Bridal Chorus (from Lohengrin)

arr. Paul Jennings

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (Vahg-ner) was born May 22, 1813, so "Happy 200th Birthday, Wagner! Grab your horned helmet and let's sing!" Well, actually, in this case we play. Given that most of Wagner's themes don't translate well for young singers, we thought that this well-known theme from his opera Lohengrin would be a great way to play his music and open the door for a lesson on his life and work. Many students will recognize it from weddings they have attended or seen in the media, but they probably don't know it comes from a German opera.

Richard Wagner - Not always an easy composer for kids to study - Many great composers lead troubled lives, not always getting along well with the world around them. Wagner was such a composer at times. While he was largely untrained, he was extremely innovative, and his music broke ground in many ways:

  • His music was complex for the time, including rich harmonies and groundbreaking chromaticism. As a matter of fact, to play some of his works, Wagner helped invent instruments capable of these intricacies.
  • While most opera composers of the era wrote the music and others wrote the libretto, Wagner wrote both.
  • By his later operas, very large orchestras were needed to perform them, including some of the new instruments.

Even in its simplest form, doing a bio of Wagner for children might be problematic. But there are factoids about him and his music that can be good stepping off points for discussion:

  • His best known works are his operas, and many of them are still performed today all over the world.
  • His operas, especially the older ones, can be very long and complex. Four of the best are known as The Ring Of The Nibelung. In some festivals they are all performed together, and the performance can exceed fifteen hours.
  • Wagner was very political, and his writings and other actions got him in big trouble with the government. He fled into exile in Switzerland where he stayed for years.
  • From many accounts, Wagner was not a very nice man. He was arrogant, money hungry, and felt he was entitled to have riches even at the expense of people who were supposedly friends.
  • Adolph Hitler was a big fan of Wagner's music, so much so that one might say that it was the theme music of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Consequently, many people refuse to listen to his music at all.

About this arrangement - As with many of my settings for Music K-8, I arranged this for three recorder parts and orchestra. Soprano 1 is the more difficult, and stays closest to the original melody. Soprano 2 is much easier in notes needed and rhythms used. The Alto part is fairly simple, too, and should be accessible to most players after a semester or so.

There are a couple of things to note: First, all players could wait till bar 5 to enter. Also, the arrangement may be played without eighth notes. When you get to a dotted quarter/eighth note pattern, just play a half note on the first note of the figure.

A bit of listening - If you are actually studying the composer in your classes, you need to let your students hear his music. To begin with, let them hear the original version of this Bridal Chorus. It is in the third act a bit, and is scored for a moderate sized orchestra and voices. Another exciting work that will certainly let your students get the flavor of his music is the "Ride Of The Valkyries" from Die Walküre. Many versions of each can be found on iTunes.

Extras on - On our web site you will find the reduced score of the arrangement showing the orchestra on two lines along with the recorder parts. You will also find a larger version of this color picture, ideal for use on a bulletin board.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.