From Chuppah to Hora: Wedding Music to Celebrate

June 08, 2016

The early sunrises and late sunsets of summer are not just a sign of the passage of time, they’re also a reminder that wedding season is upon us (and not just because of the song from Fiddler on the Roof). Indeed, throughout the summer, the schuls and halls are booked, the chuppah are built, and the dresses are ordered. We know how a Jewish wedding might look, but is there a particular way it should sound?

Music can make or break most any celebration, especially ones as deeply connected to music as Jewish weddings. Whether you’re attending a wedding this summer, dreaming of your own, or reminiscing about one of the most important days of your life, the Milken Archive’s album of wedding music has music to fit the occasion, whatever tone you prefer.

Beginning on a serious note, Ernest Bloch’s Wedding March No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 provide powerful alternatives to the ubiquitous “Here Comes the Bride.” The sheva b’rakhot (seven blessings) are equally represented in three variations by Simon Spiro, Meir Finkelstein and Morris Barash. Barash’s and Finkelstein’s contributions to the album include multi-part wedding services that range from solemn to “Super”!




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Sacred music was not the only vein in which Milhaud drew upon the minhag Carpentras. His string quartet, Études sur des thèmes liturgiques du Comtat Venaissin, is awash in tune references and fragments from the musical repertoire of minhag Carpentras, including many motifs from music for holy days and festivals. After its 1973 premiere at a synagogue in Elkins Park, PA, the quartet largely fell into oblivion. It was recorded for the Milken Archive by the Juilliard String Quartet.

While the liturgical Jewish music of the south of France formed the basis for many of Milhaud’s works, biblical and religious themes figured in as well. His Opus Americanum, no. 2 is a richly textured orchestral suite based on the life of Moses.The Seven-Branched Candelabra is a seven-movement solo piano work inspired by seven holy days and festivals of the Jewish calendar. And Cantata from the Proverbs, which takes its name and text from three passages in the Book of Proverbs, is a complex suite for youth chorus.

Milhaud was also one of the seven composers who contributed to the Genesis Suite, an epic work for orchestra and several actors that dramatically tells the story of the Book of Genesis. The suite is unique among collaborative works, not only in its grandeur and subject matter, but also because it involved the two famous musical arch-enemies of the 20th century: Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. Milhaud’s movement concerns the story of Cain and Abel, particularly Abel’s intense confrontation with God after having killed his brother.

Darius Milhaud, who passed away on this date in 1974, came to America in 1940 as a refugee from war-torn Europe. Through his composing and teaching (Dave Brubeck was a student and confidant), he left a significant mark on the country that provided him safe haven and artistic opportunity unencumbered by his religious and cultural identity.

Related Content from the Milken Archive and Beyond
Something Old
The Dybbuk album cover
David Tamkin's opera on the Dybbuk includes an appropriately haunting wedding scene.
Something New
Wlad Marhulets
Composer Wlad Marhulets wins the Inaugural Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music.    
Something Borrowed
Volume 4 Album cover
Two popular film themes that inspired Jewish wedding music.

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Bonnie Somers
Senior Vice President, Communications
(310) 570-4770


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