Andrew Downes’ Music at Weddings

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Andrew and Cynthia Downes' wedding, August 9th, 1975 (Cynthia's dress designed and made by: herself)

An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on March 14th, 2022

The first wedding at which Andrew’s music was performed was our own on August 9th 1975!  Andrew was at the time a member of the professional singing group ‘Counterpoint’, which he had formed with his Choral Scholar peers from St John’s College, Cambridge.  In 1974 he had written for the group his song, "What shall I do to show how much I love her", to words by Thomas Betterton.  He thought this was ideal for our wedding.  Counterpoint sang it during the signing of the register.  Andrew’s part was performed by Sheila McQuattie.

Counterpoint performing "What shall I do to show how much I love her by Andrew Downes at his wedding to Cynthia

Unfortunately, there are two mistakes in the order of service.  Somehow Andrew had got the words of the title wrong when he set the poem to music and called the song “What can I do to show how much I love her”, and somehow he was under the impression that the words were by John Dryden, a seventeenth century contemporary of Betterton.  Moreover, the vicar at our wedding, when he announced the piece, said Dryden had written the music!  Dryden got a lot of credit that day for a song which he had nothing to do with!  Fortunately for us, worse things can happen at weddings.  It was only in 2019 that our daughter Paula discovered the mistakes when she was arranging the song for her choir, the Meridian Singers.

Andrew's handwritten score:

Typeset score

In 1976 a trumpet student at the Birmingham School of Music (now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire), Jimmy Jones, asked Andrew for a piece which would be suitable for his wedding to Fiona Ruddle, to be played by a brass ensemble made up of their friends from the college.  The music was down in the order of service as Fanfare for a Wedding.  Andrew must have given Jimmy the title of the music before he composed it and before the printing of the order of service, because it was quite a gentle piece, but fortunately it was more suited to the signing of the register.  Andrew used it as the basis for his Brass Quintet no 1, which he wrote a few years later.  We went to Jimmy and Fiona’s lovely wedding.  The performance was beautiful.

Cynthia and Andrew Downes

Not long after Andrew had written his Prelude, Fanfare and Postlude for Organ, Graham Williams, organ student at the BSM, asked for the sheet music, and performed the Fanfare at his wedding to Karen Holt in Holy Trinity Church, Bicton.

On December 27th 2003 our daughter Anna married Michael Jason Price in St John’s Church, Hagley.  Anna asked her Dad for a bridal march to be played by her friends Duncan Honeybourne (organ), Ian & Jo Hattersley (trumpets) and Claire Beckett & Phil Dawes (horns).  Andrew wrote his wonderfully rousing Anna’s Bridal March.  The work is still in its original envelope in our cupboard with Andrew’s writing on it.  He is usually a superb speller, but initially got this one wrong!

Another mistake at Anna’s wedding was the title of Andrews’ Fanfare (from Prelude, Fanfare and Postlude for Organ), played by Duncan Honeybourne at the end of the service.  It is down in the order of service as “Toccata”.  Anna was definitely following in her Dad’s footsteps from the point of view of the order of service! 

Anna Downes' wedding to Mike Price:

For the signing of the register, the Halesowen Girls’ Choir (in which Anna and Paula had sung throughout their teens), directed by Margaret Pickford and accompanied by our future son-in-law David, sang the Holly Bough from Andrew’s Ballads for Christmas.  Our daughter Paula (bridesmaid) and I (the bride’s mother) sang with the choir in front of the Christmas tree.  It was magical.

Our daughter Paula married David John Trippett on July 30th 2005 in Trinity College Cambridge Chapel, where Paula had sung as a choral scholar.  To walk in with her Dad, Paula chose the opening of Andrew’s anthem, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.  Paula’s ex-choral scholar friends formed the choir and gave a stunning performance, with Daniel Hyde, organ, directed by Stefan Reid.  During the service the choir gave a truly moving rendition of Andrew’s The Lord is my Shepherd.  For the wedding march Paula asked Andrew to adapt for organ and choir the ending of his opera, Far from the Madding Crowd, where Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak process out to “Here’s long life and happiness to Gabriel Oak and his comely bride.”  Andrew created a thrilling version, substituting Gabriel Oak for “David” and his comely bride!

Paula Downes' wedding to David Trippett:

Paula Downes and Andrew Downes about to walk down the aisle. (Paula's dress by Cynthia Downes):

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