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Wedding video disaster: A French organist attempts ‘Jerusalem’

Bridegroom Richard Bagnall relates what happened at his wedding:

At our recent wedding in Brittany, the French organist led the (half English, half French) congregation in what we had hoped would be a stirring rendition of Jerusalem as a finale to the service.

While we didn’t expect the French to join in the singing, the Brits were all looking forward to a rousing sing song to send us on our way to a happy married life together.

Our attempts were somewhat foiled however – this is what we got… listen and weep! Still, there is a strong argument to say that the performance made the day :-)

Vive l’entente cordiale! Vive la difference!

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  1. And now, on for our daily minute of French-bashing.
    At least, one could believe that the organist was native of the land that invented the Hoffnung concerts.

    • stanley cohen says:

      Like Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Josef, the musicians in Hoffnung’s Festival orchestras were all of the highest repute. He even had Dennis Brain [RIP] playing a Hosepipe Concerto. I was lucky enough to be present.

  2. At least your organist had the excuse of being French… Many years ago we attended an English wedding in a very prestigious location with an English organist (friend of the family? – perhaps only before the service!). We wondered during the introduction if they had mysteriously chosen a different tune, but once beyond that foreign territory he did obviously know The Tune and all was relatively well. :)

  3. Arranged by Charles Ives?

    • No, Messiaen.

      • stanley cohen says:

        More likely Ben Britten, Dave and Alison – have you heard his ‘arrangement’ of the National Anthem?
        I’ve had the misfortune of having to sing it and believe me, this French organist is far superior.

  4. I attended a wedding at an English Church in the late 1980s where the organist finished-off with, it was claimed, Widor’s Toccata. However, we assumed the organist was Eric Morecambe as he played the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.

    The lesson for all organists is to know the limits of your competence and stay within them.

  5. Mark Barrett says:

    What a splendid and hilarious start to a sunny Sunday – at least the happy couple are able to raise a laugh! I suspect that even the late Pierre Cochereau would have made a slightly better job than this cassoulet of an attempt! As a seasoned player of ‘Jerusalem’ (it was the end of term hymn at my school so I was used to delivering a rousing performance (I hope!) from our 3-manual Willis!), I have a feeling that (1) the organist here is sight reading and that, possibly, (2) he may be getting to grips with a radiating pedal board! Or am I being too kind?

  6. Les Dawson at it again.

  7. Brian Z says:

    Is Mr Bean available for hire for other weddings, or retired after this one??

    This deserves a web-site of its own: #weddingblunders: reasons NOT to save money on wedding musicians, and “simply have a relative play”. Hilarious.

  8. Halldor says:

    Attended a wedding once where the organist had mastered the first three bars of Widor’s Toccata; thereafter simply confined himself to the left hand and pedal part, which gave the departure of the guests a slightly ominous quality.

  9. Stephen says:

    This is not a good thing. A wedding is typically about the bride and groom. The organist (or any other musician-there are heart-wrenching “solos” out there too- and not in a good way), really should try to be as invisible as possible- meaning- the music flawless. A few hours of practice definitely in order. And a few alternatives to “the toccata” or the “great gates of Kiev” if it’s beyond your scope.

    And we wonder why organists get such public abuse.
    Still- I laughed through clenched teeth.
    Otherwise- this is what you get. I can’t watch this because my wife can not stand it a second time. Later today, maybe.

  10. Priceless! I loved how one or two of the congregation seemed not to notice!

  11. stanley cohen says:

    Words fail me [Gurnemanz will be pleased to read…

  12. Bad Jerusalem. Beautiful bride.

  13. Roberto Gonzalez says:

    So, this is a lovely hymn tune, but the lyrics are something completely insignificant to anyone not British, and quite silly… No wonder Monty Python did them in, so well. The organist only continued in the great tradition of the French hating things British. Même ça cnange???

    YES, this organist should be forced to watch and listen to Hugh Jackman wobble himself through the Les Miserables movie for all Eternity… OR, listen to Charlotte Church… LOL

    Finally, what kind of hack organist is on hire at this church who cannot sight read? I worked churches for 38 years, and sight-reading was the first requirement for any church organist…

    Of course, Monty Python still had it best, singing “Jerusalem” with a bucket on their heads…

    • William Blake, the great poet, was a christian, but more importantly, a humanitarian. Jerusalem is both a celebration of the Christian (and English) ideal and a critical commentary on the evils of industrialization (“dark satanic mills”) that betrays those values. Hardly silly….

      • stanley cohen says:

        Sorry Andrew but I think you’re missing something here. In England we used to call it a sense of the ridiculous.

  14. Jacques Bombardier says:

    I am an accomplished organist with a music degree and more than 30 years experience. This music is freaking HARD. It is one of the most treacherous pieces I know, and I play Bach trio sonatas, etc. I really feel for this guy- I’ve been in his shoes!

  15. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Beyond the laugh factor: why the hell didi this organist not practise before the service? That’s tantamount to professional dereliction.

    • stanley cohen says:

      How I detest the use of the word ‘professional’ in that context, Mr McG.
      Why does everyone believe that if it has to be paid for it must by definition be good?

      • having just played ‘Jerusalem’ through on the piano it’s easy to imagine the potential pitfalls of sight-reading this composition, especially if the tune is alien:
        The slow triple time metre, long phrase lengths and unexpected twists of harmony which come very early to unsettle the unprepared organist.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Out of simple respect to his position and duties that day he should have felt some kind of obligation not to turn the couple’s wedding ceremony into a laughing stock. He should have practised. If he wasn’t up to the job he should have declined the gig. Simple as that.

  16. corinne says:

    I am one of the bridesmaid…it makes this wedding so special, defo !
    Most of the French did not notice the disaster as we are not really familiar with it..
    thanks for your comments, yes the bride and the groom were beautiful and we had so much fun ;)

  17. A classic case of trying to play ALL the notes when some careful editing would have got him through unscathed – but then, he IS just an organist after all!!!

  18. Considering how embarrassingly awful this is and how much fun is being poked at the unfortunate perpetrator of this outrage, I hope someone has had the decency to ASK the ‘organist’ in question if he minds his hour of shame going global?

  19. This Blake meets Messian improvisation on a theme of “Jerusalem” Just goes to show you that England is not Jerusalem – Thank God. Every performance is a valid interpretation even if unrehearsed. Did no one think to explain to him the speeds beforehand as this won’t be one the French sing often of a Sunday as technically it’s not actually a hymn. The organist should have done a better job musically, but the fact that he didn’t just shines a torch at a moment of true British Bombasticness, “Keep Calm and Carry On” approach of which we can all be proud and after all… He certainly carried on! And on, and on for all three verses. Bravo! He should be proud that so many people are entertained by his rendition and he made a memorable occasion even more memorable… If he had played perfectly no one would have commented would they? It would have gone completely unnoticed and taken for granted – exactly how talented professional musicians are often treated. A flawless performance is just expected and the blood sweat and tears, decication and practice undervalued. So next time you hear music well played in a similar environment – APPRECIATE IT! What a charming wedding and what lovely people and an organist who never gave up. Thank you for sharing.

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