Let's Talk Weddings

Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Let's Talk Weddings - 06/10/09 04:06 PM

Hi Everyone,

Here it is. June. Wedding month. I'm up to my eyeballs in brides and Pachelbel. Any of you playing weddings this month? Receptions or ceremonies, it doesn't matter. . . I'm looking for good wedding stories from musicians. This should be fun.

Thanks!
Robin
Posted by: JazzPianoEducator

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/10/09 04:08 PM

I just played an outdoor ceremony a couple of weeks ago in Dearborn Michigan and forgot to turn the ringer off on my phone...oops! Luckly the ring pitch was somewhat in key:)
Posted by: Pianos_N_Cheezecake

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/11/09 12:48 AM

I play in a Classic Rock party band and at our last cabaret this past weekend this really drunk blonde chick came onto the stage claiming somebody gave her permission to play the drums. So for the entire duration of Roxanna (The Police), this chick was chirping away in our drummer's ear trying to steal his sticks while saying "I can do that, I can do that". Then he'd do this tight fill and she'd be like "oooohhhh I can't do thaaaaat". It was pretty much hilarious. Small town gigs, man. He had it under control though, lol. Chatted with her to try and distract her until someone ripped her off the stage.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/11/09 06:42 AM

Yes. Wedding parties seem to always include an amateur musician or two. Usually they want to sing. The drummer thing could be downright hazardous.

JPE, love the cell phone during the ceremony! At least you were in the same key. My dad once played a ceremony (this was a million years ago) with a guitarist who was listening to the baseball game through a little transistor radio with an ear phone. The musician in question was (like many club date musicians) half deaf and had the volume turned up way too loud, which resulted in the pianist (leader on the gig) turning to him, during a prayer, and saying "Jesus, turn that damn thing down." These were the famed Dilernia Brothers of Pittsburgh—Albert and Alfred (Al and Al) both of whom have passed on to that big wedding in the sky.

I live and work in Germany. I played a wedding last night and it was—for lack of a better word—confusing. The groom was very classy and even tempered, and the bride was like something out of the German version of Hee-Haw (she kept slapping me on the back). The groom rented a gorgeous Bösendorfer concert grand for me (it was really really great). The bride had hired a DJ. The groom was drinking Tattinger Rosé, the bride was guzzling shots of tequila. Anyway, the evening peaked when I was in the middle of a Debussey Arabesque, really enjoying myself on that magnificent piano. I looked through the French doors of the salon, out into the garden, and saw the bride's brother barfing in the rose bushes. This was, I might add, not at the castle where I usually play, but at another castle, obviously on the wrong side of the castle tracks.

It should be noted that German weddings are all day events. By the time I arrived to play for the 5 star dinner, the guests had already been drinking for five or six hours. Heaven only knows what happened later in the evening. I played my two hours and escaped with a big bag of money. But I'll be dreaming about that dreamy piano!
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/12/09 11:41 AM

That's a hilarious story. I'm guessing the groom's mother felt like barfing, herself, after seeing what kind of family her son was marrying into... grin

My hubby and I hired a musician friend of ours to play keyboards at our wedding. (We held it outside, at the house where we lived at the time, which was way out in the boonies down a one-mile gravel driveway, so an acoustic wasn't really an option.) The musician friend is a talented composer of dreamy new age synthesizer music, and we had him play one of his compositions we both particularly enjoyed for the big march down the (nonexistent) aisle. The guests looked a little bit confused by the lack of a recognizable Pachelbel or Wedding March, but it meant a lot to us, and that's all that matters. thumb

My cat wandered in and out of the ceremony, and although it had been gloomy and cloudy all morning, the clouds parted and a beam of light broke through just as we were saying our vows. We could hear the oohs and ahhhs of the guests when it happened.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/13/09 12:35 AM

Oh Monica. that's lovely! I particularly like the cat and the beam of light.

I've had some perfect wedding music moments like that. They keep me going.

I recently played for a gay wedding. It was beautiful—wonderful Steinway, sunshine filtering through the giant trees, two gorgeous guys who allowed me to chose the music (I played all originals), guests who were gracious and appreciative.

At our own wedding, John and I had a jazz trio who played the hippest ever version of the wedding march and a lush arrangement of All the Things You Are.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/09 11:15 AM

This is my wedding chapter from my book Piano Girl: A Memoir. Happy reading!

©2005 Robin Meloy Goldsby, all rights reserved
(Reprinted with permission of Backbeat Books)

Here Comes That Bride

“So. You’ll play for us on the seventh of August, from seven to ten in the evening?” says Frau Braun.

“It’s on my calendar,” I say. “I’ll be there thirty minutes early to make sure everything is in order.”

“I just want some background music to be played during dinner, nothing too loud.”

“No problem. That’s my specialty. You have my CD. What I play on the CD is exactly the type of thing I’ll play for your party.”

“Perfect. I love that CD. You know what? Please send twenty of them to the banquet department. I’d love to use them as bridal-party gifts.”

“What a nice idea. I’ll give you a good price on them.” I’m mentally calculating how much additional income this will generate. “So I’ll see you on the seventh.”

“Oh, wait, one thing,” she says.

I should have known. Brides always start thinking of stuff if you don’t get off the phone quickly.

“When the guests are coming into the room, will you play something from Carmen, or something that sounds like bullfight music?”

“You want bullfight music for a wedding?”

“Well, yes, I met my fiancé in Spain.”

“Okay. Bullfight music.” I make a note on my calendar to figure something out. “So I’ll see you on the seventh.”

“Wait! Another thing. Between the soup and the salad course, I’d like you to play ‘Lady’ by Lionel Richie. Heinrich says it reminds him of me. After the salad, before the soup, but not until all the plates have been cleared and Uncle Wilhelm has made his speech about his memories of me.”

“‘Lady.’ Lovely song.” I make another note. “Okay. Bullfight music for the entrance, ‘Lady’ between the soup and salad, plates cleared, Uncle Willi’s speech—”

“WILHELM. UNCLE WILHELM.”

“Right. Uncle Wilhelm. I’ll have the banquet manager keep me posted about the timing of the courses. So that’s it, then.”

“Wait! I’m thinking, I’m thinking, I’m thinking! Oh! I know! I’d like to have you play a little song for Heinrich, you know, one dedicated to him from me. Something to let everyone know how I feel about him.”

“Do you have anything in mind?”

“ ‘My Way.’ I think that’s the name of it. You know, that Frank Sinatra song.”

In Germany, when somebody asks you for “that Frank Sinatra song,” they always mean “My Way.” I hum a few bars of it for her, just to make sure.

“Yes, that’s the one. Will you play that before the dessert is served? Uncle Wilhelm will do the second part of his speech about his memories of me, then you can play the song.”

“Fine. No problem. Great choice!” I hate that song, but it’s her wedding. If she wants to dedicate a song whose opening lyric is “And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain . . .” to her brand-new husband, then that’s her choice. No one will be singing, they’ll be drinking, and they all speak a different language anyway.

“Anything after the dessert?” My page of notes is getting full. I figure if Uncle Wilhelm is going to do part three of his speech, after dessert would be the perfect time. Speeches give me a chance to take a break.

“No, that will be it. I’ve hired a magician and a belly dancer to perform after dinner. Then the dance band starts.”

“Sounds like the perfect wedding, Frau Braun. I’ll see you on the seventh. I really must go. I’m playing for a luncheon this afternoon.” Not true, but I want to get off the phone before she requests anything else. We say goodbye and I hang up.

This is going to be one swinging party. Especially if the guests survive Uncle Wilhelm.

I love weddings. I love going to them, I love being in them, I love playing for them. I adore the Gone with the Wind white dresses, the pomp and circumstance, the father giving away the bride, the drunken weepy speeches, the little girls in their patent-leather shoes, and the little boys throwing rice. There’s something about a wedding that gives me faith in humanity. The very idea that the love between two people can make the world a better place for each of them is, to me, a reason to celebrate.

At Schlosshotel Lerbach, it’s not unusual for the bride and groom to arrive in a gilded carriage pulled by white horses. I play for big weddings and small weddings, for ceremonies and receptions, for wedding lunches, wedding dinners, and wedding cocktail hours. I play in the rose garden in the blazing sun of July or in the golden entrance hall with tremendous gusts of winter wind sweeping through the iron gates of the castle as the ermine-clad bride makes her first appearance. I play on the balcony, in the bar, and out on the old stone terrace surrounded by huge pots of fragrant herbs. Whenever the client has requested quiet background music, I’m the girl who gets the call. I’ve made a niche for myself playing music that doesn’t interfere. Less is more. It’s hard to find musicians who understand this, and even harder to find good musicians who are willing to put up with being ignored. But I love it. An elegant man once came to the piano while I was playing, took my business card, and said, “Your music is so perfect. I can hardly hear it.” He called me a week later and booked me to play for his wedding.

Playing the piano for four or five hours straight is hard work. There’s a meditative state that I sink into when I’m doing one of these marathon jobs. I call it the Piano Zone, and when I’m there I’m happy. I play for myself, I compose on the job, I improvise, I let my fantasies take me far away. I’ve always figured that my job is to tame the chaos beast, so that the people around me can feel as peaceful as I do. Married life is chaotic enough. You might as well get off to a nice quiet start.

I’m just packing the last of the CDs to send to Frau Braun when the phone rings again.

“Braun here. I have one more small request.”

“It’s your wedding, Frau Braun—anything I can do to make it special for you would be my pleasure,” I say.

“Oh, thank you. You see, my best friend is a classical concert violinist.”

Oh, no. Here it comes. The dreaded classical music request.

“I’d love to have him play a piece or two with you accompanying him. Beethoven. Shall I send you the music?”

“Uh . . . Okay,” I say. “That will be fine.”

Stupid stupid stupid. Classical music isn’t easy. You have to actually play what’s on the page. And here in Europe, where many people have studied classical music, there’s no faking it. I break into a cold sweat. The last time I played Beethoven in front of an audience, I was in the eleventh grade. I’m about twenty-five years out of practice.

The music arrives two days later, exactly one week before the wedding. It’s the Beethoven Romanze. After two hours of creeping through it at tempo di-learn-o, I have an idea of what it’s supposed to sound like. There’s so much work to do. I’m playing a reduced orchestral score. The violin part seems just about impossible to play, thirty-second- and sixty-fourth notes making the page look like one solid line of black. My husband, without seeing the music, volunteers to play the violin part on his bass. That’s impossible, so he plays it on the upper register of the piano. He’s a pretty good piano player, but at one point in a practice session I realize that he’s playing sixty-fourth-note bebop lines, in tempo.

It’s summer vacation, and the kids, ages seven and ten, are home. I practice about five hours a day, driving them both crazy. On day four of the marathon practice session, they have the piece memorized and can sing the entire thing.

“Look out, Mom, here comes the tricky part. Whoops, you screwed up again!”

“That sounds terrible, Mom. What if you make that mistake at the wedding? You’ll ruin the bride’s entire life.”

“B-FLAT, Mom. How many times are you gonna hit that clunker?”

During the dramatic sections they march around the dining-room table clapping on two and four. Beethoven with a backbeat.

“Don’t get nervous, Mom. You speed up when you get nervous. You’d better use that metronome.”

But I’m very nervous. I’m a background-music piano player. I don’t do concerts, I don’t play classical music, and here I am volunteering to do both. I don’t want a bunch of people sitting quietly and listening to me play something that’s out of my league. I consider calling a kid I know named Benjamin Nuss. He’s thirteen and a wizard classical player. Benny could sight-read the piece and play it without even thinking about it. Maybe I should pay him 100 euros and get myself off the hook. But I’ve got too many hours invested to give up now.

By day six, I’m up to speed—tempo tantrum—and I play through the piece every other time without a major flub.

“You’ve got it, Mom. Go, Mom, go!”

“Now that bride will have a happy life and you won’t have to put a bag over your head.”

My practice time seriously reduces my hourly wage for the gig. The night of the performance, I walk into the castle, a little shaken, but confident that I will get through the evening.

The violinist is waiting for me at the door. His name is Herr Winkel. He’s about my age and dressed in tails. He looks very serious.

Confidence, Robin. Be Confident. Don’t let him vibe you, says the Voice of Reason.

You never know, says Voice of Doom. He could be a distant relative of Isaac Stern.

“Well,” Herr Winkel says, after we’d been introduced. “I hope they’re paying you a lot of money to do this because I’m really terrible.”

I burst out laughing. We talk our way through the piece and agree that no matter what happens, I will keep playing and Herr Winkel will follow me, because, he says, he knows the piece “really well,” even though he can’t really play it anymore. He had played Romanze twenty-five years earlier as a senior recital piece. The bride, his good friend from his college days, remembered his brilliant performance from 1978.

Herr Winkel paces back in forth in the lobby. “I’m afraid she’s going to be very disappointed tonight, but what can I do, she begged me to play!”

Odd, but his nervousness calms me down. “Look, go and enjoy your dinner,” I say. “Just stay away from the champagne. It’s time for me to play bullfight music. I’ll see you later. We’re on between the dessert and the espresso.”

The bride makes quite an entrance to her bullfight music. She’s in her forties and she’s beautiful, wearing a splendidly cut strapless white satin sheath. Aside from the tattoo on her shoulder, I think she looks about as perfect as a bride can look. The room dances with candlelight. Several of my CDs are on each table. But the bride has taken each CD and replaced my cover photo with a picture of herself. The diva in me starts to rear its ugly head, but I recover in time to smile politely and say, What a wonderful idea.

I play “Lady” as requested, and nobody notices, not even the bride. Uncle Wilhelm, who is in his eighties, makes a speech that starts, “It all began in 1956 in a little town close to Schweinfurt . . .” By the time we get to part two of his speech about his memories of the bride, he’s still talking about her high school years. I escape to the lobby and call my kids. Uncle Wilhelm drones on for so long I feel like I could drive home and read them Volume Four of Harry Potter.

When he finishes, I return to the dining room and begin playing “My Way.” The bride makes her way to the front of the room, places an outstretched hand on the curve of the piano, and poses there, dramatically. What’s she doing? Maybe she’s going to sing. I continue playing, not sure what to expect. I look over at her, and her eyes, which are focused on the ceiling, begin to overflow with tears. She puts the back of her other hand on her forehead.

Meanwhile, the lyrics to the song run through my head.

. . . And through it all, when there was doubt, I chewed it up and spit it out . . .

I finish the song very dramatically—with the world’s most obnoxious arpeggio—and get a big round of applause. I turn to acknowledge the audience just as the bride takes a deep Onstage at the Metropolitan bow. I join the audience in the ovation and help her back to her throne.

The waiters serve the dessert, which is called A Study of Apricots. I’m pretty hungry, and I watch with envy as the guests eat. The moment of truth arrives. It’s time for the Beethoven. I turn up the lights. The piece is difficult enough; I’m not about to try playing it in the dark. I spread my eight pages of music across the piano. The violinist makes a speech. I think he’s stalling. He introduces me. Everyone claps. I take a bow. This is exactly what I fear. I’ve been completely ignored all night while doing what it is that I do well. Now, just as I’m about to demonstrate my musical weaknesses, everyone puts their drinks down, their cigarettes out. They fold their hands and stare at me. A nightmare.

Hey, hey, hey, says Voice of Doom. It’s a perfect night for a train wreck!

Oh shut up, says Voice of Reason. For once and for all, shut up. We’re sick of you.

Odd, I’m not nervous. My back is to the audience. I take a deep breath. The violinist counts off. Then he plays the most horrible note I’ve ever heard in my life. It isn’t even a note. Perhaps it’s one of those quarter-tones that might be identified in an East Indian musical system, but to the Western ear it’s excruciating. I grimace. We’re off and running.

The violinist tears through the piece, making all the correct entrances, playing the correct rhythms and keeping everything in time, but he doesn’t play a single note in tune. Not one. The piece ends on an impossibly high, glass-shattering note. There’s complete silence when we finish. I’m afraid to turn around for fear of seeing the entire wedding party dead on the floor with their hands over their ears.

Everyone jumps to their feet and cheers with wild abandon.

Go figure. The violinist winks at me. I wave goodbye to the people I’ll never see again and go to the lobby where the manager has set up a little table for me. On it is a white rose, an autographed picture of the bride, and my very own Study of Apricots. It’s almost too pretty to eat.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/09 08:25 PM

Great stories everyone, keep them coming.
I'll add one I experienced...

My girlfriend's daughter got married recently (her second trip to the altar).

I offered to play the music at her wedding. Figured I'd make some points that way, plus I don't get a lot of opportunities to play out these days.

The wedding was in a little chapel in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was originally
a Seamen's chapel, built circa 1901. Some years ago the chapel was purchased and moved to a heritage park in St. Petersburg.
It's a beautiful location with lots of historic buildings set in a wooded area with a mixture of pine and tropical trees. The ground is covered with pine needles and smells wonderful. It's like stepping into a different time, when things were slower and quieter.

Kathy (the mother) and I took a ride up to the park so I could check out the chapel. It's a beautiful old building, typically with high ceilings, lots of windows,wood floors, and wooden pews. A great set up for bouncing music all over the place :-)

The only instrument in the chapel is an old one manual pump organ.
Now, I can play piano, and I play some organ, but I draw the line at having to pump while I play.

I decided I'd use my own Yamaha P-80 (Digital Piano) and amp.
Anyone who has played the P-80 knows it actually has a fairly decent pipe organ sound, some ok strings, and a reasonable set of piano voices.

They also know it ain't light.

My amplifier is a Hartke KM200, it weighs about the same as the average refrigerator. However, having played in rock bands I felt 200 watts was the bare minimum I should have in case I really wanted to be heard.

The bride and groom were kindly receptive to my playing at their wedding (I'm sure they were wondering if I really knew how to play). We decided to have a little get together so they could hear me, and so they could pick out their music.

Keep in mind, I live on the other side of the state (Pompano Beach), and I drive a Sebring convertible (hey, second childhood here, besides, it IS Florida).
Nice car for tooling around in the sun, not so good for hauling band equipment across the state.

On top of that, I gotta haul the equipment down a flight of stairs, by myself.
The only way I could fit it in the car was to put the top down, hefting the keyboard over the side and setting it on the floor, then grunting and groaning to get the *%*# amplifier into the back seat. Off I go, heading across Alligator Alley (yup, that's really what it's called, and they aren't kidding).

Drive 253 miles to Kathy's, perform for the lucky couple, drive 253 miles back (and haul the equipment back UP the stairs).
Now I have to practice, a lot. I want the music to go flawlessly, and of course I'd like people to be impressed with my playing (or at least, not hate it). After all, it is a group of my girlfriend's friends and relatives.

So practice I do. It ain't exactly like preparing for Carnegie Hall, but still I work pretty hard at it.
The day finally arrives, I haul my equipment across the state again, and set it up in the chapel.

As I'm setting up the cutest little girl walks in, followed by her Mommy.
The little girl will forever be known to me as MM (motor mouth).
"Hi, my name is Stephanie, I'm the flower girl, are you playing for the wedding? I'm in the wedding. How do I look? Can I play your piano? I play the piano, my brother taught me how to play but sometimes I just make stuff up, I really like to play, can I play? Do you like my dress? Is anyone else here yet? So, can I play the piano now, I really like to play"
Mind you, this was all within one breath, without stopping, spoken so fast it sounded like all one sentence.

I let MM play for a few minutes, during which she never stops talking. Her mother finally convinces her they have to go get ready for pictures.

I play some "wedding appropriate" music while guests are being seated.
The couple chose Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring for when the mothers come in, and Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary for the processional.

There is a professional wedding planner (a friend of Kathy's). She is very organized (marching around the chapel with a clip board). She assures me she will give me the proper cues.

Because there is nowhere for the bridal party to wait but outside (I said it was a SMALL chapel), the doors are kept closed once the guests are seated.

What I didn't realize was just how small it was. As in, it doesn't take long to get from the back to the front.

I get the cue, the mothers are ready to enter.

Start the Joy. Doors open, in they come escorted by two nervous teens (the groom's boys from a previous marriage). It takes the mothers about 23 seconds to make it to their seats.
I've been practicing for weeks to play about 12 measures?

Fade the music.

The wedding planner whispers in my ear, the next time the doors open it will be the bridesmaids, and the bride. Cool, I'm ready.
Minutes go by, finally the big doors are swung open, I start playing the Trumpet Voluntary majestically, as an older couple who were late for the wedding walks in! Arggh, no wonder I don't usually play weddings.

Door closed again, we wait...

Doors open, yes, it's them!
I crank up the Voluntary again, and this time it is the bride.
It takes about 37 seconds for them to get to the altar. Wow, I've made it all the way to the top of the second page.

The bride's father (my girlfriends ex-husband, there with his new wife, as if I wasn't uncomfortable enough) gives her away ... "Who gives this woman away?" "I do, FOR THE LAST TIME". (At least he has a sense of humor).

Lovely ceremony... time to leave, play the Mendelssohn Wedding March, out they go.
At least I get to have a little fun, thanks to the groom.
The groom asked me to play the Bruins Theme when they were almost out the door. He's 6'5" and about 300lbs, he asks, I play :-)

Practice? = weeks
Actual Playing Time? = about 1 minute
The opportunity to be part of it all? = priceless

Now if someone would just help me load all this *^&#* equipment back into the car!




Posted by: eweiss

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/17/09 12:50 AM

Great story Frank. I've been to Florida once. Ft. Lauderdale. Never again. I don't know how you can stand the humidity. But, to each his own.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/17/09 01:10 AM

Wonderful, Frank!

I particularly related to the wedding planner with the clipboard. And to the number of hours spent preparing for the one minute of music.

And I love the image of you driving across the state in your convertible with your Yamaha sticking out the top.

Thank you for taking the time to write this. You're an excellent writer, by the way!
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/17/09 10:33 AM

Thanks Ed. I'm not fond of Florida's heat/humidity either.
I'm not here for the weather (see "girlfriend" in above story).

I actually grew up north of Boston, in a little town plunked down in the middle of a harbor. This is Nahant, arrow is approximately where I lived.




And thanks for the kind words Robin. "You're an excellent writer, by the way!", coming from you that means a lot.
I enjoyed Piano Girl so much, I ordered copies to give out as gifts.


Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/18/09 07:34 AM

Thanks, Frank!

Actually, if I lived in Florida I wouldn't be worried about the weather. I'd be way more worried about those Burmese pythons and monitor lizards that seem to be sneaking into everyone's back yards. Did you read that New Yorker article? Holy cow.

Anyway, love is love, and hey, I followed my man to Germany, so I know how you feel. If you ever get married, you know who to call to play the gig.

More, more! I want more wedding stories! Sad, funny, charming, doesn't matter. I crave them.
Posted by: David Raingeard

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/19/09 08:49 AM

I've played at weddings for a long time, and one of the most funny weddings that I've ever played on was this one, where we have this groom, member of a motorcycle club.

The bride called me about 2 months before, and started to ask me songs for my repertoire "I would love to hear some classic love song of the 70's for the reception" "Great" I thought. The song list kept going without any weird request until....

"Oh, and my man is a big fan of rock and roll, so I would like if you could, play him some Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater".

That section would cover no less than 30 minutes, so by two months I had to create my arrangements for that songs and the funniest thing was that when I played at the wedding, a bunch of enormous guys wearing a suit, with long hair and beird were around me clapping and singin out loud "You shook me all night long".

Thanks to that rock and roll repertoire I was called up for 4 weddings and all of them were a lot of fun.
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/20/09 12:38 AM

Wedding music stories--what fun!

My then-fiance and I were on a budget for our Long Island wedding. We could afford live music for the ceremony, but not for the reception. So we started auditioning deejays. My sister in law "knew a guy". But we were leery of Al. What if we didn't like him? We'd have all kinds of hurt feelings.

So we went through the directories and interviewed a lot of guys. If you haven't been to a Long Island wedding, let me just say they tend to be, um, elaborate productions. DJs are like cheerleaders. Weddings resemble bar mitvahs with give-away foam fingers, plastic leis, and neon sunglasses.

This was not exactly what we had in mind. Deejay after deejay got the hook. Finally, as we resignedly explained to the fifteenth applicant that we wanted something low key and elegant without the tchatkes and the Chicken Dance, he smiled and nodded. "Ah, I see," he said. "So, not like a wedding at all..." Oy.

Approaching desperation, we called Al. He was classy. He was cheap. He was funny. He didn't play the Electric Slide. We entered the hall to the Star Wars Throne Room music. He played Barry Manilow. My friends held hands, sang, swayed, modulated, and laughed. Everybody cried when my dad & I danced to Sunrise Sunset. Thanks Al. Sister in law was right.

Earlier in the day, the ceremony music hadn't gone so well. Frank was the catering manager, and he was in charge. The bride and groom had decided not to see each other. It was October, and it was cold. The ceremony was planned for outdoors at a golf club, weather permitting.

The groom asked Frank to move the ceremony inside. Frank told the groom that the bride wanted to have it outside.

The bride asked Frank to move the ceremony inside. Frank told the bride that the groom wanted to have it outside.

The parents of the bride and groom asked Frank to move the ceremony inside. Guess what Frank told the parents?

The string quartet refused to play outside. The groom and the bride's attendants persuaded them that they should play outside. All this intrigue was carefully kept from the bride.

They played outside. Broken strings and bad tuning ensued.

To this day, whenever anything goes wrong in our marriage, my husband and I turn to each other and say, "It's Frank's fault."
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/20/09 12:47 AM

Then there was the August wedding we attended at the groom's childhood camp in New Jersey. They had rented a big beautiful tent. This turned out to be a good thing, as summer thunderstorms are quite common in the mid-Atlantic states.

The band had set up and was playing a nice mix of danceable jazz standards, kitchzy 70s dance music, and teary-eyed ballads.

And the clouds rolled in. And it poured. The tent flaps came down. The little plastic tent windows steamed up. And the pool of water near the band's extension cords got deeper and deeper.

And the band played on.

Perhaps they SHOULD have played the Electric Slide.

Finally, common sense prevailed and they unplugged and took a break for 20 minutes or so until the puddle drained.

It could have been the most shocking wedding ever.
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/20/09 12:56 AM

I sang at a wedding once. The bride knew I had a background in a cappella music and she asked me to arrange "Going to the Chapel" for 4 of her singing friends. We had never sung together before, but what the hey?

We spent the better part of the wedding weekend before the ceremony trying to get it together. And we did. It was passable.

My husband also sang--a duet of Perhaps Love--with a guy who is currently making a living singing a featured role in the Lion King show at Disney World.

Lovely music. Cue the recessional.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention. The wedding is in a tent, outdoors at one of the Great Camps in the Adironacks. And, oh yeah, it had rained earlier in the day, when we were rehearsing.

The singer playing the part of Placido Domingo notices a puddle on the tent roof. For some unfathomable reason, he decides to poke at the puddle from under the tent, I guess to make sure it doesn't collapse.

Unfortunately, at this moment, the bride approaches the exit.

This ceremony gives new meaning to the term "wedding shower."

Luckily the bride has a sense of humor, and we're all still friends.
Posted by: BearLake

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/20/09 02:32 AM

I played at my cousin's wedding several years ago. My music accompanied her in the garden walk to meet the groom. I was suppose to stop when the bride reached the end-of-the-walk. Since I was unaware that her walk ended, I became more involved with the music and oblivious to everything else.

The wedding planner was trying to give me the signal to stop the music but I kept on playing. The combination of the smirks on the faces of the wedding line and the repeated hand-signal cuts from the planner turned a rather solemn occasion into something quite humorous.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/20/09 08:53 AM

Bearlake, I think it's always best to IGNORE the wedding planners. In fact, most people carrying clipboards should be ignored by musicians. These people are nothing but trouble.

Rusty, your stories have proven my point that it is never a god idea to play outside. There are maybe two days in every decade when the weather is appropriate for an outdoor party. It's too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too, too, too something.

I played an outside gig last year at the castle and had a major problem with wasps.

David, I could have used your R7R expertise last week. The people I played for wanted nothing to do with my repertoire.

Keep'em coming folks, we're really warming up here!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/09 10:20 AM

i don't like playing weddings. the brides are so excited and need to talk about their love.

don't have time for that. It is also difficult to extract payment without an upfront contract.

I played a wedding for a couple back when i was in the 7th grade. I wonder how that went?

heh
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/09 12:37 PM

Estonian weddings. Hoopa shoopa shoy yoy yoy! Maybe you should reconsider, Oun-Apple—you might be missing out on some fun.

Okay, here's a good one—my husband was on a gig (mid 1980's) with Randy S. and Jeremy K. and bevy of other great NYC musicians. Jeremy was playing keyboard and had his piano module on the floor. They were playing "Tea for Two" as a cha-cha—everyone was dancing— when Randy accidentally kicked the module and threw it into demo mode, at which point it started playing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, AT TOP VOLUME. My husband said the funniest thing was that everyone kept dancing.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/03/09 09:00 AM

I live in asia now and I've play couple of weddings here, and it seems like wedding gigs here are recipe for chaos. It's not usual to have people ask me to bring my own keyboard, only to find out they have a piano there already.. and sometimes nobody knows where we are supposed to be playing at until 5 min before the gig starts... and you almost always have to deal with a sound guy who "thinks" he knows what he is doing.

I've heard some really weird stories from other musicians. This bass player told me he once had a wedding gig and as soon as they started playing he noticed that the keyboard player already had a bass and drum tracks programmed into the keyboard. He asked the person in charge what was going on.. and the guy basically told him that he didn't have the play the instrument, all he needed to do is pretend and act cool.

I guess it kind of make sense, because the bass player was European guy and they just wanted the bass for the looks. So made really good money pretending to play the bass.

A saxophone player told me a story where he was asked play a wedding.. and on the day of the gig he went there, and there was a piano, and the guy in charge asked him to sit on the piano bench. The sax player asked what the piano was for and the guy said "well you know how to play the piano don't you?" The guy in charge was clueless... just because he was a really good sax player, it doesn't mean he is able to play piano on wedding gigs.

So the sax player did the only thing he could think of.. he started playing the saxphone and walked from table to table as he played.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/03/09 12:23 PM

Thanks Etcetera! Since I'm married to a bassist, I love the bass story.

The banquet department of the castle where I have my steady gig just called me looking for a STROLLING SAXOPHONE player for a wedding reception. As much as I love sax, I just can't imagine such a thing. This would be a good gig for your friend, but alas, you're in Asia, I'm in Germany. I booked a nice guy named Torsten, and he thought it would be fun.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/03/09 12:42 PM

Haha, considering the fact that he ended being a strolling saxophone player by accident, I doubt he will choose to do it on purpose. lol

I can tell you that playing in asia is a very... unique experience. A friend of mine went to china with a concert pianist as a staff/helper.. and she told me that it was incredibly chaotic. They literally didn't know which city they were flying to perform till the day before, or even on the day of the performance.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/04/09 01:19 PM

My friend Greg Thymius, a woodwind player on Broadway (who also plays weddings) had to play the THEME FROM ARMAGEDDON at a recent wedding. Now there's a good way to start a marriage.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/05/09 09:36 PM

I've been a substitute church organist but never played at a wedding....just thought this might be amusing:

When my sister got married years ago, she decided she didn't want the usual "Here Comes the Bride" - too old-fashioned/cheesy or something, she said. Instead she chose Mussorgsky's Promenade (our side of the family is mostly Ukranian). She said the organist at the church looked at her like she was nuts at the request, but agreed to play it anyway. I, as the only bridesmaid, had to figure out how to march down the aisle alone (in high heels no less) to this being played on the organ: confused

Pictures at an Exhibition, Part 1 (Mussorgsky)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbKfqf9TPg

Fortunately, they chose the traditional Mendelsohnn's beautiful "Wedding March" (from A Midsummer NIght's Dream) for the ending. smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/06/09 01:33 AM

Love this, Elssa! How I wish you had a video of YOU walking down that aisle, with a frozen smile on your face, trying to figure out where the downbeat is.

Very funny to imagine. I must say, I admire your sister's good taste in music, although that piece ain't exactly marching tempo.

Thanks for posting!
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/06/09 01:07 PM

Yeah, the Promenade's a great piece. It's just that the meter (alternating 5/4 and 6/4 shocked ) isn't exactly conducive to walking up the aisle in a rhythmic, dignified manner (the heels and poofy dress didn't help either). bah

Oh, well... As an organist I know once said, anything's better as a musical request for the opening march up the wedding aisle than "Send in the Clowns". crazy

Thanks for starting this thread, Robin. Very interesting! smile
Posted by: fingerbreaker

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/09/09 01:29 PM

I was asked to provide background piano music as guests entered the church for my sister-in-law’s wedding in a very small Midwestern town. I play a lot of ragtime and jazz and don’t have much in my normal repertoire that would be apropos for a wedding ceremony, so I bought a bunch of sheet music and learned a few classics – Pachelbel’s Canon, Jesus Joy of Man’s Desiring, etc.

I was burning through my prepared list but there was still more time to fill, so I played a ragtime piece called Robert Clemente, which is a very beautiful, pensive, and graceful rag. Halfway through it, my wife’s aunt walks over to the piano and says with contempt and no hint of humor, “What’s with the saloon music??"

-FB
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/09/09 11:49 PM

I played for about four years in a standard "Wedding Band" and have been playing in an "Oldies" band that sometimes does weddings for the past fifteen. I'm guessing my tally is at least 300 weddings, maybe more. I sometimes feel like Margaret Mead among the Trobriand Islanders, studying the elaborate mating rituals of the natives. After twenty years of weddings there's much too much to write in a forum post. Here are a few tidbits:

Someone else mentioned Long Island weddings. That's most of my experience too. Even though most of these affairs are the culmination of over a year of planning -- poring through stacks of two-inch thick magazines, visiting a dozen halls, agonizing over flowers, invitations, centerpieces, bridesmaids' dresses, tasting cocktail hour food and , of course, attending twenty band showcases, to get everything just right -- they tend to be very much alike. This becomes especially apparent when you do a double; two weddings in the same day, or three in a weekend. Nevertheless, there are always a few oddities, accidents (happy and otherwise) and memorable people that stand out from the general blur.

... The bride's uncle has been a few degrees atilt since the cocktail hour, wobbling slightly like a top running down. They bring him up to make a special blessing. "I'd like to say a prayer for the bride and groom (who had a bassinet between their large rounded chairs), a prayer I have recited every night for the past thirty years .................................................Ummmm..................................................." Despite several attempts, he could never recall a single word of it.

... The bride's mother is the matriarch of the family and master of all she surveys, which is soon to include the hapless groom. No one dares make a move without her assent. The bride comes over to the band while we're still setting up, "If it's OK with my mother, my cousin is going to come up and play drums with the band". We hinted that our drummer might want to have a say in the matter as well; drunken doctor cousins eager to impress can do a lot of damage with a pair of wooden sticks. Incredulous that someone else's opinion might matter she added "It's OK, he's a doctor." We played the party with frequent visits from the Queen's embarrassed emissaries - "SHE says it's too loud, turn it down". The drummer played Disco with brushes. The sax player turned off his mic. Guests eager to dance begged us to approach audibility. We referred them to SWMBO. The cousin never did come up to play, but our drummer did an emergency appendectomy "It's OK, he's a drummer".

... Wardrobe malfunctions:
Men at catered affairs wear clothing that approximates the clothing they wear every day: Pants, shirt, shoes, jacket; reliable garment designs that have stood the test of time and seldom cause the wearer any social embarrassment. Women, a few women anyway, see such occasions as an opportunity for innovation and experiment. Fantastic fabric contraptions that only vaguely follow the shape of the wearer (or follow it too closely) are held together with flimsy straps, ribbons, tape and hope. Bits of body parts normally hidden peek out from strategic openings. While outright failures are rare (but they do happen, and even if the cousins, the neighbors and the in-laws miss it, be advised, the musicians see all) women in such garments spend the evening tugging, pulling, twisting and generally readjusting.

In one notable incident the upper part of a young woman's dress was not adequately designed for vigorous dancing, but dance she did, with abandon. The young lady's inebriated escort saw the mishap but neglected to inform her. After a few seconds the girl discovered her predicament and scanned around to see if anyone had noticed. Our bass player, only a few steps away, had, and shrugged his shoulders. The girl then gave her (soon-to-be former) boyfriend a roundhouse right to the face.

I can also remember seeing more of a certain bride than, in gentler times, her fiance would have seen before the wedding night. The groom wasn't much of a dancer, but the bride was, and so was one of the gay male guests at the wedding. They did a dramatic pas-de-deux culminating in a deep back-bending dip on the part of the bride. The slip was brief, but must have been caught by at least a half-dozen video cameras and, of course, seven musicians.

…Ceremonies
I’m not a classical player. In fact, before joining the wedding band, I had more or less only played rock and pop songs. I was in the process of learning the repertoire at the gigs. By the third or fourth wedding I was feeling pretty comfortable with the core material. I had nearly finished setting up in one of the rooms at a very large wedding-mill, when the Mother of the Bride rushed in (in the ungainly way that you rush in a long dress and high heels) to say “Where’s the guy who’s playing the ceremony? It’s almost starting!” It had never occurred to me that playing at the ceremony might be one of the duties of a keyboard player. I assumed that would be up to a church organist, but not everyone gets married in church these days. A couple of us ran my gear down to (natch) the polar opposite end of the very long building, but getting there was only half the fun. Now I had to improvise the Processional and Recessional. The “Here Comes The Bride” melody was easy enough, and I guessed that none of the guests would be familiar with the rest so I sort of made stuff up to fill the space. The recessional was worse; I really could only recall the one recognizable line, and played it over and over, for an interminably long time.

Having survived that episode, our bandleader decided to get me the sheet music for the Recessional. My wife was taking vocal lessons at the time and had recently brought home a professional-looking eight-page set of music for an aria she was learning; learning for fun I might add. What I got, the semi-pro musician of the house, was tiny scrap of paper, maybe 8” by 3”, with three single staves on it. It was a twelfth-generation Xerox of part of a fake-book page; three single staves with the melody and chord symbols, some scratched out and changed, and faithful reproductions of a decade of cocktail-hour stains. And that’s how I learned it. I have still never seen sheet music for the Processional

…Strange First Dance Songs
“Every Breath You Take”, by the Police. This is only appropriate for women who marry their stalkers.
“Good Hearted Woman (In Love with a Good-Timin’ Man)” By Merle Haggard. I wish them luck.
“Beauty and the Beast” – Enough said.

...Garter Oddities
I’m amazed that the whole bouquet and garter circus still sometimes goes on. We had a whole list of songs to play as background music: “Getting to Know You” for the removal of the garter from the Bride, “Higher’, by Sly and the Family Stone for putting the garter back on the embarrassed “winner” of the bouquet toss. But some people still feel the need to be creative.

One bride’s bouquet was a cluster-bomb, actually twelve mini-bouquets that took different trajectories when she threw them. This was apparently planned. After a rugby scrum among the eligible bachelorettes, our front-man had to organize a circle of 12 chairs for the girls to sit on while the guys who caught the 12 garter belts… you get the rest. It took a half hour.

I have always wondered if one particular groom lived to see his wedding night. When asked to gently remove the garter from his innocent bride’s leg, he first donned a sort of doctor’s headlamp and proceeded to put his entire head under her dress. Among the things he pulled out before the garter was a rubber chicken. (incidents like this are why fiction is entirely unnecessary, in my opnion) Many people in attendance thought this was riotously funny. The father of the bride, who at 6’3” and at least 300 lbs. was among the larger human beings I have ever seen up close, did not. He turned a series of unhealthy-looking colors as this went on.

There’s so much more, but it’s late. You’ll have to wait for the book.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/10/09 11:39 AM

Thank you, FB, for your story. I always say a little saloon music livens things up!

And Greg, good grief, you are the wedding music expert. These are wonderful—wonderful!—stories. And, hey, you're a great writer. Do we know each other? I was in NYC from 1979 to 1994—but I was on the Manhattan hotel circuit, not the wedding circuit. I got into the wedding thing once I moved to Germany. My stories are similar to yours except for two things.

1. I play solo (which means I've got no one to shared these things with as they're happening)

2. It's, you know, GERMANY, which gives each event that added Mel Brooks touch of goofiness, like playing a wedding NEEDS to be any goofier.

Anyway, nice to meet you—and keep writing! And playing, that too, so you have something to write about.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/10/09 12:03 PM

I always hear them play "Daddy's little Girl"..when the father dances with the bride.. or when the older couples who been married for 50 yrs get up to dance.."When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New" smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 02:42 AM

Sentimental choices, but at least they make sense!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 09:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG


Do we know each other? I was in NYC from 1979 to 1994—but I was on the Manhattan hotel circuit, not the wedding circuit.


I don't think so. Back before there were so many mobile DJs there were quite a lot of musicians playing in wedding bands.

In the old days, long before I was playing weddings, people would usually book the band through the hall they were renting. They'd tell you you pretty much had to book the "house band" or else there would be insurance issues, union issues and generally much more hassle than you'd want to take on. If your party was at the Sapphire Room, you'd get Frankie Diamond and his Sapphire Orchestra, or some such name.

They would even tell you how many pieces you had to hire, based on how many guests you were expecting. "No, Mrs. Edelstein, three pieces really won't do for 140 people, you'll need at least five." The logic behind this, except from the salesman's point of view, is hard to decipher. Certainly the instrumentation needed to play the desired music was not the deciding factor. If your party was large enough, you could end up with 7 or 8 musicians, including even a trombone, but still no bass player. The scourge of "left-hand bass" was one of the things that kept me from considering wedding band work earlier.

Your five Sapphires would not generally be an intact, rehearsed band either. They'd be five guys selected from a the Sapphire Pool, depending on how many Orchestras were needed that day.

As engaged couples got younger, they began to want music that a ragtag bunch of generic "Gemstones" could not deliver. They'd still want some Cha-Chas and Standards for the older relatives, but they wanted "their music" too. Worse, they wanted to actually see the band ahead of time. The Wedding Band Showcase was born. Agents were loath to surrender to this sort of anarchy so easily, though. They'd send out eight or nine of the more skilled Gems to the showcase to impress you, but whatever promises might be made, the actual composition of "your" band would still be variable.

Six months down the road after the showcase, the wedding couple would probably forget exactly what the band looked like. If a few of the people were the same, they might not notice the substitutions. And if they did, well, "Jimmy broke his wrist", or "Angela's 5 months pregnant" would be offered by way of explanation.

But sometimes the "variability" was stretched to the extreme. These were called "screamers". The agent would send out a completely different band than the one that was hired, figuring that the clients could hardly just send them home. It would be up to the hapless bandleader to mollify the clients, and collect the rest of the money.

In what is probably my favorite story, my friend Willie, an excellent singer, was hired as a "sub" to fill in at a wedding. The band played as the guests were ushered into the hall and then played a few songs from the "light" repertoire that is typical for the beginning of a party. At this point there is usually a break in the music; the waiters need the guests seated so they can take dinner orders.

A man approached my friend. "You're not the band we hired". Willie, a little sheepishly ,started to say something like, "Well, the band's singer was sick, so they called me to ...", but was interrupted.

"I don't mean just you. The band we hired was Black".

Willie, taking a mental inventory of the pale-skinned sextet behind him, referred the man to the bandleader.

By the time I started doing weddings, the arms race between clients and agents had ratcheted up a notch. Many if not most of the bands were actually rehearsed units. This had become a practical necessity as people had begun to demand really tight bands who could convincingly reproduce a very wide range of styles. But the horror stories were by then well known. People came out to three and four showcases with video cameras to make sure the same group members showed up each time.
Posted by: Sir Lurksalot

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 10:41 AM

That's a fascinating history Greg!

I'm a little curious about your comment "As engaged couples got younger, they began to want music that a ragtag bunch of generic "Gemstones" could not deliver." For some reason I thought that the average age of engagement has been increasing for most of the last century. Is it possible that the rise of rock and roll created a generation gap in which the couples weren't necessarily getting younger, but - for the first time - their musical taste was completely different from their parents'?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 02:10 PM

Greg, you're killing me. This is hysterical stuff.

Agents often just send anyone at all to an event, and hope that the musicians can make it right. Vamp till ready. I know about the screamers. What a funny term that is.

An agent in Pittsburgh—from an agency called ENTERTAINMENT UNLIMITED (a name that sets you up for failure if you ask me) once booked me on a gig where the client was promised a snake dancer, whatever the heck that is. Instead they got me, in my college-girl version of a cocktail dress, performing selections from Chorus Line. I have done a lot of crazy things in my life, but singing and playing with a Burmese python draped around my neck is one line I refuse to cross.

Soupy Sales once said: "I don't have an agent, I have an Egyptian curse."

You are living and working in the land of slick weddings. With the talent pool in the NYC area, there are some damn good players working these gigs.

Oh, I just remembered another story! My husband played in a quartet for his good friend's wedding. The friend in question—Mark P— was an excellent drummer, but since he was the groom, he didn't play the gig. Anyway, halfway through the night—probably bored with the bouquet toss and scrummage—he decided to sit in with the band. As he was playing, the banquet director came over and yelled at him for being too loud.

"But he's the groom," said one of the musicians.

"Yeah, well I don't care. The mother of the bride is complaining."

There you go.
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 02:24 PM

I like the stories, thanks!

I've only played one wedding, a friend requested that I play for the ceremony... I'm a rookie, and only had a month to prepare so all I did was the bridal chorus and wedding march. The rest of the time I popped in a CD, haa

Wasn't there for the rehearsal so I had no idea how the ceremony was supposed to go, instead I'm watching carefully what's going on, which was hard to do while also trying to concentrate on the music... But it was going well until I mistook the maid of honour for the bride coming down the hall and launched into the "here. comes. the bride!" theme. My hands turned to ice and I was all in a panic trying to figure out how to fix it. My solution was to fall apart and stop for a few akward moments. Fortunately I managed to get it together before the bride came in and she was completely unaware (but EVERYBODY else caught an earful of disaster).

Next was to play the wedding march. It took a lot longer for everyone to leave than I expected. I don't know how many times I repeated that short piece but I really wished I had something else to play.

It was a learning experience...


This year two more friends want me to play for their weddings, and I've got more time to prepare so I'm thinking it will go better this time. Perhaps the ball will roll and I can start doing this on a regular basis
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/09 03:03 PM

Hi there 1RC—

Very brave of you to make a debut in front of a church (or synagogue) full of people. YIKES! How I relate to that ice-cold hand thing.

Yeah, they walk down the aisle quickly, but it takes FOREVER for everyone to leave the church. For the "leaving the church" music, just pick some pieces that you have fun playing, and go with that. As long as it's spirited and played with conviction, no one will question your choices.

You'll be a pro before you know it, and hey, you must have sounded great, or the other friends wouldn't have asked you to play. Good for you!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/12/09 01:41 AM

Originally Posted By: Sir Lurksalot
That's a fascinating history Greg!

I'm a little curious about your comment "As engaged couples got younger, they began to want music that a ragtag bunch of generic "Gemstones" could not deliver." For some reason I thought that the average age of engagement has been increasing for most of the last century. Is it possible that the rise of rock and roll created a generation gap in which the couples weren't necessarily getting younger, but - for the first time - their musical taste was completely different from their parents'?

That is more like what I meant. It's a bit of a "point of view" slip on my part. The wedding couples have started looking younger, to me, as I have advanced in years.

When people ask what kinds of jobs we do, I sometimes mention that we do second marriages; our particular repertoire now favors people of a certain age.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/12/09 11:50 AM

I have played almost exclusively with rehearsed bands, with one conspicuous exception.

I was in my twenties. I was arranging demos for songwriters using the then-new MIDI technology, but I had not played live regularly for a couple of years. A drummer, a friend-of-a-friend that I had met once or twice, called me in a panic to play at a Bar Mitzvah. For those without any Jewish friends, a Bar Mitzvah is a sort of "coming of age" ceremony for a 13 year-old boy. In some circles this may be accompanied by a quite elaborate party.

The drummer, "Rick" if I remember correctly, was a fairly intense fellow. He told me that his keyboard player had suddenly moved to Florida and he was in a tight spot. He had a gig coming up on a party boat that went around Manhattan. (NY City)

While my chops are just average, I have always been unusually good at playing songs without preparation. That has always been my most notable musical skill. Having said that, this was maybe 25 years ago, before I'd had much experience playing a wide range of styles. I was a little apprehensive.

I told Rick that I had no experience with this sort of gig, but that if the rest of his band was a tight unit, I could probably follow whatever they played. He assured me that yes, this was his regular band, minus the recent defector to Florida.

I met Rick at the pier on the West Side of Manhattan. We were the first musicians to arrive. We carried our gear up a steep ramp to the boat's upper deck, and then down a narrow flight of stairs to the party room, which was roughly at the same level we started at on the pier, par for the course for working musicians. We got set up.

The other players began to arrive. The bass player was first. He introduced himself to me and Rick. The guitarist was next. He said Hi to Rick and introduced himself to me and the bass player. I suppose I was a little dense, but I had not yet picked up on what was going on.

A male and a female singer then arrived together, introducing themselves to me, the bass player and the guitarist. Next came sax and trumpet; introductions all around. Perhaps because I was completely unfamiliar with this kind of gig, I still had not grasped the obvious.

After everyone got situated, I became vaguely aware that there was a sort of football huddle forming to my right. I looked over, and could hear little fragments of sentences, "Do you know Devil With a Blue...", "What key do you sing...", "Have you got the lyrics for...", "I think I have the sheet for...".

The realization finally set in. While most of the musicians knew Rick, with the conspicuous exception of the bass player, who he'd met a week before, hardly any of them had ever laid eyes on each other.

The female singer had a stack of sheet music. I brought her over to the piano. She didn't know what key she sang any of the songs in; it could be any one of the eleven that weren't on the sheet. I asked her to sing the opening verse of maybe four songs and then wrote the key at the top of the sheet. I told her to give those to the bass player, and hoped he could either transpose or play them by ear.

And then we started. We opened with one of the songs I had "rehearsed" with the female singer. It soon became apparent that the bass player was simply not a guy who could "wing it" successfully. I started to shout the chords over to him, which was pretty difficult as he had set up on the other side of the drummer.

The boat rocked from side to side, the Bar Mitzvah boy made his entrance down the grand staircase, and we survived the first song. Seeing that I was apparently now the leader, the male singer came up to me, sang a line or two of his song, and off we went into the second song.

Most amazingly, we started to do four and five songs together as medleys. When we got near the end of a song, whichever singer was "off" at the moment would come over an yell, "Let's do 'Respect', you know, 'What you wa-ant, ba-by I got it...", while we were still playing. I'd scream, "Respect, in Aaaaayyyyyy!" and we'd lurch into the next number.

This went on for the better part of an hour. I was hoarse from yelling "Aaayyyy, now Deeeeeee, B minor, NO, I said BEEEEEEEEEE minor" past the drum kit. We finally took a break. Either the boat or my head was spinning.

A couple walked up to me. Uh Oh.

The woman said, "You guys are the tightest band we've ever heard, how long have you been together?". I looked at my watch, "About an hour", I said. They laughed and said that was very funny. I thanked them for their kind words and went up on deck to get some air.
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/23/09 11:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Hi there 1RC—

Very brave of you to make a debut in front of a church (or synagogue) full of people. YIKES! How I relate to that ice-cold hand thing.

Yeah, they walk down the aisle quickly, but it takes FOREVER for everyone to leave the church. For the "leaving the church" music, just pick some pieces that you have fun playing, and go with that. As long as it's spirited and played with conviction, no one will question your choices.

You'll be a pro before you know it, and hey, you must have sounded great, or the other friends wouldn't have asked you to play. Good for you!


Thanks for the kind words Piano Girl! I think everybody's stories are pretty damn brave! (playing a surprise Beethoven Romanze with a stranger, showing up and finding nobody in the band knows anyone else sick)

Yeah I'm stoked just to have a practical application of this music I love. A month from today I should have another wedding story to offer.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/24/09 03:10 AM

Hi Greg— I have an unofficial rule about NEVER taking a boat gig. Unless you jump overboard and swim, you can't escape. What a night that must have been. No wonder the other keyboard player bailed (pun intended) on the job and moved out of state.

1RC—I'll look forward to your next wedding adventure. Good luck!

I've been out of town for awhile—in the city of Lyon, France—where my husband was picking up a new bass, crafted for him by luthier Jean Auray. Greg, on the trip down there we discussed many of your stories! John (husband) is no stranger to the SCREAMER.

