A Roman Wedding


The DisSonatas
The DisSonatas.

The DisSonatas are a medieval/Renaissance group in which the bride performs (though on this occasion she was of course busy getting married). When Patricia asked them to play at her wedding, they agreed, and bravely tackled a couple of pieces of semi-authentic music!

Two of the pieces are presented here in the arrangements by Barry Wilson of the DisSonatas. There isn't a good way to transmit musical notation over the Web, so we offer them here as large images. You've been warned!

In many cases, "Roman" musicians were Greek slaves or freedmen (some of the DisSonatas appeared in Greek costume to illustrate the concept). Roman music owes a great deal to the Greek. Of course, we know relatively little about either!

Doria is a simple Greek piece with two sections. Hymn to the Muses is a song (the words ask the Muse to inspire the performer's music) arranged here in four parts, though we found it best in practice to drop the second (alto) and let the harmony line be carried only on the bass. This arrangement was made from a transcription by John Opsopaus.

We don't pretend any of this is what the Romans would have done - it's just our way of getting as Roman as possible with the available resources. Despite the pieces' apparent simplicity, Western musicians may find them a little difficult as they don't conform to our ears' expectations.

The remainder of the music was medieval, that being the oldest available in modern notation. In place of the bawdy verses sung to the bride, the band sang a "Hymn to Bacchus" from the Carmina Burana. The words are sufficiently suggestive (go look them up), but the fact that it was in Latin kept it from offending sensitive ears.

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A brief overview of Roman wedding customs and the role of marriage in Roman society.
Some ideas and thoughts for reconstructing a Roman wedding.
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