If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year playing in the acoustic wedding band Rock My Reception that is couples really want there reception to be rocked! Evening do’s especially. As the night goes on people really want to let down there hair, have a good old knees up and dance to the good old classics that would be the staple diet of any d.j.’s set list; Neil Diamonds ‘Sweet Caroline’, Andy Williams ‘Just too good to be true’ and Chuck Berrys ‘Teenage Wedding’ from the film Pulp Fiction to name but a few. Infact, there is rarely any variation between different couples choices of songs for an evening set. The diversity usually occurs in song choices for the ceremony as couples often choose songs personal to them. Granted, 2014 has seen John Legends ‘All of Me’ become a favourite somewhere within the ceremony- contemporary songs often being somewhere on the list, so one couples choices in particular, pleasantly caught us of guard this year….
It may, or may not be surprising to know that in our experience, not many people choose traditional Christian hymns. This could be indicative of two probabilities: maybe the western world is becoming more secularised in the 21st Century and the choice of songs reflect this trend, or it could be simply that the particular couples who choose to have us play at their service are indifferent to Christianity and choose not to have hymns. Either way- this man and wife to be did choose to have hymns played and specifically asked us to play them!
Now, one of myself and Kierans shared characteristics is that we both love a challenge- to be taken out of our comfort zones from time to time. Given that we’re both experienced in playing mainly popular rock music would suggest that being requested to play traditional church music would be slightly straying from familiar territory-many rock musicians would balk at the idea of playing ‘stuffy old hymns’! It was only when we received the two hymns that, not only did we realise we remembered them from school (both of us attending Church Of England primary schools where hymns were mandatory), but also how quickly the melodies and chord structures came back.
‘One more step along the world I go’ is a cheery, upbeat hymn written by Sydney Carter. The lyrics illustrate life as a journey, calling upon God to be our companion and guide:
“…And it’s from the old i travel to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you”
The songs’ bounding optimism and metaphor as life as an ever changing journey is a perfect sentiment of which a couple should choose for their ceremony.
The second hymn was ‘Be thou my vision’. Another hymn I remembered from school. It was only when revisiting it for the wedding that two things jumped out about it that I’d never noticed before. Firstly, it seemed to have an Irish lilt. When upon researching further into the hymn I realised it was indeed an eighth century Irish tune called ‘Slane’ in 3/4 time beat who’s new lyrics had been set in the early 20th Century. The lyrics didn’t seem to resonate in my memory and then after further research I found that some alternate lyrics ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’ had been the ones I’d sung at school all those years ago!
It goes without saying that most people would be accustomed to hearing church hymns played on a church pipe organ. The majesty of the notes bellowing through the tall pipes and the resulting sound resonating and reverberating around the ancient walls of a church or cathedral can be awe-inspiring. However, and this is only my opinion, sometimes the lack of communication between an organist-who are often sideways on to a congregation- can mean the singing being out of synch with the organ resulting in either a sprint or a crawl to get to the end of each verse. One of the benefits of us playing the hymns on guitars was that we were right in front of the congregation and able to almost conduct them. The guitar is also more of an immediate instrument than an bulky church organ. We didn’t play any fiddly falling notes and trills which are commonplace in church music. We kept the chords simple and strident which made it easier for the congregation to follow and ultimately resulted in the hymns being sung with joy and gusto.
Obviously, the name ‘Rock My Reception‘ implies that we play contemporary rock music. This however, shouldn’t be misconstrued as being an exclusivity as we’re more than happy to oblige in rocking up your traditional church hymns!!