Hope everyone is having a good summer. I'm back on the wedding scene this weekend. At this point in the year, all brides begin to look alike.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/09 10:02 AM

These are all great stories!! Only one question, why are they called "screamers"? Because it's screaming obvious they're not the band that was hired, or because when someone figures it out, they start screaming?
Posted by: Dave Gruber

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/09 03:46 PM

Hey. Fun to read! And notice how many scenarios sound familiar. I hadn't been called upon to play a wedding for some time. (I was busy playing for all my friends when they were getting married - now it looks like it might be time for me to start playing for their kid's weddings!) But a percussionist/drummer friend of mine asked me to play for his daughter's wedding.

The older brother of the bride would be singing a special song during the ceremony. It was to be "So Close", by Alan Menken, from the dance ball scene in the movie, "Enchanted". Beautiful song! I should have started practicing a couple of weeks in advance of playing it. I usually fake it well since I read/interpret chord symbols pretty well, but as I began practicing a week before the wedding, I saw that this 7 page piece really called for it being played pretty much note for note - especially the instrumental interlude which is sweeping and grandiose, with wonderful key changes. I worked my butt off to get that part right (like Piano Girl said?: the hourly rate was going down, down, down). I did rehearse with the brother of the bride the night before the wedding. I was still struggling with that interlude (AHHH!). I'm not a great reader, nor great with the big octave block chords moving all over the chromatic place.

Anyhow, I got there about an hour before, to a church that I had grown up in, and knew that in recent years they had changed the interior a lot. So when I got there. I discovered just how dark the sanctuary was. They'd painted almost everything black to promote a sort of theatre atmosphere for dramas and skits(?) (lovely atmosphere for a wedding, huh?) The old 7' Kawai that I'd played as a teen, was there and in decent tune. But it was back in a corner of the "stage" where hardly any light could find it. I set up my 7 pages of "So Close" and other incidental music. "So Close" was all taped together and strung out across the piano's music stand, since I fear the clam that might happen if I can't turn a page fast enough.

Now I notice that I'm not going to be able to see the music back in this dark corner! So I go looking for a music light and do find one. It's the type that you use on a Manhasset music stand, so it won't open up large enough to clamp onto the back of the music stand, which is about 3/8" thich wood (glossy black, of course). I'm desparate, so I find a way to modify the light's clamp (read: "bend"). Once this is mounted, I still can only read music that's right in front of me, so I call my 17 year old son, who is home, THANKFULLY, and ask him to bring my gig case down to me with several lights in it for when I lead a jazz band. Fortunately, we only live about 15 minutes away from this church. Whew! But time is running out! He gets there with about 15 -20 minutes until starting time, and I get it all set up: Three lights and a fair amount of scotch tape.

Oh, I forgot to say that the song was to be a surprise to the bride on the spot. She didn't know what her brother had picked out. I was blessed with a wedding coordinator who DID NOT have a clip board, thankfully. She was pretty easy going.
The special song went off quite well, with only a small weakness during that interlude. The bride was surprised and loved the song. My surprise (besides the darkness) was that it had to have been the shortest wedding I'd ever played at just about 25 minutes total. Never got to congratulate the bride, but the groom said he liked the piano playing, and my friend, the father of the bride, liked it and (having gigged enough himself) knew to have the money ready for me in cash.

Dave Gruber, Southern California (no gators! Have Suburban will travel. But not to audition!) www.giocoso.org
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/28/09 04:08 AM

Dave!

Great story! Thanks so much for posting this. We all have similar stories but the black hole church isn't one I've heard before. Well done.

Never ever audition for the gig. That's one of my rules.

Castle wedding update: I had to deal with the Chinese soprano from hell over the weekend. She was wearing one of those crazy-lady straw hats, with flowers pinned to it, the kind of hat that always spells trouble. Wedding was on Saturday, and the singer wanted to start warming up on Friday night DURING my steady gig, with me playing for her warm-up session. Madame had hired another accompanist to play for her during the ceremony the next day—she just wanted me to be her rehearsal pianist the night before, never mind that I had a castle full of regular guests who were not interested in hearing scales, arpeggios, and an impossibly high version of "Summertime."

Sometimes I swear these singers see a pianist and immediately think SERVANT.

Anyway, she threw her music on the piano and said something rude to me like, "YOU PLAY WARM UP." I smiled and said, "I don't read music," which is a lie, but it got me out of the situation and saved the sanity of my co-workers and guests who were not into hearing a glass shattering version of "Ave Maria" during the Friday night cocktail hour.

The banquet manager sent her down to a rehearsal piano in the bowels of the castle, where she played for herself and nearly caused the members of the housekeeping staff to lose their minds.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/28/09 12:13 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Dave!

Sometimes I swear these singers see a pianist and immediately think SERVANT.

I think that that attitude toward musicians, while perhaps less widespread than it once was, is hardly limited to singers. We are often categorized with "the help"; in places where the help are treated with some respect, we will likely be also. On the other hand...

There's a certain place we've played quite a few times over the years. It's a nice place; even a little quirky, not "cookie cutter" at all. I think they've loosened up a tad, maybe they got new owners or management along the way, but in the beginning it was like working in a prison.

They had a printed set of regulations for musicians, florists, DJs and anyone else that came into the building. The bandleader has to sign it. It was two pages long. One of the most annoying rules was the requirement that we be dressed in our "uniforms" (tuxes), even while carrying our gear.

As bad as that sounds, it's worse. One of the more popular rooms there is a glass-ceilinged atrium. It's on ground level, and there's a door at one end that leads right to the outside; perfect for loading in. Naturally, we were not allowed to use that door.

We were told instead to use the service entrance around back. As the place is built into a hillside, "around back" is actually at least one level up from the atrium room, and at the polar opposite point in the building.

Is that all? Of course not.

Here's the route. (I haven't been there in a couple of years, but it's burned into my memory)
In the back door, down the long slippery tile hallway
Down 4 steps to the upper level kitchen
Turn left.
Down a flight of stairs maybe 3 feet wide to the ground level kitchen.
Down another flight of stairs (a little wider) to the lower level dining room.
[The attentive reader may have noticed that we, having started on the upper level, have now descended to a point lower than the atrium.]
Walk through lower level catering room, turn right, go up a flight of stairs into the lobby.
Fight way through crowd in lobby, turn left into atrium.

On practically every surface in the service corridors there were signs, rules, warnings and video cameras, there to prevent theft, inefficiency and most normal forms of human behavior. Those were mostly for the kitchen help and wait-staff, but the tone was clear.

Even in places where the management is more accommodating, there is rarely much thought given to getting the musicians in and out of the place. I think that the building codes must actually have clauses that specify exemptions for any spaces that musicians might travel through. Stairways can be narrower, ceilings lower, steps steeper, floors slipperier, lights dimmer and directional signs are not required. In addition, corridors whose secondary function as emergency exits would normally prohibit them from being obstructed, can be used to store carts of glassware, hot coffee urns, wedding cakes, and any other bulky, delicate or dangerous items that may be handy.

We just played in a place that was something out of Spinal Tap. The actual party room was beautiful; recently and tastefully renovated. But the route to the room from the subterranean parking garage was through a rabbit-warren of corridors, storerooms and kitchen prep areas. I've got a pretty good sense of direction but made wrong turns on each trip to and from my car, even after I had found the room once.

Our bass player came in with white powder all over the top of his bass bag and on the shoulders of his black shirt. He carries his bass (electric) like a backpack. He's maybe 6' tall and the top of the bass is a few inches above that, but certainly low enough to get through standard doors. There was apparently a low pipe in a dark corridor that was covered with white spray-on insulation.

The most shocking thing about the place was that there were six sets of outlets along the wall behind where we were to play; Six sets of modern-looking, working outlets, placed almost as if someone had thought about the possibility of musicians occupying that area.

Nah. Probably just the contractor padding the job. smirk
Posted by: Dave Gruber

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/28/09 08:25 PM

Yeah. Fairly common stuff. Though your stories, Greg, show how extreme it can get. And then, occasionally, you get hired by someone to do a party, or some casual, and there's this wealthy individual there who tells you he used to play drums in such-and-such a band, and he's made sure you can park close, have a clear pathway to get your gear in and out. And most important of all, knows that you will play better, and with bigger smiles if he makes sure that you and your bandmates have a nice 30-40 minute break with the same wonderful food that the guests are enjoying. Complete with compliments about how good you are sounding (provided you are). No really. I have had this happen, on occasion. No REALLY.

Dave Gruber
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/29/09 03:48 PM

Yes, Dave, I believe you, I do, I do! It's important to remember that nice gigs exist. In fact, if I didn't have a fair number of good gigs, the goofy ones wouldn't seem so, well, goofy.

I have a lot of luck with gay weddings. For whatever reason, these events seem to be pleasant and classy and I'm treated well. Tuned piano, great food, no hysterical woman in a puffy white dress, and no clipboard lady. Easy.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/30/09 07:12 AM

It's hard to know how you'll come off in print, but the stories I've told here were selected for their entertainment potential, not to present a balanced picture. The absurdities are funnier than the run-of-the-mill stuff.

We usually get along OK with the staff and clients, usually get fed and are sometimes even surprised by how nice people can be. But who wants to read that? (kidding)

Here's something that hasn't come up yet: The dreaded list. Sometimes people having a party will write a list of the music they want you to play. Our former wedding band once got a list that was several pages long, nearly 100 songs. Notwithstanding Robin's German Wedding Marathons, here in the U.S. the marriage might not last through 100 songs.

Even when the list is of a more realistic length, it's seldom a roadmap for a successful party. People pick all their favorite songs, even if 75% of them are at dirge tempo, or are otherwise unsuitable for a party. Tell us you love Motown. Tell us Uncle Phil used to know "Frank". Tell us the overseas relatives want a Polka. But after that, leave it to us. We're (almost) professionals. Don't try this at home.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/30/09 03:07 PM

Not to complain about sopranos... but...

I am currently back in grad school (not in music) and am allowed to use the practice rooms here on my college campus. The facilities are not too bad, all things considered. But the rooms are not sound proof, and you can often here people around you practicing. Usually, I don't mind that, especially since once you start to play, you can't really hear anything else besides yourself. With the exception of... sopranos! Something about the range they sing it, you pretty much can not tune it out no matter what you do.

Listening to anyone practice is generally not fun, but listening to a soprano practice wierd scales that sound like a dying cat is easily one of the most unpleasant things I can think of. Have you ever heard a soprano warm up by bending all the way over at the waist and slowing rolling up as she sqeezes out air from the top of her head? If you can say no, count yourself lucky!

The only saving grace is that, it seems the singers don't tend to be up early in the morning, so I generally am in and out of the practice rooms before lunch time and can usually avoid them.

Sorry for that thread-drift! Back to the wedding stories!! smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/05/09 01:17 PM

There's a film called THE WEDDING PLANNER. maybe there should be one called THE WEDDING PIANIST. Imagine the possibilities.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/08/09 09:11 AM

Okay, my friends . . . here is a piece I've been working on for my next book. It will be a year by the time it's published, and by then you will have forgotten it, plus I will have rewritten it 14,000 times. But I've been inspired by all of your posts. This is a fleshed out version of a gig I wrote about back in June. Hope you enjoy it!

xoxo
Robin


The Tattooed Bride
Cologne, Germany
©2009 Robin Meloy Goldsby


The rain stops. I jump out of my car and my feet skid in the mud. The hem of my raspberry-colored silk chiffon gown catches in the heels of my gold sandals and I almost take a tumble. I bought these shoes at Bergdorf Goodman twenty years ago. They've held up quite nicely through dozens of Manhattan chase-the-taxi dashes and decades of marble hotel floors, but they weren't designed to handle last minute scurries through swamps in the German countryside. I regain my balance by grabbing the door handle of a snappy silver Mercedes sedan—not mine—wipe the goop off of my shoes with a couple of dead leaves, and do the little-old-lady-don't-wanna-fall walk through the parking marsh lot.

I've been to this castle before, but I've never played here. It's not my regular castle, but a lesser castle, situated in a small forest ten minutes from where I live. It's five minutes before six, and I'm scheduled to play for a wedding dinner at six sharp. I've never figured out why it's so difficult to be punctual for a gig that's this close to home, but that's the way it goes.

It starts to sprinkle again just as I'm onto the cobblestone sidewalk, which is even more hazardous than the muck. Affecting an elegant gait while traversing a cobblestone path in stiletto heels can be, well, troublesome. A yellow brick road, it's not. At last I see the castle, looming in the mist, in exactly the way a castle is supposed to loom. I've been in Germany for fourteen years, and I still thrill to the sight of these old chateaus.

But something is amiss. This castle is kind of funky. For one thing, it's pink. I have a moment of Brothers Grimm-induced panic, but recover when my heel sticks between a couple of stones and I'm darn near catapulted into a patch of stinging nettles. I recover, smooth my rain-ruined hair, and proceed. Clusters of casually dressed people lounge in the front garden. They're wearing t-shirts, shorts, and synthetic-fiber sundresses in peculiar shades of green and orange, and they're draped over benches and tables and each other, almost as if they're sleeping. Really, it looks a little like a Jim Jones purple kool-aid kind of scene, but I hear one or two of them snort, so I know they are not dead.

Must be another party, I think. A lot of these castle places are like American banquet halls, capable of hosting several celebrations at once. But these folks, slumped and silent, don't look like they're celebrating anything. I hobble past them—why don't they go inside to get out of the rain?—and hear someone snicker. I glance over my shoulder and see a couple of scary looking guys with shaved heads staring at me. Maybe skinheads, maybe not. I don't care, I just want to find the piano.

I'm greeted by an elegant man in a tuxedo. He's handsome, James Bondish in a Sean Connery way, minus the height and the martini glass.

"Good evening Frau Goldsby," he says.

"You must be Mr. Dinkledein," I say.

"Yes! So nice of you to be with us tonight. Our guests are outside enjoying the fresh air. The bride has been kidnapped in the woods—it's some sort of Bavarian game the bride's family insisted on playing. Her kidnappers should return her soon."

"What fun!" I say. And I thought American catholic weddings were weird.

"I'm so hoping you'll play the Pachelbel Canon in D for us, before we start dinner. I heard it on one of your CDs and I adore that piece."

"What a lovely choice," I say. "I'll be glad to play it." I am up to my eyeballs in Pachelbel this season. Every bridal party wants it, and every bridal party thinks they are the first to request it.

"I will gather everyone for dinner, and once they are seated, I will introduce you. After the Pachelbel, the buffet will open, and I'd like you to switch to background music at that point."

"That's a great idea." I glance at the piano. This handsome man in the expensive suit has rented a beautiful Bösendorfer concert grand for the evening. It's worth 75,000 euros, and for tonight, it's all mine. My goodness.

"The technician was here this afternoon. The instrument is in good shape."

"Wonderful," I say. "I can't remember the last time—"

A shriek from the garden cuts off the rest of my sentence.

"There's my wife!" says Mr. Dinkldein.

I look out the front door and there she is, indeed. The blushing bride, Frau Dinkledein—all 300 pounds of her—is galloping down the cobblestone path towards the yellow castle, chased by a gaggle of tuxedo-clad men with shaved heads. Really, she is moving at an amazing speed for someone her size. Obviously she is not wearing stilettos. But she is wearing a whiter than white taffeta strapless full-length dress, which she has hiked up around her, uh, substantial thighs.

"Wow," I say.

"Isn't she something?" says Herr Dinkledein. He is beaming. We stand shoulder to shoulder, nodding at Frau Dinkledein, who truly resembles a charging bull in a Vera Wang plus-sized dress.

"I guess the kidnappers didn't nab her," I say.

"Oh," he says. "She's way too much woman for those guys to catch."

I'll say.

The lounging people in the park, the ones dressed in orange and green, begin to cheer. Oh no, it can't be. But yes, they are the guests. The corpulent bride and the shrunken James Bond groom have invited a bunch of German rednecks to their wedding. And I've got to play the gig.

"I'll call everyone to dinner," says Herr Dinkledein.

"I'll check the piano," I say. The piano is perfect. Exquisite, in fact. I retreat to the foyer and wait to be introduced.

***

I call it the Pachelbel moment. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's magic. People love this piece of music, and I admit, I love playing it. For a musician this is like confessing to a Twinkie addiction, but what can I say? In spite of my rolled eyes and tortured not that piece again proclamations, I dig playing it. It's neither difficult nor boring, categories into which most pieces of music fall. I can tart it up or dress it down, play it long or short, big or small (I like small), and still everyone recognizes it. When they hear the Canon in D they do that little smiling-nodding thing that makes me feel validated.

The guests plop into their chairs.

"We are honored to have Frau Goldsby with us tonight," say Herr Dinkledein. He continues with his speech and I take in the small crowd gathered for the nuptial dinner. There are about six large round tables, each one holding eight guests. The skinheads and their dates are to my right. The dates have big hair, big boobs, and piercings in places that make me squirm. The men have no hair and tattoos.

So. Pachelbel it is. As I play the opening cadence I look to the table on my left. They are very close to the piano and I notice that several of them, no, all of them, have a wart problem. What's with that?

Skinheads on the right. The warted people on the left. I close my eyes and play. This piano is a dream come true, so I enter Pianoland and focus on the music.

As I start the familiar sixteenth note section of the melody I open my eyes hoping for the smile-nod thing from the audience. But no one smiles and no one nods. One of the skinheads cracks his knuckles. And then, the mother of the groom gets up to dance. With her dog. Der Hund. I keep playing.

The dog is not one of those little rat dogs. He is a mid-sized dog with floppy ears, and he probably weighs a good 50 pounds. The groom's mother, who is wearing a green sequined frock, sways back in forth with Fido. Everyone ignores her. But to me, this is something special. I once had a singing dog (at the better castle) who howled whenever I played selections from Phantom of the Opera, but a dancing dog? This is a first.

The zombie guests stare into space as I begin improvising.

The bride's back is to me, and because of the strapless dress and the chair, she looks like she's naked. Why oh why would anyone with biceps that size wear a strapless dress? Maybe she couldn't find sleeves to fit. A large dragonfly tattoo colors her right shoulder.

This piano sings! What an instrument. The notes are like jewels, or stars, or any fine thing that glitters.

The paint on the walls is cracked and peeling, and I notice the crystal chandelier is missing a few pieces. More than a few. This place is run down—charming, but seedy. Except for this piano, which is as they say in German, der Hammer. I play the last chord of the Canon and let it ring. Gorgeous!

Considering the comatose state of everyone except the woman dancing with the dog, I'm not expecting much applause, but one of the skinheads stands up and yells, YEOW!!!!! and makes a hooting sound while pumping his fist. All of the skinheads pound on the table with their silverware. The groom stands to make another speech.

"I am moved to tears by this music," he says. "That was beautiful. And now, dinner is served." All fifty guests, led by the warted people, rush to the buffet. The bride makes a beeline for the piano. I've never seen someone so large move so quickly, except maybe in a Pittsburgh Steelers game. Franco Harris comes to mind.

"FABELHAFT!!!" she yells at me. She has buck teeth, with wide spaces between them. I remember one of my dad's jokes about a girl eating an apple through a picket fence. She slaps me on the back and says, "Sie sind echt cooooool!" Another back slap.

Really, it's like the German version of Hee-Haw in this place.

One of the skinheads, the knuckle cracker, approaches the piano. "Can you play something by the Backstreet Boys?" he asks. I'm reminded of Jimmy Ciongoli, a pianist friend of my mine, who—when asked to play a Black Sabbath piece on the piano—looked the customer right in the eye and said, "What the fuck's wrong with you?"

I want to say this, but I am poofy and polite and wearing 200-dollar shoes and a nice dress. So I smile and say: "I'm terribly sorry, but I don't know any Backstreet Boys music."

Crack, crack, crack. The skinhead glares at me, and tugs at his orange t-shirt.

"Those are wonderful tattoos," I say.

Crack.

"Fresh ink," he says. "Got them for the wedding."

"Very, very nice," I say. "Lovely! Look at that. I've never seen a tattoo of a wild boar!"

Crack, crack.

There are two types of people in this world, those who run away from needles, and those who crave them. He smiles sadly, like he feels sorry for me, and walks away. I can hear his knuckles from all the way across the room.

I put on my don't bother me I'm an artist face and try to get back to Pianoland, that place where nothing counts but the music, but I'm interrupted by a warted person who wants to sing. I'm interrupted by the bride's mother, who wants to know if her dog can sleep under the piano. I'm interrupted by the groom, who tells me again and again how he can't stop crying when he hears my music.

But I play and play, until the guests have eaten themselves into an even deeper state of unconsciousness. The room grows quiet, except for the occasional shriek of laughter coming from the bride's table, the cracking knuckles, and the gentle snoring of the dog at my feet. I play a Debussy Arabesque, fully aware that I'm playing well, and equally aware that no one cares. There are no wrong notes on this piano, no shadows or sharp corners, only sparkling light and the rounded edges of the instrument's warm tones.

I glance through the French doors leading into the overgrown rose garden and see the muted colors of the early summer evening—soft pinks and lavenders, a garden's version of a sunset. I see the once glorious history of the castle in the rough stone walls surrounding the castle property; the majestic red maple trees towering over the crumbling gatehouse. And then I see the bride's brother barfing in the bushes.

So much for the Debussy. I keep playing, but I've lost my groove. I don't want to look at the barfing man, but I can't stop myself from staring. No one in the dining room can see him, but the piano is angled so that I have a bird's eye view of the action.

I’m not a snob, really I'm not. I have played for the great unwashed plenty of times and have truly enjoyed myself. But the barfing man pushes me a step too far. I am confused by this event. Classy groom, Hee-Haw bride; kidnappings and green and orange outfits; skinheads and people with warts; mother of the bride with a dancing dog; and a man doing his version of the Technicolor yawn right there in the garden.

I feel a tap on my shoulder. "Guten Abend, Frau Goldsby. As soon as you finish, I'll start my part of the program."

"Oh," I say. "Fine. What do you do?"

"I'm a magician," he says. The dog starts to growl from under the piano.

"So," I say, playing one last chord. "Have a great evening. It's all yours."

I say a silent goodbye to the magnificient Bösendorfer, collect the envelope of cash left for me in the caterer's office, and step into the June twilight, avoiding the rose garden and following the cobblestone path. The rain has stopped and the air smells green and silvery.

Other than making a living, I wonder what I'm doing with my life. Making music? Oh. That.

From the parking lot, I hear the sounds of a Backstreet Boys recording. The mud has dried, so I dance back to my car, wondering how many centuries of magic this castle has witnessed, and how much of it cast a spell worth remembering.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/09 03:45 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I have played for the great unwashed plenty of times and have truly enjoyed myself. But the barfing man pushes me a step too far.


I can't remember what sort of function it was; I doubt it was a wedding, but it was certainly a formal affair. The place was, and is still, called Terrace on the Park, a remnant of the 1964 New York World's Fair. It looks a bit like a giant table, a restaurant perched on four 100 foot tall supports. Back in 1964 the restaurant floor rotated and there was a heliport on the roof. The old World's Fair site is now called Flushing Meadows Park.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wandy-1d/2063677175/

The restaurant is now stationary and there are no more helicopters, but the place still has a terrific view, at least most of the time.

The band had set up and we were waiting for the guests to arrive. A couple of us were looking out the window toward Manhattan. People were starting to park their cars in the lot below us. One car drove up and parked maybe 400 feet from the hall, next to an area of bushes, reeds and small trees. Out came two couples - young - late teens or early twenties. They were dressed for the occasion; the girls in colorful frilly gowns, the guys in suits.

About halfway to the hall the guys broke off and headed into the bushes, leaving their dates at the edge of the lot. We wondered about this, quickly settling on the idea that the guys probably brought some of nature's bounty with them and had stopped to smoke it.

Nope.

Dressed in suits and a half a city block from a building that probably housed no fewer than 30 bathrooms, these guys felt the need to relieve themselves al fresco.

Fiction is no match for reality.

Greg Guarino
Posted by: DeepElem

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/09 01:14 PM

Fantastic writing Robin !
Thank you for posting this here.
Can't wait for the book.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/09 02:29 PM

Thanks, DeepElem/Buck! Glad you enjoyed the story. As Greg pointed out, you can't make up this stuff. This piece will be more refined by the time it's published, but I'm glad to hear you're digging the first draft.

Greg, I know Terrace on the Park. My husband played a bunch of gigs there when we were still in NYC. There was often SQUAB on the menu, and John used to joke about the waiters being forced to round up pigeons in Flushing Meadow Park when the restaurant was running low on food.

"86 on the chicken, Guido. Time to start serving the SQUAB. Harry, get a couple of nets to the busboys."
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/09 06:25 PM

Hi Robin,

Thanks so much for posting this - also can't wait for the whole book to come out! I'm still smiling/laughing at all the shenanigans you describe! My goodness, what you have to put up with! smile eek
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/11/09 12:08 PM

""FABELHAFT!!!" she yells at me. She has buck teeth, with wide spaces between them. I remember one of my dad's jokes about a girl eating an apple through a picket fence. She slaps me on the back and says..."

Thanks for the preview, Robin! Just when I thought I'd heard it all. I'll be looking forward to your new book--- let's hope these wedding people never find out about it.

Some of your phrases just stick with me; there was that other wedding misadventure that had "a major problem with wasps." You may not know it, but as a hiker I have learned that wasps do not care for cologne. It was dramatized by the morning that wasps were disturbed and took off after the one hiker out of thirty who had drenched himself in Eau de Cologne. Half-a-mile, a whole mile, down the home stretch to the parking lot, they avenged themselves. It was lucky he proved not to be allergic. It was lucky a bridesmaid's dress and pumps were not involved.

It looks like your first book has stuck to someone I lent it to, so I guess I'll have to replace it while I get your current one and look forward to the upcoming.

The music for the prison wedding ceremony is another hard-to-forget moment, but we'll let it go for now.

I had to withdraw my own wedding story; it was too dark for this lighthearted collection.

Thanks again for the preview.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/13/09 08:37 AM

Hi Jeff! I'd say we could use a couple of dark stories on this thread, so please post whatever you've got. And thanks for the wasp tip. No more Chanel No. 5 for me. Maybe I should try a can of RAID.

I LOVE that prison wedding chapter in Piano Girl (for those of you who don't know it, I once was talked into playing for a wedding on Rikers Island), so I'm glad you remember it! It's my favorite part of the book. That story is 100% true, by the way, but I had to change the names and some identifying details to protect, well, ME.

Here's the moral of THAT story: Never ever play for the wedding of a man who is serving 25 years to life (NY Post headline over his picture: COKE KING KONKED) even if his fiancée is a good friend.

Hi Elssa! Thanks for the encouragement. I'm in the beginning stages of this project and it's nice to a have you on my side of the piano bench.

xoxo
Robin
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/15/09 01:33 PM

Hi Robin,

Well, here's sort of a "dark story".. My friend used to play in a professional wedding/dance band. One time the band was hired to play for the wedding reception of two members of a very conservative church. As they were playing at the reception, they saw that nobody was getting up and dancing, just sitting there stone faced, listening to the music. When the band leader finally asked the people why they were not dancing, they replied that the church did not allow dancing because it was evil! The band was so insulted, they walked out. Don't know if the church members hired a dance band by mistake or they were just trying to make a point, but I don't blame the band for calling it quits on that event. shocked
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/16/09 02:26 AM

OK, Robin I really did laugh out loud at this:
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

I glance through the French doors leading into the overgrown rose garden and see the muted colors of the early summer evening—soft pinks and lavenders, a garden's version of a sunset. I see the once glorious history of the castle in the rough stone walls surrounding the castle property; the majestic red maple trees towering over the crumbling gatehouse. And then I see the bride's brother barfing in the bushes.


Not where I thought you were going with this paragraph at all. What a hoot!

Elssa, I was at a wedding with this same religious group, I think. The bride was a college friend of mine (we sang together). She and her fiance were doctors, and had been living together for some time, and I was a little shocked to realize her parents didn't know that. I had no idea before the wedding that her father (who looked a lot like Fred Flinstone) was incredibly strict. They belonged to a church that did not allow dancing. He and her mom spent the evening with scowls on their faces. Why?

In large part because the groom's mother, a beautiful redhead with legs borrowed from Cyd Charisse, was cutting quite a rug in her floating flaired chiffon skirt. She was a former chorus girl.

Yes, the families found out quite a bit about each other that night...
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/16/09 11:24 AM

Well now, Fred Flintstone was not such a bad-looking fellow... and Wilma was no woodchuck. But I sense a dark, seething ocean of ulterior motives in this scene you described. Fred likes Cyd but doesn't want Wilma to catch on; Wilma does, though and intends to keep Cyd as far from Fred as she can (she has a leash and collar in her purse and she's not afraid to use it). And the kids express both sets of parents' unconscious, know it or not. Besides, who knows what storms of forbidden passion may be churning the waters behind Wilma's scowling demeanor--- that frown could very well be a "beard." It's presence is suspicious in more than one sense.

Meanwhile, Cyd knows all about Fred, and Cyd's husband is tolerantly amused and somewhat gratified that everyone's eye is on his beautiful wife; he's used to it, and when they dance the tango he understands how to show her off to her best advantage. It's part of the fun of their marriage, and anyone watching can get as fired-up as they like; he knows she's coming home with daddy. He's looking forward to the rhumba contest at the reception; the band has been primed--- and well-tipped.

And the Wedding March plays on.

I can picture some very colorful future family scenes, and I wonder which branch of the family the grandkids will take after. I hope the young marrieds both have Living Wills... and pre-nups.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/16/09 11:45 AM

Jeff! Elssa!Rusty!

You three are really funny.

Just one thing Elssa—you described my own wedding. I married a jazz bassist who comes from a Southern Baptist family, and they do NOT believe in drinking or dancing, I believe because these things lead to fornication (which, if you ask me, is the whole point of getting married, right?) Anyway, my in-laws have odd beliefs, but they were gracious enough to accept the fact that MY family danced and would probably drink, too, sinners that we are.

There were 200 people at the wedding, and about 16 of them were from my side. The rest of the guests were from the church (Louisville, Kentucky). John hired famed jazz guitarist Jimmy Raney to play for our reception, and my in-laws, meaning well, cleared an area the size of a football field for my relatives to dance. The rest of the guests sat in a ring around the dance floor, with a full view of the action. It was like Dancing with the Stars, except with Heathens. Some of you may know who Jimmy Raney was. That trio sounded fantastic. My Aunt Jean played the role of Cyd at this party. Aunt Jean is a swinger. Still. And she's 87.

Castle update: Last night's wedding featured a dozen (!) Asian bridesmaids dressed in strapless pink chiffon. I played for the cocktail hour, so I don't know if they got down and dirty on the dance floor later in the evening. One can only hope.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/16/09 03:34 PM

Hi Robin,

Wow, I'm really surprised your husband became such a great jazz musician with a family that strict! LOL! I didn't know that the "no-dance rule" was so common, though. Geez, you'd think they could at least allow people to dance the "Bunny Hop" and "Alley Cat" at weddings - the little kids especially, who look so adorable. But even the adults should be allowed to do these because (most of the time) you're dancing separately, paws up and dainty steps/hops with these "kiddie dances". smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/17/09 11:08 AM

Ha! John is the black sheep of the family.

If he didn't look just like the other members of the family, I'd swear they found him in a basket on the church steps.

Bunny Hop. Now we're talkin,'
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/17/09 10:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

I can picture some very colorful future family scenes, and I wonder which branch of the family the grandkids will take after. I hope the young marrieds both have Living Wills... and pre-nups.


Too funny, Jeff. I've lost touch with the couple, but last I heard they were both still practicing surgeons with two lovely children in grade school. So far, so good... I can only imagine what Thanksgiving is like though.
Posted by: aEquals440

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/20/09 10:48 AM

Is it just me, or at the high society weddings, do the bridesmaids always seem to get a little crazy towards the end of the reception?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/21/09 05:08 AM

aE440: I think you might be correct with your bridesmaid theory. Alcohol is the great equalizer, though. People who drink too much, regardless of their social or economic status, are all capable of doing the alligator dance on the bar by the end of the night.

My dad (musician) likes to look at a room of sober guests at the beginning of the gig and make bets with the band which member of the party will be most likely to strip before the evening is over. Trust me, it's not limited to bridesmaids.

Here is my favorite gay wedding story: I was hired by friend to play the cocktail hour for their reception. Gorgeous party—250 guests, black tie, beautiful flowers, wonderful location. I played my gig and then (because I was a friend) was invited to the dinner. My husband was playing a concert that night at the Philharmonie hall here in Cologne, so he was unable to be my date for the dinner, but said he would come by after the concert and meet me there. He called on his way to the wedding reception and asked how it was going. I told him the truth, that it was a classy event, one of the nicest weddings I had been to in a long time, great food, grandparents, a couple of kids--in other words, a completely normal high society wedding, just with two grooms.

"Okay," he said, "I'll be there in ten minutes."

Well. In the that ten minutes all hell broke lose. A friend of one of the grooms had hired the ROSA FUNKEN, a gay dance group consisting of two dozen men dressed in pink ballerina tutus. John, wearing concert attire, managed to arrive at the reception just as they were marching into the ballroom to perform their über-choreographed version of Gloria Gaynor's "I Am What I Am." It almost looked like he was part of the show. Too bad he didn't have his bass with him.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/21/09 04:14 PM

I went to a no-dancing wedding in Chicago suburbs once. It was quite the culture clash. The bride's family, friends and neighbors were all, well, light; Blond or light brown hair, light skin, pastel-hued clothes in conservative styles. They had driven in from rural Illinois.

The groom's family and most of his friends were New York Italians who flew in for the affair. Jet-black hair, dark suits, black dresses (or other bold colors) with some decidedly less conservative lines, sunglasses. They arrived in two 15-passenger vans from the hotel we all stayed in.

The church attendants soon realized that there was no need to ask "Bride or Groom?" of the guests. They just pointed the way to the correct side. There were furtive glances across the aisle, each side studying the curious creatures on the other.

I don't think it was until we arrived at the reception that the guests on the groom's side found out that the entertainment was a string trio. (people get too wild with a quartet).

We in the bridal party waited outside the catering room. They announced each "couple" as we entered. Each announcement sounded something like this: "...and next we have Bobbi-Jean Swensen and... uh...ah... John Gee-uh-nan-a-noo-nee", "Betty-Sue Cornbread and ... Greg um...Gar-da-nee-no", "Mary-Jo Easy-to-pronounce-Midwestern and Domenic Oh-my-Gawd-what-the-heck-is-with-these-vowels-o".

You'd think that a mere 45 minutes out of Chicago they might have had some familiarity with Italian names. But they didn't. They mispronounced each syllable and added a couple onto each name for good measure.

That was pretty much it for the excitement. Compared with the weddings I had been to before (did I mention that my Mom's family is Greek? 'Nuff said), this one was more like 150 people eating a meal in the same room.

Many of the New Yorkers, especially the younger ones (a category that used to include me - sigh) got together in the hotel lounge that night to fill in the omissions of the afternoon affair: Loud music, disco lighting, dancing and of course, a little alcohol.
Posted by: J Cortese

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/21/09 04:30 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
"...and next we have Bobbi-Jean Swensen and... uh...ah... John Gee-uh-nan-a-noo-nee", "Betty-Sue Cornbread and ... Greg um...Gar-da-nee-no", "Mary-Jo Easy-to-pronounce-Midwestern and Domenic Oh-my-Gawd-what-the-heck-is-with-these-vowels-o".


This must be the funniest post I've read online anywhere in quite some time. You win the Internet.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/22/09 01:25 AM

Very funny, Greg! I love the string trio line.

There's an old vaudeville joke that might apply to your Chicago wedding: "Is this a party or an oil painting?"

No wedding at the castle tonight. The happy couple was not so happy and cancelled at the last minute.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/22/09 01:32 PM

Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Originally Posted By: gdguarino
"...and next we have Bobbi-Jean Swensen and... uh...ah... John Gee-uh-nan-a-noo-nee", "Betty-Sue Cornbread and ... Greg um...Gar-da-nee-no", "Mary-Jo Easy-to-pronounce-Midwestern and Domenic Oh-my-Gawd-what-the-heck-is-with-these-vowels-o".


This must be the funniest post I've read online anywhere in quite some time. You win the Internet.

Thanks. I'll send you an invoice.

Here's another tidbit from the same wedding. The ushers were all from NY City: the groom's two brothers and three friends, including me. We had to rent tuxedos long-distance. This involved phoning in our various measurements to the tailor. "Honey, help me measure from my waist to my crotch...Yes really." Between our lack of skill and the hilarity of the process (at least in my house), the measurements may have been less than completely precise.

Do I even need to tell the rest of the story?

On the day of the wedding all five guys went into one of our hotel rooms to get changed into the tuxes. It was like a swap meet. "My pants are too big/too short/too long/too...wrong". The exchanging began. I ended up trading pants with a guy 6 inches taller than I am and swapping the jacket with someone else. The results were pretty much as you might expect.

At least we didn't have to dance.
Posted by: Sir Lurksalot

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/09 07:13 PM

Robin you have a pm waiting.
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/24/09 09:23 PM

Well here's my 2nd wedding piano story from Sat, unfortunately things went pretty smoothly :P

It was for a good friend, so I was also in the wedding party. This time I made it to the rehearsal, thank god, I actually had some idea of what's going on this time.

The church had a nice grand piano, a treat for me since I usually am on a digital. Not to mention the acoustics in the church! Playing the background music while people arrive was a low pressure situation, most were talking so I felt like I was just playing for myself and anyone who ran out of things to say.

Since I was nervous I decided to start with the easiest pieces to get warmed up on. Turns out it doesn't take long for everyone to arrive and the ceremony to start though, I didn't get through half of what I'd memorized before I saw the deacon at the back waving for me to begin.

For the ceremony they'd convinced me to practice up the guitar again, Bach's Air for a G string for the wedding party and Pachelbels Canon for the bride. Nobody knew how to work the sound system (or even where to find it) so I just played into a microphone, it sounded like ass from where I was sitting, very boomy... But I was told it sounded fine where everyone else was. More piano for the wedding certificate and while everyone walked off. There were memory slips and dropped notes all over the place, but overall went pretty good and everyone seemed happy with it. laugh

Then we ran into a bunch of people from the wedding at the liquor store, and it was such a hot day out to take pictures in a tux... we were all a bit tipsy by the reception. The brides side, who usually seem a bit stuck up to us partiers from the grooms side, even loosened up and had some fun. Thanks alcohol! All the groomsmen were gifted with pocket knives and we were like kids with new toys. It's amazing nobody got hurt, though I woke up with a lot of little nicks on my hands and somehow sliced my thumb today, oops.

Lots of laughs and good times. I get to play for another friends wedding in Nov. Someone suggested I learn the theme from Pirates of The Carribean, which I think would be pretty funny and somehow appropriate.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 04:20 AM

Yes! 1RC, sounds like a smash success! You have obviously discovered the pleasures of playing when no one is listening. I've made a career out of it, and although it's not something I'd recommend for musicians with fragile egos, it can be (in weird way) an artistically pure way of performing. Play for yourself.

I actually played that Pirates theme at a wedding dinner a couple of years ago. I didn't mean to play it, but I have it in my fingers, which means—like most pieces of music I know— it has a life of its own and can slip out of my hands whenever the atmosphere nudges me in a particular direction. (that last sentence sounds ridiculous, but those of you who play background gigs know what I mean) At this particular wedding the bride looked like a wench (boobs pushed up to her chin) and the groom was wearing an eye patch, which just screams PIRATE and well, I just started playing it, which almost caused the banquet manager to drop a tray of wine glasses.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 04:22 AM

And another thing, 1RC. Pocket knives and alcohol are probably not good companions, especially for a pianist! At least you waited until after the gig.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 09:11 AM

your story was delightful piano girl.

I particularly loved this line.. "I have played for the great unwashed plenty of times "

what a nice of humor you have.

(I'm thinking about the party i played for years ago where the host's sister was a lifetime drunk but an incredible pianist.. she kept sitting down to accompany me, adding descants, bass rhythmic enhancements, countermelodies. If it weren't for her breath and the fact that she kept listing (leaning) into me, it would have been a delightful experience.)
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 10:00 AM

Piano Girl - you really ought to post this in the Piano Forum or Pianist Corner.. it deserves a greater readership.



edit- I see you've met Marian McPartland (you're so lucky) - is the show to broadcast this week? It airs in KCMO on Wednesdays (rehearsal nite and I'll have to miss that one).

I hope to hear it.
Posted by: jotur

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 10:54 AM

Robin Meloy Goldsby - who wrote the book Piano Girl smile

Cathy

P.S. I see the question of "what does RMG stand for?" has been taken out, so my answer looks a little silly laugh But it's still the answer smile
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 01:25 PM

Here's a topic we haven't addressed yet. What about people who talk to you while you play? I don't mean brief bits like "You guys are really good!" or "Can you play 'Witchcraft'?". Here's a conversation that I'm sure I can type out nearly verbatim, even though it was 15 years ago:

Couple:
"Our son plays keyboard"

Me:
[smile, nod]

Couple:
"He's eight"

Me:
[smile a little more artificially, nod again]

Couple:
"We just bought him a new keyboard..."

Me
"Uh huh."

Couple
"but it doesn't sound like yours..."

Me
"Oh"

Couple
"Why do you think that is?"

Me (stifling the urge to say six or seven of the obvious things one might say in such a situation)
"Because it's different, and he's eight"

Them:
"How can we make it sound like yours"

Me:
"Buy one like this"

The Idiots: (miffed that I might have thought that they, members of a rather upscale country club, might have bought less than the finest for Little Biff Tenthumbs III) :
"Well, it's a very good one.

Me:
"OK" (with a slight "If you say so" tone)

They left after that.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 01:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Elssa
Geez, you'd think they could at least allow people to dance the "Bunny Hop"

Oh please! The Bunny Hop surely came from the pen of Ol' Scratch himself. Also "Havin' My Baby", by the way.

And I note you didn't include the Hokey Pokey. Depending on who's "calling" it, the song can get pretty risque. "What did he say to 'put in'??"
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 02:22 PM

Okay, what first? Let's start with Greg and Little Biff. At the risk of sounding immodest, I have to say that I am really good at talking and playing at the same time. I don't know if this ability to split my concentration comes from early training at my first job at the Nantucket Club Car in 1976 (where I had to converse with drunken sailors, turn the pages of my fakebook, and pull up my tube top while pounding my way through my Bicentennial patriotic medley) or if I was just born with a Rainman like ability to yap and play at the same time. What I cannot do, is speak German while I play. English, fine; German or French, train wreck.

Anyway, the talkers don't bug me much as long as they speak English.

I really hate the hand-shakers. What's with that????

Thanks, Cathy, for clearing up my name, even though the question disappeared. It was kind of like Piano Jeopardy. I'll take Cocktail Piano for 500, Alex.

Apple, I'm afraid of those other forums—they're kind of serious over there, rightly so. But feel free to send them over this way.

The show I did with Marian McPartland has been broadcast twice, the last time in January of this year. I'm supposed to do another taping with her sometime soon. Here's the link if you want to listen online (it's in the archives). It's a really fun show, and I can't say enough about her. She is WONDERFUL. I just hope that when I'm 92 I'm still playing the piano and having as much fun as she is.

Robin with Marian McPartland on NPR
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 03:01 PM

This thread goes on my "all-time PW favorite thread" lists. Love these stories... Greg, I was howling at your story about little Biff. And I truly enjoyed the special treat of a sneak preview of your forthcoming book, Robin... can't wait for it to come out! smile

p.s. I know what you mean about the other forums being scary. (Except, of course, for warm and cozy AB forum. wink ) I still haven't recovered from the time I admitted that I liked Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the Pianist Corner. eek
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 03:34 PM

Hey Monica! You're right, AB is a safe haven. And inspiring! There is something so moving about adult music students. Gives me faith that the world is an okay place.

I'll bet you have some on-deck wedding players hanging out over there!

HA! I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra comment. On this thread, we'd think that was a wedding band for an Eastern European reception.

Friend of the prisoner or friend of the poet? At least the vodka would be good.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 04:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG


Apple, I'm afraid of those other forums—they're kind of serious over there, rightly so. But feel free to send them over this way.

The show I did with Marian McPartland has been broadcast twice, the last time in January of this year. I'm supposed to do another taping with her sometime soon. Here's the link if you want to listen online (it's in the archives). It's a really fun show, and I can't say enough about her. She is WONDERFUL. I just hope that when I'm 92 I'm still playing the piano and having as much fun as she is.

Robin with Marian McPartland on NPR


I really miss listening to Marian's Show. I've had a rehearsal scheduled on Wednesday evenings for years and years now. She is so delightful. I suppose i could arrange to be sorting socks or sewing buttons while I have a listen.

I'm sure there are many people who would enjoy your sense of humor Robyn. Some of our most pedantic posters have sly wits. Some of the forums get absolutely NOOOO traffic. I've been trying to drum up business for the organ forum to absolutely no avail and our 'Who's Who at Piano World has only 7 topics.

This is probably my first post ever in the nonclassical forum (and I'm likely to get laughed out of here).

Speaking of Who's Who, I'm going to ask Lang Lang if he'll join Piano World when I see him on Sep. 15th. ya never know.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 05:02 PM

"Some of the forums get absolutely NOOOO traffic. I've been trying to drum up business for the organ forum to no avail..."

No kidding, Apple... is there really one? This is the first I've seen it or heard of it--- and I love organ.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/09 08:05 PM

understandably, the organ forum gets little traffic. This is afterall, Piano World. There is an organ forum elsewhere. (www.organforum.com) Not a lot of traffic there, but considerably more than here.

i digress... back to the tattoed bride.

Posted by: Nina

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 01:38 AM

Wow, what a great thread--pulled me out of long-time lurkdom! I've been laughing hysterically on every page.

I've only played one wedding--my nephew's. They asked me to accompany another nephew and a friend who were singing a duet during the ceremony. No problem, I play for singers a fair amount. Then they wondered if I'd be willing to play the Wedding March for the processional. I said I could, but asked if they might be willing to let me try to find something a little less traditional, with their approval.

They said OK, but suggested I brush up on the wedding march just in case. Well, to make a long story short I ran out of time to really find anything suitable as an alternative so figured I'd just do the wedding march as originally requested.

But...I don't know what came over me. During the rehearsal as the bride entered, I launched into "Hey, Look Me Over." I was laughing hysterically. The bride looked completely panicked. I pulled myself together (which took a bit of time) and we did the wedding march and all was well.

The wedding ceremony was lovely. I only smirked once or twice from my piano bench in the choir loft.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 02:40 AM

Nina, your post caused me to laugh out loud, not an easy task at the crack of dawn (I'm writing from Germany). "Hey, Look Me Over?" That's a riot! See that's what I mean, sometimes these things just slip out, it's like stream of consciousness gigging.

What was the duet piece your nephew sang? I'm always intrigued by the songs people choose for the Big Day.

Apple and Jeff, I'll bet there are some church organists with excellent wedding stories. I was in a wedding a million years ago where the bride FORGOT to hire an organist—she had ordered 6 billion dollars of flowers, and enough chocolate wedding cake to feed the entire Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, but she forgot about music. (Where's the clipboard lady when you need her?)

Knowing that I had the cocktail piano gig at the Pittsburgh Hyatt, she tried to get me to go play the church pipe organ, but—even though I was 21 and crazy enough to try just about anything—I had the sense to say no. I am clueless when it comes to organ. I have enough trouble with two hands, add feet to the mix and I'm askin' for trouble. Anyway, we marched down the aisle to complete silence.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 09:29 AM

I am a service organist and do weddings and funerals. I really don't enjoy dealing with brides. (maybe a tattoed one would be ok). They are so emotionally needy and so a gaga over themselves and their love and their dress, and their makeup and so into the planning process. Why they think the organist wants to hear how they fell in love is beyond me. Perhaps, confused, they think I would be a soundboard.

In spite of a contract, I've had little luck in keeping my hours contributed to a manageable level. How can you turn down a crying bride who needs to change the music even tho rehearsals have been conducted with soloists? How do you extract money from a bride who's fiance has decided not to go thru the wedding? How do you deal with a mother in law who wants to bribe you to change the music as a surprise for her son?

and then there are the organs which are never played except for weddings and their volume pedals are stuck on super loud.

I played my first wedding in 7th grade. I was soooo scared. I hardly knew how to turn on the organ, much less use any pedals or choose which stops to use. I still made 50 dollars which was a fortune in 1969. That's when my parents decided I could well afford my own highschool tuition.

Funerals, tho somber, are much easier to deal with logistically..... sometimes the level of grief is overwhelming. I've gotten thru a couple without giving into my sorrow, only to go home and cry the rest of the day.

Anyway, I'm delighted to find yet another book to ad to my music book collection, and look forward to reading it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 11:39 AM

Yes, Apple, the only way to get through some of these weddings is with a bullet proof sense of humor. Sounds like you have one.

50 bucks in 1969 was indeed a fortune. Iplayed my first gig in 1976 and made 50 bucks a night, five nights a week. I was 18 and it seemed like a million dollars.

I didn't get on the wedding circuit until I moved to Europe and cracked the high society wedding market, something that happened because I got a steady weekend gig at a castle that is renowned for weddings.

There is no such thing as a "normal" wedding. For most women, a chance to be queen for a day is a once in a lifetime event, and most of them work that diva thing to death. I have pretty much figured out that when the day comes, they have no clue what I play, how I play, or whether or not I even manage to show up. But most of the time I play background music for the reception or dinner. It's a different deal if you're playing the ceremony, like you, Apple. Tension City.

I'm still laughing about "Hey Look Me Over."

Don't get me started on funerals, except to say that in 2004 I played a funeral and wedding on the same day. I'm working on writing about that, but I'm not sure I can pull it off—what a mix of emotions.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 02:11 PM

i've saved many of the anecdotes i've shared on this piano forum and others in a 'maybe this will be a collection of short stories' file. This was a funeral I attended but did not play at. As a bit of preamble, I live in Kansas City and the Chiefs are a football team.

-----------------

A brother of a friend of mine, a fireman with a gambling and drinking problem, committed suicide in jail after being picked up for driving under the influence.

He lived in on the northwestern side of the metro where houses are pink or black, crumbled, surrounded by wild dogs, or may have a full sized Chief's logo painted on the side of the house, covering the windows. Tattoo parlors abut homemade churches of questionable denomination and the roads have no curbs or drainage conduits.

William was a fireman and a bagpiper. The funeral was well attended by sturdy legged firemen whose pants were way too tight, who sported handlebar mustaches and shaved heads, and probably had Harley-Davidson wannabees in their detached sheds. After the ceremony, 25 firefighters gathered in the vestibule with 8 fully dressed bagpipers. The Church was fairly small and the vestibule was maybe 12' X 12'.

A fireman said "We will sound the final alarm for our brother William". They had brought at least 8 BIG brass bells (the kind that used to ring in firehouses to call the firefighters and dangle above the front of the trucks). The 8 bells started clanging, reverberating the church of stucco and tile, the bagpipers started playing, and the huge old church bell above us started peeling. For at least 3 minutes this unbelievably loud cacophony sounded. The congregation was clusted at the back of the church by the firemen and bagpipers. After about a minute of this wonderful noise, everyone broke into the most unfettered sobbing I have ever witnessed. Not a person was spared from the racking sobs of utter sorrow. It was a total group thing.

When the clamor died, one of the firefighters said, "Dang it - Bill owed me ten bucks". The very elderly mother of William opened her purse and gave the firefighter a ten dollar bill which he stuck in his pocket.

I couldn't believe it.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/09 09:10 PM

"Hey, Look Me Over" is not so bad. "Farewell Mein Lieberherr" could have popped out of your subconscious, and what a number to walk down the aisle to. No--- no one could walk to that. One must slither.

"Why they think the organist wants to hear how they fell in love is beyond me."

I know, Apple. The only thing to do is fight fire with fire. If you interrupt with a story of your own.... Get out pictures of your grandchildren, it does for brides what garlic does for vampires. Or excuse yourself, saying your cellphone vibrated and the call turned out to be important and private in nature.

"How can you turn down a crying bride who needs to change the music even tho rehearsals have been conducted with soloists?"

Say yes, and play the original music as rehearsed. Brush off the bride with some excuse afterward. They're going to cry anyway, what difference does it make why? Or just say no to begin with; I refer to my previous remark. This is what matrons-of-honor are there for, that and when the bridesmaids need a referee.

"How do you extract money from a bride who's fiance has decided not to go thru the wedding?"

Advance payment? A signed contract backed up with a visit to "Judge Judy"? It's worked for wedding photographers, bridesmaids' seamstresses, wedding DJ's, limo drivers, and caterers... and some episodes were juicy. Bridezilla does not translate well in front of Judgezilla. In fact, we may have put our finger on the very problem the groom had.

"How do you deal with a mother in law who wants to bribe you to change the music as a surprise for her son?"

