Trumpet Voluntary – The Prince of Denmark’s March
Trumpet Voluntary is the name given to several English keyboard pieces from the Baroque era. English music was a force to be reckoned with from the time of Thomas Tallis until the death of Henry Purcell in 1695. Amongst the great compositions of the period were a number of excellent trumpet voluntary pieces. Usually composed for and played upon the organ utilising the trumpet stop – hence the name. Trumpet voluntaries mostly consist of a slow introduction followed by a faster section with the right hand playing fanfare-like figures over a simple left-hand accompaniment. In some instances, the Trumpet is replaced by the Cornet stop, or even a Flute stop. Echo effects are also occasionally used.
The most celebrated trumpet voluntary is Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince of Denmark’s March, a composition written around 1700. It is properly a rondo for keyboard and was not originally called a trumpet voluntary. It is an extremely popular choice for wedding music and was played, for example, at the 1981 wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer. Sir Henry Wood’s arrangement is particularly well-know. It is scored for trumpet, string orchestra and organ. Trumpet Voluntary or Prince of Denmark’s March was incorrectly attributed to the mighty Henry Purcell for many years before correctly being attributed to our love-sick Jeremiah.
The organist and composer John Stanley also wrote a number of trumpet voluntaries, as did Clarke’s teacher the legend that is John Blow.