Pachelbel’s Canon


[This post will alienate most of you, my dear readers. Be warned.]

Two weeks ago I played the piano for dear Anna’s wedding. Anna’s uncle and aunt, extraordinary musicians from Georgia, played violins. We had a sort of impromptu string trio. As we were reviewing music for the prelude, Uncle John, fiddling around, played the familiar phrase that begins Pachelbel’s Canon. I shuddered. Fixing a glare, pointing my index finger, I proclaimed “This will be a Pachelbel Free Wedding!!”

For a moment I rested my face in my hands.

“I’m sorry. It’s just so overdone…”  I barely knew these people and here I was issuing commands.

John grinned. “Why do you think we know it by heart?”

“So you don’t really want to play it?”

“No.” One syllable conveyed his meaning, make no mistake.

I exhaled and sighed at the same time.  “We are on the same side of the river?”

“Oh yes.”


Pachelbel’s Canon in D is the original three chord, twenty-two verse ditty. Exquisite the first seventy-three times you hear it. The seventy-fourth time, however, it loses its charm. Wedding musicians are bone weary of this piece. How many bridesmaids in the world have hesitation-stepped down an aisle to Canon in D? Somewhere beyond twenty-six million is my guess.

It’s time to stop the madness, people. If the bride or groom request Pachelbel, I will gladly (and sweetly!) play Pachelbel. But when I am asked to choose the music, it is good-bye dear Johann, I wish you well.

Back in the day, Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song was the rage. Practically a one note, one chord, monoculture of a song. Pick a note, a low note you like, and sing it three times to the words “There is love.” Then repeat the same note with “There is love.” Three same notes yet again to make sure the audience knows there is love. It finally fell out of favor. It has been a happy twenty-five years since I’ve heard that gem at a wedding.

It’s time to give Pachelbel’s Canon a well-deserved rest. Let our great-grandchildren rediscover it.


John, Rebecca and I played a postlude until the last row of guests were leaving their seats.

“It’s a wrap!” I gratefully smiled. It’s always a relief to not have muffed it up.

In muted tones, with a twinkle in his eye, John played the opening notes of Pachelbel’s Canon.

I just laughed.


4 thoughts on “Pachelbel’s Canon

  1. I would LOVE to know your favorite wedding music. I have never been a great fan of Pachelbel’s Canon. Or, Greensleeves. Nothing wrong with them, but just very played!

  2. @BooksForMe – This will sound like an evasive answer, but I love playing what is the most fitting for the bride and groom. For some that will be mostly hymns; for others it could be classical, folk, popular, or bluegrass. If the groom loves Elvis Presley, I will find the best Presley I can to fit in. I’ve played movie themes, waltzes, fugues and contemporary music. If I’m playing with other musicians then we have to find music (and keys) that work for that musician. Some brides really care about the music. Most brides care about choosing the music they come down the aisle with and trust me to play what I choose. I had one couple come to my house and listen to samples of songs so they could pick and discard which ones I’d play for the prelude. In August, I will play the bride’s compositions in her wedding.Songs that stick in my memory for the bride’s entrance: Amazing Grace (for a dear one who had been lost and was now found); The Church’s One Foundation played a capella by a cello. I was playing with a blind flutist for our friend’s wedding. When she came down the aisle, my friend stopped playing his flute, overwhelmed with grief that he couldn’t see the bride. I had to make some on-the-spot adjustments to play the flute part on the piano.

  3. Somehow I missed this post. I had “Wedding Song” at my wedding (ahem!) and I do believe you were the one accompanying it! šŸ˜‰ I wish I’d known more songs and chosen another one, though. I agree with you–I’m tired of the same old songs at weddings and would welcome a breath of fresh air in the form of a new song.

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s