You say that like it's a bad thing--- I would do it. Everyone loves wedding surprises. I say, go along--- that is, if the bribe was big enough, and in cash. Tell the bride you didn't think she would want to get crossways with her mother-in-law right from the jump; it is unanswerable.

Oh well, at least these are fantasy "Weddings from Hell." There's a TV show of home videos of real wedding disasters. One poor bride shut the limo door on her dress, and it peeled off, taking her train and a good bit of the back panel with it. (I don't remember if they went through with the ceremony.) Members of the wedding have taken a header down the church stairs or gotten drunk at the reception and reeled into the band, knocking it flying. Face-plants into the wedding cake, a mishap with a mud puddle, that thing where they dance with the wedding couple hoisted on chairs (so hazard-prone)... the video quality may not be up to network standards, but it's gritty reality. Low, no doubt, that others (such as myself) can laugh at the misfortunes of others on their Big Day. I tell myself that the syndication royalties can pay for a second honeymoon.

I can't even try to top your funeral story, though. Especially the ten bucks.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 07:25 AM

Jeff, this should be in a wedding music text book. Why don't they teach this stuff in music school?

"Smile, nod, and play what you want to play" is probably a good rule for these things. You can kill yourself learning some awful song and then no one even notices when you play it.

I once had a bride give me list of 60 songs (!) to play for a one hour cocktail reception. Imagine.

My dad always joked that musicians should be like chefs and have a menu.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 10:12 AM

funeral musicians have menues.

I have a funeral choir ... old ladies and men, (one with emphysema and an oxygen tank) who willingly go to every funeral and sing their stock songs. They sing it their way, with Kansas 'r's, ancient rhythms and the occasional wobbling descant. A family may choose from about 50 appropriate songs.

I inherited this choir as well as the songbooks that they cut, pasted and taped together long ago. Once I tried to introduce a few new songs to them. We had a rehearsal and included them in the list of available songs, taping them into the songbooks. When we actually sang one, they just sat down during the service and looked at me with great reproach... Apparently that was the signal they agreed to give me, to let me know that they weren't going to sing that song. (I wish they had just told me that beforehand). If I happen to forget a coda that they always do (but isn't written in the music), they cluster around to protest after the Mass (yep, it's Catholic). 'how could I do this to them?'

(Not to make fun of them, they are a great bunch of people).
Posted by: Musicwoman

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 11:17 AM

LOL! There are really Weddings from Hell. Instead of letting them get into your nerves, have fun. Laugh out loud.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 12:42 PM

Maybe the subtext of this wedding thing is along the same lines as hazing during fraternity initiations, on the theory that if you can get through the ceremony you'll make it at least to the seven-year-itch. Or maybe they think that suffering though it will make you turn to God--- after all, you're right there in a church.

It might work in some cases. Or it could backfire.

To be fair, I have to say that my niece's wedding was a real blast, every single minute of it. No one could have been the more polar opposite of a bridezilla. The floodwaters had only receded from New Orleans for a scant year, but she wanted to do her part to help the town recover... and she wanted to do what she could to bring all the branches of the family together, and all her buddies. It was an unlikely job, but she made it a stunning success.

Everything was fun: the meals, the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony in the garden of a truly fabulous antebellum mansion, the music and dancing (three different ensembles for before, during, and after). I drew video-camera duty; the bride thought of everybody--- even the staff at the mansion--- and remembered even those who weren't there. My mom had very badly wanted to be present, and we had moved heaven and earth to make it possible... but her health took a turn for the worse, and the skilled-nursing facility where she lived said, "No way." But Mary didn't forget her. As she came down the spiral staircase in her wedding gown, she stopped for a moment in front of the camera and said, "I love you, Mimi," and blew her a kiss. Then she was off, down the aisle.

I took the video back to my mom in Birmingham the next day, and she watched it over and over, over and over, holding some of the roses from the bride's bouquet.

A week after I got back home to California, she passed away. So we all got to meet again.

There must be some species of magic in the kind of person who thinks in such detail, and with such caring, about everyone else's experience. Seven years have come and gone, and her husband still loves her. We all do.

Is there a name for this? What, the bride anti-zilla? I wonder if this would make it in syndication...
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 03:18 PM

Angel-bride, that's what I would call her. What a lovely story, and what a gracious young lady she must be. Thanks for telling us about Mary and Mimi. I love this.
Posted by: ProdigalPianist

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/27/09 07:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I'm reminded of Jimmy Ciongoli, a pianist friend of my mine, who—when asked to play a Black Sabbath piece on the piano—looked the customer right in the eye and said, "What the fuck's wrong with you?"


Best. Response. From. Pianist. Ever.

For my own wedding, my little brother (age 11 and already a complete smartass) suggested that, instead of the Wedding March, it would be much more appropriate for me to come down the aisle to the strains of the Imperial March from Star Wars (Darth Vader's theme). My darling groom thought this was a spectacular idea. I can't believe the man has survived for the past 27 years. I was no bride-zilla, but this I did veto.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/28/09 10:51 AM

PP, you were absolutely no Bridezilla!

Jimmy Ciongoli might be the funniest pianist I've ever known. He worked with my dad for decades. He is now retired and living in Arizona, and arthritis has forced an end to his playing (he's about 80). But it makes me happy to know you appreciated that comment!
Posted by: aEquals440

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/28/09 10:59 AM

What stories!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/29/09 09:36 AM

i didn't realize there was a first page to this thread having bookmarked the 2nd. (lots of laughs)


I own a 10 yr old girl and dutifully watch girlmovies with her. This might have slipped under your radar Robyn but it's right definitely on topic. it is a sequal to the Prince and Me, a delightful story where a doctor wannabe from a Wisconsin Farm meets the Prince of Belgium and they fall in love.

The royal wedding, the sequel, is a blast... a royal cousin (what a shrew she is, tries to sabatoge their weddin and steal the prince.. lots of shenanigans including the bride wannabe falling into the mud.

they are actually pretty good movies if you are female. (the prince is absoLUTEly adorable)

Posted by: Palindrome

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/29/09 12:15 PM

Originally Posted By: apple*


...I've been trying to drum up business for the organ forum to absolutely no avail....


I see your problem. Mismatched instruments. You should organize business for the organ forum, and drum up business for the drum forum. Let me know how it works.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/30/09 07:16 PM

oh stop

ORGANize.. crazy
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/31/09 07:12 AM

Interesting weekend at the castle. On Saturday night we had a 50th wedding anniversary party going on at the same time as a wedding reception, which left me feeling like I was playing on a loop. The 50th anniversary party seemed like it was way more fun, although credit where credit is due—the young bride was a stunner.

So nothing really to report. This may well mean that the wedding season is grinding to a halt--for some reason the brides of summer are always a little nuttier than the ones who marry in the off season.

Next year, I swear I am going to take pictures of all the brides.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/31/09 05:53 PM

Quote:
And I note you didn't include the Hokey Pokey.

Well, that's a little too corny for my taste, but the "bunny hop" is just cute IMO. laugh BTW, speaking of dancing, my cousin's daughter just got married.. The bride and groom are both professional dance instructors (all types - ballet, modern, etc). At the reception, instead of the traditional slow waltz/dance together, they did their own thing. She changed into a gorgeous, flowing "Jeannie"- type outfit and danced a beautiful exotic style belly dance for all the guests. grin
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/03/09 09:51 AM

Well there you go. Why wait for the groom to hire a belly dancer when the bride can do it herself?

Belly dancers are very popular at German weddings, but I don't recall running into that type of post nuptial entertainment stateside.

We had a wedding last summer that featured ALPHORN players out in the driveway as the happy couple pulled up to the castle in a horse-drawn carriage. I loved that. The band uniforms were beyond fabulous: Lederhosen, little felt caps with feathers, suspenders, the whole routine. Moments like this always remind me that I'm in a foreign country.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/08/09 01:55 PM

Castle update: The weekend was a blurrrrrr due to Goldsby family members participating in way too many events, but the Saturday night castle wedding was remarkable for a nice reason.

When I first started playing at the castle, back in 2001, I met a lovely sixteen year old girl who came to the castle every month with her family for Sunday lunch. I watched her go from gawky teenager to lovely young woman. She was Saturday's bride. I'm the mother of two teenage kids—one of whom is in South Africa on an exchange program—and this hit home to me, big time. Kids grow up and then they put on a poofy white dress and walk away. I spent most of the evening feeling a little weepy.

On the other hand (I say that too much—I think it's a phrase that comes naturally to pianists) I was happy to be the one to play the bride into her married life.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/08/09 02:33 PM

I went to a wedding in Rochester, New York back in May. The bride was the daughter of one of my cousins. I have 19 cousins and most of them have kids. I don't know most of their children very well, but I have seen this one at family gatherings once or twice a year for her whole life. I have even met her fiance/husband a few times.

They had one of the nicest weddings I can remember: ceremony outdoors in an orchard, reception in the (very old, very clean) barn and all over the grounds. They had two bands, a bluegrass quartet outside and a western swing band inside. The food included fruits and vegetables grown on the grounds and was served by the middle aged women who had prepared it. The whole event was much more personal than most; there was nothing boilerplate about it. It reflected the tastes and interests of the bride and groom.

I have a 14 year old daughter. At some point during the ceremony it all of a sudden came to me: "She (my cousin's daughter) is OK. She's grown up. She can take care of herself. She's marrying a good guy, she's got a career, she's even interesting. She's made it to what every parent has to hope for for their children.

That got me a little choked up myself. I don't imagine the worry ever completely goes away, but with a 14-year-old, one of the bumpier parts of the ride is just beginning. I hope the next few years don't go by too quickly (they will, of course), but I hope to someday have that same feeling about my own daughter's adult life as I did at that wedding.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/08/09 02:39 PM

Yes, Greg! My children are 16 and 13, so I hear you. Thank you for putting the way I'm feeling into such beautiful words.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/08/09 04:47 PM

Our band played at a wedding over the weekend and I played the ceremony for the first time in a couple of years. My description of how qualified I am for that task (barely) is further up in this thread.

I'm known for getting to the gig last, especially when it's a place I've been to many times. There's sometimes a good hour and a half between the drummer's arrival and mine. As I had the ceremony to play, an hour before the reception, we got there at about the same time.

I was still plenty early though, and thanks to my proximity to the "Bride's Room", I got to see and hear some of the last minute semi-frantic prep work that occurs in the final minutes before a wedding ceremony. It was a little like the bride's 20 friends attending to a zit in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Judging by the bits of animated conversation that I heard, the bride's dress was loose, her veil wasn't straight and her hair, was, well, hair, rather than a static sculpture, and thus had problems. There was also some sort of make-up debacle that I simply do not have the proper expertise or vocabulary to describe. She looked fine to me (the same, in fact), both before and after the repairs. Men are like that.

A nervous, distracted-looking fellow in a morning suit came up to me at one point, introducing himself as the groom. "You don't say?", I answered.

These were very nice people. The father of the bride thanked me and complemented me more than my meager ceremony performance could ever have warranted. So it is only because I simply cannot help myself that I relate the following.

This was the bride's third wedding, but was otherwise indistinguishable from anyone else's first. Here's the kicker: Our band also played at her second wedding. There was some talk around the band/photographer/video dinner table about this. "Take this punch card, the fourth party is 50% off", stuff like that. There are precious few unexplored humor opportunities among a bunch of musicians who see each other as often as we do. "What's another eternity in Hell?", as our bass player is fond of saying.

The bride's daughter, a girl of 10 or 11, asked us to play "Brown-Eyed Girl" so she could dance with the groom. We did, and they did. She looked happy. They obviously get along, which is a great thing to see. The father of the bride, a man of unadorned speech, spent several sentences saying how proud he was of his daughter and how happy he was to welcome the groom into his family.

I wish them all the luck.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/09/09 11:36 AM

"...The father of the bride, a man of unadorned speech, spent several sentences..."

I've recognized it, Guardino. Those dry, yet rich witticisms. I'm just now reading Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, in the hope of giving my brain just a measure or two of rest, without letting it stop; who knows if I'll be able to get it to turn over again.

It's not a music-related book, and has no truck at all with weddings, but he would have appreciated both you and Robin as writers.

There was a time when people would have guffawed into their sleeves if they spied certain brides wearing a white dress, but by the time a lady's child is old enough to dance with the new groom, I guess the fuss has had plenty of time to die down. After all, it's not the fifties anymore and we don't have to feel embarrassed about having sex anymore... just about having bad sex.

Dorothy Parker could have made something of the wedding biz of her time--- in fact, she may have, if I would only read further. I made the mistake of buying an edition of her collected works in a secondhand bookstore. The print is quite small, and I've set it aside for now and may look for something more suitable for persons over fifty.

Two of the great humorists, or ironicists (if that's a word, and no I'm not going to look it up in that heavy dictionary). So you're keeping pretty good company.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/09/09 09:35 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"...The father of the bride, a man of unadorned speech, spent several sentences..."

I've recognized it, Guardino. Those dry, yet rich witticisms.

I do try, but in this case the father, no speaker by any measure, said exactly what you'd want your dad, or your new father-in-law, to say at your wedding, especially if it was your third. He seemed like a good guy.
Quote:
I'm just now reading Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, in the hope of giving my brain just a measure or two of rest, without letting it stop; who knows if I'll be able to get it to turn over again.
That's a very entertaining book, an account of a pleasure cruise when the very idea was brand new. Better yet, Twain managed to connive a way to get paid to be on it.
Quote:

It's not a music-related book, and has no truck at all with weddings, but he would have appreciated both you and Robin as writers.

I think Twain would have called that one a "stretcher", at least in my case. I've discovered in my later years that I can turn out a page or two of reasonable entertainment - an unexpected turn of events for a guy who never enjoyed writing in college - but I think more than that is required to be called a real writer. I'm glad someone enjoys what I write. Thanks for the compliment.
Quote:

There was a time when people would have guffawed into their sleeves if they spied certain brides wearing a white dress, but by the time a lady's child is old enough to dance with the new groom, I guess the fuss has had plenty of time to die down. After all, it's not the fifties anymore and we don't have to feel embarrassed about having sex anymore... just about having bad sex.
Leaving aside the nearly unavoidable humor about playing at two weddings for the same bride, I'm glad there's been some change in that area.
Quote:
Two of the great humorists, or ironicists (if that's a word, and no I'm not going to look it up in that heavy dictionary). So you're keeping pretty good company.

Again, thanks for the (too) kind words. By the way, one of the funniest pieces I've ever read is also by Twain, and may be of special interest to Robin, if she hasn't already read it: "The Awful German Language". It's an account of Twain's (apparently serious) study of German, written the way only he could.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/10/09 02:58 AM

Jeff,

Thanks for the kind words! I feel privileged to work (and play) in a world that's colorful enough to provide good writing material. I'm sure Greg agrees with me. Even when the gig is bad, good words come out of it.

"In Germany, a sense of humor is no laughing matter." I'm paraphrasing, but that's one of the quotes that sticks in my mind from the Twain's account of learning German. Having been forced to learn German at the ripe age of 37, I can attest to the validity of his struggles.

Note: German humor is just different from our humor, but it does exist! Just not necessarily at weddings.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/10/09 11:38 AM

I don't know that it exists at our weddings either, Robin. I think people believe the venture is risky enough without tempting Fate.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/17/09 11:06 AM

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1266661

This thread is from tuner/technicians' forum, and really isn't about wedding bands (except for some jewelry found inside the piano case). One or two items might have provided exhibits for divorce court, however:

"once i went to do a tuning job for an elderly widow. as always, she was "amazed" by how easily her piano came apart.. especially as i was taking the keys out to vacuum the key bed. anyways, there was a note in there and she excitedly opened it to find it a note written by her deceased husband to his lover!!

"yes, things became a little awkward"


There's a country music song in this... or an aria for an opera buffa. Or Steely Dan could have done something with it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/19/09 03:30 AM

I vote for the Steely Dan version.

No wedding news to report—I fear the summer bride season is over. "The falling brides drift by my window . . . ."

I did, however, play a fabulous gig at the Gerling Villa in Cologne, Germany last night. 1965 Steinway B, with a custom burled wood interior. No wrong notes on this piano! Anyway, the job, aside from being for an over-the-top event, was pretty straight ahead, except for Cleopatra. About ten minutes into my first set, a woman in a Cleopatra costume began creeping across the room, making a beeline for the piano.

In a normal hotel situation I might have yelled for security (like that does any good), but this was a high-fallutin' shindig, and since I was perched in the middle of an art-filled salon, I figured that Cleo must be some kind of performance art. Correct assumption. She stood on a spinning platform (the size of a plate) next to the piano, struck a statue pose and rotated for 15 minutes. Gave me something to watch while I was playing, but then I had to stop because I suffer from motion sickness and watching her twirl around did a number on me.

Well. People drifted in and out of the room and stared at Cleo and listened to me and then went back to their foie gras and sushi and champagne.

In my second set, the same thing happened, this time with Cupid, a little disconcerting because Cupid had her bow pointed right at me every time she rotated in my direction.

I only played the two sets, then left just as a group called DIVA-LICIOUS was being introduced in another part of the villa. And so it goes.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/19/09 10:52 AM

PS: Jeff Clef, thank you so much for the link to the tech thread about junk left in pianos. There are some very funny posts there.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/19/09 11:42 PM

Robin, am I correcting in understanding that for the gig, you weren't told about Cleo and Cupid in advance?

What is with organizers who keep key people out of the loop? I used to get asked to do workshops and participate in a variety of events when I lived in Japan, and it was always like pulling teeth trying to get organizers to fill me in in all the relevant details. Basically, I had to think of all possible scenarios and ask specific questions if I wanted to find anything out.

"So, will my presentation on multi-cultural awareness be followed by a snake charmer? Right, then I want to get off the stage quickly. Got it. Thanks for the heads up."
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/20/09 03:27 AM

Correct, Shirokuro, no advance warning! Here's the funny part, I even had an assistant assigned to me for the entire evening. He followed me around, helped with everything, made sure I got back to my car safely, etc. And he was very specific with instructions about how the evening would proceed—I had a print-out plan that looked like a NASA flight schedule. But he never mentioned Cleo and Cupid. There were all kinds of people running around there and I'm wondering if the models weren't part of another event planner's plans.

As I was leaving, I spotted Ceasar on the staircase.

As your story points out, you can never ask too many questions!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/21/09 07:20 AM

Our part-time band is having one of our "full-time" weeks, seven gigs in nine days. This usually only happens in the summer. The concentrated schedule increases the number of funny things that happen and, in my case, heightens my sensitivity to those gig oddities.

We were hired by a priest to play for his father's 80th birthday, and thus were prepared for a pretty rockin' evening. The average age among the guests required exponential notation. This is a challenge for us, as were are mostly known for Rock & Roll and R&B. Several of our members used to play weddings, so we awakened some rarely-used brain cells and stretched our repertoire of Standards to the limit.

There was the obligatory woman for whom anything louder than Victrola-level was an offense against God and nature. She made her objections known at intervals throughout the party, both verbally and through pantomime.

Two people came up to sing. You might now expect a treatise on pitch, but I have come instead to speak of Rhythm. Rhythm is not given to all in equal measure. We who can just "feel" the beat have apparently stolen more than our share, leaving the rest woefully underequipped.

A woman of a certain age asked to sing "At Last". It is quite common for amateurs to choose songs with truly great vocals. This makes for some pretty stark comparisons. They couldn't choose John Denver? But I digress. She was very nice and came over to me to work out a key beforehand. This is essential, by the way. Do not be tempted to believe a person who claims to sing a song in Bb. Try it first. We tried a few lines of the verse and bridge. She seemed comfortable in F. She had a soft quivery sort of voice and was reasonably on key.

She came up to sing in the next set. One of our singers "conducted" her into beginning the first line at something like the proper time, but after that it was off to the races. Amateurs frequently have trouble with pauses. One line ends, the next must begin. We end up playing in some odd eastern variable time signature approximating 13/8. By the end we had to lop off most of the last bar. Whoever finishes first wins.

I find this situation far more disconcerting than a singer who is off-pitch. That I can just grit my teeth and endure for a few minutes. A singer who leaves out a beat and a half every two measures twists the very fabric of the universe a little, especially when there are four or five musicians trying to adjust to her individually.

The priest then came up to sing a Standard. He not only had the same Rhythm teacher, but started the song without waiting for us, landing naturally, as our bass player would put it, "on the fret" between C and C#. He was more coachable though; with our singer doing exaggerated Conductor choreography off to the side, we all managed to finish the song together.

I talked to him afterward, telling him he did a nice job with he song. Rhythm deficiencies notwithstanding he did have a passable voice. I told him that next time (we are booked for a couple more functions at his parish) he should let us start him off with a chord, explaining that it's best that we all start in the same key. "I'm a man of faith", he quipped. I like that.

The night before we played an Oldies Dinner Dance, opening for a "name" act. The other band seemed like pretty nice guys, but one thing seemed really inexplicable. We were all setting up together, with their gear behind ours. Their guitarist arrived after I was pretty much set up. He placed his amp where he wanted it, then a look of confusion and worry formed on his face. His amp had a four-foot power cord and there was no outlet within a four-foot radius. He seemed truly perplexed by this, even though he had played with this group for a decade or two.

Our guitarist was having the identical conversation with their bass player on the other side of the stage. I can vaguely remember having this quandary myself, thirty-odd years ago. Shortly after that I discovered extension cords. Neither of these musicians said anything like, "Oops, I left my bag at home...". It's as if it had simply not occurred to them that there might not be an outlet set into the floor right under their gear. In my experience a convenient outlet is a rare miracle. How have these guys avoided that lesson? A guy from the hall found some extension cords for them (we were going to leave before they started playing).

We'll see what else happens as the week progresses.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/21/09 11:10 AM

OH yes, Greg, please keep us posted!

Your treatise on RHYTHM is priceless.

Old joke: How do you tell when a girl singer is at your front door? She doesn't know how to come in.

Brief excerpt from my book Piano Girl (advice given to me by my dad, when I was 18 and playing my very first gig):

Bob’s Excellent Rules for Success on a GIG:
1. Don’t drink on the job.
2. Don’t let the management push you around.
3. Always carry a roll of duct tape and an extension cord with you because with those two items you can solve virtually any problem.


Words to live by, although I confess to the occasional glass of champagne.

Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the week. Ask that Parish priest if he knows the Dilernia Brothers.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/21/09 11:23 AM

Greg, your post is priceless. "eastern variable time signature approximating 13/8" ROFLMAO! laugh laugh
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/21/09 05:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
OH yes, Greg, please keep us posted!
Old joke: How do you tell when a girl singer is at your front door? She doesn't know how to come in.

Not just "girl" singers. Our bass player is fond of saying that one of our singers "only comes in on prime numbers" (excluding 1, of course). He can be seen signaling each bar of an eight bar break with his hands in one song, not realizing that any musician who needs to count to eight might as well hang it up.

In the first real band I was in all the singers were also musicians. This gave me a unrealistically rosy view of the rhythm and harmony skills of singers.

Quote:
Brief excerpt from my book Piano Girl (advice given to me by my dad, when I was 18 and playing my very first gig):

Bob’s Excellent Rules for Success on a GIG:
3. Always carry a roll of duct tape and an extension cord with you because with those two items you can solve virtually any problem.

Sure. You can use the extension cord to lash your keyboard stand to a support pole on a rocking ferry, for instance. You can use the duct tape and a cocktail napkin as an ersatz bandage when you cut yourself carrying your gear through a dark hallway. I've done both.

But I find that you need a great deal more as well. I invited someone to feel the heft of my accessories bag after I was already set up. With all the spare cables, tape, sunscreen, bug repellent, band-aids, outlet tester, multi-tip screwdriver, pliers, ac adapters, extra pedal and other stuff, it must still weigh 15 pounds.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/22/09 04:33 AM

I thought this wedding video was rather charming, and not too far off the mark for this topic:
Wedding March video.
Posted by: Sir Lurksalot

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/22/09 07:55 AM

And the follow-up video 6 months later:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbr2ao86ww0
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/22/09 10:17 AM

I think "unforgettable" pretty well says it. It looked wonderfully fun, and, actually, quite loving. There are a lot of bridezillas out there who have made a lot less out of a lot more.

Thanks for posting this one. I think it's edged out the dog playing the piano and singing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXcKrq2hEnE

and the Toddlers and Tiaras thread
conservatory politics
on Piano Teachers forum.

One is funny, one is appalling, but Lets Talk Weddings carries off the honors once again.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/25/09 10:09 AM

Great, great, great! Love all of these videos! Too bad the dancing bride didn't have live music. That would have made it better, but you can't have everything. Getting the wedding party to dance is one thing, getting them to play is another.

Jeff, there's a dog who comes to Lerbach (the castle where I play) who sings just like the video dog, but only when I play music from Phantom of the Opera. I have chosen to think that the dog is not really singing, but is in fact protesting, that there's something about the music from that show that truly offends him. Hard to tell.

I'm sending a sub to tomorrow's castle wedding, because I've been asked to do a reading at an art opening. The cocktail party will be swanky and oh so stimulating, but, alas, no piano, so once I'm finished with the reading I'll have to hobnob and chitchat and eat stuffed mushrooms like a normal person. Blah. And I'll have nothing to report on our wedding forum. See, that's the thing about these brides, I actually start missing them when they're not around.

Greg, looking forward to hearing how the rest of the week went for you. I hope the duct tape and extension cord technique carried you through the gig marathon.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/25/09 12:51 PM

It's gaffer's tape, Robin. I, too, was colorblind in that range, but Greg has opened my eyes. I use the little mnemonic, "If your mike cords stick, get gaffer's tape quick."

No cocktails-at-the-castle for me this week, and no brides. I'm trying to exercise a bit of restraint at Barnes & Noble, with less success than I'd like. Books (mostly about music and musicians) and CDs, trying to sprint ahead with my music education, but unlikely to show, let alone place. Still, it costs less and is less annoying than going back to university... or even taking piano lessons; that's a big-ticket item these days, and chancy, considering the very uneven quality on offer.

I have discovered some things that are priceless: Lizst, Ravel, Claudio Arrau, Rubenstein, Alkan, Buxtehude, and some other things that I like less but which may grow on me as I get more used to them. It's like trying to drink down a vast ocean--- you just can't. However, I have a budget--- and only so much capacity to soak the information up.

But otherwise, I might be bored--- and I have non-barking dogs that don't play the piano.

So... you're reading from your new book, Rhythm, at this party?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/25/09 04:00 PM

As I mentioned upthread, it's a busy week for our band. Last night we played at a testimonial dinner/fundraiser for a local charity.

The place was of recent vintage and tastefully decorated. There was ample and convenient parking and the way in didn't involve kitchens, sub-basements, rope ladders or moats. There was a sensible place for a band to play with electricity close by. The food was decent.

The guests were nicely attired and well behaved. They were young enough to be ambulatory without being young enough to be conspicuously foolish. Their cause and the effort they put into it seemed admirable. They kept their presentations brief and to the point.

What a disappointment

Work with me people! Throw me a bone. A few women in experimental attire maybe. A self-appointed Expert On All Things. A kitchen floor greasy enough to do a Triple Toe Loop on. Requests for our (male) singers to do "Bobby's Girl" or "It's Raining Men". A few drunks, for pity's sake.

There was one woman whose dancing was worthy of note. She was in her late fifties, compactly built and energetic. After one number I leaned over to the sax player and said, "Suddenly I have an urge to go to Six Flags". For those who don't watch TV in the US, her dancing was very reminiscent of this commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UXonaoq0Xk&feature=related

The marathon continues; 4 jobs between Friday and Sunday. I guess I should hope for them to go smoothly, but I need at least a little bit of material, don't I?

Wish me luck.
Posted by: jotur

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/25/09 04:07 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
. . .the way in didn't involve kitchens. . .


You're kidding, of course -

but it's a great story otherwise! laugh

Cathy
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/26/09 11:39 AM

You've got the writer's curse, Greg! Although it's a blessing as well; at least when something completely outrageous happens, you know you'll be able to write about it, thereby turning a bad situation into a good situation. Or something like that.

Jeff, I'm not reading form Rhythm this evening. I was hired to write a piece (of prose) about a musician who is also a wonderful painter. My piece is in English, so I can count on about 50% of the audience zoning out on me, but hey, I'm a cocktail pianist in my other life, so I'm used to that.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/26/09 12:57 PM

Experienced speakers say that keeping the audience awake is 90% of the game, even if you have to throw a firecracker under their chair every once in a while. Laughing is good: it makes them breathe and that sends oxygen to the brain. And the rest of them will wake up and wonder what they missed.

I once had a teacher who was both humorless and quite neurotic... with a deathly horror of saying the words, "I don't know." It's all about "face" with some people. For awhile, she used to make up answers to questions, if she didn't know the real answer... well, some of the students were pretty smart, and she got caught a few times. Not good for face, and she did back off from that practice. You guessed it--- it cost me a letter grade, but I was fairly grade-insensitive back then, and hard-hearted, too... much worse than I am now. Same school where I remarked that the Board of Regents had some nerve, scheduling a class during the middle of the cocktail hour. The instructor jumped a foot, and there went another letter grade, but I was innocent that time. I didn't know there had been a complaint that a student detected liquor on his breath during classtime.

The class was interrupting MY cocktail hour, but I don't think we ever got that one straightened out.

Of course, this will never happen to you, Robin, but one afternoon during a very dry lecture, one of the first teacher's students fell asleep... and snored out loud (and I mean "loud") for the entire remainder of the class. She kept on talking, pretending not to notice, and he kept snoring, really not noticing. It was both deeply comical and hideously tragic, all at the same time. And cinematic, too. Some imp of a screenwriter could make hay with it; they don't call us "ink-stained wretches" for nothing.

Well. Good luck with YOUR talk.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/27/09 11:01 PM

I majored in music in college, and you were required to take Music History. That teacher won the award for weirdness. One day, he was telling us about the troublesome romantic affairs of composers, such as Chopin and Liszt. He said that all these problems contributed to the greatness of their music, though, so our homework assignment was to "go out and have affairs". grin

BTW, does anyone else have about a minute delay in printing after you type something here now in PW?
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/28/09 08:24 PM

Geez I love this thread.

I heard Bert Crenca, the founder of Providence's unjuried art space, AS220, speak last week. He said many things, but I thought this was particularly appropriate to the observations about amateur singers and speakers:

"5 minutes of anything is interesting, but after 7 minutes, things can get a little shaky"
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/28/09 10:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg, looking forward to hearing how the rest of the week went for you. I hope the duct tape and extension cord technique carried you through the gig marathon.

I just posted a rather lengthy (even for me) chronicle of the last four days' gigs, but in the "Want to know what it's like to be a pro?" thread. Although this thread has strayed from its wedding roots, I decided that this particular post was more appropriate elsewhere.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/29/09 12:37 PM

Thanks, Greg, I checked it out! What a week.

Rusty, LOVE the seven minute quote!

Elssa, I think I know that professor.

Jeff, my speech went well. It was short enough that everyone stayed awake, unlike the wedding speeches by the likes of Uncle Gustav, the ones that put everyone into a coma after 45 minutes of droning. My topic was the connection between the compositions and paintings created by a wonderfully talented woman named Amy Antin. OT, I know, but since we don't have many weddings to discuss this week, I thought I'd throw this in the mix. Sometimes it's okay to be serious, right? Here's the first bit of it:

******

Life has little to do with music and art. But art and music have everything to do with life.

The dimples in a child's closed fist inspire a lullaby; the devil's swish of falling leaves on a gusty November morning prompts a wistful melody in a minor key; trumpets herald an athlete's record-setting victory; the ancient truths of romantic love cue the violins. A fear of death brings on diminished chords played by an organ; the reality of death calls for an angel's harp. We save the bass for walking, and the flutes for new life, new hope, and whimsical stories about eager children with brightly colored buckets of mud and sand. When we laugh, we hear a penny whistle, the trill of a clarinet, a trombone sliding into a note that's not quite what we hoped for. Sorrow is outlined by a bow sweeping across a cello's strings, or maybe an oboe's double-reeded whine, or maybe the muted sound of a bugle played by a soldier with a raised head and a heavy heart.

But what plays in your head when you're just trying to get through the day? When you're fighting the beast? When you're too tired to change out of your Ultimate Pajamas™, when the world seems full of puffy-lipped corporate managers who insist on being too thin and too efficient, when the lady with the clipboard attached to her hip—the one with the exploding breasts and the startled eyes—reminds you that you're running late? What do you listen to when the man has gotten away, the event horizon looks smudged at best, the afterglow has faded, and all you really want to do is drink three liters of wine, eat a block of cheese, and pull the covers over your head?

You listen to music that reminds you that, really, everything will be okay.

Okay.

Okay. So what if this same music, the music that brings contentment and sanity into your life, morphed into color and light and shadow? What if the waves of sound flattened onto canvas or a slab of wood? What if, instead of hearing your life played back to you note by note, you watched it spill, tone by tone, into a painting that uses the softest shades of sky and water and earth to define the blurred arc of your existence? What if?

Well then, you might recognize yourself.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/29/09 04:14 PM

That's beautiful, Robin. I loved your imagery: "...the event horizon looks smudged at best..." thumb

Wish I could've been there to hear the rest of the talk. smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/30/09 02:16 PM

Thanks, Monica! I love the idea of the "event horizon"—a friend in a writing group recently used it in her first fantasy novel, but it reminded me so much of the music biz that I stole it for my own purposes.

I had to send a sub to the castle wedding so I could do the art gallery gig. Evidently I didn't miss much. The guy who subs for me claims he wears a blond wig and no one knows the difference.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 09/30/09 05:06 PM

That was lovely, Robin, very insightful and poetic! heart Thanks for posting it! thumb
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 01:46 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
The guy who subs for me claims he wears a blond wig and no one knows the difference.


Snort! Good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when I read that! I'm trying to imagine what he would look like in a cocktail dress and heels too!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 06:32 AM

Probably pretty cute! I'll talk to his wife and see if she can loan him an outfit or too. Something subtle, with just a touch of glitter.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 09:30 AM

You have reminded me of one of the more unusual and enjoyable wedding jobs I've played, though it may not mean much to non-brass players.

I was playing with a 12 piece German style big band. Mostly brass (separate trumpet and fluegelhorn sections, one trombone, tuba, euph and sometimes tenor horn, couple of woodwinds). No saxes! Nein, verboten! No keyboard either, I was on trombone.

In most venues we played unamplified. On the rare larger hall jobs where we used the house sound system I have no idea how bad it sounded. It was rarely necessary because we are brass and we play LOUD. We played the usual mix of European dance music, light classic transcriptions, show tunes, etc.

But we were hired to play a wedding dinner job, and because it was a relative of a bandmember we agreed to do it for free food and no pay.

We showed up to find a bright echoey banquet room. The wedding party met us and gave instructions: we were to play background music the entire time, but there would be speeches and conversations, and people socializing who hadn't seen each other for years. So we were to play constantly, but at all times so quietly they could talk without interference. In a fairly noisy acoustic setup. So we played the entire job pianissimo. That's a whole new challenge for balance and blend, especially balance. Of course good acoustic musicians are always listening for dynamic balance (once amplified it doesn't matter, even if you do it right the sound guy will screw it up). But to some extent when playing loud the horn does it for you. After ff the sound may change character but it doesn't get much louder. Playing pp you have to listen.

Sorry to ramble, this is probably interesting only to a brass player. But it was a fun job. And the food was good. I always have to wonder if you come out ahead giving free food to a musician - probably more cost effective just to hire us.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 09:39 AM

how nice to catch up on my favorite PW thread.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 10:58 AM

Robin,

Re: A blond wig for your sub and fringed outfits:

The band I'm in was formed in 1986, I believe. Except for one, all the members have changed (some pieces several times) over the years. There used to be a guy in the band who did "Proud Mary" as Tina Turner, complete with an angular fringed minidress and a wig. I saw him do the act once, before I was in the band. People asked for it for many years after he was gone. "Tina doesn't work here anymore," was the standard answer.

Tim R,

Re: Free food for the band.

We generally get fed on jobs where there is food. When it's not a full-blown catered affair, that usually means a buffet. We're pretty polite; we wait a decent interval before getting on line. But there are always a few stragglers; guests that got wrapped up in a conversation or were outside having a smoke when the buffet opened. We sometimes hint that they have made a mistake; you never want to be behind the band at a buffet.

We're professionals. We can hold two plates and a wad of napkins in one hand. We'll put the silverware in a tux jacket pocket, sometimes accompanied by a roll or two. We will probably have scoped out the spread ahead of time and worked out a strategy like a football play, complete with Xs and Os; you don't want to be an O. We can squeeze servings of chicken francese, sausage and peppers, pepper steak, baked ziti, eggplant rollatini, sliced turkey, cubed potatoes, string beans and chicken cordon bleu on a nine-inch plate and still balance a slab of roast beef on top. The buffet table looks like a clear-cut forest when we're done.

Re: Th airplane hangar:

It was a surprise party, believe it or not, for one of the executives of a company that outfits private planes. He was flown in on the pretense of looking over some plane. It was a cool gig to do, once, if only to be able to tell the story afterward, but maddening to actually play. The reverberation was truly mind-boggling. This was a few years ago but I'd bet some of the chords haven't entirely died out yet. It was nearly impossible to hear any of what the other guys played in any detail, especially on the faster material. A string quartet playing selections from the funerary repertoire might have worked out better.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/01/09 11:17 AM

"Event horizon"--- it is tantalizing to think on, but like the famous Purple Cow of poem (if you call that poetry), I'd rather see than be one. "Black Hole" sounds so pejorative, but "Singularity" sounds special and maybe even fun, like some kind of really wild carnival ride with terrific special effects... until we consider that we meet, in order, event horizon, gravity well, spaghettification that pulls us atom by atom infinitely long (take that, bridesmaids' dresses and wedding manager---and your clipboard, too), and singularity, and then non-existence (as far as the local universe is concerned), with only a whisper of gravitation left to tell the tale. Some claim they can reconstruct the story with that alone, but I'm not so sure; it sounds like a bluff on the part of some thesis-writer who hopes the degree-granting board's eyes will glaze over and that they will wearily stamp the PhD application "Approved", although it is actually "unproved," and probably well beyond any hope of dispositive proof.

I am sure I'm talking about what I don't know, so don't pay any attention. This is what happens when I make the coffee too weak on a cold morning. The synapses fire, but the engine never turns over; eventually we call the tow truck.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/02/09 09:37 AM

TimR—I love your post. When it comes to playing a wedding, it doesn't matter what instrument's your specialty—we're all in the same soup.

And speaking of soup, I have a real issue with the food thing, because I play at a place with a Michelin 3-star restaurant and a chef who has been voted (several times) the best chef in Europe. So, you know, they're not serving buffalo wings or chicken fingers at the castle weddings. The castle director is extremely generous with food and drink for musicians, plus the guests usually insist on feeding me. If I actually ate what was offered, I'd look like the tattooed bride in my story. On the other hand, how can one say no to this kind of cuisine? It was fun fun fun for about a month, then I noticed I was having trouble zippering up the old ball gown.

Not good. So now I decline politely.

Most nights I end up eating a cheese sandwich when I get home. The wine is another story. I can't drink more than a glass of wine at night—PUI (playing under the influence) is something I try to avoid. But customers are insulted if I turn down the mega-bucks wine they send to the piano, so I accept it, then pass it off to one of my co-workers on my break. Yes, I have been known to pour perfectly good glasses of Chateau Bombastic down the ladies' room sink, or worse, into the planter.

I know I'm incredibly lucky to be in this situation. I know things are MUCH different if you're playing in a band, or if you're playing a solo piano gig at the Redwood Motor Inn on Banksville Road in Pittsburgh (where I had one of my first gigs). There, you're lucky if you get a Frito and a half glass of Dr. Pepper in a lipstick-smeared glass.

Jeff, I'm focusing on the event horizon and staying away from the Black Holes. I have a novelist friend who writes Fantasy/Science Fiction and she is working on a book called The Black Hole Singer. My husband says that pretty much describes every singer he has ever worked with.

I do like the idea of the event planner and her clipboard going through spaghettification. Let's hope they don't wind up on the buffet, next to the three-bean salad and the tortellini.

Greg, PLEASE tell me you have photos of your Tina Turner. Please.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/02/09 10:39 AM

I didn't mean to alarm the buffet browsers--- the wedding planner and her clipboard don't turn into real spaghetti--- and I'm sorry if that's disappointing news to some. Spaghettification is just some Celestial Mechanics wonk's idea of a dry witticism. Actually, angry sorcerers turn offenders into Buffalo Wings. What, you didn't know? Take a closer look next time you pass the buffet table...

My lesson about this came when I did a stint as a taxi driver, many years ago. I used to take pride in knowing where the best doughnuts in town were, but I gave it up when I started to notice the doughnut around my waistline. It never got to the point that I had trouble zipping up my ballgown, and anyway, a taxi driver's idea of dress-up is a kevlar vest. But I gained a special gratitude for you authors during what was otherwise the job from hell, because I had time to read between fares. Arthur Conan Doyle used to live in San Francisco, right across Lafayette Park from Danielle Steele. Mark Twain, too, though I never found out where--- but what difference does "where" make when we're talking about the world of a writer; "where" is right there in front of your eyeballs.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/05/09 10:13 AM

Another TITANIC moment:

Just when I thought it was safe—I've actually managed to play all summer without a bride requesting the TITANIC theme, and I was kind of hoping that particular musical phase of my life was over. The end of an error, so to speak.

Wrong. On Saturday I was asked to play the theme as background music for the bride's poem to the groom. I don't know, but a song about a sinking ship doesn't make sense to me for a wedding, yet so many people insist on using it. And what's with the "My Heart Will Go On" lyric, anyway? It sounds like the theme song for Bodyworld, that exhibit with all the skinless dead bodies, doesn't it?

I'm thinking about getting one of those Kate Winslet Titanic tailored burlap-sack outfits for gigs, but I'm worried the corset might be uncomfortable while playing.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/05/09 11:18 AM

I think I'd rather listen to the Titanic theme than the bride's poem, though. grin Unfortunately, the number of people who think they can write good poetry far outweighs the number of people who actually can. help
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/05/09 12:25 PM

I had a great-aunt who was on the Titanic. It was a traumatic experience that left her with tremors for the rest of her life. It certainly was not romantic!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/05/09 02:38 PM

Yes, Monica. I agree! Although I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who tries to write anything at all. It's the mom in me coming out.

Because I'm listening to self-composed poetry in German, it takes the edge off—I'm just grateful if I can understand it. But I suspect it's still pretty bad.

Good grief, BDB, a great aunt on the TITANIC???? That's amazing. I've often wondered how relatives of survivors related to all the Titanic mania. And especially that song! And why of why would someone choose it for a wedding theme?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/11/09 07:35 AM

Report for this weekend:

No weddings, no nightclub, no church BYOB dinner-dance, no Oldies Show, no 50th birthday, no nothing. My collection of black pants and shirts stayed on the shelf, untouched. Unfamiliar people read the news to me on TV last night. Who knew they had a weekend crew?

Saturday stretched on forever. Having gotten to bed at a more sensible hour than usual, I got up pretty early. I did the crossword with breakfast, put away some clothes, took out some window air conditioners for the winter, took my daughter to dance school, got a haircut, took the air conditioners to storage, went to a local music store to buy some spare cables, picked up my daughter, took her for a late lunch, came home, took a nap (a Saturday habit before a gig), went with my wife to the supermarket, came home and it was still only eight o'clock or so.

Except for when we were on vacation, I'm pretty sure I haven't had an entirely free weekend since...well, I don't know when. It's nice, actually, but I feel a little out of sync.

Today we're driving a couple of hours into Upstate New York to see the Levon Helm Band outdoors and watch people launch pumpkins with medieval technology. It should be fun.

Happy weekend all!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/11/09 11:51 AM

Weekend wedding report: Smooth sailing. Really, I think someone could do a scientific study of brides who chose to marry off season—I think they are much saner than their June counterparts.

On Saturday I played for a wedding party of 16. Quiet, tasteful, and really nice folks.

The castle is full of Americans this weekend—the specialty food convention is happening in Cologne. Lots of coffee, chocolate and olive oil buyers from New Jersey hanging out in the lobby. It warms my heart to hear those American accents.

Greg, enjoy the time as a civilian, and have fun at the pumpkin launching. I had pumpkin soup for lunch, in between sets. The fall/winter Sunday lunch buffet is lethal.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/11/09 06:25 PM

I served coffee for sixty at a new-volunteer training weekend at the state park, where I also work as a volunteer. There's nothing that's such a big deal about that, except that it's WAY out in the backcountry: no stoves, no electricity, but lots of campfire light and starlight--- a perfect October day. One gets up at 4 AM to start water heating for the morning coffee. I lapsed one year and got to see what those people are like when they don't have that first cup when they think it ought to be there, and it's not a pretty sight. Otherwise, they are lovely people, and I learned my lesson. It so happens, it's just beautiful at four in the morning.

I started a hiking group ten years or so ago--- nothing to do with the park--- and two different times, people met through the group and later married. One man proposed in front of all and sundry, after we had summited a peak near Lake Tahoe--- down on one knee and everything. The ring would have knocked your eyes out (jaws dropped, eyes bugged out, and some ladies looked rather coldly at their own husbands, clearly saying with their look, "Do you see that?"), and he had swapped packs with his intended, so she had actually carried it all day long. "That little devil," she remarked later. When he proposed, she was speechless for so long I started to fear she was going to say no. But the suspense was for naught; she accepted him and all was well.

They met at a previous retreat. She came with one man and left with another, the one she eventually married. Not the best of form, I suppose, but in the circumstances we'll have to overlook it. There's no arguing with the force of destiny... and they're still together, so that undermines any further argument. It supports Robin's theory that October brides really are happier--- or did she say, "less crazy." Anyway, this one was happy.

The other wedding makes less of a tale.

I lent Robin's book, Rhythm, to my friend Darlene. I thought it was a very fine book and considered that Robin had made very significant growth as an expert teller of tales, which is saying something considering what a wonderful book Piano Girl is. Rhythm is a dramatic story about musicians (though not pianists), which rotates in an elliptical but very satisfying way around a music conservatory... but I don't like to say too much for fear of giving anything at all away. It would rob readers of the enjoyment, and the surprise... though I can tell you that weddings have their day within its pages. Nothing will be taken away by my telling you Darlene's report: "What a great story!" she exclaimed. "I couldn't put it down." I don't think either of us are that easily impressed, either.

I'm now reading Keven Bazzana's biography about genius pianist Ervin Nyireghazi, entitled Lost Genius. Think it's just another book review with nothing to do with weddings? You're so wrong; he had ten of them. I think there are some in whom the flame burns so brightly, it's more than anyone can bear. If you have a spark of it, be happy with that.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/12/09 10:46 AM

Wow, Jeff, thanks for the nice words about RHYTHM (my novel), and thanks to Darlene as well. I had a great time writing that wedding scene. For anyone who wants to read it, here it is. Not sure if the chapter stands on its own (without all the backstory) but maybe it does. In any case, this is one wedding I'd like to attend!

Note: Mary Two is a housekeeper who comes from England. Please excuse her foul language; she really can't control herself. Mary One is also a housekeeper, as well a Billie Holiday expert. Olivia (the bride) is a music teacher. Jane (the narrator) is a teenage drummer, watching her widowed father re-marry.

RHYTHM: A Novel
©2008 Robin Meloy Goldsby

Song lyrics by Robin Meloy Goldsby
Chapter reprinted with the permission of Bass Lion Publishing

Blushing Moon

A lot of aisle marching is taking place this season. First graduation, now the wedding. It’s funny—we spend so much time spinning in messy little circles, but for benchmark occasions, we stop whirling, recover from the dizziness, focus on what we want, and march, in a tidy line, up one aisle and down another.

Olivia asked me to choose the color of the bridesmaid dresses and I picked red, since it’s always been my best color. Olivia, the Marys, and I went to the fancy bridal department of the Joseph Horne Company in downtown Pittsburgh, and were snubbed by a snotty saleslady. She took one look at the four of us, and immediately pretended to be busy rearranging her display of lace gloves. But Olivia stood there and stared her down until she helped us. The saleslady, who fell all over herself once she recognized the Bowman name, said—with one of those fake frozen smiles—that in the entire history of the Joseph Horne bridal department there had never been a single instance of the bridal party requesting red dresses. She tried to convince us to go for aqua, but we refused. She filled out the order form and we made appointments for fittings.

My dress has tiny straps and a long tight skirt with some sort of stretchy stuff in it. André will probably have a heart attack when he sees it, cause it makes my butt look even curvier than it is. Junk in the trunk, he likes to say. Mary One and Mary Two are also wearing red dresses, but with different styles. Mary One’s dress has a huge chiffon skirt, trimmed with sequined bumblebees, and Mary Two’s outfit has a long tailored jacket and a fishtailed skirt. Plus, she’s wearing one of those royal wedding hats—a wide brimmed red straw number with a big puffy veil. Leo says that the three of us look like some sort of mismatched fire brigade, but what does he know.

Grandma Millicent offered her formal living room for the wedding, and Dad and Olivia jumped at the chance. It’s more of a ballroom really, and there’s enough space for a large crowd. For today, Grandma’s furniture has been cleared and neat rows of taffeta-covered chairs line both sides of a long aisle. Octavious and Leo, dressed in dark blue suits with red rose buds in their lapels, practically blind me with their movie-star good looks as they greet guests and escort them to their seats.

“Friend of the bride, or friend of the groom?” they ask, over and over. I wonder what happens if you can’t make up your mind.

I see through a crack in the dining room door that Olivia’s side is overflowing and that Dad’s side is half empty. I also notice that the room is full of men and boys, most of them arriving unaccompanied. Wow.

“Hey Olivia, it’s a packed house and we still have fifteen minutes before show time. How many people did you invite?”

“Let me think. Sam’s list had about thirty people on it and mine had about the same. Then there were some last-minute invitations. I’d say total about 85.”

“It looks like they all brought friends and relatives.”

“Really?”

“Look for yourself.”

“Oh my God,” she says, peeking into the room. “They’re my old students. I haven’t seen some of these boys for years. Look! There’s Louis Shore! I can’t believe he’s voluntarily wearing a tie. Oh, oh, oh—Ralph Haverman is out there next to Manny Lazzaro and Stinky Grimm.”

“Stinky?”

“Don’t ask.”

“We have way too many people. I hope no one calls the police.”

Mary Two, who is repairing her scarlet lipstick for the fifth time, stops preening long enough to look at the crowd. “Jesus m’beads! Look at all those fuckin’ people.”

“There are no more chairs,” I say. “SRO, Olivia.”

“I can’t believe all these young men have come,” she says. “Some of them live really far away.”

“I’ll be buggered,” says Mary Two. “How did they know?”

“Oh!” says Olivia.

“What?” I say.

“It’s Franklin! All the way from Boston!”

“Franklin? Franklin the drummer?” I say. Uh-oh. I still get nervous whenever I hear his name.

“The one and only, and he’s talking to Leo.” She leaps away from the door like a nine-year old. “They’re coming back here,” she says. “What do I do?”

“Hide behind the china closet!” says Mary Two, pushing Olivia to the other side of the room. “It’s bad fuckin’ luck if they see you before the ceremony.”

“I think that rule just applies to the groom, Mary Two,” I say, as I open the door enough to let Franklin inside. He and Olivia stare at each for a moment.

“Hello, Miss Blue.” He’s as close to tears as a guy can get without actually crying. “Congratulations. Wow. You look just beautiful.”

“Oh Franklin,” she says. “How did you know to come? I didn’t invite you. I mean I would have, but I didn’t want you to go to any trouble and—”

“Your husband-to-be invited me and sent me an airline ticket. Mr. Bowman asked if I would walk down the aisle with you and give you away, you know, sort of as a representative of the Gateway Band. We’re all here, Miss Blue, just about all of your band students.”

Holy cow, I think. Dad did this. He invited Olivia’s students as a surprise to her. At this instant, I love my father more than ever. I peek into the living room and see Octavious opening the huge glass doors to the conservatory. Waiters appear out of nowhere with more of the taffeta-covered chairs.

Leo, playing stage manager for the day, sticks his head in the door. “You ready back there?” he says. “I’ll cue the band to start the overture. Five minutes to show time, Ladies and Gentlemen, five minutes.”

“Leo,” I whisper. “Did you know about this? That all of these people would be coming?”

“Are you kidding?” He looks in the gilded mirror hanging on the dining-room wall and slicks back his long golden hair. “I helped your dad plan it.”

Typical Leo.

“Where are my manners?” says Olivia. “Jane, please meet Franklin Boswell! Your predecessor in the Gatehouse Band!”

Franklin Boswell has dark brown satiny skin, a perfect blend of cookie and bird-face, and has the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen. “Hi,” I say, “I mean, how do you do?”

