Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weddings -- the good, the bad, and the lovely

Someone had casually suggested that I write a book about my various piano jobs and adventures. While I'm flattered, I can't imagine there are many people who would want to read such a book.

But I figured it'd be worth posting a few things here.

Last night I played for my first wedding of 2010. It was in one of those huge Baptist churches, with tile flooring and a shiny baby grand piano up on a stage, and great acoustics.

I enjoy playing for wedding because:
1) Well, who wouldn't like it? You get to see fancy hair-dos and pretty dresses, and you feel the energy and excitement from everybody involved. I'm reminded of details from our wedding that I don't think of often -- like how we had a hard time getting that Unity candle lit, and the pastor made a little joke about it.

2) I really enjoy playing the 30 minute prelude music before the ceremony begins. This is the best of all worlds to me. People aren't sitting in silence staring at me, but they aren't as noisy and oblivious as they are at a restaurant or party, either. I can really sense that I'm setting a mood, and I like that.

I don't enjoy playing for weddings because:
1) Well, they make me a nervous wreck. I have no doubt it will become easier after I do it a few more times. (Don't tell anyone, but this is only my eighth wedding.) But you have to watch the door and the aisle out of the corner or your eye while playing, and expect to end a song or switch songs on about two seconds' notice.

Last night, for example, I was supposed to watch for the wedding coordinator to stand in a certain doorway to cue that I was ready to stop playing prelude music and begin the first ceremony piece. This supposed to happen at about two minutes til six.

At six o'clock, I still did not see her. I took the repeat again, and hoped I wasn't somehow doing something wrong.

After taking the repeat again, I realized I was going to have to play something else. I switched to another piece, still frantically keeping one eye on the door (which is a bit tricky to do).

Still nothing when that piece was over.

This continued until she suddenly appeared in the doorway at 6:10 pm!

It turned out that Someone Important was late, and they had to stall to wait for them.

Things like that are good, though. Assuming I pull it off well, it adds a point or two of Appreciation.

And after I get eight more weddings under my belt, I probably won't think a thing of it.

1 comment:

Brenda Williams said...

I'm really glad you blogged this, and I'm looking forward to reading more. I wanted to pop in and comment on my own experiences as a wedding pianist. I usually accompany and at times provide backup vocal for a wonderfully musical family of singer/guitarists but I also get asked to be the only musician for the event. For both scenarios the brides usually want solo classical piano for their bridesmaids and brides entrances, and after all these years and all the compliments I sometimes still get nervous, so to offset that I'll put the songs of choice in a 3-ring notebook for easy page flipping and I always plan ahead for which page to jump to if needed, or how to cut short if needed. I also always put a tabbed divider between the prelude and the brides entrance so that I can switch quickly. Don't forget that it's quite acceptable to stop in the middle of a musical phrase to jump to bride's entrance, and while I do try to end on a good chord I don't sweat trying to "finish" the song early. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to see which family member is "hovering" before the ceremony and ask them if they would mind standing very near the piano so they could tap your arm or somehow indicate when you should switch. Often they like to tell you as each bridesmaid walks down. This way you don't have to be watching (which you won't be able to do if you ever have to play on a balcony).

I hope this wasn't too long, and I hope it helps. :-)