it all in context this hymn is all about preparing for the Eucharist.

The Mass parts

Once the offertory is finished then we are straight into the Eucharistic prayer. The rest of the music between the offertory and communion is totally optional but it does break up the long ritual. Indeed if you have a priest who loves to sing then the entire prayer could be sung. Often they will sing the last part where we all reply singing ‘A-men.’ So the parts here that could be sung are:

  • Sanctus – Holy Holy
  • Mystery of Faith – ‘When we eat this bread’, ‘Save us Saviour of the World’, ‘Christ has Died,’
  • Our Father – often the Ó Riada ‘Ár nAthair’ is performed
  • Sign of Peace – this part I would always encourage because this is usually the first time you get to be congratulated by your Family and so it is a joyous moment. Instrumental music works very well here because this section can vary in length depending on how many guest you wish to shake hands with (although with the current Pandemic we won’t know when we can do this again). A great favourite would be ‘Tabhair dom du lamh‘ (Give me your hand). Other ideas are ‘Shalom’ or ‘Glasgow Love Theme.’
  • Agnus Dei – Lamb of God

The amount of music you want to include in your wedding is up to you. If you wish to keep it simple then keeping this part of the ceremony music free (with perhaps the exception of the Offertory and Sign of Peace) is definitely a way to do this. The priest might insist on parts like the Mystery of Faith being sung, or they forget that there will be music and just keep on entoning the Sanctus. Nevertheless us experienced Ceremony musicians are flexible and can jump in with last minute requests or adapt according to the flow of the mass without too much stress.

So what music will you choose for your ceremony? What are your thoughts? I love to hear ideas so please do leave comments below.