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  • Writer's pictureEliza Carew

Thinking of Canon for your bridal entrance? Discover the fascinating story behind ‘the wedding song’

Eight simple chords are played with stately poise, instantly recognisable as the ground bass. Layering one by one, the interweaving violin lines become gradually more lively; minims, then crotchets, then quavers, and finally semiquaver flourishes and trills. Gradually the piece climbs to an emotional apex, grounded throughout in the steady 8 bar harmony.

Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever written, but why and how did it become ‘the wedding song’?

The 17th century German composer Johann Pachelbel wrote hundreds of popular pieces in his day, Canon being just one of many, but these were subsequently buried in the musical scrapheap, forgotten and replaced by the next musical styles. In those days, fashions of classical music changed quickly, just like today’s top 40; there was no body of respected works fixed in time as we have now.

It wasn’t until 1968 that a recording was made of Canon that changed its fortunes significantly. The Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra’s slow and romantic rendition captured the imagination of artists from both the classical and pop worlds. Several 70s bands used the ground bass as a foundation for their new singles, and orchestras began to catch on too. One of the first was this Rain And Tears by Greek band Aphrodite’s Child.

Perhaps Canon was singled out due to its versatility; it can be adapted to seemingly unlimited musical styles due to the simplicity of its structure. Well known pop songs that make reference to the canon include Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis, and Memories by Maroon 5.

Why is Canon used specifically for the bridal entrance? Perhaps because it captures the exact ambience we seek in this most iconic of moments; emotional, pure and elegantly restrained, with a ceremonial pace suitable for walking.

There is also a practical reason Canon is so suitable, directly related to its musical structure.

Most pieces, if stopped halfway through, would irritate listeners for having not heard the resolution. However, Canon’s cyclical structure creates perfect ‘exit points’ throughout the piece where it can be ended naturally, meaning the bride needn’t worry about timing her walk. Whenever she reaches the alter, the music can be harmoniously resolved, creating the perfect ambience for the ceremony to follow.

Although many brides still adore Canon as an entrance song, there are many alternative classical pieces for a bridal entrance. Have a song in mind but are unsure whether it is suitable? Write to me! I have over a decade of experience in wedding ceremony performances, so I can bring lots of ideas to the table.

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