He laughs. “I’m fine. I hear you’re tearin’ it up over there with Gatehouse boys. Glad to hear the drum chair is in hard-hitting’ hands.”

“Thanks.” My knees feel weak.

“Careful there Miss Jane,” says Mary Two. “June is bustin’ out all over.”

I look down and see that my boobs are about to pop out of the top of my dress. Mortified, I turn away from Franklin and make some minor adjustments. André, playing my grandmother’s 1923 Steinway art-case grand piano, begins a rhythm and blues version of the old standard “Second Time Around,” accompanied by Carlos on electric bass and David on alto sax. Octavious goes to the front and begins to sing.

God, this band is groovin’. They slip into a funky version of “All the Things You Are.” I turn back to talk to Franklin again, but he’s leaning over and whispering in Olivia’s ear. Oh my. He looks as good from the back as he does from the front.

I sneak another peek out front and see the backs of the guests’ heads bobbing up and down in time to the music. Even Grandma Millicent, who had seemed a bit shocked when Dad announced his engagement to Olivia, bounces in her front row seat. She sits between Grandpa Vernon and dear old Grandpa Jack. Jack has left Grandma Isabella in the care of her nurse. It must have been hard for him to be without her, even for a few days, but he wanted to show his support for Sam and Olivia. Sometimes I think Grandpa Jack is the bravest man in the world.

Mary One hands me my bouquet of red and pink roses and André and his band begin playing a very funky “Here Comes the Bride.” Dad waits at the other end of the aisle, looking wired, happy, and maybe just a little bit afraid. Sort of like me.

Leo throws open the big mahogany doors leading into the living room, and I step through the threshold. The band would sound better with me playing, but even without a drummer, André rocks along at a tempo that manages to be both sexy and powerful. The music builds. I think about Mom and I’m sad and joyful all at once. I look over at André and he smiles at me. Then, as the guests rise to pay tribute to the bride, Olivia enters through the big wooden doors. Ribbons of sunlight shine on the uncluttered path leading to my father. She walks down the aisle, with Franklin holding her arm. She turns to face Dad.

The judge asks, “Who gives this woman in marriage?”

Franklin clears his throat and says, “I do, your honor, Franklin Boswell, her former student.”

“And what,” says the judge, “did this lovely woman teach you?”

“Everything,” says Franklin. “But mostly, how to play the drums.”

“Hey!” shouts a voice from the back. “I give this woman in marriage, too.”

“And who are you?”

“Louis Shore, first trumpet.”

“Me, too” says a familiar voice. “André Kenyon, keyboards.”

“Carlos Vierra, bass.”

“David Herman, alto sax.”

“Manny Lazzaro, vocals.”

“Stinky Grimm, lead trombone.”

And so it continues, with each of Olivia Blue’s former students—dozens of them—standing up, going to the front of the room, and giving away the bride.

I know what I have to do. When the guys finish, I make sure the top of my dress is in place, step forward, and join the crowd of boys and men huddled around Olivia.

“Jane Bowman,” I say. “Drums.”

****

The reception, held in Grandma Millicent’s terraced garden—overlooking the Ohio River—is one swingin’ party. At first, the Sewickley Heights neighbors huddle in a cautious group on one side of the lawn. They sneak peeks at the Gatehouse boys. But before long, everyone is mixing it up, dancing, eating and drinking, laughing and telling stories. The musicians take turns on the bandstand. Even with the touch of Lycra sewn into my dress, there’s no way to play the drums in it, so I’ve changed into the jeans and t-shirt I brought with me. When I’m not playing, I check out Franklin Boswell, former drummer and future heart surgeon, as he takes charge and guides the members of the Gatehouse Band, past and present, through stinging versions of their favorite tunes. He may not be playing much these days, but he sure sounds good. I’d kind of like to dance with him, but since one of us is always playing the drums I never get a chance. We pass each other on the way to and from the stage. He nods, I nod. My skin tingles whenever I look at him. Something about Franklin makes me want to talk to him, to touch him, oh man, to just jump on him right here in Grandma Millicent’s back yard. Poor André is oblivious to all of this; he’s way into the music.

As the sun sets, Mary Two—full of champagne punch, her royal wedding hat slightly akimbo—takes the stage and grabs the microphone.

“Ladies and Gentleman, Miss Mary One and I have been working for Mr. Bowman for almost fifteen years now. I used to think Jesus was a good boss, but he doesn’t hold a fucking candle to Sam Bowman. Anyway, Mary One and I love Mr. Bowman very much and we’re ever so thrilled to see him this happy. Miss Olivia, you’ve seemed like part of our family since the minute you walked into our house. I’m glad that now it’s official. So, to celebrate the coming off of your nuptials, Miss Mary One and I have prepared a little musical selection as a gift to you. André is going to play for us.”

I can’t imagine what the Marys are about to do. I’m almost afraid to look. André slides in behind his keyboard. Franklin leaves the stage and stands next to me. Mary One, a little bashful, walks center stage and takes the mike.

Look at the blushing moon,
Swimming in cherry light,
How can I feel so fine?
I've just had one glass of wine,
The thought of a simple kiss,
Could light up the sky in shades of bliss,
I’m swept away by your love.


Mary One sings like an angel, doing her very best Lady Day impression. A piano-solo begins, and right then, Mary Two lifts her long skirt, grins, and performs a perfectly rehearsed little soft-shoe dance, while Mary One stands to the side with one arm held out.

The guests go wild, Dad and Olivia embrace each other like they’ll never let go, Grandma Millicent cries, Grandpa Jack leans against a magnolia tree with a wistful look on his face, Leo and Octavious lock arms and hope that nobody notices, Franklin places his hand on the small of my back, and I look up at the dusky sky and wonder if it’s possible to actually see stardust.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/12/09 08:41 PM

Oh, yes, Robin--- I think it stands up just fine... just fine. But, if people think the book is just an extra-thick version of "Brides Magazine," they're in for a very big surprise. When I said the story was elliptical, what I had in mind is the way an ellipse is formed. You can tie a loop of string and anchor it with a thumbtack and draw a circle. If you use two thumbtacks, your pencil will draw an ellipse. It is like a circle with two focal points; the oval-shaped orbit is complete, perfectly inevitable, mathematically predictable, and totally beautiful. This story traces its path around two focal points (the conservatory is one)... but I certainly didn't know where I was going until I got there. Maybe some other people are smarter.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/13/09 12:29 AM

The ICBP part of the afternoon turned out to be just one home-built air cannon (I guess you can't just get one at Home Depot) with a 97 foot barrel. The muzzle velocity was allegedly 600 miles per hour and the 8" pumpkins supposedly fly about 3700 feet. I say allegedly and supposedly because although many people pointed at the sky and claimed to see the orange missiles, I never did. They say you can more easily see them if you stand behind the gun, but each launch was accompanied by an ear-destroying blast of noise. I decided to forgo it.

Levon Helm had throat trouble and couldn't sing, but there were enough vocalists to go around among the 11 pieces. He looks small and seemingly frail these days but played the drums with authority, always with a wide grin on his face.

It was a treat to see someone else play for a change, and the band was very good. They charted a variable orbit around the meeting point of Blues, Gospel, Country and Rock & Roll. It was a reverent Sunday devotion one minute and a raucous New Orleans party the next. One song would feature acoustic guitars and mandolins, the next razor-timbred guitar, the next the four-piece horn section, sometimes including Tuba.

The "venue" was nearly as primitive as some of my own stories -- a small field next to a farm stand -- but that only added to the atmosphere. There was a good-sized crowd for the site, maybe a little over a thousand, but you could easily walk back and get a cup of chili or corn chowder, or watch kids chase each other through the cornfield. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon, especially as it gave us yet another chance to demonstrate to our daughter that her parents are a little odd when it comes to music appreciation. What's the use of having a teenager if you can't embarrass and bewilder her from time to time? I think of it as returning the favor.

We had another such opportunity on our recent summer vacation. We had arrived at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris and were taking a fairly long cab ride to our hotel. The cab driver must have been from one of the former French possessions in Africa and the car stereo reflected his heritage. He launched the car into a series of narrow streets well before he really knew where he was going.It was a little disconcerting to see him consulting the fine-print index of the Paris Atlas while driving and honking the horn.

Our hotel was seemingly on a major street, but was technically on a tiny alley; it was a pedestrian walkway for most of the day. The address was entirely unknown to our driver. There we were, jawing back and forth in his African French and our New York French, marking up our map with a highlighter pen, scraping past famous monuments as we hurtled through Paris, all the while bopping and singing along in 6/8 time. Our daughter, sitting between us in the back, shook her head with that "Parents" look on her face.

I get a warm feeling inside just thinking about it.

Posted by: Erik L

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/14/09 02:26 PM

I played a wedding last week and was waiting for the bride to come out so I could start up "here comes the bride". as soon as I begin playing a brides maid comes running up to me and starts telling me to play something else because it was written by an anti-semetic composer. This was a jewish wedding by the way. So I start just pulling out a bunch of epic-sounding major chors in classical cadences, but seeing as I had just watched star wars earlier that day, the tune was stuck in my head. That poor couple is going to watch their wedding video in the future and expect Han Solo and Chewey to walk down the aisle instead!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/15/09 01:21 AM

Very funny, Eric! You start improving with majestic sounding march music and something goofy is bound to happen. One time, when I was in a similar situation, someone asked me if I was playing the Burger King theme song.

Greg, I have two teenagers here at home, actually three, if you count our South African exchange student. I do my best to embarrass them as often as possible—I think it builds character.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/16/09 12:10 AM

this is the best thread ever.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/16/09 09:53 AM

"I played a wedding last week and was waiting for the bride to come out so I could start up "here comes the bride". as soon as I begin playing a brides maid comes running up to me and starts telling me to play something else because it was written by an anti-semetic composer. This was a jewish wedding by the way."

I looked around and was unable to find any mention of anti-jewish prejudice on the part of Felix Mendelsohn, author of "The Wedding March," which became popular with brides after Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Victoria the Princess Royal, walked down the aisle to it. It is true that Abraham Mendelsohn, his father, a wealthy banker, joined the Lutheran church and added the surname Bartholdy to the family name. That does not amount to being anti-semitic; in fact, he may have been trying to protect his family from anti-semitism. It seems, actually, that Felix was subject to anti-jewish prejudice himself, having been harshly criticized for being Jewish by Ricard Wagner.

That bridesmaid may have gotten things backwards. I'll say no more about bridesmaids; they're clearly identified by ugly uniforms for the protection of the marrying public. This is no more than truth-in-labeling.

The hottest thing about Felix was that there seems to be some evidence, suppressed for the last 100 years, that he (a married man) wrote a sizzling-hot letter to Jenny Lind (a married lady) begging her to elope with him to America (then very distant). She declined. Now, a bridesmaid could make something out of that, but it was such a long time ago. And can bridesmaids say any better for their own conduct? And does it really make a case for walking down the aisle to "The Burger King" theme--- doesn't that go "Aren't you hungry/ For Burger King now?"

I suggest wedding musicians be on guard for this sort of thing. If you can't put up concertina wire, you could at least feign deafness and keep playing the Wedding March. A bride who steps out to "Burger King" doesn't have much further to fall in this world, not with camcorders and those syndicated shows everywhere.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/16/09 01:18 PM

Jeff,

The "Here Comes The Bride" is Wagner, IIRC. I don't know about Wagner's personal ideas, but he was reportedly Hitler's favorite composer and recordings of his music were played in concentration camps.

I played a ceremony at a Jewish wedding once, mercifully as a duo with our sax player. I'm a poor reader. He played the melodies and I chimed in with some sort of background. I believe that Mendelssohn was actually one of the requested composers.

As far as "making up a new Wedding March on the spot", I can relate. I have already mentioned upthread that I am a "survival" ceremony musician at best. I know my own versions of the usual processional and recessional. If the couple is getting married at the catering hall and they only need those two pieces, they can save money by hiring me; I'm already there for the reception.

My repertoire of pop, rock, standards, etc. is at least in the many hundreds of songs. I don't know how many I've played over the years. But my repertoire of classical pieces can be specified quite precisely: zero.

Our band was playing a wedding at a Manhattan hotel some years ago. It was memorable for at least two things. The first was the tortured path up to the catering room. It involved cramming as much as we could into a tiny elevator, which only went to the basement, and repeating that process several times to accommodate all the equipment. Next we had to snake our way past laundry carts piled high with soiled linens to another elevator. Very Spinal Tap. That elevator was larger and took us to the fifth floor.

It was a serious haul, but we got to the catering room in plenty of time. Or so I thought. It was about then that someone came over looking for the guy who was playing the ceremony. Somewhere in the chain between the couple, the hotel, the planner and us, that detail had gotten lost. The ceremony was to start soon.

There was a piano there for me to use. It was apparently tuned by the same technician that tuned the saloon pianos in all the Western Movies, but hey, at least I didn't have to set up my gear for the ceremony. I hurried off to the bathroom, which was on another floor, to change. I apparently didn't hurry quickly enough, because they sent a waitress up to knock on the Men's Room door and pester me.

First they wanted background music for the guests that were filing in. I consulted my repertoire of classical music. Finding the cupboard bare, I started to play something off the top of my head. The problem is that what starts at the top of my head tends to wander around to other corners of my brain, sometimes leaving the skull entirely.

About then a manager of some sort came over with a list. "What do you usually play for the Maid of Honor?", "Bridesmaids and Ushers?", "Mother of the Bride?", "Flower Girl?" "Ring Bearer" "Best Man?" "Photographer?" "The Groom's Shiftless Brother Ned?"...

Well, she would have said all that, it was typed on her sheet, but my flummoxed expression stopped her. Separate, tastefully chosen pieces for each wedding participant was standard operating procedure at this hotel, to hear her tell it. I consulted my repertoire again. I explained to the manager that no one told us I was playing the ceremony, and no one would have hired me for a ceremony as demanding as this one. I told her I'd do my best.

While the crowd filed in I planned a few themes in my head. The problem is not so much coming up with stuff to play. The problem is reining it in for the setting and repeating motifs often enough for it to sound composed. When I noodle, I tend to noodle linearly, chromatically and with variable rhythm. Stately chords in a walkable cadence takes concentration.

I did indeed play something a little different for certain participants, ending up with Der Fuhrer's favorite for the bride. It worked out OK, really. One of the great lessons of frequent gigging is that people simply don't notice what might seem like glaring flaws to the musicians themselves.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/16/09 09:59 PM

You're so right, Greg--- all I had to do was Google up "Here Comes the Bride." And it says the bridesmaid was right:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridal_Chorus

"The "Bridal Chorus" "Treulich geführt", from the opera Lohengrin, by German composer Richard Wagner, is the standard march played for the bride's entrance at many formal weddings throughout the Western world. In English-speaking countries it is generally known as "Here Comes the Bride" or "Wedding March" (though actually "wedding march" refers to any piece in march tempo accompanying the entrance or exit of the bride, notably Felix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March").

"Its usual placement at the beginning of a wedding ceremony is not entirely in accordance with its placement in the opera. In the opera, the chorus is sung after the ceremony by the women of the wedding party, as they accompany the heroine Elsa to the bridal chamber. In addition, the marriage between Elsa and Lohengrin is an almost immediate failure.

"The "Bridal Chorus" is seldom played at Jewish weddings, which do not feature a processional. There could in any case be cultural objections, due to Wagner's well-documented and public reputation as an anti-Semite.[1] It is also opposed by many pastors of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod because of pre-First World War Lutheran opposition to the theater and to the pagan elements of Wagner's operas.[2] The Roman Catholic Church generally does not use the Bridal Chorus; one guideline states that the chorus is a secular piece of music, that it is not a processional to the altar in the opera, and especially that its frequent use in film and television associate it with sentimentality rather than worship.[3]"


Now I feel mean. Oh well, it will wear off. A bridesmaids dress is punishment enough.

The objections about the appropriateness of using the "Lohengrin" in a church are interesting--- but I draw the line when they start to criticize sentimentality. Who, exactly, do they figure would be getting married without that?

It happens I'm reading a book on the history of the organ in America. They were surprisingly controversial--- many churches associated them with heathenism and concert performances of secular music (which everyone who knows sin, knows are sinful). Cotton Mather preached against them from the pulpit in Boston. And a church member in a Boston congregation offered to pay for a new organ AND make a donation to the poor, if the older, unsanctified instrument were thrown into Boston Harbor.

No--- really.

And after all that, now you can't play the Wedding March. Oh well, I can't play it anyway.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/18/09 11:51 AM

It's Sunday, my least favorite day to play. That goes double for anything that ends late. I don't know why, but I'd rather play on a Tuesday night than Sunday, even though both are followed by a workday and a weekday is arguably more difficult. Maybe it's because the guests at a Sunday affair really don't want to be there either. It ends up being a drowsy clock-watching evening for band and spectators alike.

This evening's gig is unusual. In my long demi-career as a musician there have been many times when a party guest has gotten a little too heavily into the bottle, passed out in an anteroom and had to be carried home. But tonight it's a certainty. The guest of honor's age is still counted in months. If you took away all the head-scratcher jobs -- gigs where it's hard to understand why anyone would hire a band -- we musicians would have less work. But I believe this is my first Christening. I'm betting that one of the sets of grandparents hired us.

Maybe it will end early. People do tend to put in a respectable appearance at such things and then duck out. But there are frequently a few die-hards. We end playing the last interminable hour for nine people.

Wish us luck.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/19/09 01:19 PM

Hi everyone!

Another weekend under my belt, or ballgown, or whatever. Oh Greg, I hear you about the Sunday thing. Seems like I've been working on Sundays my entire life. Grateful to have the work, but still. the WHY ME feeling is even more pronounced here in Germany, where the entire country shuts down on Sundays, and it really is considered a Family Day. Except for musicians. My poor kids have grown up thinking of Monday as the day of rest. Come to think of it, I grew up that way, too. And I survived.

Beautiful wedding on Saturday! 39 people. I was hired for the cocktail reception and an instrumental jazz trio for dinner. Bride in white Spanish lace. No hassles, no complaints, EASY.

Until—

**

One of the guests hobbles to the piano, with tears in her eyes:

"Oh, Frau Goldsby, how lovely to hear you again." The woman is in her seventies, beautifully dressed, lipstick on her teeth, helmet hair, with expensive highlights. 300 Euro shoes.

"Yes! Nice to see you, too!" I have no idea who this woman is. But I like her shoes. "How are you?"

"Better now, but it has been a rough year."

"Oh no. What happened?" Never ever ask this question unless you're willing to hear the worst possible news.

"Moritz died."

"Oh no." I don't know if Moritz was her dog, her husband, or the bartender.

"Ja. He died just a few hours after we were here the last time."

"Oh no."

"Ja. Your music was the last music he heard."

Now. This is already upsetting enough. But it's not, sad to say, the first time. I am evidently responsible for many geriatric deaths. There are several documented cases of a people dying while they were listening to me. Granted, they were in the hospital, but still. My husband, the jazz chord doctor, swears it's my unimaginative changes that bring on the grim reaper. I beg to differ.

But then. Last year my parents went to a funeral home (in Pittsburgh) to pay their respects to the family of a deceased high school pal. The funeral home was playing one of my CDs. The recording, it turned out, was part of their generic funeral music playlist. This of course caused my mom to go into a "They're Playing Her Song" frenzy.

Mom ran from mourner to mourner, saying, "Hear that music? That's my daughter." People looked at her like she had a lettuce leaf on her head. Luckily she did not have CDs with her, or she might have attempted to sell a few. She did pass out a few postcards. Oy.

So, that's my musical fate I guess. Weddings and funerals. Important occasions, so I guess I'm doing okay.
Posted by: Astra

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/21/09 08:28 AM

Hey everybody,

just wanted to say that I really enjoy your stories!

Thanks for sharing them!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/21/09 11:19 AM

I posted this on another forum, then lost my nerve. But, oh well, I've already ruined the wedding thread, and you already told me you don't care if it's too dark.

The original subject was, "Are you glad to see your tuner?", so you can see it's already strayed badly. They asked why I didn't do any writing--- but you already know.
**************************************************************


"Clef, what do you mean, <too incendiary>?"

And there goes the thread. Well, ok. Fire, being an Elemental, doesn't have to care; its existence alone fulfills its being. Beautiful and useful, beautiful and terrible, or beautiful and serving no purpose at all.

The rest of us have to satisfy a balance of interests in order to exist. So yes, it's possible to be too incendiary; what's written on paper is just a little expression in glyphs of the thoughts that beat their way through the awareness on fleet wings. Even the great Science of our time can't say what thought is, still less what feeling is. But there are plenty of people who are willing to indignantly tell others, "You can't say that!"

Shall I set something on fire for you to demonstrate? Oh why not, the theater isn't that crowded--- in fact, everyone's leaving already.

"So, what did you think about the performance?"

The person leaving the concert at intermission replied that it was fine, if a bit loud, but still good.

The lady at the exit door put on her most witheringly contemptuous sneer. "You liked THAT?"

"Yes." The look on her face, which would have stopped a clock, did not seem to invite actual conversation; in fact, she turned the face away, nose slightly elevated, eyes on the ceiling. The muggy warmth of the sidewalk and the musty darkness of the car park seemed quite a bit more inviting, and after all, if the displeased woman had eaten something that had gone down the wrong way, it was not actually the business of the concert goer to find out the particulars.

One might have considered how small the world of music is, and how embarrassing--- even humiliating--- the lady's generous sponsorship of a concert, which did not turn out to her expectations, might have felt. And there her name was, in the program, in big letters on the sponsor list, on a page all by itself. The promoters had been generous, too.

But, the person leaving the concert wasn't thinking about how the lady must have been feeling like the hostess-with-the-leastest. The gratuitous slap at the exit was no more than a slight annoyance after the very noisy concert. Still, it was his own fault for forgetting to bring the earplugs to the first concert of the season. The instrument was too loud for the hall every year, unless in the hands of an unusually sensitive person.

Anyway, the answer was still, "Yes." He came to the concerts because he enjoyed them, for the most part. The pianist had played pretty well, and had seemed to enjoy himself. An odd little guy--- but so many of them are; anyway, he was "in the zone," and if it was too loud, well, he was a teenager. That's what they like. A lot of them are strutting through the 'hood with a boom box the size of a steamer trunk on their shoulder, making window glass rattle two blocks away to the groove of 'Fity Cent,' and here this guy was, playing the classical concert circuit in a too-warm hall with no air.

No doubt, the little psychodrama at the front door would seem like a hug around the neck compared to the one waiting in the greenroom for the artist after the last encore.

But, the answer was still, "Yes," and it might have been, "Yes, I've been enjoying these concerts since before I knew what your name was, and I'll be enjoying them after I've forgotten what it is." Sure, some are better than others, but the concert artists are doing their best and aren't going out of their way to be unpleasant. As a rule.

He made a note to put a box of earplugs in the car for next time, and to avoid the exit door ambush in the future.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/21/09 05:05 PM

Robin,

You're describing a common experience among musicians, even those of us who play behind four front-men in a group that is at best locally-known. People tend to talk to you. They know your name, even when it's not obvious how they came to learn it. They know you, or at least act as if they do, even when you have no idea who they might be.

And they tell you things. At our age (50+) you hear a heck of a lot about "conditions" and "procedures". Knee replacement, kidney stones, sciatica, gout etc. You are certainly right about "asking": If you don't want to hear the answer, don't. With some people, you learn not to take the bait, no matter how brightly colored it might be and how much they jiggle it on the hook. "I'm feeling a little better now...", "February, whew, what a month...", "Frank is back in New York...".

I don't believe that any music of mine has ever been played in a hospital or nursing home. Some people have certainly claimed, especially in my younger years, that the sound (they usually referred to it as "noise") we were making was hastening their departure from the temporal plane. One woman in her 70s followed her ears to our drummer's house, pounded on the door and (employing a somewhat outdated word usage) said, "the sound is terrific". Teenagers at the time, we could scarcely keep from saying "Thanks, we think so too".

Our current band did once play at what could only be described as a "pre-death party". There was a man, a well off man with a large house and spacious grounds, who had terminal cancer. He was told he had a few months to live. He was a big fan of oldies music and hired us and an a cappella group to play at an outdoor party at his house. He also invited a number of other local singers from other groups. People did songs in various combinations. It was nice, but strange, like being at a wake for someone not quite gone yet.

The Sunday Christening was as expected. Maybe 150 people, 25 or so of them little kids. The room was kept unusually dark, maybe because the place was brand new, not yet finished, actually. I've written enough already on the challenges of getting in and out of places ostensibly designed for entertainment, so I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say it was another in a long line of obstacle courses.

I played the cocktail hour again, but managed to leave my CD background system at a previous gig. My keyboard has some generic "jazzy" background sequences, but I decided to challenge myself a bit and play solo piano for a while. I took a stab at, let's see... "Here's That Rainy Day", "Lover", "Overjoyed", "Witchcraft" and a few more. The crowd went wild: Cheering, clapping and patting me on the back.

Of course not.

They ate, chased their kids, gabbed and, as always, paid no attention to me whatsoever. I'm having perverse thoughts now. Maybe next time I'll try to work up "cocktail" versions of "Aqualung" and "Manic Depression", just to see if anyone notices.

Jeff,

That was quite a little screed there. I had to read it a couple of times. For myself, unless a performer is actively obnoxious, I applaud. I think this used to be the general rule, but I'm often amazed at the silence that sometimes follows a song, even if the dance floor was full of people evidently having a good time a moment before.

In fact, it is often the band who leads the audience in applause when a speaker at a testimonial dinner concludes his comments. We may not have been especially listening to how well Mrs. Giambalvo managed the rummage sale, but we're attuned to the cadences of a public speech, and can just "feel" the end coming. It never feels good to finish something you put effort into and get no recognition at all. We're pretty thick-skinned by now, but my advice is, always show your appreciation, even when it is of the mildest order.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/22/09 10:23 AM

"Maybe next time I'll try to work up "cocktail" versions of "Aqualung" and "Manic Depression", just to see if anyone notices."

Well, there's "Permafrost," if you want to go back as far as Air Supply--- a lovely sentiment for a christening. And then there's "White Wedding," if anyone can remember Billy Idol (for those times when "Here Comes the Bride" won't do--- and you'll get them up to the preacher quick as quick). Someday, somewhere, some musician will mashup "White Wedding" and "White Christmas" into a cocktail medley. Most people will blame the bartender.

"That was quite a little screed there. I had to read it a couple of times."

Yes, that's just the trouble with it. Overwritten, underpunctuated; the kind of writing you have to first dig out with a pick-and-shovel, and then put out with a fire extinguisher. And it violates Rule Number One: "Only write about persons who are deceased, or imaginary."

Even Mark Twain, with his wonderfully transparent and readable style, ran into troubles with Rule One violations. He finally cast his imagination back into the time of Adam (and got complaints anyway). I seem to be unable to sustain enough interest to invest the amount of work, and craft that it takes... but thanks for taking the trouble to read. You make your stuff look easy, but anyone who tries it, knows better.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/22/09 10:37 AM

Next time I drink a White Russian (or two) I'll work on my White Wedding/White Christmas medley. This would have been perfect for my gig at the Omni Park Central hotel in Manhattan, where the lobby was all white, the piano was white, and I (the white girl) was asked to wear white dresses.

Jeff, I love the way you write. And you, too Greg. Style, voice, form, flow—and yes, melody—both of you have found the music in your words. Keep going! It's delightful to read.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/22/09 10:39 AM

PS:

Thanks, Astra. Feel free to chime in. Everyone has a wedding story!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/23/09 07:24 PM

..."both of you have found the music in your words. Keep going! It's delightful to read."

So it's music you want. Ok. I have a musical solution that will take care of people who mention "conditions and procedures" to Greg and which will employ Robin in a white dress, piano etc., TimR's 12-piece brass ensemble... and even a cameo for the wedding planner with the clipboard.

Picture it: they mention procedures, you mention signing up for the Limbo Contest--- the house lights go dark, presto; purple floods sizzle every surface on the stage, with the gleam of brass flashing through the house as white fresnel spots stab through the sudden darkness. "Limbo Rock" strikes up with brio--- no, con fuoco; with the wedding planner taking off at a dead run after the person with the condition, who has turned surprisingly nimble.

People who are old enough to tell you about having their gizzard cut out are old enough to remember Annette. And they know what the limbo pole is for.

As for the white dress and piano--- I've thought twice about it. Who am I to tell Robin how to stage an effect. Though I think a duet with piano and fleugelhorn would be unforgettable as the limbo bar goes lower, lower, and lower still. I think a German audience would appreciate the touch.

One last thing. Anyone who books twelve pieces of brass to play a whole program at double p, needs to be shown better.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/24/09 12:31 PM

"The Junk we find inside" on Tuner/Tech has picked up its second wind. Just when I thought it had run out of gas. No, no indeed.

I only wish I could say the stories are unbelievable, but the truth is, they're all-too-believable.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/24/09 02:07 PM

New restaurant last night. It was a pretty good gig. The place was full and lively. They danced, clapped and sang along, and most of them stayed through three sets. It really couldn't have gone much better, which means...that we have no idea if we'll be hired there again or not. Club owners are an inscrutable lot.

Here's another twist in my ongoing description of the gigging life, and I use the word "twist" advisedly. Picture a seven piece drum kit, three instrument amps, a keyboard rig, a PA system rack, stands and speakers, 5 reeds (for one player), two guitars (for one player), an electric bass, seven vocal mikes and a mile of cables to hook all that together. Add in the cases, covers and bags for the aforementioned items.

Now imagine it's all in your bedroom.

Now imagine it's only taking up half. Let's say 18' x 7'.

Can you visualize it? Wait, you forgot the band. Shoehorn 9 guys of varying shapes and sizes into your mental picture. For extra realism, factor in the collection of physical complaints common to men our age.

As this is neither the first time we've been in this situation, nor the very smallest space, we managed. Once we get set up it's not too bad. But the setup is rather like solving one of those little puzzles with the sliding "tiles", usually 15 tiles in a 4x4 grid. You can't simply put the tile with the monkey's foot in the lower right corner, you have to move six or seven others in a series of strategic steps.

Put the keyboard amp in place? No. First move the digital piano case to make room for the sax cases. Oops, no, first take the piano out of the case, then put the case away, then move the sax cases. Oops, while we were doing that the bass player made the drummer move his kit. Start again from scratch.

So we need another wrinkle or two in the analogy. You're still working the tile puzzle, but so are eight other guys, and each one has a different idea of what the "picture" is supposed to be. It's not a 4x4 grid, it's more like 7 x 23 and there's a time limit.

Oh, and there are no open spaces.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/25/09 02:46 PM

Greg, your set-up sounds like that computer game: King of Parking. I think maybe this is why I play solo piano.

Jeff, I am now working on my limbo medley. Why is that word so funny? Just saying it makes me laugh.

"Limbo Rock" strikes up with brio--- no, con fuoco; with the wedding planner taking off at a dead run after the person with the condition, who has turned surprisingly nimble.

The above is maybe one of the funniest sentences ever, Jeff.

No weddings at the castle this weekend, but I've been informed that the banquet department has now booked several WINTER WONDERLAND weddings in December. So stay tuned. Gingerbread. Twinkle lights. Bridesmaids dressed as shepherds and angels.

I shall refuse all requests for "Jingle Bell Rock" and that dreadful Mariah Carey "All I Want for Christmas" song and instead play all of my favorite minor-key Xmas songs in a lilting (yet uplifting) tempo.

I'm hoping for a bride dressed in red velvet and ermine.

LIMBO! Con fuoco.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/25/09 05:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

One last thing. Anyone who books twelve pieces of brass to play a whole program at double p, needs to be shown better.


I'll have you know I played all of Radetzky on one breath!

Hee, hee.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/25/09 08:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I think maybe this is why I play solo piano.

Was it always so? Have you played in an ensemble setting in the past? You certainly do describe a charmed musical life, at least recently. Steinways and Bosendorfers, carted in by others and tuned by professionals. Medieval castles and well-tended gardens in bloom. Disney songbirds chirping along in harmony, lowering floral garlands onto your head as you play.

That's how I imagine it, anyway.

I had a close call last night. It was a charity concert at a local school. There were to be two acts, plus a jazz trio to warm up as the spectators entered. The trio was about to begin, but due to weather of Biblical intensity, the piano player hadn't arrived yet. Their drummer asked me to sit in. I love to sub, but I'm not a jazz player, especially not as the lead instrument in a trio, and I told him so. But I didn't really see how I could turn them down.

I sat down at the piano, whose tuning did nothing to make me feel better about the situation. Some of the higher notes were sci-fi laser guns, others practically chords. The bass player plopped a fat fake book in front of me. Owing to aging eyes, dim light and my general unfamiliarity with playing from any sort of written guide, it didn't promise to help matters much.

We were about to start "My One and Only Love", which I do marginally know, when a damp, anxious-looking fellow came rushing down the aisle. Whew.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/25/09 09:32 PM

"I'll have you know I played all of Radetzky on one breath!"

I'll have to confess I don't know that composer, but I don't doubt you could do it, Tim. I'd be interested to learn about Radetzky, if you want to say a few words. Is it wedding music? I love brass; used to play Bb cornet myself, years ago.

Matter of fact, I could picture Robin and the horn section burning up the stage with "Santa, Baby." The Eartha Kitt original, of course--- not the Madonna knock-off.

"Santa, baby,
I've been about as good as good
Can be.
Santa, sugar,
So hurry down my chimney tonight!"

"Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some toys from Tiffany..."


With this ring, I thee wed.

Oh I hate to let go of this--- but this is a five-alarm show-stopper, not background music. So is the follow-up number, the immortal, the inimitable, the one-and-only, "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets." A tango, I believe. Once you perform the limbo, there's no place left to go; limbo, tango, samba, mambo, rhumba, bossa nova, and conga, until the guests fall over like so many dominos.

What a party!

Perfect for a nightclub floor show. I'm not so sure about a wedding rehearsal dinner... though Robin has certainly described some very lively ones. But if the bride's had a few drinks, and just has to sing...




PS- I have discoverd, thanks to Wiki, that the Redetzky March is by Strauss:

"Despite its military nature, its tone is rather festive than martial, in accordance with its dedicatee's exuberant personality and popularity in the ballroom as well as the battlefield. It is usually played in under three minutes."
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 02:25 AM

For the record, the Radetzky March is by Johann Strauss, Sr. It may be his best-known work.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 06:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"I'll have you know I played all of Radetzky on one breath!"

I'll have to confess I don't know that composer, but I don't doubt you could do it, Tim. I'd be interested to learn about Radetzky, if you want to say a few words. Is it wedding music? I love brass; used to play Bb cornet myself, years ago.



I intended humor. Radetzky March would be as familiar to a European audience as Stars and Stripes would be to a US one. (and about as difficult to play quietly) If there is any appreciable number of Europeans in the audience they will generally clap along.

It is unique in one respect. At the time I was playing trombone for the 12 piece as well as a full wind ensemble. It is rather easy to play trombone too, well, enthusiastically, and we are famous for getting "the hand" from the director. Strauss himself said "never look at the trombones, it only encourages them." However, there is a whole note roughly four bars into the first strain that needs to be LOUD. It's the one note in the whole repertoire I never succeeded in playing too strongly for the conductor.

I guess I have to tell another brass story. My employer sent me to Germany for several years, I've just returned. Because of this I'd been away from the American wind ensemble traditions quite a while. I was down in Munich for Oktoberfest (yeah, the real one!) and walking past a beer tent I heard a familiar tune. Inside was a typical German large oompah band, probably about 20 to 25 pieces and largely conical brass. (meaning more euphonium/tenor horn than trombone, more fluegel than trumpet, etc. A round mellow sound rather than a brilliant piercing one.) To my surprise they were playing "Them Basses" at breakneck speed. I hadn't heard that one in decades, and never expected to come across it live in Germany. Or at an Oktoberfest anywhere.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 10:59 AM

Tim, I live outside of Cologne. We've never had a brass band play at a castle wedding, but we did have an alphorn group play in the driveway for a bride's arrival. Now that's a sound.

Greg, I've got a truly fairy tale gig now, but it took decades of brutal jobs to get to this point. When I left NYC in 1994 I swore I would never again play in another hotel, that I would focus on my writing and composing, that I would hang up the cocktail dresses and ball gowns and settle into a nice comfortable life of pajama outfits, chilled white wine, and no makeup. Then, I attended one of my husband's concerts at Schloss Lerbach. I fell in love with the place, talked to the director, and the rest is piano history. I've been there for eight years now, every weekend on a steady FRI, SAT, SUN gig, plus a bunch of concerts and private parties. Like any solo piano gig, it's occasionally goofy, but I've been around the piano block often enough to realize that I am one lucky musician.

But before 1994, believe me, I was in the trenches.

I've always played solo, because, frankly, I can make more money playing solo. Plus I can do my own thing. Yes, it's lonely in a way, but I'm never ever bored. The world is full of ridiculous, touching, sad, funny, and obnoxious cocktail lounge customers, and I get to see them at their best and worst. Some musicians might think this is an awful way to make a living, but I love it.

Jeff, I'm about as far from Eartha Kitt as a gal can get, although I do have some of the right outfits. Last year I bought a pair of leopard high heels. Yeow!
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 11:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Last year I bought a pair of leopard high heels. Yeow!


If ever a sentence demanded an accompanying photo, this one surely does! grin

[...and now I'm wondering how on earth you manage to pedal in high heels? confused ]
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 04:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg, your set-up sounds like that computer game: King of Parking. I think maybe this is why I play solo piano.

Jeff, I am now working on my limbo medley. Why is that word so funny? Just saying it makes me laugh.

Since we have long since abandoned any discernible boundary around this thread, I feel no shame about the following:

"Limbo" also has a theological meaning, which makes me think of Purgatory, which in turn reminds me of our drummer (many drummers, actually). The connection in his brain between thought and speech is frequently unfiltered and instantaneous.

To wit: We were playing at a dinner-dance in a Catholic Church cafegymatorium. It was the dead of winter, if memory serves. The load-in area was covered in a sheet of ice that was at once lumpy and as smooth as glass. One wrong move carrying a trap case and a drummer might be off to meet his maker. Perhaps that was on his mind.

The parish priest came over to our table during a break. He was the true Central Casting article, with the map of Donegal practically drawn on his face. He told us we were doing a good job and asked if there was anything he could do for us.

"Could you get them to re-open Purgatory Father?", asked the drummer, "I was really counting on that."

I have since looked it up. I'm not sure where he got the idea that the Church had abandoned the idea of Purgatory, but it was as clear a window as you could ask for into his personality nonetheless.

So there you have it: Limbo, Purgatory, Drummer, Priest, Google, with Piano World thrown in for good measure. That's not even an ellipse, is it?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 05:15 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"I'll have you know I played all of Radetzky on one breath!"

I'll have to confess I don't know that composer, but I don't doubt you could do it, Tim. I'd be interested to learn about Radetzky, if you want to say a few words. Is it wedding music? I love brass; used to play Bb cornet myself, years ago.


I was down in Munich for Oktoberfest (yeah, the real one!) and walking past a beer tent I heard a familiar tune. Inside was a typical German large oompah band, probably about 20 to 25 pieces and largely conical brass.

Music has an entirely different effect on us when it's played live. I'm sure that I had either grimaced or rolled my eyes whenever I accidentally landed on Oom-Pah style music on the car radio. But seeing bands much as you describe at the Munich Oktoberfest gave me an entirely new perspective. The enormous beer hall whose translucent roof was painted with fluffy clouds, dirndl-clad waitresses of generous proportions handling 4 glass steins in each hand, a whole ox on a spit, the lederhosen even; all of it contributed to a new understanding. This is fun. Polkas were obviously written with enjoyment as the driving force.

Now I can even hear the "fun" on recordings. Travel is good for that.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/26/09 08:31 PM

I guess I should order some of your CDs to get a better idea, lest I stray beyond all bounds (assuming I enjoy the charity of still being on the right side). Barnes lists one only: An NPR Christmas Collection with Marian McPartland and Friends, with only one number out of the three-disc box set, performed by Robin. It is Magic in the Night. But, sometimes they "forget" works that are still in release. Some of the technical books on piano, for example, can only be ordered direct from the publisher. Or try finding a bio on Scriabin.

If we wanted to order Going Rogue, however... we could get it by the crate.

Thanks anyway to that one; I'm still working my way through Bach's On the True Art, and Famous Pianists and Their Technique. And a few about Chopin.

Naturally, I applaud anyone who takes the stage in leopard pumps. "Accessories make the ensemble," they say, "or break it." I hardly need say, no one can "do" Eartha; she was strictly a limited edition--- "is," I should say. Though I believe she's retired from performing, there's still plenty of sizzle in her recordings.

Maybe Madonna's pallid cover of Santa Baby amounts to a cautionary tale for other performers, and even she didn't dare touch I Want to Be Evil, I Want to be Bad. That knack of being sultry, and yet comical, is very rare.

Anyway, I'm sure a performer who can go on with the show despite "a major problem with wasps" doesn't need my help to choose material that works.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/28/09 01:48 AM

My CDs (physical copies) are all at Amazon, Jeff. Or maybe your nearest funeral home gift shop.

I am still amazed that "Magic in the Night" landed on Marian McPartland's Xmas recording. The producer had me record it at the end of the session we did for my show with her. I would have preferred to play one of my minor key Celtic dirges, but she already had too many of those and asked for something light and fast. Magic in the Night is from a children's holiday fairy play (with a giant rabbit) that I wrote for German public radio. It is being produced live this season, at, you guessed it, the castle where I play regularly. Fairies, brides, giant rabbits, we have it all there.
Posted by: rustyfingers

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/29/09 11:34 PM

That, I would like to see. Maybe not all in the same event though.

Little Bunny Foo Foo suddenly comes to mind!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/30/09 09:20 AM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino


The parish priest came over to our table during a break. He was the true Central Casting article, with the map of Donegal practically drawn on his face. He told us we were doing a good job and asked if there was anything he could do for us.

"Could you get them to re-open Purgatory Father?", asked the drummer, "I was really counting on that."

that is too funny.
Posted by: Brian Taylor

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 10/31/09 09:59 PM

A wedding story unlike any other:

An Italian Catholic service organist/cantor, Luigi, who is both a friend and a colleague, has a very far-flung network of contacts and frequently asks me to sub for him when he has more in a day than he can handle. Italians, by the way, are quite devoted to their departed family members, and usually ask that a memorial Mass be offered for one or another of their deceased, especially the month after the funeral, and annually thereafter, if not more frequently. Music is not compulsory, but is most often requested.

Such was the case, one Friday night last summer. Luigi had me go to a church for a 7:30 memorial Mass, to be sung in Italian. As usual, I went to the sacristy, where the priest vests for Mass, to speak with him to confirm last-minute details. No change from the arrangements with Luigi. Fine by me.

I went to the back of the church and up to the choir loft, set up my microphone and turned on the organ and sound system. I had decided to use a new-to-me hymn for the first time, so, while awaiting the bell that announces the beginning of the Mass, I looked through the words to make my pronunciation more secure. I had done memorial Masses in this church many times before, and I was completely at ease with the priest and with what was expected of me.

Several years earlier, having seen a photocopy, I had obtained from its Italian publisher an original printing of a Mass for the Dead, which I use for both funeral Masses and memorial Masses. It begins with an antiphon before and after a brief exerpt from a psalm. The antiphon, roughly translated, goes like this:

"Eternal rest give to them, Lord:
and [let] shine on them everlasting light."

Exactly what one would expect to begin a Mass for the Dead.

The bell rang and I played and sang the antiphon and psalm, in Italian, as usual, during the entrance procession of the priest and servers. When I conclude this music, the priest has reached his place at the altar and begins the Mass. However, instead of starting the Mass in Italian as I expected, he switched to English and welcomed the congregation to the marriage of two of the parishoners, which was to be celebrated at this Mass.

You have no idea how I felt at that moment, having just finished the music to begin the Mass for the Dead. Completely startled, I looked down into the church and saw that, between the time I had left the priest in the sacristy at the front of the church, and the ringing of the bell to start the Mass, there had been put in place two prie-dieus and chairs for the man and the woman who were now situated at the head of the main aisle, and who, now obviously, were about to marry. They were dressed in very ordinary casual street clothes -- no bridal gown, no suit on the groom, let alone a tux, and not even a tie. And the bride was very obviously pregnant. Well, I thought, that explains that.

I hadn't brought my wedding music book with me. I was able to switch to English readily enough for the standard parts of the Mass (e.g., Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). I went diving into a cupboard and came up with an old hymnal with which I was familiar, and was able to sing a psalm and Gospel acclamation suitable for the occasion.

After the Gospel is read at a wedding Mass, the wedding ceremony proper takes place. The priest began by apologizing to the couple and to the entire congregation for not having informed the organist that this was to be a wedding Mass. It turns out that their wedding Mass was originally to have been at 8:15, but at the very last moment they asked if they could celebrate their marriage within the 7:30 Mass.

During the Offertory, the old hymnal provided me with a good wedding prayer/hymn for the newly married couple, and a good Communion hymn. I chose a fairly martial-type hymn for the recessional, and that was that.

Afterwards, I sought out the couple to extend my own apologies, but they were both rather bemused by the whole thing, and told me not to worry about it. The next day, I called Luigi, and when he got past his incredulity, we had quite a good laugh together.

I doubt I shall ever again begin a wedding Mass with a prayer from the Mass for the Dead, but for these two at least, it might not have been all that inappropriate a prayer for the beginning of their married life.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/01/09 08:49 AM

Wonderful story, Brian! I'm wondering if the other way around might have been worse. What if you played wedding music for a funeral?

I am in the middle of three completely different projects right now: a children's musical (in German), a comedy Piano Girl show (in English), and a serious solo piano concert (two language narration), and I keep having nightmares that I confuse one with the other—that I play the rabbit-fairy music for the serious candlelight concert, or that I'm playing a serious concert for a room for of kids (who start throwing stuff at me) or that I tell jokes in English and the German audience stares at me like I have a lettuce leaf on my head.

Your story is living proof that this can indeed happen.

Thanks for sharing this with us. BTW, you're an excellent writer!
Posted by: Brian Taylor

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/01/09 09:45 PM

I have certainly experienced the actuality of sneaking a wedding into what was presented to me as a Mass for the Dead. The other way around? -- how could you sneak a funeral into a wedding? (I'm not anxious to find out, really....) I think I would just take out a box of Smith Brothers and stop the coffin.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/01/09 10:22 PM

We played a wedding of sorts last night; actually a 50th anniversary with a renewal of vows. The couple appeared to be happy and in good health. Nice, but little story fodder.

The place is worthy of mention, though. It's a yacht club. Does that paint a picture for you? An imposing Victorian building with a widow's walk, perhaps? 40 foot twin-engine pleasure crafts and cigarette boats? We've played at places like that, but in our experience, "yacht club" is a title that can cover a wide range of possibilities. All of them are near water, to be sure, and all have a number of floating vessels tied up nearby. Beyond that, almost any configuration is possible.

The place last night was surely built in stages. My best guess in that the first stage was an equipment box with a rusty padlock. Then a shed, then a bar, etc. It's a small place, one story with a party room, a bar and a kitchen. Different parts of the building are at slightly different levels, requiring small ramps. The "yachts" would be more accurately called "boats".

The people are friendly. It's a decent gig. But even in a small island neighborhood of modest houses, this is a very low-profile place. Which brings me, of course, to a story.

Several of our guys had trouble finding this small, poorly lit yacht club the first time we played there. To make matters worse, there's an ornate behemoth of a building practically next door. It's four stories tall and festooned with gables on all sides.

I gave that building a long look myself that first time, considering whether or not to pull into the semi-circular driveway. Something just didn't look right. I continued on, eventually finding a local walking a dog. She took me to the club.

Our guitarist did pull into the driveway. He grabbed a couple of things from his car and walked up the front staircase. As luck would have it, some sort of delivery person was coming out as he got to the door. Our guitarist held the door and walked in. He was a few steps into the grand hall inside when a young woman in a nightgown came out of another room, holding a baby.

"Er... is this the yacht club?"

"No. Next door."

That was several years ago. We've played there a half-dozen times since. Sensitive fellows that we are, we never miss an opportunity to remind him about it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/03/09 07:47 AM

This weekend I'm performing HERE COMES THAT BRIDE from Piano Girl, here in Germany. The piece was translated into German. I work with a German actress—I play myself (and the piano) and she plays all the other parts. Anyway, at rehearsal this morning—as I was banging out a ridiculous version of MY WAY and playing bullfight music for the bride's entrance, I found myself thinking of my colleagues here at PW and how much fun you all would have with this! Sometimes I think we're all working for the same bride. This show will be ridiculously funny—I just hope the audience gets it. There should be quite a few musicians in the audience, so that will help.

Greg, Yacht Clubs can be very scary. I used to play at the Nantucket Yacht Club. You can only imagine that scene.

I like those vow renewal weddings. Seems like people get it right the second time around. Love is lovelier, and so on.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/03/09 08:47 AM

I have never actually been to a yacht club, but I have taken some very scary ladies to one in my cab; yuppie social climbers. Yes, they were climbing the social ladder trying to become yuppies on the back of their business: selling antique (or just old) telephones.

No editorial comment is necessary.

I will say a splashy wedding probably featured in their fantasies of the future. Mrs. Yacht Club Yuppie.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/04/09 12:10 PM

Well, it was bound to happen. I just read in the International Musician newspaper that Anne Roos (a Celtic harpist, no less) has written a book called The Musician's Guide to Brides. From the descriptions I read on-line, it sounds like an actual how-to, written from a serious perspective. Here's the publisher's blurb:

"Professional harpist Anne Roos draws upon her years of experience working with wedding planners and brides to guide the reader every step of the way to becoming a successful wedding musician. Readers will also get insider advice from internationally recognized wedding planning professionals, comprehensive worksheets, and checklists that provide all they need to know to plan their business and performances, and even sheet music arrangements of traditional wedding music. This is a must-have book for musicians and bands who want to keep their calendar full with high-paying wedding ceremonies and receptions."

Our PW Wedding Thread book would tell a different story; Limbo! (imagine that on Celtic harp) Classical music nervous breakdowns! Burger King theme songs! Warted people! Dancing dogs!

Congrats to Ms. Roos! I'm sure this book will provide a great service to those hoping to break into the wedding music field.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/04/09 12:16 PM

Hmmmm.... Robin, I think you need to get cracking on "The Musician's Guide to Bridezillas." The world doesn't need yet another serious wedding guide... but a book-length treatment of the stories being told in this thread would be a gift to anybody needing a laugh. heart
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/04/09 02:38 PM

Don't leave out the "Misadventure of the Wasp Nest" and the "Omen of the Service for the Dead" (Performed by Mistake, while the Preacher Pretended Not to Notice and the Bride Broke Out in a Rash).
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/05/09 09:02 AM

Oh yes, "Omen of the Service for the Dead" is one of my favorites.

Hey, I just saw we passed the 10,000 hits mark!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/05/09 12:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
...that provide all they need to know...

Hmmm.

I'm sure that Ms. Roos has tried to be comprehensive, but "all they need to know" is much too optimistic a promise. The theme underlying practically all of these posts is that however prepared you may think you are, the unexpected is to be expected at these gigs.

I can't help but feel that as a harp player Ms. Roos may have a somewhat sanitized perspective. Great Aunt Concetta doesn't wince on every note and tell the harp player to "turn it down". No one asks the harp player for "I Will Survive" (a cheery wedding sentiment, if ever there was one) or "Love Shack". Very few people have an inebriated uncle or an allegedly precocious nine-year-old who plays the harp and "simply must" perform for the guests. Wannabe musicians don't pester the harp player about whether the harp is "Pre-CBS" or what brand of strings she uses. The harpist probably fits in the space she is asked to play in, and doesn't need electricity, or at least not enough to present a problem.

The harpist most certainly did not have to drag her harp up the icy outdoor steps of Antun's Old Country Manor every third Tuesday night to compete (unpaid) against three other harpists to get the gig in the first place. She doesn't have to read 22 multisyllabic names written on a Post-It Note at a Polish/Greek wedding. As she is most likely playing the ceremony, rather than the reception, she will generally be dealing with a less "lubricated" clientele, and may never see the inside of the kitchen.

This is not to say that she would be entirely insulated from the lunacy that accompanies a wedding -- it's much too pervasive a phenomenon -- but I'll bet she occupies a notably different world than I do.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/06/09 12:47 AM

"The harpist most certainly did not have to drag her harp up the icy outdoor steps of Antun's Old Country Manor every third Tuesday night to compete (unpaid) against three other harpists to get the gig in the first place. She doesn't have to read 22 multisyllabic names written on a Post-It Note at a Polish/Greek wedding. As she is most likely playing the ceremony, rather than the reception, she will generally be dealing with a less "lubricated" clientele, and may never see the inside of the kitchen."

