Jeremiah Clarke: Why You Shouldn't Play "Trumpet Voluntary" at Your Wedding
Today is the 337th birthday of composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke. You have heard his most famous work dozens of times in your life and never really thought about it. Clarke composed the "Prince of Denmark March," which is usually called "Trumpet Voluntary." Due to a mix up in a famous songbook, the piece is often misattributed to Henry Purcell, as is Clarke's second most famous work "Trumpet Tune." Either that or Henry Purcell was a time-traveler with nothing better to do than screw with poor Jerry's legacy.
Stephen Colbert uses "Trumpet Voluntary" for his Platinum Edition segment, but it's mostly played at weddings. For instance, they played it when Prince Charles married Diana Spencer.
Now, our day job is as a clerk in a sheet music store, and we get a lot of people coming in buying music for their weddings. Some of the choices brides make are truly bizarre, such as the woman marrying a man named Ben who wanted to play Michael Jackson's "Ben" for him. We didn't have the heart to tell her it was about a rat.
"My Heart Will Go On" is popular even though the whole point of the song is about living on without the person you love. "Every Breath You Take" is also a big seller despite being about a crazed stalker, and we swear to God above that people actually do play the title song from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" as a first dance.
The standard classical tunes outsell these four to one, though. Most people stick with Wagner and Mendelssohn's wedding marches, both Bach and Schubert's "Ave Maria" or Malotte's "Lord's Prayer" for the more religious, Pachelbel's "Canon," Handel's "Water Music," and of course "Trumpet Voluntary." The thing is... you might want to reconsider using Clarke's music on your wedding day.
By all accounts Clarke was a melancholy little man prone to depression and being just a wee bit melodramatic. He fell madly in love with one of his female students, a young lady of much higher social rank than he. Since this was the 18th century and not the 21th, she politely but firmly refused his offer instead of getting 11 other musicians to via against him for her hand in a reality show.
Clarke was crushed, and decided to kill himself. The problem was he couldn't make up his mind on how to do it. He saw his choices as either hanging himself or drowning himself. Hanging is quick and fairly painless; on the other hand you poop yourself and even for the dead that's embarrassing. Drowning is pretty traditional for the lovesick, but it's harder than it looks.
Fraught with indecision Clarke flipped a coin. To his surprise, it stuck on its edge in the mud rendering choice impossible. Feeling the hand of fate on his shoulder telling him that life is worth not throwing away he got some help, recovered, and went on to a brilliant, long career as a famous composer.
Ha ha, no. He took the coin toss as a sign that he'd totally left out the best way to kill himself, shooting himself in the head in churchyard at St. Paul's Cathedral. Princess Diane basically walked over the same place he put a bullet in his brain in an act of desperate sadness and loneliness to have a fairytale wedding while Clarke's song played all around.
In conclusion, maybe leave "Trumpet Voluntary" off of the wedding program. It sends a bad message. Might we suggest 'origin of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch? It worked for us.
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