Recently, I was listening to Mendelssohn and thinking about the controversy over the Wedding March. There are those who believe that the history, background, and underlying messages with in the well known music should prevent the use of it for a religious based wedding ceremony! I disagree. There’s always a bit of “wild” in a woman and, we should never be birds in a cage or we would end up crazy like the woman in the Yellow Wallpaper.
There are many famous and infamous women in history/books/movies who are trying to find themselves: Josephine Baker, The Woman from the Yellow Wallpaper, Jane Avril, Holly Golightly, Elsa from Lohengrin, and Carrie from Sex and the City. I see them all as feminine feminists even though some may be courtesans or modern American Geishas. Most of these women came from sad and dark backgrounds which I think makes them survivors, not “bad girls.” There have been many movies and songs written about women like these feminine feminist: Bad Girls, Roxanne, Lady Marmalade…
Toulouse-Lautrec gave Jane Avril everlasting fame. She danced alone at the Moulin Rouge for her own joy. If you’ve ever seen the movie Moulin Rouge, you know the tango scene danced to the song Roxanne. It was dark, stirring, and passionate. Looking at lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec’s Jane Avril, you see her face was the same. He captured her just as she was, a lost survivor.
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (Here comes the Bride) from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, can be heard in Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. This is the most popular tune there is. Mendelssohn’s Wedding March has become a staple in American weddings; but because of its sexually oriented scene, some religions object to using it as a wedding march. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, the march is played as Elsa and Lohengrin retrieve to the bridal chamber. Lohengrin who had won Elsa defending her for being wrongly accused for killing her brother makes Elsa promise to never ask him his real name or where he comes from. Curiosity got the best of Elsa on their wedding night and Lohengrin leaves her, so theirs is a false marriage.
In a wedding, the happy tune is commonly played as a recessional piece. I remember talking to the Priest with my husband about our music choices and being totally floored to hear that the Wedding March wasn’t allowed. Well, we snuck it in anyway (choosing to seek forgiveness even after permission was denied) and I felt very much like a modern feminine feminist as we left the church as man and wife.
Even though times have changed, people hang on to stories as if they’re holding on to a grudge. I think Jane Avril, Else, Holly Golightly, Josephine Baker were all wrongly labeled as courtesans. They may have been modern Geishas, but they were also survivors. We are all travelers forever seeking that place where we feel at home. It may take some of us longer to get there but we can help those who are down so we don’t end up like the woman in the Yellow Wallpaper. I dare you to march to Mendelssohn, do the tango, and even dance in a banana skirt… find your spirit and help those who have lost theirs. Do you have the nerve to take my dare?