Greg, that's a really funny paragraph.

I suspect my world of weddings is more like Ms. Roos's than yours, but even though we wear ball gowns and sit in the corner doing the tinka-tinka thing we still have to deal with all kinds of wedding nonsense. Different, but equally crazy, I would say. Without the sound system and the stage and the other band members, acoustic soloists are unarmed, working without a net, facing the wedding planner and an army of mauve lace with nothing but a repertoire of quiet music to get us through some very long hours.

I'm thinking of working in a cocktail piano version of I WILL SURVIVE. That could be our group theme song, don't you think? It could even work on celtic harp.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/06/09 04:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

Greg, that's a really funny paragraph.

Truth is generally funnier than fiction, especially when filtered by selective memory. I'm sure I climbed those thirty steel steps dozens of times and in every season of the year, but I really cannot remember doing it in good weather. It could be a crystal blue day in June, but as my car approached the parking lot the sky would darken, the Earth's axis would tilt and a bolt of arctic air would rocket toward the catering hall, carrying sleet, ice and the odd penguin.
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

I suspect my world of weddings is more like Ms. Roos's than yours, but even though we wear ball gowns

Right there I detect a difference. Only one guy in the band ever wore a dress, and he was gone before I joined.
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

and sit in the corner doing the tinka-tinka thing we still have to deal with all kinds of wedding nonsense. Different, but equally crazy, I would say. Without the sound system and the stage and the other band members, acoustic soloists are unarmed, working without a net, facing the wedding planner and an army of mauve lace with nothing but a repertoire of quiet music to get us through some very long hours.

I have to admit, I do appreciate being a sideman. When someone is bearing down on me with that almost-unhinged look, it's nice to be able to reply "Who's in charge? Why, that guy over there...".
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/06/09 11:38 PM

I've just had a flashback of what was likely the first wedding I ever played. I was probably 19 or 20. We were not a wedding band.

The catering hall was in Brooklyn, New York. The manager came up to us and gave us the names of all the members of the wedding party. The size of the paper and the creative penmanship made it look like it came off a prescription pad.

We assumed we were supposed to announce the people as they came in. Wrong. There was a "Welcome Song" that opened every party at this place. They were shocked that we didn't know it. The manager sang it to us as best she could. I can still remember it.


Here comes Uncle Phil
Walking down the aisle
Here comes Uncle Phil
Wearing a great big smile
Wish him well
Bring him in
Come and join the rest
Wish him all the very best


...or something very much like that. In each verse "Uncle Phil" would be replaced by the next name on the list. I came up with some sort of jaunty accompaniment and our guitarist was going to sing it.

It already sounds pretty goofy, right? Well, there were a lot of names on the list, so imagine the goofyness going on for a long time. We had more and more trouble keeping our composure as the parade went on. Add to that the fact that many of the names were not nearly as rhythmically fluid as "Uncle Phil". Try fitting "Doctor and Mrs. Marty Silverburg" into three shuffle eighth notes.

Many of the names were barely legible. Human memory is apparently aided by absurdity, because after thirty years I can still remember that one couple's names were "Vidgie and Joe", at least according to our guitarist. In retrospect, it was more likely "Vicki".

This thread is really awakening some long dormant brain cells.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/07/09 05:40 AM

I like Vidgie and Joe. If they don't own a restaurant chain, they should.

Greg, my dad has played a lot of weddings where he has been given a loooooong list of guest names to mention. Dad (the jazz drummer) is also quite the comedian, so he works the names into the song THAT OLD GANG OF MINE and then insults everyone on the list, which, comedy being comedy, always manages to make people laugh. I've got him lurking on this thread, and I know I'll hear him laughing (all the way from Pittsburgh) when he reads your line about fitting "Dr. and Mrs. Marty Silverburg" into three shuffle eighth notes.

I do believe that Dr. and Mrs. Marty Silverburg, along with Vidgie and Joe, show up at every wedding. And Uncle Phil, he's always there, too, a little tipsy and boring everyone to tears with long speeches about the day the bride received her first tricycle.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/09/09 07:12 AM

Last night (Sunday), we played a...well I don't know what to call it. It was apparently a charity event, held at a church we played at once before. There was a concert of opera favorites in the church proper, followed by a not-quite-dinner featuring our decidedly different material.

The not-quite-dinner consisted of a table full of cheese and crackers, hors d'oeuvres served by a team of 11 year old boys from the parish and a twenty-foot array of every cake and pie in Brooklyn. I don't imagine the charity was for diabetes or cardiac health.

The priest, who some may remember from upthread, once again applied his flexible rhythmic sense to a song he came up to sing, "All of Me":

...Take my lips
I want to lose them
Take my arms
I'll never use them...


We only needed to make one course correction this time, leaving 2 beats out of a measure shortly before the sax solo. Here's a tip for any of you who might occasionally accompany an amateur singer; make sure to insert an instrumental break into the song. Consider it a "reset" button; a chance to put things right before the singer goes off the rails entirely.

He's got a good voice and the song was a big hit. It helped liven up a Sunday evening affair, which is no small achievement.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/10/09 02:57 PM

Last night my dad played at a Pittsburgh event called UKRAINIAN MAN OF THE YEAR. It was not a wedding, but it might as well have been.

I played a wedding over the weekend but it was perfect and easy and no one, not even the clipboard lady, was rude or obnoxious.

On Sunday night I read (along with another actress) the HERE COMES THAT BRIDE chapter from Piano Girl. No big deal, except I did it in German—a first for me.

I have another show on Thursday, and I'll have to play ALL OF ME for one part of the reading. Greg, I'll be thinking of the priest's lyrics!

Those 20 foot long cake buffets just make me crazy. I mean, I love a nice cupcake as much as the next guy, but too many baked goods on one table? Not good. When I worked at the Mariott Marquis in Manhattan they put the cake buffet ON the grand piano. Horrible. I could play a glissando and dip into the coconut icing all with one flick of the wrist.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/10/09 06:36 PM

I remember the Marriott Letters: the place with the dummy in a tuxedo "playing" a PianoDisc. At least it didn't complain to the management about turning the piano into an oyster bar, and you know how those people love "no back-talk," even if it costs them an extra ten large (plus tux). I haven't stepped foot in a Marriott since, though I'm kind of "on the fence" about back-talk myself. Just the other day, I found myself telling a clerk in a store, "Mmmm, edgy--- I like that in a shopclerk." Shameful, I know... yet I don't feel too bad about it.

There used to be an airplane that flew back and forth over Myrtle Beach, S.C. trailing a sign urging beach-goers to, "Eat A Foot-Long Hot Dog!!" I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt the message might be, perhaps, deliberately ambiguous. Many people brag about eating a foot-long hotdog, but they are transparent liars in practically all cases. But there's nothing ambiguous about a twenty-foot-long cake, even in these times when Competitive Eating seems to be on its way to the Olympics.

I think I already explained how visualizing the doughnut around my waistline helped blunt my craving for the fattening breakfast treat, though I'm a fan of coconut icing. Vanity can save you from things that are a lot worse, if you have to take your pick of the Seven Deadly Sins. Still not enough? Visualize my mom living six years after a series of strokes, and still keeping up the compulsive overeating until she weighed close to 300 pounds. We're not talking about zipping up ballgowns here. She was lovely as a young woman; there was no sign of warning. So, now that my doc has started to nag pretty bad about taking off twenty pounds, I think of her. I do not think of twenty-foot-long cakes, or even foot-longs. Well... maybe once in awhile.

I have tried, really tried, to be good... about my attitude toward weddings. But it's so hard to be nice, when you're not. Still, I didn't post the last of the little morceaux. It was more of the same, except for the rat trap. Think your pedal technique is good enough to kick one into the wedding planner's path, just as you strike up a mambo rendering of Three Blind Mice? These subtle touches make all the difference; through them a performance rises to art.

Grieg has been getting my attention. Some of his Lyric Pieces strike me as lovely wedding music. They're moving enough harmonically to give the mother of the bride something to boo-hoo about shamelessly, yet rhythmically alive enough to give the father just the right piece to dance with the bride. Grieg was madly popular as a concert performer, in his day. Some of the critics looked down their noses, but the public loved him, his publisher treasured him, and every impresario was after him for bookings. No, it wasn't the get-down number that Love Shack is, but why go there in every set; even honeymooners take a breather. As I was saying, it's the subtleties. You might ask, "And how would you know?" but that's a subject for another post. I don't always throw gasoline on the bonfire. Not always.
Posted by: Don Camillo

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/10/09 07:20 PM

I had a different role at weddings as a Presbyterian minister. Since I always loved "Marryin' Sam" in the Little Abner comic strips, who went all out for a "two dollar wedding," I always wanted to do a wedding for $2.

In a ministry to needy people in our community, I found a couple who had lived together for years, had children, but had never married because they could not afford a wedding. I offered to marry them in our lovely little country church for $2, and they took me up on the offer. I even talked my wife into playing the organ. She prepared about 15 minutes of music.

The bride was 45 minutes late to the wedding, with my wife madly improvising the whole time for a very restless congregation of about 40 of their friends. I was just about to call off the wedding and close up the church when she walked in.

That had a lot to do with my decision to stop doing weddings.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/10/09 11:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Don Camillo
... I always loved "Marryin' Sam" in the Little Abner comic strips...


I played "Marryin' Sam" in my Junior High School school play, complete with a black suit and my very best Dogpatch accent. I can still remember one of my lines:

Daisy: (played by a girl acknowledged as the pinnacle of ninth-grade perfection)
"Look at me Sam, I'm plumb wasted away"

Sam: (who was told by our director to give Daisy a long, and longing, look up and down before delivering the line)
"Mebbe so, but what you got left over is more than mos' folks starts out with".
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/11/09 07:28 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
just as you strike up a mambo rendering of Three Blind Mice

I can hear this in my head, with a coro of "Tres ratones ciegos" in harmony. It fits beautifully. O for a life of idle wealth; I'd have 20 pieces playing my arrangement on YouTube by week's end, and a link on PW.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/11/09 09:49 AM

Don, I love your $2.00 wedding story. I would love to read your wife's take on that very long 45 minute set she played while waiting for the bride to show. Perhaps she did her own version of Three Blind Mice.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/11/09 10:29 AM

"I can hear this in my head, with a coro of "Tres ratones ciegos" in harmony. It fits beautifully. O for a life of idle wealth; I'd have 20 pieces playing my arrangement..."

And that is why God invented MIDI, for musicians who want to dream big on a budget. When MIDI first came out I thought it was some kind of girdle or newfangled pantyhose, just hearing the name. But, no.

The sound of the trap being sprung could add some snap to the mixdown.

**********

After a quick Google, I realized it calls for a PS:


PS--- A very old tune, predating 1609 (when it was first published) with lyric made over to mock Mary Stuart's coercively authoritarian religious regime, Three Blind Mice has had a longer run than I could have imagined... and if you think a little tune about being blinded, gutted, and burned at the stake is going too far already, stay away from Mary Mary Quite Contrary. Talk about getting down. At least in those days, they had a pretty good idea of what pre-school children really like. Three Blind Mice has had treatments in "serious music," movie themes, and was sung by fans at baseball games to mock umpires (formerly three in number) until the League had to step in, in the name of sportsmanship. And now we have the Wedding Planner Mambo.

Its energy and persistence are such that it makes me suspect that it may be a facet of some archetype. Anyway, Happy Birthday, Three Blind Mice: you just may be around to celebrate another four hundred.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Blind_Mice
http://www.rhymes.org.uk/three_blind_mice.htm
http://www.rhymes.org.uk/mary_mary_quite_contrary.htm

"Triolets, villanelles, rondelles, rondeaux,"
That's the one; "Three Blind Mice" is a rondelle
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/14/09 06:45 PM

I love this thread! Haven't visited in a while and there's lots of great new stories. Somebody should publish them as a guidebook for every aspiring musician to read laugh

Well I've just played my third wedding ceremony, again it was for friends. Thankfully my friends are all thoroughly decent folks, no bridezillas.

My friends are also fairly slack about what music gets played. They had two requests for me, an Air by Handel and Pachelbel's Canon for the bride. The rest I basically got to play whatever I liked so I'd prepared a bunch of light, pretty classical pieces.

As it's coming time to head to the church, I noticed my shirt and pants were both wrinkled to hell though... Then I was in a bit of a panic, as I don't have an iron. I had to quickly drive to my parents place, and much thanks to my stepmom who gave it all a quick iron while I pulled up www.tie-a-tie.net.

I actually got a call from the groom as I was driving to the church: "Hey, where are you?", "SORRY I'M JUST PULLING INTO THE PARKING LOT!". I was just barely late, guests showing up with no music, cutting it pretty close. Marched right up to the piano and launched into some Haydn. Maybe it would have been better to show up looking like a slob, but a punctual slob.

It was a smaller, quieter crowd than the last time I played, so it felt less like I was playing just for myself, but still doesn't feel too pressured to play in the background like that. A little girl was dancing and spinning to the Mozart smile

Music for the ceremony went off well. It's all about timing things out. Unfortunately the bride got down the aisle faster than I was hoping - didn't get to play some of the juicier bits of Pachelbel (I should have told her to wait in the back for a bit after the Canon started playing). Otherwise, I'm starting to get the hang of paying close attention to coordinate the music to the ceremony. It's a nice feeling to get a smooth cadence just as they're finishing up. Makes it look like I know what I'm doing :P

Now I must get ready for the second half of the wedding - eating food and drinking beers with everybody! When sober up sometime next week I'll have to stop in and catch up reading some pages of stories here. Keep 'em coming!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/15/09 08:48 PM

Originally Posted By: 1RC
It's all about timing things out. Unfortunately the bride got down the aisle faster than I was hoping
Barring an uncommonly slow bride with ill-fitting shoes, you pretty much need a cathedral to get a whole piece in. I'm thinking the Jeopardy TV show theme might be a good substitute.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/16/09 12:41 AM

I'll take "Brides for 500," Alex.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/16/09 10:15 AM

Originally Posted By: 1RC
I was just barely late, guests showing up with no music, cutting it pretty close.


Not the way I figure it.

We have a saying: Half an hour early is ON TIME. On time is LATE. and late? Well, doesn't even bear thinking about.

Sounds harsh, maybe, but if you want to keep getting calls it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

In fact, it will pretty much guarantee you'll get the call over somebody who plays better, sometimes much much better.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/16/09 11:13 AM

Robin: "I'll take "Brides" for 500, Alex."

Alex: "And the answer is: a film in which "Tina Turner" dumped LSD into the punchbowl, and "Mamie Eisenhower" took drunk and fell into the wedding cake."

(there is a long and thoughtful pause)

DING!

Alex: "Robin!"

Robin: "What is Trisha's Wedding, Alex?"

Alex: "That is--- correct!"

(mad applause; the winner jumps up and down excitedly; she has come from behind and cleaned the competition's clock)

Alex: "And now it's time for--- Double Jeopardy! And the categories are..."
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/16/09 05:54 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: 1RC
I was just barely late, guests showing up with no music, cutting it pretty close.


Not the way I figure it.

We have a saying: Half an hour early is ON TIME. On time is LATE. and late? Well, doesn't even bear thinking about.

Sounds harsh, maybe, but if you want to keep getting calls it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

In fact, it will pretty much guarantee you'll get the call over somebody who plays better, sometimes much much better.


You're absolutely right Tim, what's harsh is causing somebody stress on their big day. My intention was 15 mins early, but your half hour minimum sounds better, not to mention having everything ready to go (suitwise, transportationwise) the night before. Lesson learned!
Posted by: 1RC

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/16/09 05:56 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
Originally Posted By: 1RC
It's all about timing things out. Unfortunately the bride got down the aisle faster than I was hoping
Barring an uncommonly slow bride with ill-fitting shoes, you pretty much need a cathedral to get a whole piece in. I'm thinking the Jeopardy TV show theme might be a good substitute.


laugh
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/17/09 12:29 AM

I have been known to make little musical "comments" during our jobs. The "Jeopardy" theme is good filler for when our drummer needs a moment to persuade a balky pedal to behave. I also find myself using "If I Only Had a Brain" pretty often. "The Teddy Bears Picnic" and "C'e La Luna" can be bodged in between verses of "The Bride Cuts the Cake". Other things just seem to pop into my consciousness on the spur of the moment. Sometimes you need a bit of nonsense on a gig.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/17/09 11:40 AM

Double Jeopardy:

I'll take obnoxious musical requests for 800, Alex.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/17/09 12:00 PM

The Teddy Bears Picnic--- now, that takes me back, and further than I would have thought: 102 years. Covered by Procol Harum, featured in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, quoted by Strapping Young Lads in Satan's Ice Cream Truck, and played daily on BBC's air for many years as a sound check. The tune sounds innocent enough, but the lyric is actually kind of scary.

The composer's name is forgotten, and might as well stay that way. This is already confusing enough; when Greg caroled out "The bride cuts the cake," I was ready to chime in with "Ee-i-ee-i-o," but that is a different song. The Collect actually goes, "High Ho the Derry-O."

I suppose Harold Arlen's If I Only Had a Brain might be thought to add a satiric touch to those otherwise slack moments while the bride is wielding the cake knife, but it's actually a sweet little number. Harold Arlen, a considerable talent who penned such career-making favorites for Judy Garland as Over the Rainbow, The Man Who Got Away, Get Happy, Blues in the Night, and for others Paper Moon, Lydia the Tattooed Lady, That Old Black Magic, and (we come full-circle) The Farmer Takes a Wife, was once the roommate of Ray Bolger, who replaced Buddy Ebsen as Tin Man after the silver make-up made Buddy break out in a dreadful rash.

If these topics had not already been mentioned in this thread, I'm sure I would dare not venture upon them. But, as Perry Mason was always saying, "Your Honor, the prosecution opened the door," and as the judge would always reply, "Mr. Burger, your objection is overruled. The witness may answer."
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/17/09 12:45 PM

Arlen's "Lydia" would make a fine overture for my "Tattooed Bride" story:

"On her back is the battle of Waterloo . . ."

Wow, Jeff, you have a black belt in Arlen. Well done. He is one of my favorites.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/17/09 01:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Double Jeopardy:

I'll take obnoxious musical requests for 800

That sounds like a the wording for a sign sign that you might display on your piano. "800" is a little steep though, especially in Euros, but hey, whatever the market will bear...

Before I joined our old wedding band, they had a singer who actually got into a fistfight with someone in the bridal party, right at the end of the reception. Among other things, he had reportedly told someone who had a song request to "write it on the back of a twenty". Talk about Jeopardy.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/18/09 04:56 PM

I've never had the pleasure of hearing "Lydia," but how can you go wrong with Arlen. I'd take my chances. It turned out that I did know "Radetsky March." The Karajin 100-best sampler I have is heavy on strings and saves the brass for the highlights, but I think doing it in one breath is still pretty impressive (even for a joke). My grandmother had a Leroy Anderson album that featured it.

Ok, down to brass tacks. I feel a little guilty posting this, but I want to get it off my desk. Other tasks are, well, you know. Much more could be mined from these Jeopardy topics, but someone else can do it.

And the categories are (these are the Second Runners-Up):

Marry in Haste, Repent at Port-au-Prince
Roller-Arena Reception and Other Unusual Unions
Without Benefit of Clergy
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece
Bridegrooms Behind Bars: Nuptials of the Notorious
Unseemly Haste
When Brides Go Bad (with the Best Man)
Obnoxious Music Requests of Well-Oiled Guests
Mass Marriages and Tainted Tele-Evangelists

Finalists:

Famous Elopements
Betrothals Between Book-Covers
Self-Penned Vows, the Nuptial Nemesis
Bachelor Parties That Went a Little Too Far
Blue Hawaiian Blues: the Curaçao Catastrophe
Veiled Contempt: Bridezillamaid’s Dress
I Told My Mother-In-Law the Wrong Church
Nervous Breakdown in the Nave
We’re Registered at Wal-Mart


And the Winner Is:

Wedding Ringers
Play "Love Shack" for Me
Serial Monogramogamy
Chucked in the Chancel: Cold Feet Run Fast
Niagara Fallout
Planet of the Wedding Planners
Married by an Elvis Impersonator
Dial “M” for Matrimony
Miss Manners’ Jaw Dropped
The Twelfth Root of Two
Write it on the Back of a Twenty
Egregious Engravers' Errors
Ann Landers Talks to Virgins about Viagra
The Pre-Nup that Ate Philadelphia
It Came from Las Vegas
Hangover Moon
Dear Dowry
Thank You for the Lovely Gravy Boat
Tattooed Temptresses
Music to Marry By
Perry Mason and the Case of the Bibulous Bride
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/20/09 11:32 AM

Well. What can I possibly say in response to Clef's brilliant post? In addition to Jeopardy categories, these could also be the chapter headings for the Let's Talk Weddings Piano World Semi-Official Guide to Wedding Music (Volume 1) book. Or maybe one or two of them could be subtitles.

The Twelfth Root of Two is my personal favorite, although I very much like Nervous Breakdown in the Nave.

I have a story to tell, but I have to go to Paris this weekend (sounds exotic but it's only 4 hours from where I live) and I still need time to process what happened before I put it in writing. I will be checking in from the Marais. xoxo
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/21/09 01:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

The Twelfth Root of Two is my personal favorite

That's a slightly obscure one. Most people don't bandy about the mathematics of Equal Temperament at weddings, at least the ones I've been to.

And really, whoever developed it gave us poor keyboard players a raw deal. Imagine a world in which a singer could never deem "G" too high a key and "F" too low. "Come back when you develop a vocal range", we'd say. "Next!" Instead we sigh and capitulate.

"You need it in F#?"

"Well, the guitarist doesn't mind"

(sigh) "Of course he doesn't"
Quote:

I have a story to tell, but I have to go to Paris this weekend (sounds exotic but it's only 4 hours from where I live) and I still need time to process what happened before I put it in writing. I will be checking in from the Marais. xoxo

We were there in September. It's a little further from where we live. We stuck largely to the tourist highlights; although my wife and I have been there before, it was our daughter's first time. We did a fair amount of walking and wandering though.

Being from New York, we made frequent use of the Metro. We saw a pretty entertaining group of Russian musicians in one station. It was probably 7 or 8 guys. Accordion, Bass, clarinet, a couple of violins and I can't remember what else. They were playing a polka rhythm. The tune consisted of barrel-chested Russian vocals in minor-key harmony, separated by instrumental breaks. The acoustics of the arched tunnel were well suited to the music, although we had to search through the labyrinth to find where the sound was coming from.

That's one difference between Our Subway and their Metro. In the main, a transfer point on the NYC Subway map involves going up or down a flight of stairs. In Paris it's often like being in a prairie dog colony, or an ant farm. To their credit, there's always a sign at each fork.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/22/09 03:11 AM

Tonight's gig reminded me of another oddity of the human condition, which can be observed at wedding receptions and other occasions where people dance.

We mostly play pretty recognizable songs with verses, bridges and some instrumental breaks. Since we play for people to dance, we will often play a song for a little longer than the original version, especially if the dance floor is full. But people are constantly testing the elasticity of the pop song format.

They listen to the intro, and sit.
They listen to the first verse, and sit.
They listen to the first chorus, have a bite of a roll, and sit.
They listen to the second verse, and continue to sit.
They listen to the second chorus, fidget a little, and sit some more
They listen to the bridge, but remain unmoved.
They listen to the sax solo, and say, "look Vinny, there's a guy playing a sax",
They listen to the repeat of the bridge.
They listen to the repeat of the chorus,

and suddenly, a revelation:
"I like this song, let's dance!"

They arrive at the dance floor in time for the last chord to reverberate, looking bewildered.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/22/09 04:10 PM

"The Twelfth Root of Two is my personal favorite, although I very much like Nervous Breakdown in the Nave."

"Most people don't bandy about the mathematics of Equal Temperament at weddings..."

True enough. Wedding guests may never have heard of equal temperament, but if they have a TV set they've heard of E-Harmony... and what else are those theoretically pure intervals all about. In a perfect world, alas. In our world, we have the problem of inharmonicity. Strings too thick, too short; bad scale design; faulty strike-point--- this could be a capsule description of a lot of honeymoons.

Great question for clearing out the deadwood in a Double Jeopardy "sudden death" round.

I've thought of changing some of the categories, but what they really need is to be thinned out. Not much luck here. The best I've managed is a few mash-ups: "An Elvis Impersonator Stole My Sugar." "Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Cubic Zirconia."

Sure, I have a few favorites, like "Chucked in the Chancel: Cold Feet Run Fast," but what's really needed is some fresh thinking and a stern editor. Chapter titles is not a bad idea; each chapter could start off with a question from the double jeopardy round, in a call-out box... you'd have to keep reading the book to find out who won. If anyone.

Well, I'm dying to hear the news from Paris.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/25/09 01:38 AM

Another PG Casualty

I know, this thread is called Let’s Talk Weddings and not Let’s Talk Medical Emergencies. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to start another thread just to deal with accidents that occur while playing the piano. Life is too short, as this next story will prove.

Some of you may be familiar with the choking priest story in Piano Girl. The chapter, called “Playback 1979,” recounts one of my gigs at the piano bar of the Redwood Motor Inn on Bankville Road in Pittsburgh, Pa. Now doesn’t thinking about that place make you want to run out and order a plate of buffalo wings and a blue cocktail? Cheers.

In “Playback 1979”, hardly a literary work of genius, but kind of funny anyway, I am being harassed by the room manager to play softer, softer, softer, to the point where I’m playing with one finger and not even playing a song. Those of you in the cocktail lounge piano business know the drill.

For those of you not familiar with the book, here’s a brief synopsis of that chapter: While I’m playing, a group of priests show up for the Friday night happy hour. Happy, happy, happy. I play "Amazing Grace," my one religious number, and two people get up to dance. The F&B guy yells at me for being too loud. One of the priests, a guy named Father Louie, orders the crab cakes and starts to choke. He makes horrible noises and then collapses. The room manager tells me to play louder louder louder so the guests don’t notice the choking priest. The choking priest is like, dead on the floor, and I’m banging out “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet.” Not one of my finer musical moments, but I was 20 years old at the time, and lacking finesse.

Okay, that’s the drift of that chapter. Now we get to the life imitating life part. Last week, I was invited perform at a literature festival here in Germany, presenting my Piano Girl reading/concert program in a nice theater in Siegburg, a beautiful little city in between Cologne and Bonn. The event was sold out. When I do a Piano Girl perfomance for a German audience, I present the program in English and German, working with an actress named Peggy O, who reads specific sections of the text that have been translated into German. This is lots of fun for me, because while she’s reading, I get to play, providing a piano score for each of the chapters.

So. There we were in the middle of the choking priest- Redwood chapter, with Peggy reading while I plodded through 'Amazing Grace" (part of the musical landscape of this chapter) when a rumple rumple noise came from the audience. I also noticed that Peggy was not getting the laughs she usually gets while reading this section.

She had just finished reading the lines he’s choking, he’s choking, he’s choking. Heart attack, heart attack, heart attack! Someone call a doctor!, when she stopped cold, peered into the audience, and said:

“I have to stop. There’s a big rumple rumple out there. Is everything okay?”

This question was followed by a gasp, then the sound of one of our esteemed audience members falling onto the floor. Rumple, rumple, indeed.

An anonymous voice from the audience called out: “We need a doctor!”

Peggy said: “Really? That’s unbelievable.”

I was just starting the vamp to “I Feel the Earth Move.”

The house lights came up and the house manager hustled to the site of the incident. I realized it was my show and I was in charge, so I did what any self-respecting musician would have done under similar circumstances. I took a break. My husband met me in the wings and sent me back onstage to inform the audience that we would be taking a short intermission while the unfortunate woman was transported out of the theater and to the hospital, which was conveniently located next to the theater.

I’m no stranger to weird events, but even I am astounded by the timing of this particular medical emergency, right in the middle of the choking priest story. It’s almost like the woman got the idea from listening to us.

“We need a doctor!”

“No we need a doctor!”

“No we need a doctor!”

After a ten minute break, I returned to the stage, explained that for obvious reasons we wouldn’t be continuing the choking priest story, and played a transitional piano solo to lead us into the next chapter, which was, I’m happy to report, “Here Comes That Bride.” The audience was resilient and generous with their praise and applause. Evening over.

On the way out the door, a friend asked if the fallen woman had purchased a CD during intermission.

“Why?” I asked. “You think that’s what made her sick?” I’m a little sensitive about these things. I have had several people tell me their relatives have passed away while listening to my recordings.

“No,” he said. “Just thought she might want something to listen to while she’s in the hospital.”

The unfortunate woman, I am told, survived. And so did I.

***
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/25/09 12:44 PM

A trouper, Robin, you did just the right thing. I'm glad the lady was ok. What some people won't do to steal a scene!

Your feeling of being responsible, somehow, is kind of understandable. I happened to be in my music room at home in San Francisco, playing the piano and recording a song, when the big World Series earthquake hit. Strangely and irrationally, I had the same feeling of it's being my fault. It was one of my own songs; I blamed the lyric.

If I had been guilty somehow, I would have been way out in front of you in the number of wholesale deceases, not to mention property damage; also media coverage. That big fire in the Marina was great television. Still, retail is more personal and no doubt more frightening. "Ask not for whom the buffalo wing tolls."

When I think of the alternatives (which, unfortunately, I know something about), dropping in my tracks seems the lesser of two evils. And as for a soundtrack. Let's see. Car crash; scene of war; house burning down; hospital monitors beeping wildly; armed robber saying, "Hand it over--- I said now!" Family member remarking, "These mushrooms don't taste like the ones we used to pick back in Cambodia." Or, maybe worst of all, hearing yourself say something you really wouldn't have said in cooler blood, just before your neck is wrung.

Or, a pretty lady playing the piano and singing a song. You're out with your buddies in a nice outfit, sipping cocktails and nibbling finger foods, having a nice time when the clock ticks its last.

Sometimes people hear nothing at all--- many pass away with no one present; maybe the TV.

"I'll take "Wedding Ringers" for 2000, Alex."
"And the answer is: "Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Cubic Zirconia."
"Who? What?"
"I'm sorry, that is incorrect."
DING!
"Clef."
"What is Ubic-kay Irconia-zay, Ix-nay on the Edding-way?"
"I'm sorry, that is--- what language is that?"
"It's Klingon. It means, "This stone is fake, the wedding's off."

Trebec looks at his notes; he appears to be at a loss. Jeopardy is madly popular on the Klingon homeworld and also the out-planets, and who knows if they may have a ship within transporter range. Not that Jeopardy would ever bend the rules, but there was an awful fuss last time a correct Klingon answer was disqualified. And as for a cubic engagement ring--- Klingon honor--- blood. At least.

Trebec ventures a wan smile into the camera. Someone in the back office was going to be looking for a job.

"Judges? We have a ruling--- that is... CORRECT! Congratulations, Jeff, you win Double Jeopardy!"
Clef smiles rather smugly as the studio audience applauds (though he attempts to appear modest), then looks puzzled, puts hand to chest and drops behind the lectern with a thump.

Alex doesn't even try to smile this time. How are the Klingons going to take this? Then again (he reflects), death doesn't bother them that much. Honorable, that's the big deal. Why should they complain; they won.

I guess you could do worse. My mom passed away suddenly while doing what she loved: watching television. She was shaking her finger at the TV set, admonishing Dr. Phil. Or was it Regis...
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/25/09 10:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

I was just starting the vamp to “I Feel the Earth Move.”

OK. I give.

I have always held that musicians have the best stories. And I have felt well-blessed in that regard. The perimeter around my keyboard rig has always been a target-rich area, story-wise. But this tale of yours takes the prize. This is the one they use to calibrate the meter. The academy decides to mold the trophy in your likeness. A theatre full of hopefuls dream of carrying home a "Robin": 12" tall, gold, with a cocktail dress.

I have been trying to to recall whether anyone has ever been taken away on a stretcher while I was playing. I don't think so. Many have claimed that our music was sure to send them to the hospital, but I don't think it's actually happened.

I'm not sure if it's a sign of an increasingly cautious society or an audience of advancing age, but I often see an ambulance standing by when we play outdoor concerts. (yes, really)
Posted by: TX-Dennis

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/26/09 12:28 AM

While not a wedding, I recall a local lawn concert where the band was experiencing audio difficulties. We could hear their instruments, but the microphones were not working to allow us to hear the vocals. The musicians were pretty good, and the audience was enjoying the show in spite of the difficulties. Eventually the sound man figured out what was wrong, and the vocalist came in loud and clear. Almost as one the audience of several hundred looked at each other and muttered, "turn it off, again."

Yes, he was that bad.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 11/27/09 07:04 PM

Little change of pace: this encouraging post from Piano Forum. It cheered me up, since through some oversight the mayor didn't invite me to dinner this Thanksgiving. However, I don't much care for dressing up, and especially if eating is involved. Hazards pile up, as you all know, and...

When I read the post's last line, "I lacked only a low cut slinky sequined black dress to complete the cocktail pianist picture," you know I thought of you, Robin. Though when I think of cocktail dresses, I don't also think of getting sloshed on beer, unless I'm in Bavaria. But, still.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1313002

"I had a good experience recently with a hotel piano. This one was a Kawai (marked K. Kawai). I don't know the model but by the looks of it, it was considerably under six feet, I would say. We sat down to it because it was there, and because piano playing was a scheduled leisure event at the conference I was attending. (Don't you hate it when lobby pianos are kept locked, BTW?)

"First impression: out of tune. We expected that. I almost gave up then but a funny thing happened. Correcting for the out of tuneness in my mind as much as possible, the more I played the little piano, the more it grew on me and the more I wanted to play on it. It had a remarkable singing treble and the bass had more than respectable power, much more than you'd expect in a small grand. Overall it was a very pleasing tone and balance.

"I ended up having several very enjoyable sessions playing and singing with others, and getting impatient when it wasn't my turn to play. Everyone seemed to like this piano.

"Best of all was late at night after a couple of beers when I fulfilled my longtime ambition to be a cocktail pianist. It seems to me the best of all possible piano performance worlds: No one is really listening, so you can screw up and get by, and there's just enough background noise that what you're playing blends with the noise and sounds good even if it isn't. I had bought a collection of old standards from my famous collection of sheet music of the '40s and '50s, had a blast playing until the wee hours, and got compliments from those who happened to notice I was there.

"I lacked only a low cut slinky sequined black dress to complete the cocktail pianist picture."
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/03/09 12:46 AM

I have recently unearthed the memory of what were probably the third and fourth weddings I ever played at. I use the singular noun "memory" because the two have melded into one over the years.

Have you noticed how many of life's absurdities come our way through "a friend of a friend"?. I think that this is because the person's roster of direct acquaintances know better than to get involved; he needs that extra degree of separation.

It would have been the late Seventies. My experience with wedding bands was only as a spectator. I have 19 cousins, most of whom are older, so I'd been a spectator quite a few times. I had also been to the odd bar mitzvah and anniversary party.

The bands that I saw bore little resemblance to the ones I would encounter in the late Eighties when I joined a wedding band. By that time a band would have to be able to convincingly reproduce a wide variety of styles. But back in the Seventies, it was still four ruffled shirts and a cocktail dress most of the time, none of whom played bass guitar.

My friend George played guitar the band I was in as a teenager. His friend and childhood neighbor Jimmy played drums in a wedding band. The wedding band's leader, whose name has been expunged from my memory, was a guitarist. Three degrees of separation. Beware. I'll call him Louie.

Louie reached me at home. Although the details are fuzzy, I'm sure it was some version of the boilerplate story about being left in the lurch by a shiftless keyboard player. He sounded a little twitchy.

For some reason I decided to take the 2 gigs, even though my repertoire and my gear were comically inappropriate for the task. I wasn't gigging at that point and cobbled together a Rhodes, an 80 pound Ampeg amp head, a large PA cabinet and, most amazingly, a two-piece modular analog synthesizer. This was easily 350 pounds of gear, some of it less than completely gig-worthy.

Remember Venn Diagrams from grade school? The intersecting circles? Their repertoire and mine had only the tiniest sliver in common. Standards, Cha-Chas and the obligatory "International Medley" ** were on the song list. In my later years I would come to see this sort of no-preparation gig as an enjoyable challenge. But I was less well-rounded at the time (musically and physically) and worse, bass players had yet to be discovered in the wedding universe.

That's what the analog synth, complete with tiny patchcords, was for. I was going to play my first left hand bass gig, on songs I didn't know, with a semi-experimental electronic monstrosity whose tuning tended to wander a bit. Perfect.

Back to "Louie". Louie, you will remember, had reached me in the evening at home. The next day, after I had accepted the gigs, I found out that he had first tried me at work. The story was apparently good enough that it had been told a few times before I even got the message.

It went like this: Louie was halfway into leaving a more anxious and detail-heavy message than would normally be socially appropriate, when his mother happened to pick up the phone.

"Get off the &%$#!! phone Ma, I'm on a business call".

Click.

And without taking a breath, he continued "So tell Greg I really, really need a keyboard player for the 15th at the XYZ lounge on 23rd and Park at 7:30 with a tux and..."

Twitchy indeed. This did nothing to improve my outlook on the situation.

I don't remember the gigs in precise detail. The band consisted of Louie on Guitar, Jimmy on Drums and two guys on Sax and Trumpet. I think there was also a female vocalist on the first gig. Louie's guitar chops were about on a par with his social skills, and he sang about as well as he played. There was one advantage to his modest skills; his simple chording was easy for me to "read" off his fingers for the songs that I had never heard.

There were a fair number of songs I could more or less immediately work out, even back then. But left hand bass is a gruesome experience for player and listener alike, especially when the player has no experience. I can somehow recall playing "Take the A Train" with the wrong chords. For all you aspiring performers out there, take the standard lesson: None of the guests noticed.

I remember the second wedding more clearly. The couple was Chinese and the reception was held at a very fine Chinese restaurant, the Silver Palace on the Bowery in Chinatown. The room was large and there must have been over 300 guests. The dinner featured the Banquet Menu, 12 courses served in succession, family-style.

There used to be a hateful but common practice in the wedding entertainment world known as "Continuous Music". It meant that someone had to be playing something at all times. The band would take only short breaks, and would leave one or more players behind to play background music. This was entirely useless, especially during dinner, but agents would use it as a sales tool. With some wedding band offices, this would be standard.

We played for the first half-hour or so of the party before the first course came out. There was a table for the musicians in a small anteroom, from which we could see into the main dining room.

For "Banquet-Style" dinners, the waiters generally bring a large serving dish to the center of the table. If any of the food is left by the time the next course arrives, the waiter distributes the leftovers into the diners plates. Sometimes this would be almost all of the original food, as with the fluorescent-orange octopi that we got at the wedding of a former high-school classmate of mine. I tried one. It was almost exactly like eating a wetsuit. It takes quite a long time to serve twelve courses this way.

At this wedding, there was no time to waste on such formalities at the musicians' table. They brought is three and four courses at once, leaving us to divvy them up. The food was top-notch, and of such variety and quantity that anyone would be sure to find more than enough to suit his own taste.

Anyone but Louie, that is.

Louie winced at each new tray of foreign objects. He went as far as to ask the waiter if he could get a steak, or a hamburger at least. Although he barely nibbled at the food, he had the look of a man who had a mild intestinal difficulty of some sort. But in my short acquiantance with him, I had come to know that this was his usual expression.

In addition to his disapproval of the feast laid before him, he was beginning to utter nervous phrases on the general theme of "We should really be playing now" "Let's go", "We've been off a long time" "Are they still serving?". His anxiety increased with each tray of unfamiliar food that was brought to us.

The trumpet player's name might have been Alan. I may be imagining this, because he was a very funny fellow who reminded me of Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H. Alan suggested that the guests were obviously enjoying their dinner; a band would only disturb them. He held his chin as if in thought. What to do?

"You know, solo guitar music would be perfect".

Off went "Frank Burns" to be ignored by 300 people.

We sat and ate for over an hour. Louie would gesture every few minutes that we should come up and play. Alan would flash back hand signals indicating that Louie was doing a fine job by himself. "Sounds great! Perfect!"

The dinner eventually ended and we finally played some more music. Even then it was essentially background. Even had there been a dance floor, dancing is not the first activity people think of after a meal like that.

My introduction to wedding work was not an auspicious one. It was ten years (during which time bass players had been discovered) before I decided to try it again.

Greg Guarino

**International Medley
No matter what the ethnic background of the couple, the traditional wedding band would play the same medley of moldy cliche music, usually including "Hava Nagila", "The Irish Jig", "The Tarantella" and the "Mexican Hat Dance".
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/04/09 05:18 AM

Greg, congratulations on the fine recollection of the early career wedding gig. Louie sounds like the kind of guy who gives all musicians a bad reputation. As my alto-playing friend Andy once said (after a despicable Louie-like band leader tracked muck all over the hostess's white carpet, drank all of her scotch, and then hit on her) "No wonder they give us sandwiches."

Clef, your posts continue to delight me! Those musicians on the Piano Forum are discovering something I've known all along—playing in a quiet cocktail bar where no one listens is a hip way to make a living. Not everyone is cut out for this, but if you enjoy listening to yourself play, and thrive on the creative part of the music and can get by without the applause/praise factor, then the cocktail gig can be fun, and even, dare I say it, artistically rewarding.

Sorry I haven't been posting lately. My fairy musical for kids opened last week and that has been a truckload of work. Glitter! Tulle! Glissando/Bell-tree City! We have three more shows this week (120 kids per show) and then I shift into concert mode, preparing for my annual Concert in Candlelight (there's a Jeopardy joke here somewhere, Clef) on December 20th.

Tomorrow I am playing for another WINTER WONDERLAND wedding at the castle. I'm hoping for a bride wearing an ermine-lined cloak and maribou-trimmed booties. I shall wear my favorite Ralph Lauren midnight blue ball gown, taking care not to get the giant skirt caught in the sustain pedal. When this happens, the pedal eats the dress, and starts to suck the skirt into the pedal column. Not a pretty sight. Extracting that much silk taffeta from the piano involves a yank and tug maneuver that is not at all lady-like. I have learned to test drive my outfits here at home before subjecting them to a four-hour gig.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/05/09 10:14 AM

No white carpet in this place (probably no bottles of scotch, either). So, two hazards to the good, though of course, the world's Louie's will always find a way. I'm reminded that the first principle of Integrated Pest Management is: "Reduce Habitat."

"Louie sounds like the kind of guy who gives all musicians a bad reputation."

It's a clueless and blissful state, like that of the star of a play staged here not long ago. The ads read, "A story about a girl who lost her reputation, but never missed it." I'm consulting my files on Mae West, world authority, for suitable comeback lines. Maybe after the holidays.

Meanwhile, I can tell you that we don't get mad at pest species such as Cottony Cushion Scale or Mealy Bugs, Otiorhynchus Weevils, or Oak Moth Larvae. It may be necessary to ruthlessly exterminate them, but sometimes it's easier to reduce populations to non-significant levels. Sic 'em with a parasitic nematode or a harmless spray of Baccillus thurengiensis, dust off your hands, and enjoy the flowers.

If you served tea instead of scotch, Louie would be gone in a hurry. Reading aloud from Dr. Seuss might work, too.
Oh, The Places We Tune from Tuner/Tech

This thread is borrowed from Tuner/Tech, thanks to Sam for the place and Monika for the good idea (once you scroll down to the photos, you'll see the posts).

Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/05/09 05:29 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino

That's what the analog synth, complete with tiny patchcords, was for. I was going to play my first left hand bass gig, on songs I didn't know, with a semi-experimental electronic monstrosity whose tuning tended to wander a bit.

But left hand bass is a gruesome experience for player and listener alike, especially when the player has no experience.



I didn't know this style had a name. I was at an Oktoberfest recently where the main band had only minimal orchestration: keyboard, sax, drums (several of these doubled vocals).

The keyboard player emulated a bass very well, must have been able to split his keyboard somehow? And actually it was less obnoxious than the usual bass player who insists his amp won't go below 9. But it must take some skill to pull off.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/05/09 05:40 PM

Winter Wonderland Wedding Update:

Bride was not wearing ermine or feather trimmed booties. She was, however, 8 months pregnant and the recipient of many wedding gifts that doubled as baby shower items. At one point there was a diaper pail with a large taffeta bow sitting on top of the grand piano.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/06/09 09:11 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: gdguarino
But left hand bass is a gruesome experience for player and listener alike, especially when the player has no experience.

I didn't know this style had a name. I was at an Oktoberfest recently where the main band had only minimal orchestration: keyboard, sax, drums (several of these doubled vocals).

I wouldn't call it a "style". It's more of an economic decision. One less player means one less split of the pay for the musicians, and an easier sale for the agent. This only works, of course, when you get the gig in the first place. In an era when most every wedding band used keyboard bass and when many were even booked sight-unseen, it probably seemed like an easy choice, especially for the agent.

It's a pain, though, and never really sounds right. Back in my wedding band days there was only one group in our "circuit" that still used left-hand bass. Their keyboard player was quite accomplished at it (which is rare) , and the band was good. But to a musician's ear, the compromises were evident.

The keyboard parts to some songs can be played successfully with the right hand only. But think of what you actually play on a ballad, say, or the chord forms you use on Standards, or how hampered you'd be rhythmically without the left hand on a B3 part in a fast Blues. This list goes on and on. In my case, having never done it before, the problems were considerably more pronounced.

Having made my case against one-handed piano, I should admit that my gig setup does actually include two keyboards. I don't play bass, but I do play left-hand horn section, string and even organ parts. This is again, an economic decision. Our band includes a Sax player, but we couldn't support the four horn players that we might like. This is not to mention the eight string players and the three female vocalists. Beyond making $27 a man, it's considered poor form to outnumber the guests at the affair.

In my case, the kidnapping of my left hand is intermittent. Even in the songs that require horns, the parts aren't generally continuous, so it's a manageable situation, and we get to do some material that we couldn't otherwise do. I think we do a surprisingly good rendition of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (Chicago) , for instance. But when we play "Since I Fell For You", I have both hands for the piano, as Nature intended.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/06/09 12:56 PM

Thanks for the explanation, I didn't know the history.

So it's not so much that the left hand plays the bass badly, it's that it's no longer available to play what it should.

I cringe at the sound of keyboard horns, though the technology has improved considerably. But keyboard strings do quite well to my ears.

I played in a musical pit, maybe it was Guys and Dolls, and we had a keyboard player covering the strings. Just before we played I got curious, i leaned over and asked if she had trouble reading alto clef for the viola parts. This look of utter horror came over her face as she realized she hadn't checked the clef - fortunately the parts had already been rewritten in treble. i almost felt guilty. Almost.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/07/09 10:01 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Thanks for the explanation, I didn't know the history.

So it's not so much that the left hand plays the bass badly, it's that it's no longer available to play what it should.

It is partly that, but the bass part suffers as well. No matter how good the sample, the subtlety of control that is available to an actual bass player can't really be matched by someone playing a keyboard. I find that it is particularly difficult to play the very brief "grace notes" that are so important to the rhythmic function of a bass player. Beyond the technological and ergonomic limitations, it's a difficult task to cover bass and piano together and most people don't do it well.

Quote:
I cringe at the sound of keyboard horns, though the technology has improved considerably. But keyboard strings do quite well to my ears.

I agree that no stock sound I have ever heard is bearable for my use, that use being playing live with one hand. I wonder why the various manufacturers haven't done better with that. I once chanced on a split configuration on a Kurzweil -- Trumpet and Trombone on the upper half of the keyboard, Saxes on the lower half -- that was quite magical when I played them together. But that won't do for my live situation.

However, I've been working intermittently on my horn section patches for many years. I get a fair number of compliments, some from other keyboard players. The latest crop is several variations on a 4 part layer with some crossfaded splits in it. Each part has a slightly different volume and timbre envelope and other parameters to add to the "imprecision" that mimics several players. The addition of a Sax player to our band for the last several years has helped give our parts an extra dose of realism.

Quote:
I played in a musical pit, maybe it was Guys and Dolls, and we had a keyboard player covering the strings. Just before we played I got curious, i leaned over and asked if she had trouble reading alto clef for the viola parts. This look of utter horror came over her face as she realized she hadn't checked the clef - fortunately the parts had already been rewritten in treble. i almost felt guilty. Almost.

Yet another good reason to avoid sheet music. grin
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/07/09 10:32 AM

These are such terrific stories, I don't know where to start. Robin, you realize that if you put your Choking Audience Member #2 story in your next book, your editor/agent/publisher will make you take it out because it's simply too unbelievable! laugh Truth is indeed stranger than any fiction a novelist could come up with. Oh my. But I think y'all handled it with grace and tact, and I'm glad the lady pulled through.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/07/09 03:31 PM

Hey there Monica! I know, that story is outrageous, but as I've said many times, you can't make this stuff up. I actually have a video of the event and the camera man was one row behind the medical emergency victim, so you can hear the rumple rumple in all its glory. The funniest part of the video is watching out reaction to the whole thing. The guy in the audience said: "We need a doctor." My German actress counterpart crossed her eyes, then I made this chipmunk face that I didn't even know I was capable of making. I puffed out my cheeks (think Dizzy) and stared into the audience black hole. Trust me, this is high comedy. And because the woman turned out to be okay, we can all laugh.

Greg and Tim, I have never played keyboard. I'm basically a low-tech gal and all the technical stuff always overwhelmed me. I can't decide if this is a bad thing or a good thing. But I love reading about your keyboard adventures.!

I'll be playing a wedding at the castle on Thursday evening, a rogue night for a Hochzeit (German for wedding), but whatever. Cocktail music from 4-6 PM, for, get this, 11 people. Bride is somewhat manic. Should be an interesting gig.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/08/09 11:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
And because the woman turned out to be okay, we can all laugh.

Thank goodness. What a terrible tragedy it would have been...

... to have that happen and not be able to tell the story. grin

Quote:
Greg and Tim, I have never played keyboard.

Our drummer, who has is own load to attend to, is fond of teasing me with something his Dad used to say (usually when I'm struggling up a narrow staircase) "Be a piano player son. There's a piano in every hall". Grumble.

Quote:
I'll be playing a wedding at the castle on Thursday evening, a rogue night for a Hochzeit (German for wedding), but whatever. Cocktail music from 4-6 PM, for, get this, 11 people. Bride is somewhat manic. Should be an interesting gig.

So you've finally hit the "big time", or at least the "high time" (Hoch-zeit). I know almost nothing of German, but it seems designed to squeeze the maximum potential out of a small number of root words.

11 people? Definitely harder to fade into the background, I'd imagine. I guess they wouldn't hire us (9 pieces).
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/08/09 12:40 PM

I don't know Greg, this castle place has been known to host weddings where the band out numbers the guests. I played one wedding that hired a chamber orchestra to play a bridal dance medley. That's a lot of money for a couple of Strauss waltzes.

Too bad you don't live on this side of the pond—I could throw some work your way.

I do lose a fair number of jobs because I don't play keyboard, but then again the people who really want me to play end up renting a grand for me. And the place where I have my steady gig (and where I play most of my wedding jobs) has a beautiful grand that is well-maintained, so it all works out.

I played one private gig at the castle last year for TWO people. It was an anniversary dinner. I thought at the beginning it might be a bit awkward, but it turned out to be lovely. My life is odd, but full of surprises.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/08/09 09:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I played one private gig at the castle last year for TWO people.


One of my earlier bands got a gig playing in a club near Kennedy Airport. Judging by some old flyers we found amid the broken furniture in one of the side rooms, this must have been a hoppin' joint in the Fifties. It was a big place with several rooms. The picture showed a packed supper club with people dancing to a trio in matching skinny suits.

We played there exactly once, sometime in the mid Seventies. It was a Saturday night. The entertainment for the previous several years, right up until the night before we played there, was topless dancing. Girls Girls GIRLS! 7 Nights/Week! Specials for Airline Employees!!!

1000+ nights of Girls Girls GIRLS!, followed by us.

There were exactly 6 people there, all friends and family of the band. They sat in one booth. There was exactly one waiter, surely the world's oldest. He was a tall gaunt man whose feet never left the ground. Each step advanced him about 3 inches. A round trip back to wherever the drinks were made took at least 10 minutes.

We think the change in policy was not entirely voluntary. Perhaps they were about to be cited for a few hundred violations or chased out of the neighborhood by a torch-wielding mob. Whatever the reason, that was probably the fewest people I've ever played for.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 10:38 AM

"Perhaps they were about to be cited for a few hundred violations or chased out of the neighborhood by a torch-wielding mob."

