A video of Hymn for Her can be seen and heard by clicking this link:
Processional for a Princess
by Michael McDonnell
A royal wedding is often equated to a fairytale.
The horse-drawn carriage, diplomatic fanfare and pomp and circumstance surrounding the affair leave little room for the commoner to experience it except through photographs and media outlets.
Musician and composer Peter Seymour of Glen Ridge is currently attempting to get an original wedding processional into the hands of Michael Middleton, whose daughter Kate will be marrying Prince William of England on April 29. Making this happen for Seymour, a vision-impaired artist, would, in its own right, be a fairytale. “Mr. Middleton is a commoner and the most accessible person to get it to,” Seymour said. “And it’s only fitting, because he’ll be the person walking down the aisle alongside his daughter.”
One does not merely hand a recorded song to members of Britain’s royalty and say, “Here, play this at the wedding.” Proper procedures must be followed.
While he remains selective in sharing the work at this point, Seymour has been reaching out to contacts in the music world to better his chances of having it performed at the wedding.
“I’ve contacted Rob Mathes, who won an Emmy for his musical direction at the Kennedy Center for President Obama’s inauguration,” Seymour said. “Next week, I also plan on sending a copy of the processional to Sarah Sienesi, who has been retained by the prince and his fiancée as the wedding consultant and event planner.”
The processional, titled ‘Hymn for Her’ took Seymour two years to notate.
“It was a long and arduous process for two reasons,” he said. “First, because I am blind and secondly because I needed to be very precise. It’s a lethal combination.”
During the summer of 1983, Seymour had embarked upon a weeklong bicycle excursion from central Massachusetts, through Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard when he contracted meningitis, which caused his loss of vision. (Although Seymour insists it’s not lost, “Just misplaced. It’ll show up eventually.”) At the time, he was studying music at New York University.
“I always said that if I had to choose between hearing and seeing, I would take hearing, but I never thought I would be called to task on it,” said Seymour, who holds a degree from NYU in music composition and theory.
His knowledge of music has impressed George Marriner Maull, the artistic director of The Discovery Orchestra of New Jersey. Seymour first met Maull at a pre-concert lecture series at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
“Peter Seymour is an amazing music listener,” said Maull. “He notices so much detail in the music. It’s a joy to know him.”
If his music is played at the royal wedding, it won’t be the first time that Seymour has “scored” for a momentous event. In 1986, during the July 4th centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty’s unveiling, his ‘Anthem of Liberty’ was performed at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
A new arrangement and recording of Anthem of Liberty, sung by the amazing Tanya Ray was created on 9/11/12 to commemorate the crown’s reopening. Click here to hear:
Through the years, Seymour has never let his impaired vision deter him from performing or composing music, and he has been an active member of Theater By The Blind located in New York City.
“Theater By The Blind was a rewarding opportunity to perform and showcase my original music. It was during that centennial celebration however, that I became fascinated with the cultural institutions of music: songs like ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘Hail To The Chief,’ ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (the graduation march) or ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’,” he said. “Those songs are not only iconic but evoke the dignity of the moment. It became my aim to set a new, contemporary alternative to ‘Here Comes The Bride’.”
‘Hymn for Her’ was previewed during the wedding of William Kennedy and Jennipher Satterly in 2008. Kennedy, who is in the fine arts and works frequently with photographer Annie Leibowitz, is a longtime friend of Seymour.
“I can’t say enough about Peter. His processional was simply lovely,” said Satterly Kennedy, who added that Seymour also performed a Keith Jarrett piano piece as a prelude to the actual ceremony. “Having Peter there meant a lot to us. He helped make the day so very memorable.”
Two days before the Kennedy wedding, while Seymour was getting a haircut at Cashel’s Hair Salon in Bloomfield, Cara Negra, a Nutley resident who is a co-owner of the shop, asked him what he was listening to on his minidisc player. Seymour played it for her. The song was an orchestral arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday’ with the melody echoed in counterpoint.
“My 10-year-old daughter, who was in the shop with me at the time, came running over and was enthralled. The song was absolutely amazing,” Negra said. “It is definitely something I would love to play during one of my daughter’s birthday parties.”
Seymour then let Negra listen to ‘Hymn for Her’.
“I couldn’t believe he composed it. It was beautiful,” Negra said.
On the day before Thanksgiving, just four days after the royal engagement had been announced, Seymour was back in Cashel’s, and it was Negra who made the practical suggestion that he contact Mr. Middleton.
“I encouraged him to follow his dream,” said Negra.
The form for a wedding processional is straight-forward. It should be in common time (4/4), at a walking tempo and must end within one and a half minutes.
“A wedding processional can’t draw attention to itself, but rather the music must be an ideal aural escort for the bride,” Seymour said. “‘Hymn for Her’ is just that. It’s classic yet new.”
Seymour’s interpretation of ‘Happy Birthday,’ which he whimsically refers to as “Happy Birthday For Twins,” can be heard on the website: http://www.myspace.com/happy_birthdate.
‘Hymn for Her’, on the other hand, he hopes will be heard by the world as the possible future King of England watches his bride-to-be walk down the aisle.
“Now that would be a happy ending,” Seymour said.