The Trumpet Voluntary must be one of the most performed pieces at Wedding Ceremonies all over the world and yet there is a lot of confusion as to its name, its origins and its composer.
Firstly, it wasn’t originally written for the Trumpet, but as a March (or Processional) for the Organ and would have been performed using the Trumpet stop, to create a distinctive sound. It dates to around 1700 during the Baroque period.
Secondly, it was originally attributed to English composer Henry Purcell, however this is also incorrect and was actually composed by his lesser-known compatriot, Jeremiah Clarke, who in his own right was an accomplished musician and was organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The next bit of confusion stems from the title of the work “Trumpet Voluntary”. This was a popular style of writing, therefore the title was often used and trumpet players even today have to be careful that people get to hear the correct Voluntary when asked, as there is also a very popular one by John Stanley (sometimes also referred to as Trumpet Tune).
Just to keep people on their toes, the final bit of confusion lies with the fact that the piece has not one, but two recognised titles. “Trumpet Voluntary”, is also known as “The Prince of Denmark’s March”! Confused? Don’t blame you, but if you use the latter title, most competent and experienced musicians should know instantly which piece you are referring to!
The sound clips above and below will hopefully help sort the confusion, but I’m sure you’ll agree both works are great pieces of music regardless.