In Newark. Newark? Such a great story, Greg, but I'm having trouble bringing that part of the picture into focus. Newark's notoriety is, well, too well-known. But maybe the secret lies in "Specials for Airline Employees!!!"

Never mind.

Oh all right; it was that Sopranos Christmas verite episode, in a club in Newark, with the girls doing the pole dance to The Little Drummer Boy. I will never be able to hear that vapid lyric, "Mary nodded/ Pa- rum-pa-pum PUM" the same way, although it has some resonance with that line from The Night Before Christmas that goes, "And what to my wondering eyes should appear." Right on television, too... and "critically acclaimed."

Nightclubs used to be class acts. People dressed up, went out, dined, danced, watched the show. Some performers just loved them as venues, and plumped out nice careers with them. Their allure lay to the north of both your Redwood Lounge and your Airport Special kind of place. So, what... did it just get too expensive to operate them? Did they all migrate to Las Vegas? Did people just get tired of dressing up, eating, seeing-and-being-seen, being entertained, and impressing their girlfriends with how much money they spent? Maybe Go-Go Boots killed off Cha-Cha Heels and took the nightclubs with them. Maybe Newark got too rough for people with money in their wallets, minks on their backs, and diamonds on their throats to take a chance going there, except to whisk through on their way to JFK.

You may have guessed: I'm killing a few minutes, waiting for the frost to melt before I take the dogs for their morning walk. Twice this week, I've prepared nice posts--- actually on-topic, too--- only to have them go to e-mail heaven. All those great Mae West quotes! But now I will have to regain my courage. And in the end, I guess that is a big part of what performance is all about.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 11:56 AM

Just in case any of you think I'm Miss Hoity-Toity over here in castle wedding land, let it be known that I once had a three month engagement at the Newark Airport Holiday Inn. That place made the Redwood look like the Waldorf.

Just down the street was a motel that advertised "Hourly rates for short sleepers."

No pole dancers at the Holiday Inn, much to the dismay of the airport personnel and truckers who hung out there. They wanted Chesty Chesterfield and Her Twin 48's and they got me, 110 pounds soaking wet, sitting in the corner playing My Funny Valentine.


Clef, I love your musings on whatever happened to the golden era of nightclubbing. It was certainly gone by 1980, which was when I started working in the New York area. I always did say I was born in the wrong decade.

The Little Drummer Boy has perhaps the most comedy potential of any of the Christmas songs.

My wedding gig for 11 people (scheduled for tomorrow) just got cancelled. Okay, free money (cancellation fee). See? I told you that bride was manic.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 12:11 PM

The wedding is back on! Oh boy, this should be good.A woman who can't decide if she wants to get married, but still gets it together to book a pianist.

I do.
I don't.
I do.
I don't.

I'm just a girl who can't say n-n-n-n-

Yes.

Maybe.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 12:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg and Tim, I have never played keyboard. I'm basically a low-tech gal and all the technical stuff always overwhelmed me. I can't decide if this is a bad thing or a good thing. But I love reading about your keyboard adventures.!


Please don't think I'm claiming to have any level of experience or skill at this stuff - I'm nowhere near Greg's class.

And while I've done a fair amount of unskilled piano and organ playing in church, it's almost all been done on acoustic pianos or whatever organ was available. Usually that's an electronic organ, but not always. I played a couple services in a cathedral in Germany on a type of organ I'd never seen. The main cathedral had a pipe organ of course, but the side chapel had a small console organ, with just four stops, all the pipes folded up and fit into the console, and the blower in the seat. Not very loud, but fun!

I do think there is a lot that can be done with all the extras available on a keyboard, especially in a commercial setting. I was at an Arabian horse show and ended up seated behind the organist. He had some kind of theater organ? with all sorts of extra instrument voices and rhythm effects, and he used most of them during that show. That kind of stuff isn't taught in traditional piano lessons, but can add enormously to what you can produce for an audience. He dazzled us with creative use of the instrument and easy playing, rather than with pure keyboard pyrotechnics.

I also see a potential to combine a conductor program like Tapper with live playing. I just don't know enough to do it myself yet.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 02:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"Perhaps they were about to be cited for a few hundred violations or chased out of the neighborhood by a torch-wielding mob."

In Newark. Newark? Such a great story, Greg, but I'm having trouble bringing that part of the picture into focus.

Well, it was actually near JFK, in Queens.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 02:39 PM

I used to perform on electric organ (with pedals) for local clubs, nursing homes, etc. That was tuff because you have to get used to all the different buttons and settings quickly. shocked I usually only had a few minutes to try everything out before the performance. One time I was playing at an organ jamboree in Connecticut and thought I had the organ's rhythm unit preset programmed to play at a good moderate speed. In the performance, after playing the intro of Cumana, I clicked on that latin rhythm preset and it started playing about three times faster than what I'd thought it was set at! I couldn't figure out how to slow it down on the spot so just did the best I could with it. I don't know if Cumana was ever meant to be played at such a break-neck gallop, but people told me later they were really impressed with the way I played it, so guess it sounded okay. blush

Another time and place, I was trying to perform an organ arrangement of The Maple Leaf Rag. I had no problem with it on my organ at home, but this one at this place had very stiff-heavy pedals, so when I was performing it, my feet were going at half-speed to my hands. Not a good sound! That's the last time I attempted to perform that song on organ with pedals anywhere! eek grin
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 02:47 PM

I don't play organ with pedals much anymore but enjoy using the different voices on my Roland DP now, especially the "twinkle bells" setting for the Christmas/Holiday songs. smile

Winter Wonderland

Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/09/09 04:18 PM

"I clicked on that latin rhythm preset and it started playing about three times faster than what I'd thought it was set at! I couldn't figure out how to slow it down on the spot so just did the best I could with it."

This is a great story, Elssa! "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, Part XXIII." You are a trouper to keep it going to the finish line. I suspect some similar mishap is the way Ross Bagdasarian invented The Chipmunks, so who knows, you could be onto something big. But Roland DPs etc are not the only guilty instruments. In Einar Steen-Nokleberg's book, Onstage with Grieg, in the section discussing piano performance of Concerto in A he warns the pianist, "Only the best orchestras can do this," (keep up a tricky rhythmic entrance with the piano), "so, do the best you can."

I think of other Grieg works for a wedding, or reception, but A Girl Who Can't Say No would be just the number for Robin's Midweek Mystery Match-Up... if it happens. Rodgers and Hammerstein; in perfect taste for the reception or dinner. Just the instrumental version: subtle, but some people will get it. I guess German audiences like Broadway musicals as well as anybody.

One is tempted to speculate about matters that are none of one's business in a situation like this. An intimate wedding at the castle with a live musical accompaniment could be a sign of really classy people. Or a sign of doubt, and a wish not to inconvenience a large party of wedding guests (and to avoid having to return a large inventory of presents). Or people who don't have many friends to invite, perhaps having worn out their patience with too many previous fetes. Or a sign that negotiations for the pre-nup fell through (perhaps after excessive televison coverage of the Woods' too-public woes), but were revived by a successful counter-offer which included a publicity black-out.

One could devise other explanations, but I'm sure Robin will deliver a performance with polish. "I can't resist a Romeo/ In a sombrero and chaps" is sure to set toes tapping. We've strayed from the topic of tango, but that has a very catchy rhythm and I can't quite say what it is.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 01:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Just down the street was a motel that advertised "Hourly rates for short sleepers."

"Short sleepers". That is a cleverer-than-usual turn of phrase in an industry not known for subtlety.

The place I described, Pizza King, it was called (I'm sure there's a play on words about "toppings" and "topless", but it's late. You'll have to work it out on your own) was likely not the very worst I've ever played in. I'll have to think about it.

Quote:
No pole dancers at the Holiday Inn, much to the dismay of the airport personnel and truckers who hung out there. They wanted Chesty Chesterfield and Her Twin 48's and they got me, 110 pounds soaking wet, sitting in the corner playing My Funny Valentine.


I can see the sign, lighted but with a few bulbs out, to drum up business:

"Robin Works Her 88s"
..........In the JetSetter Lounge

Quote:
Clef, I love your musings on whatever happened to the golden era of nightclubbing. It was certainly gone by 1980, which was when I started working in the New York area. I always did say I was born in the wrong decade.

I think it was partly the rise of discos, which slowly replaced places that had live acts.

Quote:
My wedding gig for 11 people (scheduled for tomorrow) just got cancelled. Okay, free money (cancellation fee). See? I told you that bride was manic.

I'm trying to imagine the innocence of an age in which a girl could sing the lyrics to "Can't Say No".
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 01:57 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Please don't think I'm claiming to have any level of experience or skill at this stuff - I'm nowhere near Greg's class.


If you're looking to feel outclassed you'll have to aim higher than me, I'm afraid.

But on a serious note, there's always someone whose chops are better than yours. The only real question is, when you play your instrument, does music come out? The world sometimes seems packed solid with players that are better than me, but I know that when I sit down at my instrument, something musical and a little magical happens, at least a fair percentage of the time. There's no small joy in that. Even if someone else might do it "better" in some quantifiable way, they won't do it exactly like I do. That's me in those notes and that's good enough.

If people invite you to play for them, in Church, at home, wherever, you must be making music too. Enjoy yourself.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 03:10 AM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
[quote=TimR]The world sometimes seems packed solid with players that are better than me, but I know that when I sit down at my instrument, something musical and a little magical happens, at least a fair percentage of the time. There's no small joy in that. Even if someone else might do it "better" in some quantifiable way, they won't do it exactly like I do. That's me in those notes and that's good enough.

If people invite you to play for them, in Church, at home, wherever, you must be making music too. Enjoy yourself.


Well, Greg, that's one of the wisest things I've read on PW.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 03:18 AM

Re; Robin Works Her 88's—

I am no stranger to the tacky marquis. The Holiday Inn in Waterbury advertised me this way:

Shrimp Scampi All You Can Eat Robin Meloy $4.99

Or how about this one?

Robin Meloy Delights the Whale!

Will post about the indecisive bride later this evening.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 10:46 AM

If we are going to stray so far as to discuss the stage names of Famous Strippers (another Jeopardy category in a now-crowded field), it would seem we've sagged from discussing Weddings as such, into the slippery realm of the Bachelor Party. But there's still a shred of cover: all the performing arts do have a certain common denominator. In fact, the dancing girl is a far more venerable tradition; surely an earlier articulation of the same impulse. I think, truly, that's it's a shame the Art has been marginalized and made as ugly as it is today, for talents are God-given and ought to be recognized and valued. They can be fragile, too, and it's a dark world in which envy can crush their possessors with such self-righteous satisfaction; it makes the whole place less interesting, and that much less fun. And that much more angry.

Hmmm... yes, it's the numerator that tells us how big the fraction is, and it's always been a problem that, with some performers, it's harder to get them to stop than it is to get them started up (that is why the Code Violation was invented). These wholesome regulations are often overlooked at private events, or disregarded, or even flouted. Now, I promised myself that I was not going to mention Carol Doda again, and her spectacular entrance on top of a white, Baldwin baby grand that was lowered from the ceiling; anyway, she may have been Famous, but she wasn't a Stripper, and White does not a Wedding make.

Newspaper reports of the day (still archived online) said, "There never was a show like it," and that's all I'll say, too. My point is that there can be tremors from these bachelor parties--- if we're going to go there--- and who is to know that Robin's midweek marriage didn't get a little shake-up. Maybe the bride-to-be had a mole in the bachelor party... or maybe the groom got wind of the bachelorette bash; you know how tongues will wag, and there is no Fifth Amendment. "Gosh, honey, I had so much to drink I don't even know what happened," is about as far as any excuse can safely tread on the slippery loading docks of December.

All right, enough. The vacillating vixen either will, or she won't.

Back to nightclubs. I blame those buzzkill insurance companies. What fun it used to be to eat red-meat steaks and flaming desserts (and no nasty green vegetables), wear real furs, swill scotch, smoke non-filters, see a show, punch the snoot of anyone who got fresh with your gal, then pile into one-mile-per-gallon Detroit monsters with no seat belts and drive home, good and fast. One knew that, in the worst of cases, the police would merely smile indulgently; that is why you could find a policeman when you wanted one back then: they were more popular.

There are still clubs, there is still dating. I think Greg may be on the right track by blaming the disco (though they were fun in their own way, but don't get me started; lets just say there was plenty of booty-shaking and no AIDS back then, and it was a good time to be young). I wonder if the decline in live entertainment might be plotted to the availability of recorded music. You know how those club owners love to save a buck. Hi-fi came in, nightclubs went out. I don't know; it's a thought.

Another thought is that what really killed nightclubs was the Leisure Suit. With the arrival of the polyester double-knit, the knell had sounded.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 01:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Re; Robin Works Her 88's—


Well, if you think that's bad, just be glad you don't play the organ...tons of very bad lines/jokes with that: "Robin Works Her Organ Here Tonight". smirk

Did you hear about the man who went streaking through the church? They caught him by the organ.

I think I heard them all back when I used to perform on the organ. blush

I'm enjoying all the stories here - very funny! Good luck with the skittish bride, Robin! smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/10/09 03:58 PM

The Skittish Bride (love that Elssa!) showed up, but she was 90 minutes late and we all thought the worst. So my two hour gig ended up being 30 minutes. The other hour and a half was spent speculating about the reasons for her tardiness. You can only imagine. Turned out it was a run of the mill German Autobahn traffic jam.

She was very kind (although nervous) and accompanied by a wedding party of Belgians (Flemmish, not French) who charmed me with their warm smiles and cute shoes. (The Belgian shoes are second only to the Dutch).

More on this tomorrow!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/12/09 03:31 AM

I've been lucky. I've always been a sideman and thus have largely been able to observe agents at a safe distance.

Agents make a lot of money on each affair, and don’t want to lose a job on a small detail, even if the detail is a crucial one. If the a engaged couple says, “We really wanted a band with a horn section”, the agent would answer, “Oh, these guys work with horns all the time. We can add them on”. I can remember at least two jobs like that; three more or less total strangers show up with sax, trumpet and trombone, but no charts to play from. It can kind of hold together for songs with really obvious unison horn lines, like “Soul Man”, for instance. But in the main, the simultaneous improvisation of four horn players is a poor recipe for coherent music.

Agents will also answer, “Yes, definitely” to almost any question concerning the band’s repertoire:

“Does the band play a lot of Italian music?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“Irish jigs?”

“Sure.”

“Cossack Marches?”

“Of course!”

“Klingon War Chants?”

“It’s their specialty!”

Most wedding bands do indeed keep a "survival repertoire" of a tune or three from several of the more populous ethnic groups around the NY area: Italian, Irish, Jewish. We knew a handful of Italian tunes, three Jewish songs I can think of, and a couple of Irish songs.

We also had a "Polka Medley". Our sax player would break out his clarinet and play the melodies to two or three, or possibly a dozen polkas -- I never knew when one ended and another began -- and the rest of us played the A, B, A and C sections of the Polka Format chord changes behind him.

One agent booked us for a Greek wedding, assuring the clients that we did indeed play Greek music. My Mom's family is Greek. I've been to a fair number of Greek weddings. Greek music is a specialty, not easily faked by the average wedding band. "Never on Sunday" won't cut it.

We informed the agent. His solution was to “add on” a bouzouki player/Greek singer to the job. We didn't meet him until the gig, and not even at the beginning of the gig, if memory serves. He showed up somewhere in the middle to play one "set".

In all the bands I've been in, I've been the semi-official Conductor in Charge of Music We Don't Know. If there's a request for something unfamiliar, I'll be the one shouting out the chords. Assuming the standard conventions of Western melody and harmony, I'm good at it.

But Greek music is among the most “foreign” sounding music to come out of Europe. I think there’s a strong Arabic influence. The scales are completely different, which is already a significant handicap, but the rhythms are the biggest problem. There are odd time signatures and they seem to change at random during the song, or at least they did at this particular party. I can't be sure if that was the way the songs were actually written, or if we were following the Greek John Lee Hooker, singing a line whenever it popped into his head.

It was bad. "Yanni Lihoukas" didn't waste any time showing us how a song was supposed to go. He didn't even count off the beginning. He'd play a few bouzouki notes and we were off.

He'd sing several whole lines on the same chord then abruptly change to another. I'd yell out "Beeeeeee" just in time for him to change back to the original chord. OK, I think. "When he goes to that chord, it only lasts two beats. I'll be ready next time". Except that the next time it was three beats, or seven, if "beats" were even a relevant concept at that point.

It was all prime numbers, of that much I'm certain.

I felt completely at sea, in a storm, at night and not even in the actual boat. We were on narrow skis at the end of a frayed tow-rope, struggling to stay on our feet. Every time I'd get a glimpse of what seemed like a pattern, it would change. And then the song would unexpectedly end, although "stop" might be more accurate. Before I could catch my breath and without so much as a preparatory nod, Yanni would lurch into a new rhythmic misadventure.

The chaos was wearing on me. Yanni had the throttle up full and wasn't looking back. Whatever I might shout out, it did no good. I began to feel that I was only adding to the cacophony, making it worse, in fact.

And then I had a clear, if self-serving, vision. It was like a ray of sunlight in the storm. I was making it worse. There was only one reasonable course of action. I abandoned ship. I walked away from the bandstand in the middle of what was mercifully the last song.

Yanni didn't seem to notice.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/13/09 10:20 AM

"Promise them anything, just book the gig." This was Pete Frank's mantra. Pete Frank was the agent who promised the Oakdale Army Support Base a snake dancer and sent ME. It was Pete Frank who swore to a club owner that I was the world's best organist, when in fact I had never ever played an organ. That was a four hour gig.I didn't even know how to turn on the organ. I finally figured it out, and then spent the night playing what sounded a lot like ice skating music. Couples only, ladies' choice.

It was Pete Frank who sent my dad's jazz trio to a client who had requested chamber music, and a string quartet to a shindig in West Virginia that wanted a jug band.

Soupy Sales once said: "I don't have an agent, I have an Egyptian curse." Soupy passed away recently. Let's hope wherever he is, he doesn't have an agent booking him as a snake dancer.

And why do agents often have two first names? What's with that?

Pete Frank is not his real name—Pete has gone on to that great booking office in the sky where he's probably trying to book Soupy as one of the Three Tenors, but Pete's widow, let's call her Franny, is still running his agency in Pittsburgh. Agents like Pete will book anyone anywhere, and hope that the musician can work things out when he/she arrives. Thing is, this usually works. Musicians like you, Greg, have become masterful at keeping the client happy, even if this means playing (Gringo) Greek music. I once heard a Greek wedding band play Elvis songs in 7/8, maybe this was you, Greg? Wedding was in Astoria. The lead singer wore an Elvice wig. He sang Love Me Tender in an odd meter, then smashed a plate. After enough ouzo (an hallucinogenic drug, if you ask me) it started to make sense. I was even singing along, in seven. Hands together folks, everyone join in!

After the Pete Frank debacle, I landed with a really great agent in NYC. Harlan Ellis booked me for a decade, on really great hotel gigs in NYC. I didn't play many weddings back then, I mostly did steady hotel work. But Harlan was classy and kind and loyal to me. I owe a lot to him. He kept me working for ten years straight in Manhattan, without missing even one week of work. I was very very lucky to have met him.

Over here, after several years of working with the German Pete Frank—let's call him Wolfgang Ludwig—I fired the agent and struck out on my own. My gig at the castle (where I play most of my weddings) is handled by my own office (which consists of my husband, myself, and an assistant). It works out beautifully. I have a nice relationship with the hotel banquet department. They trust me, I trust them. So far, so good.

Thanks for your post, Greg. that's very funny stuff, especially to those of us who have been there. Regards to Yanni.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/13/09 10:41 AM

What a pity we don't have an illustrator. The topic sentence of any of Greg's paragraphs could serve as caption for some really great line drawings. An illustrator could make hay, mowing them down--- and what might they do with Tim's Souza quote, "Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them."

I feel a New Yorker article coming on.

Maybe Parker and Benchley are smiling on it, from wherever they are... or--- who knows--- maybe Gahan Wilson reads the forum. If we're not on the Far Side already, we're headed that way. "And why do agents often have two first names? What's with that?" I've seen too many G. Wilson drawings of persons with two heads to wonder much about that one...
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/13/09 12:41 PM

what an enjoyable morning i've had.. catching up on this thread.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/13/09 08:45 PM

Clef: I try to channel Dorothy Parker as often as possible. I think she was a closet Piano Girl.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/14/09 03:31 PM

Gee, have you actually read Dorothy Parker's stories? They are pretty dark.

I had a neighbor who danced with Dorothy Parker. He died a few years ago at the age of 99.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/14/09 05:37 PM

"Gee, have you actually read Dorothy Parker's stories? They are pretty dark."

Yes. And her reviews, and poems. And, some of her work as a screenwriter.

I think humor, as a reaction to the darkness life can have, is a courageous act. It is also a gift, beautiful for its own sake.

Certainly, it's possible to go too far; it wouldn't be everyone's dish of tea. Personally, I would hope other people would have a happier life than Dorothy. But who am I to cast asparagus? People choose things for reasons and needs of their own; one could name musicians who have crashed and burned by the dozens. Their sorrows are moving (truly, I wish that...), but the brilliance they have shared; well, bright is bright.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 09:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
and what might they do with Tim's Souza quote, "Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them."



I don't know how to post an image, but here's a link to THE classic trombone cartoon:

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.motherfunky.de/pix/trombones-louder.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.motherfunky.de/tromboneslouder.htm&usg=__aKQC1oB7-cyJTUhUNc0hhgmDQwY=&h=295&w=600&sz=64&hl=en&start=1&um=1&tbnid=q1EBuSnjo3EheM:&tbnh=66&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dtrombones-louder.gif%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 10:42 AM

Thanks Tim! I've forwarded this to the trombone section of my husband's band.

Let's Talk Trombones would be a good thread, don't you think?

Funny how we've gone from weddings to tattoos to limbo poles to Jeopardy to Klingon War Chants to agents to Dorothy Parker to trombones. It's like stream of consciousness Pachelbel-induced wedding-pianist babble. And I am proud to be part of it.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 12:14 PM

A two-part question, Tim. We either have to hold up both hands, or hold up one hand and puff excitedly.

Here's the link to the file uploader FAQ:
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...html#Post908865
(there is also a dummy one that doesn't work; disregard it)

PW will send you an e-mail, which contains the line:
"http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/trombones-louder.gif"

Which you then copy, go back to the forum you want to post in and use the full-featured answer tool (not the Quick Answer), click "Enter and Image" and paste the line you copied into the box.

Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 02:53 PM

However, you should not upload copyrighted material without the owner's permission. You can imbed a link to the page that contains the image. That is another button on the Full Reply Screen.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 11:12 PM

Though we trombone players give lip service (pun) to concepts like musicality, expression, sensitivity, blend, etc., that cartoon is the essence of our true inner selves.

Hit it hard, and wish it well! (John Coffey, principal trombone with Boston Symphony Orchestra)
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/15/09 11:18 PM

i play the organ with a trombone player sometimes.. really.

the deep brass works great if i go easy on the pedalling. (it helps that he's really good).
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/16/09 12:38 AM

"However, you should not upload copyrighted material without the owner's permission."

Too late to edit it out now--- the button has expired. I hope they'll forgive the lapse, with my apologies.

There is an exception for "short examples quoted within a review."

PS- I e-mailed the person listed on the credits to try to obtain proper permission. "Suspense before Christmas..." you could work it up for the stage.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/17/09 02:45 AM

It is a small sin, yet so many people in the arts make their living from their copyrights that we should always think about these things.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/17/09 03:15 PM

Re copyrights: I figure my music is on quite a few wedding DVDs. What to do. It would be one thing if it was just a home video, but these are very expensive productions. And there I sit, playing hours of original music to serve as a score for the entire thing. Honestly, people hire pretty extravagant video teams these days. It used to be just one guy with a shoulder-held camera who wore a black suit and roamed discreetly around the room, capturing snippets of conversation, the first toast, and Uncle Wilhelm's recollections of Schweinfurt in the early 50's. But lately I've been ambushed by video crews that look like they're on a video stake-out for an HBO special. These guys (and gals) will go to any length to get the shot they want, including lying on the floor under my piano, or standing on a chair with the camera directly over my head. They love those "moving hands" shots.

Greg, have you got any good wedding video stories?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/17/09 03:26 PM

Now we know why you're willing to take your chances with those floor-length evening gowns (other than the glamour). The pedal nibbling at your hemline is one reason, the camera crews are the other; let's say it's the difference between risky and risque.

As the scriptures say, "The moving hand slaps, and having slapped, plays on."
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/17/09 08:01 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg, have you got any good wedding video stories?


I can't recall any. We don't usually get to see the result of the video shoot. We do sometimes swap stories during breaks in the music/video/photo ghetto, which is sort of like the "kids' table". They are privy to much more of the process than we are and doubtless have much to tell. I'd be surprised if many of the bits that are left out of the clients' DVD don't resurface on the videographer's "special edition". I'm going to have to ask about that.

There was story some years back that has to top them all, if indeed it's actually true. It goes like this:

At some point late in the reception the Father of the Bride decided to finally doff his uncomfortable formal jacket. He left it on the back of a chair. Come the end of the evening, he went into the breast pocket to retrieve the envelope that contained the cash to pay the balance that was due the hall.

It was gone.

I don't know the details, but it would surely have been a substantial sum, likely well over $10,000.00. The family managed to pay it some other way.

I imagine that even with the Hollywood treatment Robin describes, today's digital editing techniques probably get the wedding video to the clients more quickly than used to be the case.

If I remember the story correctly (and surely I don't, I'm making this up from the barest thread of a memory) the couple had returned from their honeymoon; it was maybe a month later that they finally got the wedding video. I can't remember if they were actually watching it at the bride's family's house, but it makes the story better, so I've decided that they did.

In the background of one of the shots, what do they see but the Father of the Groom bending over the chair, with his hand in the pocket of the FOTB's jacket!

I wonder if Hallmark has a card for that.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/18/09 11:36 AM

I don't know what the card might say, but the picture on the cover of the moment of the crime would say plenty. Maybe the inside of the card could say, in a cheery typeface, "Tell it to the Judge." Or it might reproduce the indictment for Grand Larceny. Or simply announce the time, date, and name of the reality TV show on which the footage would run.

Oh hell, I give up--- no one is going to top that story. Not if you went to every one of the next one million weddings. Not even if it was one of those singing cards, that, when you open it carols out, "The mouse takes the cheese, /The mouse takes the cheese, /Hi-ho the derry-o, /The mouse takes the cheese."

(Isn't the next verse, "The cat eats the mouse"...?)

"I figure my music is on quite a few wedding DVDs. What to do. It would be one thing if it was just a home video, but these are very expensive productions. And there I sit, playing hours of original music to serve as a score for the entire thing."

You might think about a separate contract (or section of the existing one) licensing the reproduction of the music. I have done this kind of thing licensing photos for print publications, and we buy, for a set fee, permissions for a certain number of uses of a stated type. For example, home use would be one type; use on TV, internet, or other kind of CD, etc would either be disallowed or charged at a different schedule.

When you buy a ticket for a stage performance, it doesn't mean it's an all-you-can-eat buffet where you can pirate a DVD and market it. If one took a microscope to the fine print (in that bad light), it probably says that.

I wonder if the bride's family figured the video money was well-spent, or if they wished they'd never...
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/18/09 05:44 PM

How about a little verse for the inside of the card?

Who knew back when I met your son
and quickly set a date
That shortly after you'd be serving
3 to 5 Upstate?

The finest hall, my lovely dress
The food, the wine, the band
Our friends would chat and sip and nosh
on hors d'oeuvres served by hand

There was naught consigned to chance
We counted ourselves wise
But in-laws can be outlaws
and life a great surprise.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/18/09 11:51 PM

"...who knows--- maybe Gahan Wilson reads the forum. If we're not on the Far Side already, we're headed that way. "And why do agents often have two first names? What's with that?" I've seen too many G. Wilson drawings of persons with two heads to wonder much about that one..."

Gary Larsen draws The Far Side, first published in Pacific Search magazine and The Sumner News Review. After a break working as a dogcatcher, his cartooning career got a break: published in Seattle Times and later, other newspaper comic sections. Gahan Wilson's cartoons were first published in Playboy, The New Yorker, and National Lampoon Magazine.

Imagine getting those two mixed up. My apologies.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/19/09 01:37 PM

Greg: I'm sure that video wedding story is true. I must say, I wheezed a sigh of relief when I got to the end and the groom's father was the criminal. I really thought it would turn out to be Louie the Bandleader. Our generic Louis may be tacky, but he's not a convict. At least not yet.

Clef: I long ago learned the value of wearing long dresses or pants to work. Remember IRMA, the Kathy Bates look-alike customer who stalked me in Piano Girl? She used to stare at my legs while I played at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. She really freaked me out one time when she said: "I just can't take my eyes off your ankles." I really thought she was going to pull a sledge hammer out of her NPR tote bag. Since then, no more short skirts at the piano. Anyway, a videographer is nothing compared to Irma. I can handle these guys.

Here I am HOME on a Saturday night. I've been booted (for one night) out of my steady gig by an all female string quartet. They wear red strapless dresses (I know what you're thinking and yes, they do shave under their arms) and play tango music. I hope the bridal party has some good dancers. Might be an appropriate night for the Limbo contest. A German limbo contest: now there's one for Mr. Larson.

My last big event of the season is tomorrow night, a serious (can you believe that?) solo piano concert. I sincerely hope no one chokes, passes out, catches on fire, or otherwise requires an ambulance at tomorrow's performance. I can't take it.

After tomorrow I'm home free. I play a bunch of holiday gigs but they are all low pressure, easy, easy, tinka, tinka. Heaven!

Hey, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you Happy Holidays! I can't begin to tell you how much light and laughter your stories have delivered to this side of the Atlantic. I spend a lot of time by myself; either writing or playing, and it's heart warming to belong to a community of musicians and music-lovers who GET IT. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are the best.

xoxo
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/19/09 08:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg: I'm sure that video wedding story is true. I must say, I wheezed a sigh of relief when I got to the end and the groom's father was the criminal. I really thought it would turn out to be Louie the Bandleader. Our generic Louis may be tacky, but he's not a convict. At least not yet.

My "Louie" was best described as "socially bewildered"; dumbfounded that most people manage to communicate in seemingly effortless fashion.
Quote:

Here I am HOME on a Saturday night. I've been booted (for one night) out of my steady gig by an all female string quartet. They wear red strapless dresses (I know what you're thinking and yes, they do shave under their arms)

That wasn't what I was thinking. blush

I'm home too. We were booted out of our gig by The Mother Nature One-Woman Show. She's wearing a swirling all-white blizzard number.

They canceled the gig early in the day, about the moment the first flake landed on the church steeple. That's good, actually. Weather-related cancellations are not generally announced until after I've driven 90% of the way to the venue in a hurricane.

This gig was to be our third at the Our Lady of Arrhythmia Parish Hall, where "your IQ is the same as your age" wouldn't be an insult. "Life begins at three digits" is their motto. People of that age take the weather very seriously.

I'm going to miss Father Maltempo leading the Lost Quaver Quintet through "All Of Me". He gives new meaning to À la recherche du temps perdu.
Quote:

My last big event of the season is tomorrow night, a serious (can you believe that?) solo piano concert. I sincerely hope no one chokes, passes out, catches on fire, or otherwise requires an ambulance at tomorrow's performance. I can't take it.

But please promise to tell us once you recover, OK?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/19/09 11:04 PM

"Ladies and Gentlemen, you are the best."

Yep. And likewise, Robin--- what would PW be without you? (I am politely patting back a yawn at the thought.) Your show is going to be great--- I only wish I could be there.

I join Greg in denying any thought of the red strapless quartet's arm hair.

How about a little genteel announcement before the program: "We wish to request that anyone who feels a spell coming on, step to the lobby. Fire extinguishers are located by the lighted emergency exit signs."
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/20/09 10:57 AM

(That last was a little hint for anyone who may need to be "put out.")
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/20/09 12:53 PM

Put out, indeed. Here I am at the castle and my concert has been cancelled due to a rare Cologne area BLIZZARD. The German weather bureau issued the highest level warning. Jeez. I am jinxed this year. Forget fire extinguishers. We need shovels. More tomorrow. I intend to have a nice dinner, sufficient wine, and a good night's sleep here in ye olde chateau.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/20/09 04:21 PM

"I intend to have a nice dinner, sufficient wine, and a good night's sleep here in ye olde chateau."

As jinxes go, I have heard of worse--- in fact, I was watching more of those "Weddings Gone Wrong" videos on TV this morning (and all because of you, Robin). Oh, you want to talk about jinxes! I could not repeat or synopsize some of those episodes, not even here among veterans who have seen it all--- or have you? I begin to wonder.

I believe the PW moderators would step in if I repeated what the bride said about the florist.

The castle will be glad to reschedule your concert, if you can find a date for it. Of course, there's the preparation and ramping yourself up for it, but maybe it will be easier since you already had it ready.

"Jeez. I am jinxed this year. Forget fire extinguishers. We need shovels."

Maybe I shouldn't mention this... but lots of people set the house on fire during cold weather. Penny-wise, euro-foolish; neglecting to have the chimney cleaned probably seemed like a good economy at the time, and once the snow took the power lines down--- well, there was the fireplace...

And then there are Christmas trees--- so flammable. I'm sure the insurance carriers will stomp that custom out, if ever they can. Godless, that's what I call them. But there is no point in blaming Germany; I'm sure the story of Martin Luther bringing a tree into the house, with candles on it, to celebrate the holiday, is a familiar one to all of us.

The bringing of the evergreen tree into the home, as one might invite a member of the family or an honored guest, is a far older Winter Solstice custom. That was before electric tree lights, of course.

And that is why God invented the smoke detector.

So, all is well. What year, or what wedding, goes by without its share of mishaps. Sometimes these things serve a higher purpose that we are not in a position to appreciate. From my point of view, it seems that fortune has smiled benevolently upon you. And why shouldn't it love you. Don't answer that--- it does.

While I'm thinking of it... in one of those wedding videos, the bride was so mean, the wedding planner broke down and cried. It was heartwarming, and so telegenic--- the boo-hooing, the tears, the snot (no screams; the rat trap was absent). I would imagine it's an industry that doesn't foster excessive sensitivity. The groom also broke out in tears during the ceremony--- there must be quite a backstory to that match-up.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/22/09 12:23 PM

Turns out that recovering from a non-event is worse than recovering from a real event. Because the concert was snowed out and I didn't have to perform, I ended up eating and drinking a tad too much. But the fireplace was nice and I was with 3/4 of my family.

Meanwhile, my poor 17 year old son had a job OUTSIDE playing in a jazz band for one of those German Christmas market things (think snow globes, feathered felt hats, and mulled wine). His gig, naturally, was not cancelled. My son plays percussion and piano and how he got his fingers to move I have no idea. Playing in an ice storm is no fun.

Clef, one time at the castle, the chimney caught on fire as I was playing, thus turning me into a sort of human smoke detector. The piano is right next to the fireplace, which makes for a charming place to sit and listen to music, just not when it's on fire. But I always adore seeing a team of firemen in action. The axes! The boots! Those big helmets! Love those guys.

I am now leaving for my kids' piano recital. My son is playing Freedom Jazz Dance and Blues in the Closet. My daughter is playing A River Flows in You and singing/playing Paparazzi (her own arrangement with her very own papa accompanying her on bass).

The beat goes on.

Not a single wedding on the event horizon.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/22/09 02:44 PM

One needs a few extra calories to fortify one's self in blizzard conditions, especially--- who knows--- when there might be a call for both a snow shovel and a fire extinguisher on the very same day.

Anyway, heaven was also kind enough to provide us with Alka-Seltzer, and it does work--- I know.

No need for the folks from Piano Forum or Tuner/Tech to hear about that piano-by-the-fireplace situation. You know how they would carp. I don't hear them telling such thrilling stories, though.

Just wondering... do they have red fire-trucks in Germany? I always liked red so much better. Buff and studly fire-daddies on a red truck just might edge out Cupid-on-a-red-heart as the best-ever symbol of Valentine's Day, one of these years. I could express no surprise--- not if you want to see a pulse beating faster. The Dalmatians on the front seat are also very handsome.

Catch your breath and enjoy your time with your nice family, Robin, while there's a little break. Valentine's Day will bring a rush of weddings; brides will be beating down the castle door.

Ok, I guess I do have a fire truck story, though there are no blizzards or weddings. It was late Spring, at the state park where I work as a volunteer. Backcountry Weekend, the one time in the year when people are allowed to drive to the heart of the park and start their hike or backpack adventure from the center. It is madly popular and, as you might guess, there are porta-potties that see busy service.

But not everyone cares for them, and one lady decided to squat in the more sanitary and natural setting of a beautiful Spring hillside. The park doesn't mind--- it would have to arrest every coyote if it did. But, bad fortune pursued her, and she lost her balance, tripped on her panties, fell down the hillside, and broke her arm.

Bad enough? Not yet. The paramedics were called, and I happened to be working the front gate to admit them--- both an ambulance and a fire truck, fully-loaded with fire-daddies.

She was rescued; she was fine. I expect they carried her back up the hill in their arms. Aside from the slight indignity, some ladies might have thought it was almost worthwhile--- and I'm sure she felt very safe.

If poison-oak was involved, no one mentioned it.

Ok--- no wedding, but it's a little romantic, isn't it?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/22/09 03:00 PM

Jeff,

In my house the loud circular object on the ceiling is known as the "kitchen timer", at least when I'm cooking. It gets tested regularly. eek

Robin, (and anyone else...)
Re: Winter gig.

Quebec City has a Winter Carnival every February. It's at the same time as in Rio de Janeiro, except 100 degrees colder. For two weeks in the dead of winter there are events all over town, mostly outdoors, in a very beautiful city. My family has gone the last two years. Canoe races on a frozen river, snow sculpting at night, dogsled races down Boulevard St. Louis, drinks in glasses made of ice, Crepes and Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee for dinner; it's truly special and I highly recommend it.

Some pictures:
Quebec Carnaval 2008
Quebec Carnaval 2009

Last year we made it to the opening night ceremonies. It was pretty balmy by Quebec standards; in the teens Fahrenheit, and snowing a little. There were several musical acts. The first one was a rock band featuring two guitars, bass and drums. I noticed that the stage, which was covered, had about a dozen space heaters hanging from the grid, facing down. I'm sure they had some limited effect, but the performers' breath vapor still just about froze solid and crashed at their feet.

I like cold weather, but I don't think I'd enjoy the feeling of guitar strings cutting into my frigid fingertips. I have actually played part of a set with gloves on, as a joke, but not with the kind of gloves you'd need in Quebec.

We saw another band in a (heated) tent at one of the larger outdoor Carnaval sites. They played a sort of Acadian/Country/Rock hybrid and were a lot of fun. But they'd have had an audience even if they were awful. The "Metro" tent was an oasis of warm(ish) air and hot food on a day when it was about Zero F with swirling winds and snow outside.

We're fighting the urge to go again this February. We took a pretty expensive vacation over the summer and made not going to Quebec part of the budget. But now...

Stay strong

Some of you will have to go instead. It's one great party and the perversity of holding an event like this in a Quebec winter only enhances it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/23/09 11:23 AM

Much to my delight, NPR's Piano Jazz Christmas Special with Marian McPartland is featuring me playing a live version of my composition FIRST SNOW (from my recording Songs in the Castle), along with my story about why I wrote the piece. This has nothing to do with weddings, but I do talk about the castle where many of my wedding stories take place.

I'm in formidable company here: George Shearing, Renée Fleming, Susannah McCorkle, Ayako Shirasaki (playing a kick-ass version of Sleigh Ride) and the great lady herself, Ms. McPartland.

You can listen here:

McPartland/Goldsby/NPR Piano Jazz Christmas
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/23/09 03:33 PM

Greg, Montreal sounds like fun, although I don't envy those musicians. Cold is cold, but that sounds particularly brutal. And now I know why your French is passable. Or at least more passable than mine.

Clef: I can assure you that the woman who tripped over her potty pants and did the tumble and roll through the canyon did it on purpose. In my younger days, I might have attempted such a stunt just to get the attention of a Fire-Daddy. In fact I did once attempt to pick up a firefighter who was patrolling the corridors of the Manhattan Marriott Marquis. He was very cute and had an axe and everything. Sadly, he was distracted by Tina Louise (Ginger of Gilligan's Island) who was in the cocktail lounge where I was playing. I paled in comparison. I was young and reasonably fetching, but she was wearing a fur coat with one of those second-skin movie star dresses underneath, and the firefighter was smitten. No competing with Ginger.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/23/09 05:12 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg, Montreal sounds like fun, although I don't envy those musicians. Cold is cold, but that sounds particularly brutal.

Montreal is a very cool city, in several senses of the word, but the Carnaval d'Hiver is in Quebec City. We've been there six times over the years, three times in winter.

Our daughter is 14, and if my own teen-hood is any guide, we have a dwindling number of vacations that she'll be joining us on. We decided that the Winter Carnival in Quebec should really be one of them. She loved it more than we dared to hope for. Besides attending as many of the events as we could find the stamina for, my daughter surprised me by asking to explore some of the residential back streets.
Quote:

And now I know why your French is passable. Or at least more passable than mine.

We've been to French Canada more times than really seems sensible, and the opportunity to fool around in a foreign language is a large part of the reason. It was in Montreal and Quebec back in 1982 or so that we both discovered we could read most of the signs. This came as a great surprise as neither of us had studied French since High School. We decided to venture a phrase or two at the hotel desk, then at restaurants, gas stations, etc.

When people 1. Didn't giggle or guffaw and 2. Understood us, we were hooked. With a phrase book to crib from (and in recent years, a laptop), we've done pretty well on ten trips to the Grand Blanc Nord and three trips to Paris. We left the laptop home this past summer, and forgot the phrase book, either of which would have made my trip to the pharmacie more fluid. But I managed to describe my wife's rhume well enough to get her the proper remedy.

We've come to know that people take even the most mangled attempt to speak their language as a sign of courtesy. Armed with that information, I've made occasional use of my 2 years of college Italian, and my no years of Spanish on various trips. Riding the NYC subway is kind of like being inside a Rosetta Stone Spanish Course. I've learned a lot of Spanish from the signs. When there was no other option, as happened a few times in Austria, I've even tossed a German phrase or two into the fray.

I wouldn't bet that my French is better than yours, but I have developed a certain confidence that no matter how many mistakes I make, the message will get through. Human beings were born to communicate, one way or another.

Having said that, I think it would be quite a more difficult endeavor to learn to live in a foreign language every day.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/23/09 11:59 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
...featuring me playing a live version of my composition FIRST SNOW


I listened. Nice.

And I'm happy to report that past incidents notwithstanding, I feel in fine fettle and have seen no signs of the Grim Reaper.

I'll sleep with one eye open just in case.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/24/09 12:18 PM

Well, Christmas and no weddings. There are some occasions worthy of note, other than what Santa managed to deliver in a country with so few, and such skimpy chimneys... and I don't mean the news story about the cat-burglar who was rescued from being stuck in one. One should think twice about such adventures. Bad Santa!

It is the anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce, when many WWI soldiers more-or-less spontaneously laid down their arms and came across no-mans-land to sing carols, exchange presents of such things as they had, wish each other holiday greetings, and play rugger. That was after the field was cleared of the dead, and they were laid to rest with proper observances said for them, which was the initial objective of the truce.

The regular army brass realized how hazardous it was to the war effort, to have the men from opposing sides seeing each other as human beings--- after all, they were fun-loving young guys, many scarcely out of their teens. Nevertheless, it happened: a very touching occasion. The TV rendering I saw started with the German soldiers boosting a little Christmas tree over the top of their revetments--- a little fir, with candles tied to its branch ends, the way the first Christmas trees were... fortunately, with no house in danger of being burned down by it. "Stille Nacht," they were singing.

The killing resumed quite soon, however, and in some areas it was never stopped; the High Command wouldn't have it, and orders are orders. So, the reality was not quite the myth that's been made of it since.

No one will remember this, but Cara Williams did a Christmas turn on "The Red Skelton Show," he in the character of Clem Kadiddlehopper the Bum (as homeless persons were called, back then) spending a snowy Christmas alone on a park bench; she in the character of Raggedy Ann, the rag doll with a candy heart sewn into her stuffing that said, "I Love You." Maybe he was dreaming, but suddenly there she was, surprisingly adorable in her rag doll guise, with the braided yarn wig and the big, red greasepaint circles on her cheeks bringing the rag doll look a little closer to his own ragamuffin aspect. Clownish bums don't speak--- anyway, Clem didn't--- and neither do Raggedy Anns, but somehow they did communicate; you could feel their hearts, like a warm fire. I believe they may have done a little shoe-shoe routine, or danced a few steps of the waltz as the snowflakes sifted down.

And then she was gone, and Clem was waltzing with his pushbroom.

Maybe some people thought it was only sweet, maybe it passed over the heads of many television viewers... but it was a thunderbolt that passed far beyond the merely comedic performances for which they were both known.

Last but not least, one Christmas Tracy Ullman did a segment on her comedy show in which she portrayed a wrinkled and elderly woman spending Christmas alone in her apartment with twenty or so cats--- to which she sang, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It was a creditable rendering, without so much as a trace of pathos, and delivered with real love as she picked up each cat in turn and sang to it. Just when we thought it was all over, she removed the box top from a wrapped Christmas present--- and "discovered" yet one more cat: a tiny little kitten, who received the last few bars of music, and a tender hug against the cat-lady's withered, but smiling, cheek.

Say what you will about cat-ladies with twenty cats in one livingroom (and the reality of animal hoarders is not so glamourous or telegenic, not at all); still, I have to think it beats Christmas in the pound.

Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/31/09 09:59 AM

The second full moon of the month shines on New Year's Eve tonight: the kind they call a "blue moon," although ours was creamy and golden last night.

I have missed our contributors in the last week, though it's not so hard to imagine that people are busy with other things. Robin has the play and the castle performances, Greg is in Quebec (the will to stay away having failed), Tim is daring the conductor to frown upon the trombone section--- and we have the cartoon to prove it.

No doubt people have parties to attend, champagne to chill; in downtown San Francisco people are throwing last year's desk calendars out their office windows. Now, that is a colorful tradition, and an astonishing one (if you don't expect it) to find under your feet, on your way home from a New Year's party. Of course, there are common litterbugs the year 'round, but this is different and much more festive: a ticker-tape parade--- the hero's welcome--- for the new year. "A headstrong and heedless city," Herb Caen described it, "forever dancing on the edge of disaster." There are fireworks on the Embarcadero, too, good weather or bad. But the fireworks have already gone off in Sydney Harbor (they were on TV) and probably Hong Kong as well; the darlings of the International Date Line. The rising sun has barely put the first blush of deep blue in the skies over California, yet they have already had midnight.

No doubt Alka-Seltzer will be starting the New Year with a healthy quarterly report--- but the financial markets are closed and we won't know about that until, well, next year.

You guys have certainly brightened my 2009, and I really want to thank you!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/31/09 11:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Tim is daring the conductor to frown upon the trombone section--- and we have the cartoon to prove it.


Had a weird thing happen at our church's Christmas pageant.

I direct a handbell choir. The pageant director requested one short piece, Pat-a-pan twice through, but demanded there be no harmony, just six bells on the melody notes. So I only needed three ringers, two bells each. I decided to creatively disobey, because unaccompanied melody is very fatiguing to the listener's brain - they are forced to provide harmony internally. This is worse for handbells because they only ring at the fundamental and 12th, don't have the usual instrumental overtone series. I couldn't get away with adding notes so I put a fourth person on tambourine thumping a simple rhythm.

Did I mention it was a pageant? Think shepherds in costume, as young as four or five. Our run through was dead solid perfect, I thought maybe just once we'd get through without fear of a trainwreck. I didn't allow for the child factor - one of the kids switched a ringer's left and right bells when we weren't looking, and put the left bell upside down (they only ring one direction). So she rang that bell, it didn't sound, she turned it around, rang the wrong note, got flustered, got herself together, switched hands, and came back in correctly! Woohoo! Disaster averted! Nope, just delayed. She was so rattled forgot to start the second verse, so did one of the others, then they came in on the wrong beat, and we crashed and burned. There was nothing I could do but try to keep the panic off my face - I couldn't find beat 1 myself!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 12/31/09 01:26 PM

I've been playing in bands for a long time, and like any reasonably observant musician in that environment, I've got lots of stories. But reading PW for the last 15 months has taught me that there are nooks and crannies of music performance that I know nothing about, and that they are loaded with comic potential as well. I've heard stories about church organists, a brass ensemble , an organ and trombone duo (my personal favorite) and now, a handbell choir.

I think the audience factor is part of what elevates common mishaps to high comedy. Plumbers have some good stories, but imagine how much better they would be if the plumber was working on stage. [Now that I think of it, I once heard a plumber tell a story about installing a working glass-walled shower stall on the stage at a strip club. Imagine applying for the permit.]

Happy New Year to all.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/01/10 04:21 PM

Happy New Year!

I haven't slipped off the face of 2009, I've just been ridiculously busy, thank goodness. I played my last gig of 2009 today, in 2010. Did the New year's Eve dinner in the fancy restaurant, escaped at 11;30 PM (just as the band in the main hall was swinging hard and the Titans of Industry Lizard Dance was warming up), and made it home 4 minutes before midnight.

It's always an adventure driving home on New Year's Eve in Germany. Rockets! Missiles! Big round things that I suspect are grenades. Alcohol and explosive devices do not mix well, but my German friends and neighbors (some of them quite sensible during the rest of the year) seem to think it's a good idea to consume 23 and a half beers and shoot rockets at homeward bound piano players. Whatever. I'm safe. I played for lunch today, and that's it, folks, until January 22nd.

Yes, I have STORIES. But I must let them gel before posting.

Two people asked me for cards today. Guess what? They're getting married. Get that Pachelbel ready.

Oh, Tim. Trombones and Hand Bell Choirs. Are there two things in the world more worthy of our attention? I don't think so. P{lease tell me that someone has a video of the hand bell train wreck. I love this.

Clef, you are the light of my PW life. THANK YOU for your wonderful posts.

Greg, thanks for listening to the McPartland Xmas show. I enjoyed reading about your brave attempts to learn and speak French. I relate.

xoxo
Robin
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/12/10 08:20 AM

Hi Everyone,

I've missed you all. I'm in Western Pennsylvania visiting my dad Bob the drummer and my mother Ann, the long-suffering drummer's wife. It's like story central around here. You can imagine. My dad is 75 and has been playing gigs for almost 60 years. That's a lot of rim shots.

When I was a teenager, he used to say to me: "Do you know how many times I had to hit the drums to pay for those shoes?"

Greg, Bob's stories are more like yours—sideman stories from club dates. But he has also played in orchestra pits, burlesque theaters, television studios (he played on the Mister Rogers Neighborhood program for 35 years), and churches. And he has certainly played a fair share of weddings.

Tim, I was thinking recently about your bell choir. I had a first grade teacher named Mrs. Dick (I kid you not) and she used to play in a bell choir at a local church. The bell choir ladies (they were all ladies) wore dark purple robes and white gloves. Very elegant. And they played the Christmas Bell Choir Classic "Silver Bells."

Not so elegant, but equally memorable, was my pal Wendy Clay's stint in an HBO old-time burlesque special. She (and the other chippies) had the bells attached to their underpants, and got them to ring by, uh, executing some classic burlesque moves. This may well have been one of the funniest sketches in the history of burlesque (and bell choirs). "Silver Bells," for strippers.

So that's all I know. I haven't had a gig since January 1 and I am very much enjoying the down time. Let it snow.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/12/10 11:41 PM

Well, I think that sounds very refined, for strippers. "Silver Bells," another song I'll never be able to listen to again without laughing out loud. Not for the first time; no. We used to perform a song that I never liked much anyway, but I went along... until the day, instead of "touch me, assuage me," I fumbled the words and it came out "touch me, oh spray me." Well, it was all over; we could never get through it with a straight face again, and it was, you know, a "serious" song. Too serious.

I suppose it happens at weddings. There was that episode of "Mama's Family," when Ken Berry married Dorothy Lyman, a trying enough experience for Vicki Lawrence as it was; she thought the bride was entirely too much of a tart, even for her son. But when Carol Burnett (as Eunice) pitched a screaming snit during her performance of "Oh Promise Me," well, her husband had to pick her up and carry her out draped over his shoulder. Still screaming and making a fuss. A memorable shambles, yet I wonder if life does imitate art after all.

And there goes "Oh Promise Me" from the wedding repertory. Luckily one doesn't hear it too much anyway, but it would be a VERY poor time to break into peals of laughter. As Betty White remarked at the bachelorette party, "There's nothing like good wine and friends... or cheap wine and relatives."

I don't mean yours, of course. For them, go ahead and bring out the good stuff.

Yes, "Let It Snow." A charming song, but not much good at a wedding unless there's plenty of confetti. I have heard that rice makes the pigeons explode, but that can happen to anyone who eats too much rice. A swamp plant--- for weddings? For fertility, I've heard, but when I think of the amount of money people spend to avoid that very thing...

But the holidays are over now, and it hardly seems possible that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. That happens to be the day of the year when canary breeders place the cock with the hen; they are housed separately at other seasons to avoid too much of a good thing. But of course, right about now all the cocks are singing like a lunch whistle. Other species say it with roses, precious stones, and expensive evenings out, but cock canaries say it with song. I used to have over twenty (not counting the chicks)--- a lot of work, but I never got tired of hearing them.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/13/10 05:37 AM

I am up with the chickens. Not a rooster in sight. Guess I'll have to wait until Valentine's Day. We do have some ducks here by the lake. But the snow is so so deep, when they walk through my parents' yard to get their daily feed, we can only see their little duck heads sticking out of the snow. I don't know why they don't fly, they are, after all, BIRDS, but maybe it's fun for a duck to waddle through beak-high snow. Anyway, it's funny.

Clef, you reminded me—Valentine's Day is right around the corner. It['s a busy day at ye olde castle. I'll drag out the red ball gown and play for a couples only dinner. It's kind of a nice thing because they put the grand in the middle of one of the private salons, cover it with rose petals, and surround the piano with candlelit tables for two. And guess what? Lots of marriage proposals going on! Seems like every year I end up with a wedding gig or two as a result of playing for the VD dinner.

Greg, forget those agent showcases, you should bring your band to Germany, crash the castle VD dinner, and do a few rounds of the International Medley.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/13/10 10:50 AM

That Valentine's Day dinner at the castle sounds heavenly, Robin. Wish I were close enough to go. *sigh* My hubby, whom I love more than life itself, is the practical type who calls Valentine's Day "amateur's night out." He argues that restaurants will be overcrowded with sub-par food preparation and price-gouging going on, and then he suggests we celebrate Valentine's Day on another night instead.

He's right, I know, but somehow there's something inside me that feels like It Just Isn't The Same. Rather like celebrating Christmas on the 26th to take advantage of the "75% off" sales at the Christmas tree lot...

p.s. Jeff, your "touch me, oh spray me" story had me spraying the computer keyboard with coffee. Hilarious! laugh
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/15/10 02:36 PM

Shucks, Monica--- thanks. Yes, I like that story. Now we know why choral directors are such nags about enunciation--- look at what can go wrong. On the other hand, too much of that kind of vocal training can ruin your microphone technique.

You know, Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year. You probably have to work, but what a nice surprise for your husband... and surely the university would overlook your absence on a Friday and a Monday in such a good cause, even though it's not Sadie Hawkins Day. You saw, a few posts back (on the ABF/Chopin thread), how the lady surprised her husband with a trip to Venice and a Barenboim concert. Ok, they lived in Italy to begin with, but I’ve heard few stories on PW that were as just plain delightful… and it seemed he felt that way.

Now as for hubby. The Church does allow the observance of Saint's Days on the evening prior, perhaps on the same theory as Christmas Eve. He may have a leg to stand on regarding dinners and flowers, but the Proper does not excuse the absence of precious stones--- not the way I read it. From your video with your new Zoom recorder, I would say that you would look nice in pearls (or diamonds); and they look very fine by candlelight, too. “Will Madame have the gold, or the platinum?” We should hear this from more waiters.

You know, Robin, I'd love to see some nice photos of you performing at this castle. It is true that private salons lit by candlelight are not the easiest to photograph, but I'll bet you I could get the shot (the color rendering is the problem, but good photographers love these challenging lighting situations). And the fineness of German cameras and lenses (and photographers), well, everyone knows it. Besides, they went to the trouble to get rose petals in Cologne in February.

Did you tell us what color...?

Yes, I can kind of see it: a long shot, from across the room. The cozy dimness enframing the floating, candlelighted linen ovals of the tabletops; their occupants’ upturned faces pale but also warm; they are applauding the performance. The elegant Euro dress; the slight glint of polished parquet floors; the gleam of champagne floor stands (and don’t tell me they’re drinking beer, I don’t want to hear it); and perhaps, here and there the curling blue flames under the wide copper Suzette pans as a special dessert is served up--- damn the calories to hell. And across the room, the big piano, lighted subtly, yet even so, the red ballroom dress lights a little fire of color. Perhaps the drapes are parted somewhat, and through the French doors a faint, deep blue light glows on the snow-covered grounds past the terrace.

Let's see, the Thursday night red-eye overnight to Amsterdam, connecting hop to Cologne... oh well, maybe I wouldn't do it either. The jet-set life is better suited to persons younger than I, and who wants to strip butt-naked in an airport lobby so these TSA people can have a job. Why do I have an image in my mind of couples at candlelit tables jumping up every so often and yelling out, "Bingo!"--- I'm sure it's nothing like that.

But I've given up the canaries as well. These days, I fill up the hummingbird feeders and call it good. Fringillidae, Trochilladae; well, they both sing. The hummingbirds’ little voices sound like a rusty gate, but they never give it up, and they do special aerial dances when they’re vying for the claw of their intended, like high-speed dive-bombing runs. It is impressive, and in fact, a little scary, but apparently the mademoiselles find it convincing.

They may not fly to Europe for Valentine’s Day, but they do fly across the Gulf in order to overwinter in Mexico--- if you could believe that of a creature that doesn’t even weigh a whole ounce.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/16/10 06:17 PM

P.S.

It's too late to edit or recall my previous lighthearted post, though maybe we need something else to think of just now other than the appalling coverage of the disaster in Haiti. I remember your chapter in Piano Girl, Robin, concerning your time as a musician there and I know that thinking of the people you knew there must be very affecting.

It's especially frustrating to know that the aid is right there on the ground, almost within reach, yet cannot reach the people who need it so badly, partly because of the civil disorder and corruption--- hardly a news flash in Haiti, yet it's costing so much in lives and suffering this time. I don't like to say too much about these scenes and stories, but the problem can't be wished away.

Even in the best of circumstances, aid and rescue takes time. The magnitude of total disaster from our last big earthquake here in California was nothing like what I'm seeing on TV, though we had scenes of rescue that were in many ways similar, and it's well-known that the cameras always look for the worst, since it makes the best story. No need to exaggerate, in this case.

What can I say--- I'm so sorry, and I'm hoping for the best, as good as it can possibly be.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/16/10 10:29 PM

Thank you, Clef.

My last gig in Haiti was in 1990—a long time ago, but those beautiful people changed my life in a profound way. The country is very much on my mind this week. Everything those people have endured, and now this.

Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres) is on the ground in Haiti, where they have been working for over 19 years. New teams of are arriving every day. If anyone reading this post is searching for a suitable charity, I recommend them.

Doctors Without Borders (medicins sans frontieres)
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/19/10 06:58 AM

I'm headed back to Europe today. I've been here in Pennsylvania for two weeks.

Haiti is on my mind and I'm finding it difficult to write about anything as frivolous as a big fancy wedding. I saw video yesterday of a man digging his wife out from under the rubble, where she had been trapped for six days. She survived. How's that for a renewal of vows?

More later from the other side.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/21/10 01:44 PM

Hello my friends,

Here is the Piano Girl chapter from Haiti. Some of you know I spent a lot of time there in the eighties. This post is my little shrine to the spirit of the Haitian people. Thanks to my publisher, Backbeat Books, for permitting me to post this. I know we need to move on to the next wedding topic, but given the circumstances of the past week, this post seems appropriate.

Best,
Robin

Piano Girl: A Memoir
Reprinted with the permission of Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard
©2005 Robin Meloy Goldsby



The Almond Tree

L’essential est invisible pour les yeux.
(The essential is invisible to the eyes.)
—Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

Never ever, never ever, never ever kiss the boss, says Voice of Reason. But I don’t listen.

I’ve been going to Haiti for many years. I play the piano and lull away the time eating fresh mango and roast poulet and lying in the sunshine. Yes, I kiss the boss, but not as much as I’d like. The man I love is a busy guy. In addition to running a large casino, hotel, restaurant, and nightclub in Haiti, he has a wife and grown children in the States. For six years, Owner-man has been telling me that he’ll be leaving his wife any day now. His beautiful baritone voice resonates with promises he thinks he can keep, but I don’t believe him any longer. He’ll never leave his wife. Maybe for his next girlfriend, but not for me. I sit in the shade of a poolside umbrella and listen as the Yellow Bird trio sings.

Wish dat I were a yellow bird,
I fly away wid you,
But I am not a yellow bird,
So here I sit,
Nothin' else to do.

These days when I’m not playing I whittle away the time in Haiti under a big almond tree with my friend Mona, a stunning Haitian woman who runs the restaurant and supervises the interior decorating of the hotel’s rooms. We feed scrambled eggs to a three-legged iguana named Lefty who visits us every morning as we sit under our tree, and we plot the details of the trip we’ll take someday to Provence.

Another friend, a red-haired Lebanese woman named Gladys, owns the island’s Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Gladys is famous. When the Pope visited Haiti, she fried 3,000 buckets of chicken to feed him and his entourage. I’m sorry I missed that spectacle. I love the idea of the Pope eating a large bucket with all the fixins. Gladys teaches me to play golf and how to tee off from the first hole of the Petionville Country Club without injuring the goats grazing on the fairway. Mona teaches me how to crochet a bedspread. We are an unlikely trio—a Haitian, an Arab, and a WASP—and we think have answers for everything. We talk politics and tell jokes and solve the world’s problems. Easy to do, when you’re sitting poolside in the shade of an ancient almond tree being served champagne by smiling waiters with ebony faces. You can forget who you are.

Inside the hotel I lose track of the poverty on the other side of the wall. I play the piano for the rich and educated elite, government dignitaries, and the Seventh Avenue garmentos who run factories and sweatshops in neighboring Port-au-Prince. But that gets boring, and before I know it, I break out of my golden cage and begin exploring the neighborhood around me.

The streets are full of life—music and art and optimism beyond belief. I can’t understand all the cheerfulness in the face of so much destitution. Owner-man talks about the “privilege of poverty,” like there is some kind of honor in growing up poor. He speaks with pride about his own childhood in a New York City slum—walking to school with playing cards under his socks to prevent the wet and cold from seeping through the tears in his shoes, taking manual-labor jobs as child to help his mother pay for groceries, playing soccer with a rolled-up newspaper in the streets of Brooklyn. “That’s the kind of thing that gives a kid ambition,” he says.

I don’t think so, not at all.

I meet a teenaged boy named Rodley who has been left an orphan by the AIDS epidemic. He dusts my piano, serves drinks, and chatters about getting away from Haiti someday and going to college in America. Owner-man has given Rodley a job and paid for his schooling. For my birthday, Rodley gives me a flower pot that he has painted himself.

My favorite casino waiter is a middle-aged man named Pressoir. He’s shy, wears big thick glasses, and is suffering from localized alopecia, a stress-related-disorder that has left one side of his head bald. Pressoir supports a family of eight on his waiter’s salary, about a $100 a month. He carries pictures of his children and his brother’s children in his wallet. “Les gosses sont ce qu'il y a de plus cher dans ma vie,” he says. They are everything to me.

Let her fly away,
On de sky away,
Picker coming soon,
Pick from night to noon,
Black and yellow you,
Like banana too,
He might pick you someday.

Mona introduces me to local craftspeople who sell their brightly colored paintings and bed covers on the street outside the hotel grounds. Marie-Claude, a woman I’ve commissioned to make dresses for me, invites me for tea. Her home is a thatched-roof hut with no walls and a mud floor. Red and yellow fabric hangs from the roof and creates privacy for the family. The table is covered with red oilcloth. Her six children all sleep on one large straw mat on the floor. There is no electricity or running water. The hut is cheerful and colorful and full of art. No walls, but the paintings are everywhere, suspended from the ceiling and propped against the old wooden cupboard.

“My children paint,” says Marie-Claude. She speaks slowly, in French, aware that I don’t understand Creole.

“Where are the children now?” I ask. “Are they at school?”

“Non. Les gosses ne vont pas à l'école.Ils y iront peut-être l'année prochaine, quand j'aurai du fric.” The children don’t go to school. Maybe next year, if there is money.

“The little ones are playing football and the others are in the mountains collecting wood for charcoal. My daughter has gone to the market with her father to help him sell the paintings. But these paintings here, I will never sell them. They are my favorites,” she says. “Regardez, ce tableau pourrait s'intituler l'espoir.” This one is about hope.

Every single painting I’ve seen in Haiti is about hope.

On top of the cabinet I notice a small drum and a guitar.

“You see, we make music, too. Just like you. Every night, when the sun goes to sleep, we pray and give thanks for the good things. Like music. And the colors of the dawn. Some people aren’t so lucky—they can’t hear or see what is there for the taking. You know, I listen to your music over the wall of the hotel in the evening. I always try to get closer so I can swim in the sound of the piano.”

“You should come in,” I say.

“It is not my place to do that,” she says with a little laugh. “Je resterai dans mon petit coin et j'y serai très heureuse de vous écouter.” I’ll stay on my side of the wall and be happy to hear what I can. “My cousin is a waiter at the hotel. He tells me it’s a dream come true to have such a job.”

She pours the tea into spotless china cups that are chipped around the edges. With her graceful index finger she points to the faded floral design on the edge of the delicate saucer. “Aren’t these flowers the most beautiful color?” she asks.

“Yes, they’re beautiful. Your home is beautiful,” I say. And I mean it.

“My life is beautiful,” Marie-Claude says. “Where there is life, there is beauty. Where there is beauty, there is life.”

Did your lady frien',
Leave de nest again?
Dat is very sad,
Make me feel so bad,
You can fly away,
In the sky away,
You're more lucky dan me.

This will be my last trip to Haiti. Owner-man pleads with me to return, but I’ve grown tired of feeling useless. I’ve seen too much and learned too little. I’m a piano player. The Haitians don’t need more music. They don’t need more art, or hope, or compassion, or nodding, spoiled young American women pretending to understand the unfairness of life. What they need is a break.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/21/10 03:50 PM

Nice story Robin.

I wonder about the fate of the people you knew in the eighties.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/21/10 10:55 PM

Frank: Here's what I know about the people in the Haitian chapter of Piano Girl: Owner-man sold the hotel in 1992. Mona was murdered in 1991 when she stepped off a bus in NYC, by a crazy man with a knife. I went to her funeral. Gladys moved to the Bahamas. Pressoir continued to work at the hotel. I lost track of Rodley, and the flower pot he gave me crashed to the ground about a year ago and shattered into a million pieces. I pray that Marie-Claude and her family are alive.

Big deep breath. I have started a Haitian thread over on the Piano Forum, and in the interest of keeping our wedding forum from veering too far off topic, I will now post all Haiti-related topics over there:
Haiti-Piano

Onward.
Posted by: sherryk

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/22/10 12:06 PM

I once played a reception where the mother of the bride had forgotten to secure a piano. Altho the venue had a piano, they refused to let us (a trio) use it without paying the $50 rental fee. We had already played the wedding and had been paid to play the reception. We figured since we were already there, we would pool our money and get the piano. Luckily, friends of the mother of the bride got wind of the situation and pooled their own money. Whew!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/22/10 03:33 PM

Thanks, Sherry, for getting us back on track here! I had fallen into a pit of despair and I needed someone like you to come along and drag me out by the armpits. THANK YOU.

It's amazing how often clients forget to secure a piano. It's the first thing I ask when booking a gig at an unfamiliar location. Assuming there is an actual piano on the premises, I have also been known to call the manager of the venue, ask for the technician's name, and then get the technician to tell me what kind of instrument I'll be playing. I have a soft spot in my heart for technicians--they are honest and helpful--pretty much the polar opposite of most of the clipboard ladies. I also have a reliable dealer who will rent a piano to the client. He knows my preferences and sends my first, second, or third choice according to the client's budget (it's almost always the third choice, but every so often I get lucky)

Anyway, I'm glad you didn't have to pay for the church piano. But what a sweet thing that you were willing to do so!

Some places charge for electricity, to get around the keyboard players who don't have to pay a piano fee. One place I have worked in is rumored to charge 100 € just for an outlet.

I returned to work tonight after a three week holiday. I play the cocktail hour for a Michelin 3-star restaurant situated in a castle (obviously this is Europe, not Pittsburgh), which was renovated during the break and re-opened tonight. Much hoopla, and it was nice to be back on the bench after such a long break.
Posted by: sherryk

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/25/10 10:08 AM

Actually, I am new here and didn't realize that the thread had shifted--glad to oblige!

And yes, it IS amazing how many times the clients forget to secure the piano. I actually did call the venue and made sure they HAD a piano. I never thought to ask if the client had actually remembered to PAY for it, ha!

I didn't realize that some places actually charge for electricity for keyboards--unbelievable!

The Michelin 3-star castle sounds fun. Do you eat there too? I'll bet it is great.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/25/10 10:40 AM

Welcome, Sherry!

Yes, I am very fortunate to have this steady castle gig. I've been at Schloss Lerbach for eight years, going on nine.

Schloss Lerbach

I play the steady job on the weekend, and pick up a lot of wedding work as a result, mostly in the same venue. The food is scary it's so good, the piano is wonderful, the acoustics are perfect for the way I play—it's basically a lounge pianist's dream come true. Plus, you know, I get to put on princess dresses every weekend, which most of the time is fun, assuming I haven't indulged in too much of the aforementioned fancy food.

Anyway, I've played in a lot of awful places over the past thirty-five (count 'em) years, so I really appreciate this job. And the weddings there are beautiful and quirky and provide me with copious amounts of material for stories. We're in a wedding season lull right now, but things should be picking up soon.

Please post any of your wedding stories here, they will be appreciated!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/26/10 08:44 PM

Attention firemen: why not plan that wedding at Schloss Lerbach? I would like to see photos of you and your bride coming out the front door after the ceremony, with a fire truck on either side, ladders up, Deutsche flag suspended between them, and firemen throwing rice while they take advantage of the great photo angle.

While we're on the subject, what would be wrong with Valentine's Day (except that it's coming up a little soon now)?

Since there are no human wedding stories (apparently), I am tempted to tell you what the California Newts, taricha torosa, are doing at this season of the year. They are taking walks. One may see them on the backcountry canyon trails, strolling determinedly back to the still waters where they were hatched from jelly-like masses of eggs, during their aquatic phase. No tuxes, no veils, and no Marryin' Sam, but the males' skin does become smoother for the occasion ("the better to tempt you with, my dear", and he develops a tail fin ("the better to swim to you, my dear") and roughened footpads ("the better to clasp you with, my dear").

A lot of them show up at the ponds--- they say it is quite a scene--- but you have to be there at midnight on the night of the full moon. I have taken moonlight hikes, but not in the deep canyons, and not in January.

It may not be as refined or as glossy as Schloss Lerbach, but it suits them.

A word of warning: think twice before enjoying them for a snack or a stunt. Their skin is poisonous, and there have been deaths recorded, including one of a scoutmaster who ate one to show off to his troop. If I remember the story right, it didn't work out too well for the Big Bad Wolf, either; "The better to eat you with, my dear," were his last words.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/27/10 10:57 AM

Why thank you, Jeff. Now I will be dreaming about newts in bridesmaid dresses. I'm guessing the scene at the pond is like a reception, complete with the International Medley, out of tune soprano, Clipboard Lady, and Weeping Mother of the Bride.

We have a lovely pond at the Schloss, currently inhabited by a committee of ducks and two black swans, one of whom ran away (twice) to a swamp behind a BMW dealership. I talk to the swan often, and I think I've convinced him that a car parking lot is no match for a castle garden.

I shall be on the lookout for newts.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/27/10 11:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

It's amazing how often clients forget to secure a piano.


The phrase "secure a piano" reminds me of a story I heard on a cruise on the QE2. My wife and I had gotten a free cruise through her company. It was 25 years ago, back when 1000 passengers was considered a large ship. There was a rather nice 9 foot Steinway in a large lounge. No one seemed to mind if I snuck in and played it after hours, something that would surely be forbidden on any of the 24-hour floating entertainment factories of today.

One of the staff came over and commented on my playing. We got to talking. The piano, although still on wheels, was anchored to the floor with thick steel brackets. He told me of a particularly rough Atlantic crossing during which the ship pitched so much that the piano in that room ripped the screws out of the floor. It became a half-ton projectile and had a long stretch of unobstructed dance floor to build up speed before it destroyed the bar.

Quote:

Some places charge for electricity, to get around the keyboard players who don't have to pay a piano fee. One place I have worked in is rumored to charge 100 € just for an outlet.

I have endured many of the slights that are common at gigs, but I have never been charged for an outlet. I think it would be difficult for me to contain my less civilized impulses in a situation like that. I'd be tempted to show up with a couple of greasy car batteries and a thick set of brightly-colored jumper cables with large alligator clips. Better yet, a Pancho-Villa bandolier of linked D-Cells over each shoulder and an Energizer Bunny on the keyboard thumping out the rhythm.

Greg Guarino
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/27/10 12:11 PM

Greg! You're back. We've missed you. As you can see we've resorted to talking about newts in bridesmaid dresses without you here.

That runaway Steinway story is THE BEST. Maybe it wasn't really an iceberg that sunk the Titanic, but an unsecured concert grand in the middle of an Atlantic storm. Now I know why I never do cruise ship jobs.

Maybe the "charging for the outlet" thing is a European banquet department trick. I've only experienced it over here, not at Lerbach, but at another hotel. Jumper cables are a fine idea, Greg!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/27/10 04:29 PM


This is starting to sound more like a chapter from The Wind in the Willows, or the libretto for one of Tchaikovsky's operatic works. Fanciful, certainly, and very far indeed from the banal chit-chat (and bared tattoos) of a real wedding. I can't think of what would be a newt's idea of reception line chatter. Maybe Robin could ask the swan.

As for the handsome fellow in the picture (the California Newt, discussed above), frankly his outfit beats the stuffing out of some bridesmaids dresses I've seen, and I don't know why we don't see more newt-themed weddings. It was worth wallowing on a muddy creek bank to get the shot.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 01/28/10 12:51 PM

Who need tulle? Who needs ruffles? Who needs another chorus of "The Bride Cuts the Cake?" Not this guy.

You know Clef, this is really giving me ideas for my next children's musical (after I promised my husband I would avoid such undertakings in the future). Since I did write and produce a German musical (Hobo und die Waldfeen) with a trumpet-playing tree, a giant rabbit, and a fairy in a wheelchair) a wedding for newts is not entirely crazy. Although the costuming might be tricky.

Thanks for risking life and limb to snag this photo. I hope you're not expecting me to sneak up on the black swans.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/02/10 01:12 PM

"Friend of the newt or friend of the swan?"

"Newt."

"Should have known. The shiny coat was a dead give away."

"You?"

"Swan."

"But you're white! The other swans are black."

"Adopted."

"Oh. Nice."

"Care for a real drink? I can't take any more of this swamp swill. I think the swans must have imported it from the BMW parking lot pond."

"Yeah, sure. I could use something grassy. On the rocks."

"Hey, check out the Mother of the Newt. She looks pissed."

"Can you blame her? I mean why couldn't Nellie marry one of the nice neighborhood newts? Did she have to run off with a black swan of all things? I know it's not easy being green, but still—"

"Oh look, the band is getting ready to start. What are they called?"

"The Five Duckies."

"But there are only three of them. What happened?"

"Weasel. Happened last night. Got the bass player and the singer."

"Get out of town."

"No, really. A tragedy. No one has volunteered to play the bass. But the swan's sister has volunteered to sing."

"The one in the feather boa and the leopard sandals?"

"Yep, that's her."

"Oh, great. She couldn't swing if she was hangin' from a vine."

"Yeah, but you know, nice beak."

"Who's on keyboards? He's gonna have to kill himself to make up for the dead duckies. Especially the bass player. Hope he's got a strong left hand."

"Not to worry, that's Danny D. He's been with the Five Duckies for months, and he's got a killin' repertoire. You name it, he'll play it. In any key."

"How do you know this stuff? You an agent or something?"

"I dabble. Used to have an event planning office over at the aviary. You wanna grab that drink and head over to the bandstand? Looks like the lizard dance is just about to start."
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/02/10 01:21 PM

Cute, of course if someone visits our piano forums for the first time and this is the first post they read ... crazy
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/02/10 08:52 PM

If you think that was 'out there,' wait til you hear what's on those trays of hors-d'oeuvres.

I should only hope a first-time visitor was so lucky as to come to this thread first. In the long run, the wedding may outlast the piano...
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 03:02 AM

Okay, I apologize for the newt-swan wedding dialog. Sometimes I'm a slave to whimsy. It's Clef's fault. That newt photo was the greatest.

Back on topic, I got an email yesterday from a pianist who asked how to advertise for wedding gigs. Good question.

Here's what I do: I'm lucky to have a steady gig at a place (the castle) that is an enormously popular wedding venue. The banquet department often interviews potential wedding clients on Friday and Saturday evenings (when I'm playing) because the hotel is at its best (music, happy people, candlelight, flowers) during those hours. I keep a stack of business cards on the piano, along with my CDs. I don't have a fancy brochure, just a classy business card that says Robin Meloy Goldsby, Solo Piano, with my contact info. You'd be surprised how much work I get just from those little cards. Anyway, if the banquet department director indicates to me that the client is interested in piano music, I present the client with a comp CD. This works really well.

(NOTE: This is one of the ways you can make money with a nicely packaged recording---give away the CD and book a big bucks job as a result. i know, it's expensive and time consuming to produce a high quality recording, but it pays for itself with just a few of these wedding jobs. Just make sure the recording is the same type of music you would be playing on the gig.)

In general, I would suggest that you ALWAYS keep business cards on the piano, no matter where you're playing.

I know some people advertise in bridal magazines or go to those bridal fair events. Greg does the dreaded agent showcases with his band. But what about the rest of you? Anyone have any good ideas for getting wedding work?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 10:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg does the dreaded agent showcases with his band.


Not any more, thankfully. That was many years ago, with a dedicated wedding band.

It can be difficult to start from scratch. The best way to get work reminds me of an old Steve Martin routine about a foolproof money making scheme: "Step one, get a million dollars. Step two...". In other words, work tends to breed work, so make sure to do the very best job you can whenever you play in public. Nothing will convince a potential client that you can do the job better than seeing you do the job.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 01:49 PM

one of my favorite threads EVER

I have a wedding upcoming and the bride hasn't a clue what she wants as far as music.. she told me to pick what I wanted but requested the Happy Husband by Beethoven. (I sang Ode to Joy for her over the phone, and she said 'Yeah.. that's it').

(i'm thinking the period shouldn't come at the end of the previous sentence but within the paranthesis.)
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 01:53 PM

Don't you just love humming Beethoven over the phone?

Greg, I'm happy that period of your life is OVER. I agree 100% with what you said about being in top form on every job. Having a gig and playing it well is probably a musician's best marketing tool.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 03:43 PM

The Five Duckies (Minus Two) book most of their gigs through their Web ("It's all in the toes, man") Site. They even have an audio demo.

http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/lyrics/fiveducks.htm

And yes, there is no shortage of weasels in the Musical Forest.

There is, by the way, a real act called the Duhks that's pretty interesting. I hear them on satellite radio in the car from time to time.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/03/10 11:48 PM

Ha! Those Duckies get around.

And I agree about the weasels.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/04/10 09:45 AM

"Anyway, if the banquet department director indicates to me that the client is interested in piano music, I present the client with a comp CD. This works really well."

Dear Frau Goldsby:

Thanks so much for the lovely wedding music CD. We'll have our DJ play it before the ceremony; it will remind us of your kind best wishes for our married life. Sorry to deprive a working musician of the gig, but we decided to spend the money we saved on nicer favors for our guests. My husband and I hope they remember you, too, when they get married.

(The Future) Frau Wilma Freuhauf-Weasel

*****************************************************

Dear Freulein Freuhauf,

I'm glad you liked my wedding music demo CD. Please, think nothing of blowing off the actual performance--- it is my pleasure to provide the music for this special occasion (at the "other castle," so the Banquet Director told me). All I ask is that you provide me with a copy of the videotape of the ceremony, so I can forward it to the syndicated television program, "Weddings Gone Wrong."

The demo version of my wedding music CD features an advanced copy-protection system which causes certain sound-effects to occur when the disc detects a wedding chapel. I hope your guests and your in-laws enjoy them as much as I have. Indeed, I hope your friends do remember it; I can all but guarantee that they will.

Sincerely,

etc.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/04/10 11:14 AM

This is marvelously evil, Jeff. Would that CD technology would allow such mischief. I can see the title of the video...

"Die Braut mit die Flote", or perhaps
"The Flatulent Fraulein"
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/05/10 10:53 AM

Dear Frau Goldsby,

"Pfennig Wise and Euro Foolish," was the least-unprintable thing my mother-in-law had to say about the shambles of a wedding. I have never seen a living human face that shade of purple, and can only thank God she wasn't wearing a blood pressure cuff, for it might have struck someone dead when it blew.

She accused the hapless DJ, using asperities I blushed to hear in the presence of a man of the cloth--- for of course, she was seated in the front row, very close both to the speakers and the preacher. Luck favored us somewhat, for had she gotten her hands around his neck, the occasion would have been marked with mutilation and murder, and the press coverage was lurid enough as it was.

Wedding Processional and Trumpet Voluntary--- So it was labeled in plain German, right on the face of the CD, and so the headline read--- but she claims she will never live down the humiliation she suffered in front of my other in-laws, who hee-hawed themselves as purple as she was.

At least some of the guests enjoyed it; they laughed like hyenas, pointing knowingly at the peeling paint in the chapel and the chandeliers with half the crystals blown off. But, once the plaster started coming down, they took off at a run. They looked like so many sacks of flour, running for their life from the baker's oven.

The vows were hastily-completed in the vestry. "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" "I do." "Are you SURE?" One could barely hear, even at a shout, for it was impossible to shut off the CD. Indeed, it blared on until a fuse blew.

I have honored your request for a video, as best I am able... though it didn't really come out, and what there is records a mere fraction of the ceremony. Only one camera remained working long enough to record the arrival of the fire department and the bomb squad. At least, there's no need to imagine how that went down with the in-laws--- there's some distortion on the sound track, but the video rendering is clear enough.


Sincerely,

Frau Freuhauf-Weasel
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/05/10 03:51 PM

Liebe Frau Freuhauf-Weasel,

Thank you very much for sending me the video of your wedding. What wonderful visuals to accompany the CD I gave you! I particularly enjoyed the four fleeing bridesmaids, the ring bearer who wet his pants, and the older woman (I believe someone called her Aunt Louella) writhing on the floor with her hands clamped firmly over her ears. I thought the fire department made an excellent entrance into the church—what helmets, what boots!——one had the feeling they had been choreographed. The bomb squad paled in comparison, perhaps someone might suggest a little bling for their costumes, which are, dare I say it, bordering on dull. If you're going to work a wedding, you might as well dress for the occasion.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the 90 minute loop of Tie a Yellow Ribbon. It was difficult to find an elementary school steel-drum band capable of playing it in the key of B major. It was equally challenging to find a young piccolo player to play the piece simultaneously in Bb. But I think you'll agree that Frederika von Klingball has a real future in the concert bands of tomorrow, even though she does play a bit sharp. And those steel drum players? Forget Calypso! Had you not fallen into a dead faint and been carried from the church on a stretcher, you might have truly enjoyed their version of Für Elise, accompanied by Frau Dick's Bell Choir , three oboes, and the Flensburg Bagpipe Consort.

I'm sorry to hear that the DJ was arrested, but, you know, it serves him right. Whoops, I guess that was petty.

Please feel free to contact me for any of your future celebrations. I will be happy to play for the christening of your first child, your wedding anniversary, or your mother-in-law's funeral.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

RMG
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/07/10 03:42 PM

"There was a rather nice 9 foot Steinway in a large lounge. ... a particularly rough Atlantic crossing ...ripped the screws out of the floor...a half-ton projectile ...a long stretch of unobstructed dance floor to build up speed before it destroyed the bar."

Not that I can be gleeful about that Steinway tearing loose in rough seas and clearing a path through the ballroom--- no doubt it was very unfortunate. I can just picture Greg, using his most innocent and easy-going manner to get that cruise line steward to open up and become confidential. No doubt, he primed the guy up with a few good stories of his own and, no doubt, these stewards could tell plenty, if they wanted to.

An animated feature. High seas with hurricane-driven whitecaps are visible through the portholes. Dancers in evening dress are doing the best they can, with the deck tilting up 65 degrees this way and then 65 degrees the other way. It is no easy task, and not all succeed: some are skating along on their butts like bumper cars. There is an ominous creaking on the sound track, and we see a close-up of the massive piano, it's carved legs straining against in its flimsy brackets, until, with a loud CRACK!!! it charges off on the glassy dance floor.

The ballroom patrons are jumping for their lives; most escaping, barely though it might be. The pianist, playing 'air piano;' the chanteuse clinging desperately to the music rack (I picture a Ginger look-alike in a sequined sheath too snug to allow for a life-saving leap); the bitter end of the mike cable doing a snappy 'crack-the-whip,' to the dismay of sluggish ballroom dancers. The deck tilts: the piano charges north; it tilts back, the piano charges south. A lesser tilt; the dancers wipe their brows with silk handkerchiefs, starting to look relieved. Too soon! With the mightiest tilt of all, the piano turns, pauses, paws the floor like an angry brahma bull, then charges fast and furious toward the service bar!

Drinkers, wetting their whistles, are not so easy to dislodge from the bar, however. Their comfortably-upholstered leather barstools are more securely affixed to the deck than the piano, and one (they suppose) can always cling to the plank. Thus the barreling behemoth takes them at a disadvantage. It crashes, it smashes, it plunges. We see a martini glass, poised unsupported in the air in mid-tipple. The hole, smashed through the bulkhead, just the shape of the piano and the martini drinker (and Ginger), a hand reaching through at the last second to grab a bottle of Beefeater from the top shelf, before the bottles realize the shelf has gone south; there is a second, smaller crash as they hit the deck.

Cut to the bottom of the Atlantic, as the piano settles to rest, disturbing a cloud of sediment. The martini drinker shrugs gamely, and pours a round for fifteen men on a dead man's chest, the piano bar customers at Davey Jones' Locker. One turns to Ginger and says, "Aarrgh--- do you know "Love Shack?" But the salt water has taken the starch out of Ginger's hairspray, and she is in no mood to grant requests. "'Misty,' in 'D,'" she barks--- but, it seems, no one plays. She grabs the bottle and knocks back a good belt. "Glub, glub," she says as the sediment cloud enfolds the scene.

"The End"

...and in tiny print: "No actual bar drinkers were harmed in the filming of this scene."
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/08/10 02:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Liebe Frau Freuhauf-Weasel,


I'm so glad you enjoyed the 90 minute loop of Tie a Yellow Ribbon.


Love it!

And so appropriate to include that offensive song, the story of a recidivist criminal and his enabling codependent spouse, which assaults the ears of radio listeners apparently worldwide.

(though I gotta admit Barnacle Bill is even more offensive, but a really catchy tune)
Posted by: Bachrocks

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/09/10 11:12 PM

Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I'm reminded of Jimmy Ciongoli, a pianist friend of my mine, who—when asked to play a Black Sabbath piece on the piano—looked the customer right in the eye and said, "What the fuck's wrong with you?"


Best. Response. From. Pianist. Ever.

For my own wedding, my little brother (age 11 and already a complete smartass) suggested that, instead of the Wedding March, it would be much more appropriate for me to come down the aisle to the strains of the Imperial March from Star Wars (Darth Vader's theme). My darling groom thought this was a spectacular idea. I can't believe the man has survived for the past 27 years. I was no bride-zilla, but this I did veto.



My college friends' suggestion for a processional: "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you!"
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 12:30 AM

Probably better than "Was I Drunk, Was He Handsome, and Did My Ma Give Me Hell!"

A friend of mine has an organ version of the "Vatican Rag" for funerals.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 11:16 AM

We've come a long way from ruffles and organza, that's all I can say. I keep hearing Steely Dan.

So Robin, how about telling us about the big Valentine's Day 'do' at the castle?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 11:45 AM

The pianist at my wedding played "Prisoner of Love." The church was full of well-meaning Southern-Baptist women wearing variations on the pink-lace theme, and I doubt that many of them caught the musical reference—they were too busy falling into a collective dead faint at the sight of my mini-dress—but my husband and I certainly appreciated it.

Alas, bookings are down this year at the annual Valentine's Day castle gala. VD falls right in the middle of Karneval weekend, which means most Germans in this area are out guzzling copious amounts of alcohol and parading around town in clown costumes. The castle, a bastion of good taste, has an anti-Karneval policy, so I doubt there will be any VD guests wearing red noses and fright wigs, but you never know. One can only hope, at least for the sake of this forum.

Report forthcoming, complete with menu and wardrobe descriptions. I am also playing a VD lunch on the 14th, so it should be a busy day. For lovers and clowns, alike.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 11:59 AM

"VD" is an unfortunate abbreviation!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 01:36 PM

'Tis.
Posted by: Jake Jackson

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 02:44 PM

Robin--What piano are you playing on the "Songs from the Castle" cd?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 05:01 PM

Carnaval: Conflict or Camouflage? It so happens that the year I lived in New Orleans, Mardi Gras Day fell on Valentine's Day. Two excuses for unbridled excess; I don't think I need to paint a picture for anyone. Throw in the SuperBowl and publish some recipes for hangover cures in a box on the front page, above the fold.

I was going to hold back this little sidelight on weasels in the wedding chapel, but it would seem that enough is never enough around here.



Wilma Weasel. "She's the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong," as Mae West said--- and who would know better? Can you picture dictionary publishers in a bidding war--- her case would be perfect for tough-to-define terms like 'False Economy' (see: 'Cheap and Horrible'); 'Mockery;' 'Shambles;' ‘Piracy;’ 'Intellectual Property' (see: 'Theft'); 'Mother-In-Law Trouble;' ‘Swearing’ (see: ‘Stevedore,’ ‘Blue Streak,’ ‘Front Lawn Cuss-Fight’); and 'Apoplexy' (see: 'Gibbering Fit').

Her special day, now a cautionary tale set to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas:

'Four bridesmaids fleeing,
‘And the bomb squad in a pear tree!'

What honeymoon hideaway on this wide earth, could be left? No place with gambling, please: bookies are laying odds that The Twelve Days of Wilma has a chance of edging out Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, some even say coming up on The Ballad of Gilligan's Island. Misdeeds set to music: somehow, none of us can say, “No.”

Some think Pop Goes the Weasel has a chance on TV. The Jack-in-the-Box pops up: it bears an almost-familiar face (with an extra-long weasely snout), wearing the CD as a glittering, rainbow ruff. The face is as purple as Barney-the-Dinosaur; she is trying vainly to pry the pirated performance from around her neck, as if its filmy plastic were a millstone dragging her to the bottom of the duckpond.

‘Seven swans a-swimming,
‘Six geese a-laying…’

A large toy cartel (name redacted) is said to be interested if wary--- it’s different than ordinary Jacks, they could avoid a hefty royalty for using the real Barney, and “Pop” has been in the public domain for three hundred years now. Kids wouldn’t care, parents might enjoy a chuckle, and that snout! Then again, mothers-in-law might be nervous. The mass-marketing wizards can’t quite tell which way the wind is blowing.

As for the wayward Weasels, where could they flee but to a land of daily costume balls and masked parades? Mardi Gras in Rio--- where else. Carnaval just goes on and on, and there’s great latitude for lapses. But even in permissive Brazil, papers and programs are sure to feature the wacky Weasel wedding--- there’s no safe haven this side of drastic cosmetic surgery and a new identity. We might forgive and forget--- then.

But let’s not accuse ourselves when the facts clearly point to the genes. This misadventure’s most glaring feature, a face that goes purple with either rage or mirth--- a double-recessive, back-bred into the line for many generations. It was only a matter of time before Wilma Weasel got crossways with her mother-in-law. It was no doing of ours.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/11/10 11:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
'Tis.

That's the whole last chapter of another much-celebrated memoir, written by my Tenth Grade English teacher. He had the sharpest wit and sharpest tongue of any teacher I can remember, but only took up writing late in life. Maybe there's a lesson in that.

The last Piano World newsletter mentioned Let's Talk Weddings, "Great stories...". As I write this the view count is one shy of 26,000, but I've found a much more shocking statistic: 63 of the 342 posts in this thread are mine. I would never have guessed that many. Moreover, the part of me that still dimly remembers my High School years is absolutely flabbergasted at the sheer weight of verbiage that I've managed to produce, without even the threat of a poor grade (and subsequent parental wrath) to spur me on. I'll bet it would amount to fifty typed pages, at least. If any professor of mine had given me such a task, even over the course of a whole school year, I'd surely have felt like I was drowning.

I never liked writing in school, but thirty years removed from my last classes I can be found spending some of my less than abundant spare time trying to wring a bit of semi-pro comedy out of my semi-pro musical life.

For fun.

Maybe the lesson is not to be too certain of what you can and can't do. Sometimes, with a little change in perspective, you may find you can learn something new.

A life playing and learning music provides repeated examples of that. Our band is in a drought this Winter. While that used to be a regular part of the yearly cycle, it hasn't happened for quite a while.

A combination of that "drought", plus a couple of gigs I "subbed" out to another player and some bad weather has led to the longest break between gigs that I can remember: over a month. My peripheral gig skills definitely deteriorated a bit. My gear felt a lot heavier, and it took me longer to assemble my Magic Bag of Tricks into a working keyboard rig than usual.

But my playing? I will need to summon all the immodesty I can muster here; I played great. And different. It was effortless, like I was watching someone else; someone a little more fluid and tasteful too. I didn't suddenly find better chops, mind you, but they didn't deteriorate either. That's interesting, considering that the layoff, even at home, had been near-total.

So what explains this phenomenon? Is it like "sleeping on" a problem? Was my unconscious toiling away while I wasn't looking, working on new permutations to try when the opportunity arose? Or is it more like pressing the "reboot" button; forgetting just enough to skip out of overworn grooves that had deepened into ruts.

I've got a couple of gigs this weekend. Who knows, maybe the effect will disappear as mysteriously as it appeared. But it has reminded me that there are some musical avenues that I've let lay fallow as the band (and my life) has gotten busier. Maybe I'll finally set up the home recording nook I intended when we bought the house - eleven years ago.

Maybe I'll even try my hand at writing something longer than a Forum post someday. I seem to have mostly forgotten a distaste for writing that I used to think was innate and permanent. What other failings could be "unlearned", I wonder?

Owing to my lack of a miserable childhood and modest writing skills, there'll be no Angela's Ashes coming to life on my hard drive. But in 46 years of playing music I have only intermittently felt stung by the idea that I'll never be a good as, well, lots of people.

Maybe if Mr. McCourt (Frank to the literary world) were still around he'd ... well, honestly, most likely scowl through most of what I might produce. "The petty annoyances of a too-easy life", he might think. But perhaps, just perhaps, here and there he'd have to suppress a chuckle.

I'd like that.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/12/10 12:49 AM

Hi Jake,

The piano on Songs from the Castle is a 1964 Steinway B, recorded by Reinhart Kobialka at Topaz Audio Studios in Cologne Germany. It's a great piano, but much of the credit for the sound goes to Reinhard, his artistic miking, and his willingness to hang in there with me until we got the sound I wanted.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/12/10 01:39 AM

Mr. McCourt has been a hero of mine for a long tome. How lucky you were to have him as a teacher, Greg! And yes, I swiped that "'Tis" from him. I still think that was the most brilliant ending to a book I've ever encountered. I wept for days.

A musician's life is never easy, and I'll bet even Mr. McCourt would agree with that. I was 47 when I wrote my first book. It took me that long to figure out I had something worth saying. I still struggle with impostor syndrome, both as a musician and a writer, but you know, I think most truly creative people relate to this. The learning never ends. The folks who claim to know everything are missing the joys of an artistic life.

I had to laugh when you mentioned the "return to the gig" syndrome. For me, this is one of the rewards of vacation—returning to the piano and listening to myself with virgin ears. You described it just right: the effortlessness, the sense of being outside of one's self. Cool, isn't it? For me, that feeling does fade away, sometimes even after the first set. But what a wonderful way to go back to work. It always reminds me why I started playing in the first place. And look at you! One brief hiatus from the piano and now you're fired up and ready to dig in again. How great is that?

As far as writing goes, I am no expert, but I can assure you that if you put your behind in the chair every single day and slug it out with the computer your efforts will be met, eventually, with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

And speaking of writing, Clef obviously has a future working for the merchandising department of whichever film studio chooses to release the TWELVE DAYS OF WILMA. (Any takers out there?) I'm hoping Tim Burton might be willing to direct. It would be a perfect Xmas release, just in time to sell those darling Wilma dolls.

Thanks, Frank, for plugging our wedding thread. And thanks for giving us the space to express ourselves this way. Music is serious business. A sense of humor helps.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/12/10 09:24 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
'Tis.

That's the whole last chapter of another much-celebrated memoir, written by my Tenth Grade English teacher. He had the sharpest wit and sharpest tongue of any teacher I can remember, but only took up writing late in life. Maybe there's a lesson in that.


That is SO COOL that you had McCourt as your English teacher. I made sure my daughter read both his books, so that whenever she complains about her life she knows what REAL hardship is.

Greg, I think that if there is a heaven, McCourt is looking down on PW and reading your 63 posts on this thread and nodding his head with satisfaction of a job well done. thumb
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/12/10 11:27 PM

just played a wedding..

the groom was crying and the bride was tipsy.. and gave a great oh yeah! when they were pronounced man and wife. she had a slug of vodka before walking down the aisle, a slug before cutting the cake, and and a slug before the first dance. she was awesome.

she insisted on paying me twice and the groom agreed. It was difficult preamble.. i had to guess that Beethoven's Happy Husband was the Ode to Joy.

oh yeah.

I enjoy your words Greg Guarino!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/13/10 12:13 PM

When grooms cry, they usually have a pretty good reason. Getting paid twice has its upside, though; I guess the Great Wedding Roulette Wheel is bound to turn up your winning number sometime or other. If it lands on double-zero too often for circumspection, the authorities would have to intervene. I wonder if they're as strict in Monte Carlo as they are in Las Vegas? Even with all the vigilance in the world, too often the withering breath of scandal is smelt... yet, the wheel still turns; the gaming floors are still crowded; the casinos are still built without clocks or any intrusion of natural light.

Atlantic City, well, that's another story.

I am very glad to see Greg, Apple, Tim, Robin, and Jake, Bachrocks, Monica and BDB back on the page. "...thanks for giving us the space to express ourselves this way..." says it pretty well. Since I personally don't have much of a gift for narrative, I have to get by with caricature, misadventure, gross distortion, and the odd throwaway phrase; so, seeing the talents the other writers share is a special pleasure. I don't know how she does it, but I can see that without Robin, it wouldn't happen--- anyway, it doesn't happen.

My partner has enough precious stones. I plan to observe Valentine's Day with an ice cream cake. Let others complain that it eats away the teeth, pads the waistline, melts, and causes fights to break out among the dogs. San Jose is a bedroom community, and the suburbs offer so little in the way of excitement that these little adventures will have to serve.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/14/10 04:33 AM

Ice cream cake sounds pretty good to me, Clef. Just don't get in the middle of any dog fights.

I checked out the salon for the VD dinner last night and it looks beautiful. Twelve tables for two placed strategically around the grand piano. Enough candles to re-enact the Joan of Arc circle of flames scene from Piano Girl. Roses, roses everywhere. It looks like this could be a perfect evening, which means that something will most likely go wrong.

I'll be in Berlin for a few days, but I'll check back in on Wednesday with a report.

Hey, I just booked a wedding gig in Dresden. Haven't been there yet, so I'm excited.

Wishing all of you a romantic day with your partners!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/14/10 12:07 PM

a bit of an update on my recent bride. I went to the reception for a while (being a friend of the family) but left fairly early. Apparently the bride went bazoonkers and yelled at everyone later on in the evening.. going so far as to take off her wedding dress.. egads... this was at 3 AM.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/15/10 11:59 AM

So few receptions feature mud-wrestling anymore.

Just to be clear, this is the same wedding with the weeping groom...? The organist who won the Daily Double?

This sounds like one wedding that won't blur into all the others. I hope you'll favor us with a few more details, Apple. Don't worry about the family--- what are the chances they would ever read this thread? Anyway, how could it be any worse than being there.

And here I was, about to remark that candlelight is the most flattering illumination. Wrinkles, double chins, even lipstick on the teeth--- but mud-wrestling is beyond even the magic powers of candlelight and roses. And if the bride starts whupping someone with one of those bouquets...
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/15/10 12:15 PM

ok..

Joe called me up and said.. Mary... I have a problem. I promised my dad on his death bed that I would use some of the family money to see that Sharon got married.

Sharon is a wild one.. she has 2 kids and a now adoring husband. The whole family is like one big bar. I haven't seen people drink like that since the early 80s. There were bottles of vodka on every table and the ladies would pour themselves a glass and the men would take slugs (as well as Sharon).

When I called Sharon on the phone she said she liked Beethoven and just wanted to get married. She didn't give a dam what the music sounded like. Joe, on the phone pleaded for some tradition and beauty.

I came up with the old standards and got my sister to sing. (A great singer but another 'difficult' one.) I was playing the second intro music and she's telling me louder LOUDER LLOOUUDDEERR!!! finally i told her shut up.

I had arranged that at 5 minutes till, I'd play the Canon in D.. I played for 5 minutes and no one came out of the door. The candle lighters, bridesmaids, flowergirl and ring bearer were to process in with this music.

So I stood up, went to the organ and started playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. They came out after a while. Finally, the priest got impatient went out and loudly said EVERYBODY STAND and I started the Bridal March.

Things went ok except for the crying groom and mis-said vows.

(the priest said "Are you willing to have children? and Sharon said "Hell NO.. I got my tubes tied.. I'm done".)

sigh..

I am glad I left the reception early. I heard all about it Saturday evening while visiting with Joe and his wife who arranged the wedding. Apparently Sharon told them to take the money and shove it..

that's what alchohol does ...

ick
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/15/10 03:20 PM

Well... grandkids (check), deathbed promise kept (check), happy couple (check) now married (double-check), musician well-paid (also double-check). I see a lot on the plus side of the wedding register; hell of a party, too. What they saved on the ceremony, they probably paid out on damages to the parish hall, but remember, it is Carnaval so, "Oh, well."

The bride has clearly done her duty as far as the priest is concerned, so I would allow an up-check in that column as well.

Since the dust-up happened after midnight, it can't properly be blamed on the wedding; they happened on different days.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/15/10 03:35 PM

good point Jeff!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/18/10 11:53 AM

Good heavens, I leave town for a few days and all hell breaks loose. Apple, you get the award for best wedding gig of the year. I know, it's only February, but I don't think we're going to top this. And you were paid twice? A MIRACLE.

Valentine's Day Dinner was dreamy. 24 people, 12 tables of two surrounding the grand, candles and roses and nice people listening and being romantic, and, well, it gave me faith in the traditions of love. Musically, it was intense. My gigs almost always fall into one of two categories. Either they are background music gigs, or concerts. This job was right smack in the middle. I played four hours, standard length for a background gig, but the vibe was a lot more like a concert. I played two sets of covers and two sets of originals, all of it borderline lovey-dovey to match the occasion.

If anyone wants to know the set list, let me know. I never plan what I'm going to play, but after each set on the 14th I wrote down what I had played, in case anyone here is curious. The VD repertoire is pretty much like the wedding repertoire.

So, that was the dinner. Bit of pressure, but I was happy and buzzed when it was over. The Taittenger Rosé may have helped.

Now I shall backtrack to the VD lunch, which I played at the castle earlier on the same day. Not as upscale as the dinner, but still pretty high-fallutin': Two hour gig, accompanying a champagne three-course lunch in the French Brasserie.

Lots of middle-aged couples—women with puffy hair, red sweaters, and high expectations of getting a piece of jewelry, accompanied by men with thinning hair, red ties, and a craving for beer instead of champagne. Several senior couples topped off the crowd, including Frau and Herr Severins, who are in their nineties and still manage to show up at the castle once a month. For them, each day really is Valentine's Day.

We were cruising along at a nice champagne lunch tempo when the manager informed me that one of our regulars, a world famous porn queen named Buttercup Blondeau, would be joining us at any moment.
Now, Buttercup is one of those porn people who is on the radar of most German citizens—she has broken out of the porn box and appears regularly on talk shows as a celebrity guest.

"On Valentine's Day?" I said. I knew something was intrinsically wrong with this, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

"She's coming with a date," said the manager. "She's in love. Look! He has a rose waiting for her on the table." I glanced over at the one empty table in the restaurant.

"Here she is now," said the manager.

Well. Buttercup Blondeau the porn queen, giving Ginger a run for her money, posed in the restaurant's entrance like she was waiting for a team of waiters to carry her to he table. Had she stood there a second longer, I'm sure they would have complied. Ms. Blondeau, who has the most fabulous body imaginable—a waist the circumference of a coffee cup— was poured into a black cashmere mini dress cut down to here and up to there. Legs to the sky, aided by a pair of six inch heels. She had porn queen bed-head platinum hair, but you know, you can't get every detail right.

I held my breath as she entered the room, realizing that I was playing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" not necessarily the most appropriate choice for a porn queen.

Aside from the piano music, the room shifted into silent mode. Really, I couldn't even hear a fork clink on a plate. The men were staring at Buttercup. The women were glaring at the men. Buttercup's date scurried behind her and, right before she slid into her seat, he kissed her—I mean REALLY kissed her—while grabbing her behind. It was at this point, playing in the key of D, I hit an F natural instead of an F#.

The room began to breathe again, but I could sense people looking sideways at Buttercup and her date. Heck, I was even doing it myself. You can't NOT look. Later, the happy couple got up to visit the dessert buffet just as Herr and Frau Severins were leaving.

"Auf Wiedersehen Frau Goldsby!" said Frau Severins to me as she passed the piano. "Interesting crowd you have here today."

I turned to answer her but she was bustling to catch up with her husband, who was stopped dead in his tracks, staring at Buttercup and the Date, who were making out like teenagers right in front of the creme brulée section of the dessert table. The Date was groping Buttercup's bottom (I mean, really, who could blame him) and she was leaning over, dangerously close to spilling unnamed body parts into the chocolate mousse. Not that I've ever watched a porn film—who, me?— but I could well imagine that the scene I was witnessing looked a lot like something straight out of Buttercup Takes Berlin.

Poor Herr Severins had to be dragged out of the Brasserie by his wife. Buttercup and the Date calmed down and went back to their table. I played "Fly Me to the Moon" and called it a day.

*********

Note: Buttercup is not her real name. But trust me, her real name is just as creative.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/18/10 06:50 PM

That was absolutely brilliant Robin (we all know what F stands for.)

Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/18/10 11:44 PM

Originally Posted By: apple*
Apparently the bride went bazoonkers and yelled at everyone later on in the evening.. going so far as to take off her wedding dress...

Another illusion bites the dust.

Although we are all musicians, we play in different circumstances. I will confess to having had a certain smugness regarding experience with the less-constrained forms of human behavior. Surely we who play for people to dance mix with more "interesting" clientele; the sharp corners of their inhibitions rounded smooth by the music, the occasion and the open bar.

Apparently not, at least not always. Some live by the adage that the early bird eats the worm; starting into the tequila at the Church to be safe. Took the dress off while cursing out the relatives? I agree there has to be some sort of prize for that. I think you get a reality show.

As for Fraulein Blondeau and the F natural (or shall we call it a "minor" flub? har har), that reminds me of a story. Is anyone surprised?

We were playing in a bar. This place was to have a short life, just a couple of summer months. The air conditioning, or lack thereof, was not the only problem, but I can remember people going outside between sets for the relief of the 90 degree air in the parking lot. We played there two or three times, each time after being reassured that the kinks were being worked out.

Our drummer has had more playing experience than any of the rest of us and is pretty unflappable as a result. He arrived at one gig in a police car (with his drums) after his car caught fire on the highway, and unloaded his car while it was being hooked up to a tow-truck at another. He reacted to both of those situations with considerably more aplomb than I would have.

But...

The subtleties of minor and Major thirds are lost on most drummers. F? F#? H? Sure. "Got 'em all on this drum right here". But there are worse things than an errant note. Rhythm has a visceral connection to our inner selves. The very planet wobbles in its orbit when the beat goes awry.

The bar was one storefront wide, but quite long. The door was at one end, we played at the other. Behind us was the corridor to the rest rooms.

She walked in the front door and headed directly back to the ladies' room. Several of us noticed within her first couple of steps. I don't remember what she was wearing, something suitable to the torrid weather, I'm sure. I find myself remembering it in slow motion, with a breeze in her hair. The breeze, at least, is surely embellishment, the A/C was set to "wheeze".

Most of us had time to gradually absorb the effect of this impressively-constructed woman as she approached. Our drummer, owing to playing seated, caught sight of her all at once, as she emerged past the bar crowd.

There were about two and a third extra beats in that measure. This was followed by a number of the sensitive and tactful comments that musicians are known for, in the drummers direction.

The drummer snapped out of his trance just as she disappeared behind us, but not without some hyperextension of his neck and eyelid muscles.

She left as quickly as she had entered, having only come in for the pit stop. It's just as well. We'd have had to play Greek rhythms for the rest of the night otherwise.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/19/10 01:11 AM

For Valentine's Day, I took my wife to Bimbo's 365 Club for the SEVA Foundation Valentine's Day Party. Bimbo's (it means "little boy," short for bambino, incidentally) is perhaps the most elegant night club in San Francisco, and one of my regular clients. I have tuned there for almost 30 years now. Mr. Bimbo and his wife were alive when I first went there, and now their grandsons are running it. Since it was a benefit, I paid for our tickets. We got really good seats, purely by luck this time, although sometimes they save good seats for us.

Couples were the theme: Wavy Gravy was the emcee, and his wife was on stage with him. Tuck and Patty led the show off. I was just in awe of his guitar playing, and she is a fine singer. Then came David Grisman and his wife. Steve Earle performed solo, because his wife is quite pregnant, but was eventually joined by Joan Baez as a substitute. Joan Baez brought her mother who is 97 years old!

Coming over, the BART train had been packed with people going to the giant pillow fight at Justin Herman Plaza. We managed to get a streetcar back to the Embarcadero BART station just before it closed, and walked past piles of pillow guts. So, all in all, it was nothing quite so exotic as these weddings, just a normal San Francisco evening.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/20/10 12:39 AM

Turn the beat around! Greg, I wonder if the drummer in question knew what he had done. Probably not. He most likely blamed the other musicians. He's probably telling the same story (from his point of view) over on some drummer's forum.

My steady Friday-Saturday gig allows me the opportunity to people-watch like crazy. It's my favorite part of the gig, like being in the front row of some high-rent European fashion show/circus. Usually I stay cool and play smoothly through bizarre customer wardrobe choices, celebrity sightings, or medical emergencies, but every so often (like in the case of Buttercup Blondeau) my fingers disconnect from my brain and go on their own happy way. It happens.

Hey BDB, sounds like you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. The concert must have been marvelous, but really, I'd like to see that giant pillow fight. I do hope Joan Baez's mother stayed on the sidelines for that part of the evening. Question: BDB, the photo for my Piano Girl cover (hardcover version) was shot by Rich Leeds in San Francisco at a piano bar called Martuni's (or something like that). Are you the technician there?

Just booked a wedding in March. Word of advice to the brides of tomorrow: Book your wedding in the off season. Sure, you might have to deal with freezing rain and mud in the garden, but you can plan everything inside, and you'll get a lot more special attention, especially from musicians who will be ever so grateful for the work.

Happy Weekend, everyone!
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/20/10 06:01 PM

No, I had never heard of Martuni's. Looking it up, it looks like it is at Valencia and Market. I do not spend a lot of time at bars. I have tuned at Tosca's, though. (Lousy piano, and the owner swore she would never change a thing there.)
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/21/10 02:22 AM

Today was at least as great as Valentine's Day. Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester at our wonderfully restored Art Deco Paramount Theater. I told him before the show how great it was to have him back, and that I was glad to have my wife come with me this time. He said he was happy to have such an important person in the audience.

The Paramount used to be, let us say, less than ideal acoustically, but the announcer for the show, the Consul General of Germany, said that Meyer Sound had designed the new system there, and that the Meyers were seated with him this evening.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/21/10 02:21 PM

I remember when Martuni's opened up. The location had been a common Tenderloin troll-hole before, and I figured the new place would be about the same story. Of course, I didn't know Robin would be playing there, or I might have looked in. It seems to me it was one of the stops on the Tricycle Race, a Tavern Guild fundraising event of the time where contestants rode trikes from bar to bar, refreshing themselves with a cocktail at each. It seems to me that Chip Carter was in it one year.

The Paramount was a gorgeous place, last time I looked it (it's been at least twenty years now; I think it may have been renovated again since). It was serviceable for the event, which was not a concert. Even glamorous.

The tale of Trixie LaRue and the Adventure at the Breakfast Buffet (once it gets around Cologne) probably means reservations for the Valentine's events will sell briskly next year. I can picture husbands telling their wives with innocent enthusiasm:

"Hey, Honey--- I got tickets for the Valentine's dinner at that nice Castle."

"Really, dear? I wonder if you could return them. I was thinking we might try that Other Castle next time."

"Oh no, sweetheart; the mud would be too frozen..." he trails off.

"...for mud wrestling?" wifey finishes the sentence.

"Uh... I meant the parking lot," he recovers, with a slightly guilty hesitation but still good for quick thinking on-the-fly. "Those shoes you wore this year were so pretty; you know, the gold ones. I think we should go to the Nice Castle. The tickets are for Frau Goldsby's special dinner concert."

Wifey barely twitches an eyebrow.

"It's really nice," he plows on, "people say it's really romantic."

"Oh," she says. "Well, I heard some people found the brunch buffet very romantic this year. I heard Frau Goldsby went right off the end of the keyboard. I heard the creme brulee was a catastrophe." She pauses, then adds, "I heard they served beer."

"Well," he says, shaking his head slightly. "This is no buffet. Tables for two, candlelight, rose petals on the piano. Champagne and Crepes Suzette."

"Ok, as long as it's not creme brulee." She rolls her eyes, but the thought of the dessert cart is undermining her will to resist.

"It's table d'hote, with a Four Star chef." He knows he's won the round. "Not pig knuckles at the playoffs--- nothing's too good for my Sugar--- not on Valentine's Day." He leers slightly.

"All right, dear." She wavers no longer; her mind is made up: pearls or sapphires? No, both. Pearl earrings and a sapphire ring. She smiles. "I'm sure it will be very nice."
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/21/10 03:35 PM

The Fox has been refurbished in Oakland, now, as well as the Paramount. I have not been in it, though. A friend of mine saved it from the wreckers, but she was not in a position to restore it and make a go of it. The city finally bought it from her and restored it. I do not know whether it will ever make money, but I am glad they did it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/24/10 10:41 AM

Yes, well BDB, it's always a good idea to stay out of bars. Clef, I never played at Martuni's—the woman on the cover is a Robin-double, a pianist named Maddaline Goepel. I was so pleased that the photographer found a real player! I think the stylist put a blond wig on her for the shoot. And the staff at Backbeat Books got to hang out around the piano and drink Blue Hawaiians, to create, you know, ATMOSPHERE.

May 8th seems to be a big wedding day. I have just gotten my third call for that date. No other wedding bookings (yet) in May, but the 8th seems to be quite popular.

I am off to the castle to play for the press party opening of the newly renovated gourmet restaurant. I shall do everything possible to stay away from the creme brulée.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/24/10 01:57 PM

I guess I should point out that as a member of a club here in Oakland, I am a part-owner of a bar. But that is not its primary purpose.

I was playing duets with a nearby pianist for a while, and she got into trouble with alcohol playing in bars. People would buy her drinks, and she would lose track. So now she does not drink at all any more. It is a hazard of the trade, I am afraid.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/25/10 01:43 PM

I have one glass of champagne right in the middle of the night, and that's it. Discipline is my middle name. Right.

A couple of years ago I was playing for a Russian wedding at the castle. Breakdown: Middle aged bloated groom (let's call him Bad Vlad) with mega bucks and several gold teeth. Drop-dead 22 year old gorgeous trophy bride, who looked like one of those Eastern European models featured in Estée Lauder ads.

Five minuets after I began playing, the groom said to me: "You play 'Let it Be.' "

I played it, but once wasn't enough—ain't that always the case?— and by quitting time I had played, like, 13 versions. This is a song with maybe three chords, so it was getting a little tedious, but it was HIS party. Just as I was getting ready to leave, the waiter brought me a glass of red wine, sent to me by Bad Vlad. I had already had my one glass of champagne, plus I wanted to get the hell out of there before Bad Vlad decided to sing again. When I find myself in times of trouble . . . So I said nein, danke to the glass of wine.

"Shit," said the waiter. "You've got to to drink this." Bad Vlad was glaring at me.

"No I don't."

"Yes you do. It cost 1300€ a bottle."

"Well, in that case." I suffered through another round of Mother Mary calling to me, prayed that Paul McCartney would forgive me for allowing Bad Vlad to ruin his song, and sipped the wine. It was dark and somewhat dense, French, and woody, and I have no idea what it was called, just that it cost a fortune. I slipped into the bar, passed the half-full glass to an eager co-worker, and escaped before Bad Vlad and Svetlana broke out the vodka.

I should mention that the colors for the wedding party were black and gold. The men looked like Pittsburgh Steelers. The women looked like very slim bumblebees.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/25/10 02:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

I should mention that the colors for the wedding party were black and gold. The men looked like Pittsburgh Steelers. The women looked like very slim bumblebees.



[Monica sprays diet Coke all over computer keyboard] ROFL!

What a terrifically funny story for anybody who didn't have to live through it. grin
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/25/10 08:44 PM

"Well, in that case."

Doesn't that just say it all. It reminds me of Shirley McClaine's favorite comeback line in Irma la Douce: She would think for a minute, kind of shrug, and then reply, "Why not." It seemed quite a reach when I first heard it, but I found that I just took it up myself... it covers so many cases.

****************************************************

Once again, I was going to hold this back. But, "Why not." (Funny how we never ask, "Why should I---" or not often enough.)

****************************************************

A body double. Well, we've entered a new dimension of show biz glamour, I guess. I associate these specialists with movie stars, and perhaps, certain politicians. And stage impersonators of famous persons (often lip-synching), though I think the genre has fallen off in recent years, except in south Florida. The one that comes to mind immediately is the gentleman who served as the body double for Michael J. Fox's bare porkchops in one of his movies--- an outstanding performance. I always assumed it was a double, but maybe not; some performers pride themselves on doing their own stunts, and...

I think this calls for a Mae West quote, but I've had some trouble deciding on just the right one.

"It's better to be looked over than overlooked."

"Give a man a free hand, and he'll run it all over you."

"It isn't what I do, but how I do it. It isn't what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it."


Backbeat Books' address on Harrison Street in San Francisco would be right around the corner from Martuni's--- and, God knows, one is practically muffled at the door by wigs, in places like these. Yes, as BDB said, one is sent drinks by admirers very often; a slippery slope indeed, especially for performers. I have slid down it, in my day. A smile and a gracious "Thank you," is good, but there's no law that says you have to drink the martinis at Martuni's... not all of them, anyway. I remember one quiet afternoon which I spent in a little boite further down Market Street, rolling dice with the patrons for martinis. Funny what bad luck they seemed to have. "Loaded," and "dice;" they might almost as well be the same word.

Three weddings on a single date in May! This is less like rolling the dice, and more like winning the trifecta at Bay Meadows. Of course, their idea is to beat the stampede of June brides, and head the raid at the wedding registry off at the pass. Marriage itself is somewhat like gambling at a casino: the occasional payoff is vigorously advertized, but we know the house always wins.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/26/10 04:28 AM

CLef, I hate to disappoint you, but the body double had nothing to do with glamour. In fact, it was the opposite. It would have cost a fortune for Backbeat to fly me to Martuni's from Germany. I tried to get them to do it, but they politely declined. The decision to use the double was for budget reasons.

Sadly, Backbeat is no longer on Market Street. They have been "absorbed" by Hal Leonard and now exist as a Hal Leoonard imprint. Offices are in New York. All of the wonderful people involved with the publication of Piano Girl have moved on to other jobs. I miss them so much. So it goes.

Right after I read your last post, someone sent me a hilarious photo from the society page of a German newspaper, taken at the big press shindig on Wednesday evening. In the picture, I am sitting at the piano while the hotel sommelier is pouring a glass of champagne for me. The caption could very well be WARUM NICHT??? (why not?)

Hey, Monica! Glad you liked that bumble bee line. And hope all is well for you! Cheers!
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/26/10 04:39 AM

Bay Meadows Race Track is but a memory now, so three weddings on a single date is much more likely than winning a trifecta there.

What are the odds? A chair in the name of one of my mathematics professors at Cal was endowed by one of his students who won the super lottery. Does that prove or disprove the old adage that lotteries are a tax on the mathematically ignorant?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/26/10 11:36 AM

There are so many cases that prove the irrelevancy of the odds--- maybe the most glaringly obvious being the extreme unlikelihood that any one certain sperm cell will fertilize an egg (the eggs' odds these days aren't what they used to be, either). It would take a supercomputer. Yet, here we are (if you want to talk about winning the trifecta).

On the other hand, if a girl isn't mighty careful, the vanishingly improbable becomes virtually certain.

You may have heard the story about the person who prayed to God to win the lottery. The whining and pleading got louder and louder with every unsuccessful day. Finally, in mid-prayer one day, the person heard a Voice--- it was the Voice of God. And the Voice said, "BUY a TICKET."

So I guess, whether we're talking about matrimony, poker, roulette, 21, craps, the Kentucky Derby, or the Meaning of Life Sweepstakes, the Principle of Least Astonishment convinces us all that we're going to beat the odds, somehow.

Good job on endowing the mathematics chair! Perhaps the greatest job of beating the odds yet.


PS:

Hal Leonard is a good house, Robin. The name's not as catchy as BackBeat Books, but they publish some fine titles and seem to have some dedication to music education for its own sake. I would think your book is in pretty good hands with them.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 02/26/10 11:41 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

PS:

Hal Leonard is a good house, Robin. The name's not as catchy as BackBeat Books, but they publish some fine titles and seem to have some dedication to music education for its own sake. I would think your book is in pretty good hands with them.


I would agree with Jeff. Hal Leonard has been around a long time and is respected in the industry.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/01/10 12:20 AM

Oh, yes! I'm very happy that Piano Girl is now with Hal Leonard. Before they took over Backbeat, they were already distributing the book to the music trade. HL is a publisher and a distributer, which gives them an edge in the publishing world. Luckily, I have a very nice relationship with the people who work there.

I wish I could play all three weddings on May 8th—but I can't. The first one I booked is in Dresden, which is a 90 minute flight from here. I'm playing at noon. Technically, I could get back in time to do a gig that night, but the following day is Mother's Day, and I have a marathon that day, including my concert in candlelight—the one that got snowed out in December—which has been rescheduled for Mother's Day evening. So it goes. I wonder if Buttercup will show up. If she could wreck the vibe on Valentine's Day, imagine the damage she could do on Mother's Day.

It was an uneventful weekend at the castle. Everyone behaved. But spring is coming, so things are bound to perk up.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/03/10 11:03 PM

Dresden, you say. I'm just reading a biography of Rachmaninoff, and he lived in Dresden for a long time and composed quite a bit there. He found it less high-pressure than Moscow.

I wonder if any place he lived or performed is still standing. I guess you could commune with the atmosphere of inspiration anyway.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/06/10 12:45 AM

I will do my best to commune with the atmosphere of inspiration in Dresden, Clef! You must have a billion fun facts lodged in that big brain of yours. Anyone who can discuss Rachmaninoff and Ginger from Gilligan's Island with equal amounts of enthusiasm earns a place in my heart.

The next few weeks will be very busy for me. I'm headed to Boston for an event, then to NYC for some business meetings, then back to Germany where I have two concerts and a wedding to play all in one week. It's March, and my hibernating instincts are still in high gear. What I really want to do is stay home with my kids, cook soup, write and play the piano; but making a living sometimes gets in the way of that. I'll be checking in here from the road.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/06/10 10:51 AM

Of course I don't like to disagree with you on your own thread, Robin, but "equal enthusiasm for both Ginger and Rachmaninoff" is really stretching it tissue-thin. You're very kind, all the same. Many of my billions of fun facts are recorded in Google; thanks to our former member Steven I learned that one could do the look-ups over objects of idle curiosity and find out some interesting things.

Dave was just over to tune and tweak my piano's voicing yesterday, and he brought up the subject of your book, "Rhythm." We were both marveling at what a wonderful work it is... and this after, it must be, having read it nearly a year ago. He remarked that he would be glad to meet you, if you ever were to play an event here on the West Coast. I countered with the suggestion that he take his wife to the Valentine's Day special dinner next year (yesterday was their 5th anniversary). So easy to spend someone else's money!

Whichever direction you travel that route, it's very far. I should send them your CD and a nice bottle of wine. Just doing what I can to see that, when Buttercup tries to mosey in next year, the maitre'd has to tell her, "I'm so sorry, Fraulein, the Valentine event is SOLD OUT."

Staying home, writing, hanging out with the kids while soup steams on the range... it sounds like a golden time, to me.

Never fear, optimists in organza will soon be shouldering their way into the function rooms, as thick as snowflakes in a blizzard.
Posted by: chris_scotland

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/08/10 09:08 PM

It's a small world...I share so many of these wedding observations! Can you play the theme from Titanic? Well, yes..if I really must. But I wouldn't want to advertise it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/09/10 03:56 AM

Hi Chris,

I have an entire chapter in Piano Girl devoted to the Titanic theme. How I hear you on that one. It's not a bad song (okay, the lyric is pretty dicey), but if you have to play it 1000 times a year, it's no fun. Not long ago I played it at my castle gig and one of our more flamboyant waiters came out of the gourmet restaurant and pretended to be a half-dead Kate Winslet floating on a raft and blowing that pathetic whistle. Clef, you would have LOVED this.

CLEF: Optimists in Organza???? Now there's a great title for something.

I love that you and Dave know each other. If I lived in your area, he would be my technician, too. Anyway, thanks for the nice words about RHYTHM. It warms my heart to know that two smart guys have read the book and enjoyed it. Thank you. Some day I will get to California. And then we will have a big party, with no Titanic music.

I'll write from the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe I should take a raft and a whistle.

xoxox to everyone!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/15/10 06:28 AM

Greetings from NYC. Got here yesterday after four days in Boston. Yesterday Logan airport looked like downtown Kabul.

Just got another call for a wedding on May 8th, this one in The Hague. I'm thinking this may go down in history as the world's most popular wedding date.

Having lunch tomorrow with Harlan Ellis, the agent who booked me for over a decade here in the city. This was back when there were tons of hotel gigs in Manhattan. He is now working for an agency that specializes in big society weddings. I'll hit him up for some stories.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/17/10 09:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Just got another call for a wedding on May 8th, this one in The Hague. I'm thinking this may go down in history as the world's most popular wedding date.


This sounds like a problem that could be addressed by 21st century technology, doesn't it? A video camera, a broadband connection and a couple of big-screen monitors in the remote locations ought to about do it. In fact, why travel at all? We've all joked about "phoning it in". Why not play the gigs from home? With the proper cropping, you could do the gig in fuzzy slippers.

I'm reminded of a certain date last summer, July 12th. Our drummer was on vacation that week and was going to miss four jobs. That might seem like a serious problem, but we keep a list of two or three guys we can call to fill in for each of our rhythm section players. While there can be disjointed moments, I like playing with "subs"; good ones anyway. A different player puts a new "spin" on the songs, especially because we don't use charts. The wrong player can spin the bus right off the road, of course, but that will have to wait for another post.

Back to July 12th. We were playing an outdoor barbecue at a rather nice house on Long Island. How nice, you're wondering? I'll tell you.

These people have a Fourth of July bash every year, but not always on the 4th. Our first time there was about three years ago. I made three trips past the house with my gear. Wood frame, old, a somewhat odd shape. Nice. But not quite grand enough, I thought, for people that would hire a nine-piece band for a barbecue.

As I set up under the tent by the pool, I noticed that there was a very grand house indeed on the next property, just down the hill. Three stories, wraparound porch, gables aplenty, planted on a large green waterfront spread. I was hoping that our hosts had taken the precaution of inviting their wealthy neighbors to the party. Their house was maybe 100 yards away, well within striking distance of our amplifiers.

Something still didn't seem right. Finally it dawned on me. The wealthy neighbors were our hosts. The not-quite-grand-enough house was their Pool House (formerly the Carriage House). They also had a Boat House and a private dock.

But I digress.

Every drummer we knew was booked that day. They all told the same story too; each had been offered two or three gigs for that date and had farmed the extras out to all the drummers they knew. The scramble began. July 12th was the gravity well of the percussion universe. Players that had 10 gigs booked the whole year were busy. We ended up calling 14 different drummers, ending up with the fifth or sixth call guy for a group I used to sometimes play with in the '90s.

He was on time and kept time, but didn't exert himself any more than absolutely necessary in either the musical or the social arena.

Talk about "phoning it in".
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/22/10 03:10 PM

I've seen Rich Bride/Poor Bride, I've seen Platinum Weddings... and I've seen Bridezilla. And Weddings Gone Wrong.

About the last, I have no comment.

However, the happy couple decided to take a chance and invite me to the reception... here:


I've seen some (on TV) that were so expensive I couldn't get a second mortgage big enough to cover even the hors-d'oeuvres... but, never a setting any more gorgeous. And if I act up, I suppose they could throw me in the lake (I don't doubt it's at the back of their minds).

Now, I know what you're thinking: May 8th, right? But no: May 16th. Who knows, maybe they read "Let's Talk Weddings."

It's in Wyoming, a good little step away from California. I may have to send my regrets, and they truly will be just that.

Larry is a catch: straight, handsome, has his own business and his own house, and he's a very nice guy... and a bachelor; no alimony, no child support, no vindictive ex-wives. He's also given the best of them the slip, in his time. It's all but a miracle. I congratulate the bride, and wish them all the very best.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/26/10 06:29 AM

One question, Jeff: Where does the piano go in this pastoral setting?? Maybe Larry knows. But with a location like this, birdsong is music enough, I think. May 16th sounds like a perfect date for that spot in Wyoming! Lucky you, wrangling an invitation. Tell Larry if he needs a pianist to give me a call. I am absolutely free, as long as it's not the 8th.

Regarding the pool house gig, Greg: Funny how that happens. The stars collide and suddenly there is one drummer/bass player/pianist too few on the event horizon. I suspect this will be the case with pianists on the 8th.

Well. I have had quite a week after getting back from the USA. Two concerts this week and a wedding to play tomorrow night. The first concert was for an event called FESTIVAL OF THE MASTER CHEFS and featured Michelin-star chefs from various parts of Europe. Six courses, six chefs, each one responsible for a different course. The plan was for the moderator to interview the chefs before each course was served, the food would be served, and then, once people and plates were settled, I would play—3 to 4 pieces for each set. The promoters were very proud of this plan, but I had a feeling there was something off-kilter about it. But, okay, they rented the Steinway B, the place was gorgeous, advertising was spot-on, the event was sold out (200 people). Fine.

Here's the thing: No chef in his right mind is willing to come out on stage and chat right before the food is served. This is maybe the most critical time for a chef, especially these gourmet guys who insist on inspecting every plate that leaves the kitchen. So the moderator was stuck. He had to interview SOMEONE about the food. Why not the pianist?

I am a vegetarian. If you've ever eaten one of these European fancy-pants dinners, you know they are, well, meat-laden. I was seated at the front table (the promoter graciously had agreed to feed me between sets) but there was not much there for me to eat. I mean, I was bartering with my neighbors to get the garnishes of their plates.

"I'll give you my elk filet for your baby carrot."

Things like that.

The thing was, the moderator needed someone to talk about the food. He was desperate and I felt sorry for him. What could I do? My show-biz instincts kicked in so I stood up there and lied about the shrimp and the lobster and the beef tips and the bison. Yes, bison. At one point I actually heard myself saying:

"As an American, I am no stranger to the buffalo. . . . 'Home on the Range' is one of my very favorite songs."

There was another humiliating moment when the German moderator meant to say COD FISH, but instead he said COLD FISH, which I misunderstood to be GOLD FISH.

"In America," I said, "We do not eat GOLD FISH. We name them and give them homes."

"Really?" said the moderator. "How fascinating."

The evening went on and on like this. I ate maybe six sprigs of parsley, a spoonful of risotto, and some sort of beet and spinach froth. But the evening was fine, they paid me well, the piano was a dream, and people bought a lot of CDs. Long night, though. Six courses can take FOREVER. I wasn't back at the hotel until 2 AM.

Last night I performed my PIANO GIRL show for an Amerika Haus sponsored event in Kleve, Germany, on the border with Holland. The piano was spectacular--a Steinway D that came from the Warsaw Music conservatory back in the 50's. Holy cow, was it ever great. The concert was in an art museum. BEAUTIFUL!!! (I consider this cosmic payback for having to work for years at the Waterbury Holiday Inn)

Anyway, the audience was small (50) but very appreciative. I get nervous about my all-English program when the audience is German, but they hung in there and laughed when they were supposed to. I did the Japanese F-Dancing stripper chapter (always a risk at these upscale venues) but it worked out for the best. The Titanic chapter and Here Comes That Bride were also in the program.

I play a nice normal cocktail gig this evening, and then, man your battle stations, the wedding season is officially open tomorrow. Get in the house, don't ask why, Wilma von Wiesel is donning her turquoise lace dress, counting the cupcakes, and preparing to fling her calla lily bouquet.

xoxo
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/26/10 10:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

It's in Wyoming, a good little step away from California. I may have to send my regrets, and they truly will be just that.

Going to an out-of-town wedding can be no small expense when you add up the transportation, lodging, meals and gift, but they can be an awful lot of fun. I should qualify that - If you're the only one traveling to the affair, that doesn't really count. But if there's a substantial out-of-town contingent - in for a couple of days, freed from their everyday responsibilities and chores - that's a recipe for an excellent time indeed.

My friend George got married in Chicago back in the late '80s. Something approaching a third of the guests were from NYC and a few other places around the US. My wife and I flew out on a Thursday night and spent the day Friday sightseeing. The wedding was officially on Saturday morning, but the celebration got started on Friday night and lasted well into Sunday.

Most of us stayed in an unusual hotel. It was an apartment building in the process of being converted to condos, I believe, but was stuck in some intermediate state. The developers/owners were renting out some of the apartments as hotel rooms. Each of us thus had a whole apartment.

The first party was in George's parents' "room". As the evening went on, just about all of the out-of-towners put in an appearance, as did the bride and groom. It was crowded and loud, and it went pretty late.

George was a guitarist and vocalist in one of my early bands. A couple of the other members were in attendance, and there were a number of other musical types there as well. Those of us who hadn't yet had enough of the night-before revelry found a guitar and headed up to the roof of the hotel. We sang songs for another hour or two.

The next morning, well before some people were fully awake, we all dragged ourselves down to the church, which was in another part of the city. That went off in standard fashion.

The reception was just right - not showy or overdone - just a bunch of people, many strangers until the day before, dancing and laughing and having a good time together. George had written a song for the occasion to his wife. Some of us performed a tune or two as well.

We went back to the hotel, shed our wedding clothes and took a nap. I'm a little hazy on where just now, but I know that most of us got together yet again that evening.

The next morning the bride's family had everyone who was still in town and still marginally ambulatory over to their house for breakfast. Afterward we said goodbye to our newfound friends, fellow veterans of the party that wouldn't end.

My wife and I, the bride and groom, and two of our old band members hung out for a while longer, spending part of the time trying to remove blue dye that had bled from the "Just Married" ribbons into the paint of George's '60s Ford Mustang.

We had a brief tour of their apartment and then went on a breakneck ride through Chicago traffic to the airport. It was like something out of the Blues Brothers. We made it to the plane with seconds to spare, the hatch closing behind us with a crunch.

I'm sure we were out cold within minutes of finding our seats.

I've only been to a handful of occasions like that, but they've all had that sense of fun, the camaraderie (even among strangers) and the extended hours I've described above. I wouldn't recommend getting behind in the mortgage, but if it's reasonably possible you might have a memorable weekend.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/26/10 12:47 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
"In America," I said, "We do not eat GOLD FISH. We name them and give them homes."


ROFL!! grin

--From a woman who *still* has on her kitchen counter two bowls of the descendants of the "one guppy" she agreed to take from child's science teacher over 5 years ago, said "one" guppy somehow turning into six remarkably fertile guppies.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/26/10 01:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I am a vegetarian. If you've ever eaten one of these European fancy-pants dinners, you know they are, well, meat-laden. I was seated at the front table (the promoter graciously had agreed to feed me between sets) but there was not much there for me to eat. I mean, I was bartering with my neighbors to get the garnishes of their plates.

"I'll give you my elk filet for your baby carrot."

That really made me laugh. I am not a vegetarian, but I'm pretty limited as regards meats I consider edible. Chicken, beef, turkey, pork in a pinch. Chinese people can occasionally feed me shrimp. That's it. I'll try most any vegetable concoction, but I'm squeamish about unfamiliar animal bits. Is the story? Why yes.

We were staying in Geneva. It was 1989, I think. September. A woman named Colette had invited us out to dinner. She had previously worked at the local office of the commodities company my wife worked for. She and my wife had spoken many times on the phone, but had never actually met. Nevertheless she treated us as if we were old and intimate friends, chattering rapidly in a blur of French and English, offering life details that might have been best reserved for people she'd known for longer than an hour.

She met us at the Flower Clock in the center of town and drove us a short distance from there to the restaurant, stopping briefly at her apartment on the way.

We were near the end of a three-week trip around Europe and had been traveling fairly frugally. It was our 6th day in Switzerland and we had a good feel for the exchange rate which was approximately 1.25 Swiss Francs to the dollar.

We were already a bit apprehensive about what sort of food would be available, as our dinner companion was something of a gourmet cook whose tastes ran to the exotic. Her personal specialty was tête de veau. Even the more familiar parts of the veau are not my favorite, but I have a general rule against food can look back at me.

Collette said that the place was a favorite of hers. I can't remember the name, but it was advertised on the sign outside as a "Restaurant Dansant", which made us chuckle. And indeed, there was entertainment, of a sort. Under a mirror ball in the corner of the room was a man playing an elaborate multi-tiered organ with auto-accompaniment. The songs tended toward Euro-Disco arranged with the cartoon-inspired sounds of a home organ.

With some trepidation we opened the menus. The place was dim and the print was small, and in French, but I scanned the page as quickly as I could. To my initial relief, there appeared to be several entrees that looked edible. Whew! Feeling a little better I slowed down to decide what I'd have.

But then I glanced over at the prices. The very cheapest entree was over 90 francs. That was some liver abomination that I couldn't possibly order. The cheapest item I might actually eat was 125 francs.

I looked up at my wife's face. Without exchanging words we knew that we were both thinking the same thing. There was no way we could let this woman treat us to what would surely have added up to a $250.00 meal, but that amount would have been a real budget buster on what had already been a very expensive trip.

I'll add that we had plenty of time to reflect on our predicament. Collette was engaged in a protracted and animated argument with the waiter and then the restaurant manager about only being able to order one variety of wine by the glass.

It was a blur, like being in a horror movie with eerie slow-mo carny music. Then, out of nowhere I had a flashback. I saw us in the car en route to the restaurant. I leaned over to my wife and whispered "We're in France!"

Geneva is a small finger of Switzerland surrounded by France. Collette lived in France and worked in Geneva. She had special plates on her car that allowed her to drive through the border crossings without stopping at all. I had just barely remembered such a crossing on the way there.

At the time the exchange rate for FRENCH Francs was about SIX to the dollar. All of a sudden my 125 franc entree was only 20 bucks!

We had nice dinner and listened as Collette spoke at high velocity and great length about what poor businessmen the French were, surely obvious to anyone who had witnessed the house wine brouhaha; The Germans would swallow them up when the Euro came about.

By the time we left we were the last people in the place. The organ player was still going strong as we walked out the door.

Lesson: Always try to know what country you are in.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 03/27/10 10:52 AM

Birdsong, I think not. Of course it wouldn't have been in the photo, made so long before the actual wedding, but I don't doubt that there will be a special barge on that lake, with a concert grand and possibly a reed and brass ensemble to accompany it (and a string bass). The guests will be accommodated in more modest craft for the twilight concert, lighted by Japanese lanterns with candles, and dinner (served by waiters in swift canoes, lest the food grow cold).

Now that leaves the problem of dancing. If we left it to Guarino, there would be synchronized swimmers with flashlights, who after the performance would toil through the waters doing a rescue carry with one arm, while bearing trays with chilled champagne and glasses up to the guests' boats. Party animals that they are, there would be sure to be quite a few mishaps involving plunges into the lake in full evening dress. Not yet rowdy enough? How about the spectacle of members of the wedding rocking their boats so as to create bigger and bigger waves. Picture how risky life on that barge could become. The worst-case scenario could also be the best case--- for decades to come, tour boat operators would guide divers to the very spot on the lake where a nine-foot concert grand had come to rest on the bottom. Or am I just telling the same story over and over...?

The spectacle of swimmers bearing flaming desserts through the waters would be gossiped about from Pocatello to Jackson Hole. I can see the headlines now: "The Sins of Lycra."

Anyway. You can see why I've thought twice about going. There I was, wrapping up a gravy boat to send off, when I remembered that lake and got to thinking.

"Yes, bison. At one point I actually heard myself saying: "As an American, I am no stranger to the buffalo. . . . 'Home on the Range' is one of my very favorite songs."

You know, against my better judgment, I actually believe this. Some reporter nagged Franklin Roosevelt to reveal his favorite song--- a surprise question in a "news interview." Caught off guard, he blurted out, "Home on the Range." And sure as you know, the band struck it up at every single event during his entire Presidency--- four terms. Patrician FDR! Well, he paid for that slip of the tongue.

"There was another humiliating moment when the German moderator meant to say COD FISH, but instead he said COLD FISH, which I misunderstood to be GOLD FISH. "In America," I said, "We do not eat GOLD FISH. We name them and give them homes." "Really?" said the moderator. "How fascinating.""

We know, of course, that you meant to say, "In America, we do not eat goldfish, we eat CARP." Yet, that is a dangerous word, very easily misspelled by reporters and just as easily overlooked by erring editors, malicious proofreaders and careless compositors.

"Really?" said the moderator. "How fascinating."

In Boston, a fish house popular with tourists used to sell t-shirts, which we would see all over town (and from a distance). They read, "I Got Schrod Last Night--- at Legal Seafood." But I'm sure Robin was in glamorous evening wear, and in that kind of outfit you can say just about anything and it comes out sounding all right. Even, "CARP."
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/01/10 01:14 PM

I love this FDR story. See? I knew I was on to something with the "Home on the Range" comment. I also know that my best friend Robin Spielberg just recorded it for her new CD. This has been kind of a HOME ON THE RANGE theme week. It's a pretty melody. The lyric? Well. Any lyric that uses the word buffalo is immediately suspect. Anyway, I am now afraid that everywhere I go, someone will play HOME ON THE RANGE. But better that than "Titanic" or "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" or some hideous thing from "Phantom.".

I know that goldfish are little carp but I couldn't think quickly enough in German. It's a problem I have. My brain works much faster in English than it does in German. I have no clue how to say CARP in German. Goldfish is easy. GOLDFISCH. Just put that Colonel Klink spin on the pronunciation and you're, well, golden.

Greg, I love your Swiss-French border story!!!! Things are easier now that most of Europe uses Euros, but those Swiss still stick to their own currency. We live in a corner of Germany that is very close to Belgium, France, and Holland, and when we first moved over here we were always trying to convert everything into dollars. This period of my life may account for my current state of craziness--math is not my strong suit. Anyway, Collette sounds like the kind of person I would love to know.

Bad news: my first wedding of the season was cancelled twenty-four hours before the scheduled ceremony. Scheisse. Nobody knows why. The banquet department was afraid to ask. I was paid, but I almost feel guilty. Almost.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/01/10 09:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Things are easier now that most of Europe uses Euros, but those Swiss still stick to their own currency.

Easier, yes, but there's a certain romance lost for the traveler. On some level we all expect even the land to look different - a different color, like on the map - when we cross a border. Adjusting to new conversion math and inspecting pointillist renderings of a new country's war heroes, staple crops or landscape on their coins and bills enhances the experience. We've got a jar somewhere filled with 20 year-old Francs (French), Francs (Swiss), Schillings, Deutschmarks, Liras and even Forints from that trip.

A single currency, and ever more signs in English, can be convenient, but I liked the old way better. What's foreign travel without a little confusion? Narrow corridors on international trains are good for that. You have to excuse yourself more or less continuously on the way to the salle de bain/bagno/WC, but how? Con permesso? Entschuldigung? Pardon?

My surname is Italian. In the US, even in places where an Italian name is pretty exotic, people seldom assume I'm from Italy. But it has happened quite frequently on our three trips to Europe, in several different countries (excluding Italy, of course). The morning clerk at our hotel in Vienna greeted me each day with a cheery Buon Giorno!

On what was probably the day before our dinner with Colette, we checked into our hotel a little way up the lake from Central Geneva. Although we had driven to Geneva, we stopped at the train station hotel booking desk to find a place to stay.

We greeted the clerk in French and explained that we had booked a room from the train station. He asked our name. "Guarino, G-u-a-r-i-n-o". He decided to do us the courtesy of addressing us in our mother tongue: Italian. He asked a few of the standard questions.

My Italian is pretty basic, but even I could tell that his was markedly more limited. We had gone from a language that one of us spoke fluently, to one that neither of us spoke well. Finally he asked to see "i passaporti, per favore'.

Out came our navy-blue US passports. He put his hand to his forehead and shook his head a little. He regrouped and continued in English. One conversation, three languages. Would I remember (twenty years later) anything about that otherwise standard exchange if it had all occurred in the nearly flawless English that seems to be an employment requirement at international chain hotels? I doubt it.

Currencies, languages, signs and menus should present at least some challenge. It's more fun that way.

Who knows, maybe I'll get my wish, about the currency anyway. There was an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times just yesterday advocating a more stable Uber-Euro, excluding all the messy southern nations.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/02/10 04:04 AM

Oh Greg, I hear you! When I was just visiting Europe all of the currency differences held a certain charm. Now that I live here, though, I love the convenience of the Euro. Both my husband and I work all over the place, so you can imagine how confusing things get with billing and conversions. Almost put me off the deep end when we first moved here in 1994. So my fondness for the Euro comes strictly from a practical point of view.

The cultural differences, thankfully, are still plentiful and wild. And you don't have to go far before you reach a no-English village. I live in one, and I'm only 30 minutes outside of Cologne.

Hope to see you over here sometime !!!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/04/10 08:21 AM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino


Out came our navy-blue US passports. He put his hand to his forehead and shook his head a little. He regrouped and continued in English. One conversation, three languages.


My most embarassing moment was the attempt to find a used CD store in downtown Wurzburg. I'd been there before, I was within a block of it, but couldn't find it in those twisty streets. I didn't know the word for used (gebraucht, past tense of need). After a protracted conversation auf Deutsch, the man said imploringly, "Please sir. Just say it in English." An unforgettable exchange even years later.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/04/10 04:31 PM

Well, this was one busy Easter Sunday. I played for lunch, tea, and cocktails. Six hours total. That's a lot of solo piano. I used to do this all the time when I was a few decades younger and the gigs were plentiful in the New York hotels, but my back just isn't as strong as it used to be.

Today I gave two little girls (sisters) maned Hannah and Anna a CD copy of my musical for kids. Their parents are good customers and they were cute in their fluffy lavender Easter dresses, and I was feeling generous. They were suitably impressed with the CD, but upset that they didn't have something to give me in return. They went off exploring and came back and presented me with a free sample of WRINKLE CREAM they had found in the Ladies' Room, along with a chocolate egg.

I have eaten the egg and have now applied the wrinkle cream.

I can't divulge too much, but we have, uh, VISITING DIGNITARIES from a far-away land staying in the hotel. This is causing all sorts of intrigue, much of it involving large good-looking security guys in expensive suits hanging out by the piano. You can just imagine. I only hope Buttercup makes an appearance and attempts to curtsy.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/06/10 08:26 PM

soo... how are the wrinkles?

did it work?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/07/10 01:50 AM

Much better, Apple. Wrinkle cream plus chocolate bunny is an unbeatable combination!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/07/10 11:06 AM

Ah, the innocence of a child, offering a gift of wrinkle creme. Anyone else would have their face slapped and their eyes scratched out on the spot.

But I think there is something in this. I've noticed that as my face fattens up, it pushes out the wrinkles (knee injury plus narcotics plus Easter candy... it's a simple calculation).

Since the conversation has strayed so far from weddings anyway, please allow me to observe a couple of special occasions: the birthdays of Billie Holiday (today) and Aretha Franklin (last week). The other forums are making so much of the birthdays of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Bach, and rightly so, yet the modern masters have gone unmentioned.

They might prefer not to be associated with a discussion of wrinkle creme, of course.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/07/10 04:52 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR

My most embarassing moment was the attempt to find a used CD store in downtown Wurzburg... After a protracted conversation auf Deutsch, the man said imploringly, "Please sir. Just say it in English." An unforgettable exchange even years later.


I think my most embarrassing moment trumps yours, Tim. I was in Italy, in a restaurant, and needed to go to the bathroom. Bitterly regretting my lack of forethought to research the appropriate Italian equivalents, I looked in panic at two doors with two words on them, neither of which I understood, and nary a diagram of universal male/female silhouettes to be found. I decided to go with the door boasting the multi-syllable word on the reasoning that it seemed more similar to "women" than the door with the short, single-syllable word on it.

I guessed wrong. eek
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/07/10 07:31 PM

Imagine how difficult it is when someone from another land and unfamiliar with our idioms comes across doors with dogs...Pointers and setters!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/09/10 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: gdguarino


Out came our navy-blue US passports. He put his hand to his forehead and shook his head a little. He regrouped and continued in English. One conversation, three languages.


My most embarassing moment was the attempt to find a used CD store in downtown Wurzburg. I'd been there before, I was within a block of it, but couldn't find it in those twisty streets. I didn't know the word for used (gebraucht, past tense of need). After a protracted conversation auf Deutsch, the man said imploringly, "Please sir. Just say it in English." An unforgettable exchange even years later.


European embarrasing moments?

i moved to Greece in 79 for a grant thing. I was sooooooo poor traveling and had only allowed myself about 20 dollars for a weeks worth of food.. I pretty much only ate bread and cheese. By the time I arrived in Greece I was both starving and constipated. There had been an earthquake right before I arrived, and I was essentially cashless because the banks were all closed. A few days later I found a pharmacy that was open close to my apartment and asked for constipation medicine. They couldn't understand my Greek.. AT ALL. I went back everyday trying to explain what I wanted. Finally I took in a piece of paper with a drawing of human butt with a plunger next to it. Oh, how the owners (a couple) laughed. I still didn't have enough money to pay for it. They told me (I think) to eat the kumquats which grew on the streets. I had been eating them and in the end, everything came out ok.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/11/10 02:55 PM

Monica and Apple! My life is one big humiliating European pointer-setter moment, so I'm not even going to go there. I was thirty-seven when I moved over here, and it has been one big adventure ever since.

Back to weddings! Last night I played for a proposal. I played while the man took the woman out onto the castle balcony. In the garden below them, there was a giant heart made out of candles. How romantic is that? He did the one knee routine and everything. Of course she said yes. What women wouldn't after that spectacle? We'll see if I get the wedding gig. It'll probably be on the 8th of May with my luck.

Meantime, the royal family staying in the castle has me bursting with curiosity. The other night the head of the security team came to the piano and said,"Her Royal Highness sends her regards." (I guess that's better than OFF WITH YOUR HEAD). As you know, I've been doing this for a lot of years, and this is the first time I have gotten a missive from someone called HER ROYAL HIGHNESS.

I read an article once about the ROYAL HARPIST, the women who plays for Queen Elizabeth. Now there's a fabulous cocktail gig. But then again, when you play the harp you have to do that whole dress like an angel thing and that gets old once you pass 45. How many flowing white dresses can a gal own, anyway? And don't get me started about wings.

As I was playing tinka tinka tinka for princesses and the newly betrothed my husband found himself backstage at a big concert where he was forced to participate in a prayer circle before the gig. Both of us feel pretty strongly that if you have to pray to the Good Lord for help before a concert, then you probably shouldn't be on the gig to begin with, since, let's face it. the GL has better things to do than worry about the whether or not the pianist or bassist remembers to jump to the coda at Letter D.

I'm thinking now I should hold a prayer circle before every cocktail/wedding gig, you know, hold hands with the Turkish bartender, Monsieur the Maitre 'd, the Sri Lanka valet , and Hans the International Tenor (he shows up every other month and terrorizes all of us). We could pray for happy brides, leftover tidbits from the kitchen, and a freshly tuned piano. Who knows, maybe it might work.

xoxox
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/12/10 08:58 AM

now my weddings are played on organs. There is so much variety. One never knows how the organ will sound exactly. The first moment is crucial with no pre-performance time.

I am definitely not the world's best organist. I have to practice quite a bit. All the old favorites that slip effortlessly from my hands to the keys on a piano are a new challenge. It's like starting over and is very nerve racking. Saturday I have my biggest wedding yet on a quite large pipe organ built here in Kansas.. it's quite nice, but as of yet, I haven't had a chance to give it a test run.

I need prayers if anyone is saying some extra ones. crazy
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/12/10 10:12 AM

Well, Apple, I'd say your gig is the exception to my "No Prayer Circle" before the job rule. Large Pipe Organ? Prayers, offerings, and begging for mercy are in order. Good luck!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/14/10 05:20 PM

I think I can say with some assurance that no one has ever called a "prayer circle" before any gig I've been on. In the spectrum between sacred and profane, more conversations tend toward the latter than the former.

This doesn't rule out the odd unvoiced entreaty to the powers above in certain situations. There was a "circle" of sorts before the Bar Mitzvah At Sea that I described upthread. I'm sure there were a few whispered pleas to the Almighty among the 8 strangers that were attempting to simulate a band.

I am not a religious person myself, but I'm sure I have let slip a hope for Providence to smile on me when accompanying a 14 year old warbling the Star Spangled Banner or an octogenarian free-associating through My Way. And I have accompanied the Disciples of Our Lady of Arrhythmia on many an occasion. One was even a Priest. I'm sure there was a prayer for good pitch from him, and one for a swift conclusion from me.

I'm sure that Robin's dignitaries outshine mine, but we played a charity/political dinner dance over the weekend. They actually kept the speechifying to a minimum, and many people danced. Both of those are unusual occurrences at such functions. A current City Councilman of NY City came up to play Bass with us. He must have been practicing, because he was much more assured than the last time he sat in. His Dad, a former Councilman, grabbed a mic. to sing along with our vocalists on the last song, "Goodnight Sweetheart". All in all a pretty good gig.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/15/10 07:12 PM

Originally Posted By: apple*
Saturday I have my biggest wedding yet on a quite large pipe organ built here in Kansas..


We go to a concert every December at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. It is the largest (and probably the most unfinished) Gothic Cathedral in the world. There was a fire in the gift shop a number of years ago. The structure is almost entirely stone, but the combination of smoke, soot and water did a great deal of damage nonetheless. They closed off most of the building for several years to clean off the residue.

The church services went on, as did the concerts, in a small portion of the church. A small portion of this large a building can still hold a lot of people; probably 1000 or more attended the concerts in those years.

One of the casualties of the fire was the organ. It was not burned, but the pipes were all coated with soot. These concerts, billed as the Paul Winter Consort, feature an unusual combination of instrumentalists (and other performers) which changes every year. But they always make some use of the pipe organ. For several years they had an electronic replacement.

The restoration work was finally complete in time for this past December's Solstice Concert. To highlight that fact, the church's organist played a series of solo pieces during the intermission. What a sound! Everything from a bright piccolo to bass to rumble the pillars of the earth, with metallic brass (from the other end of the cathedral) thrown in for good measure.

I could see the organist in his perch high above the choir loft. What I wouldn't give for a chance to make some noise with that magnificent contraption! And noise it would likely be, given my complete ignorance of organs (ones that don't come with spinning speakers, anyway).

I'd surely try the pedals, even though the coordination of my lower extremities is suspect even for the more familiar uses. The sound of those big pipes vibrates the body from the inside out; a few half-notes would have cleared up Apple's Grecian Misfortune completely.

Alas, I don't imagine they let just anyone play it, and I fear that my musical "resume" would only further diminish my chances.

Sigh.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/16/10 01:33 AM

Pipe organ and prayer circle discussions qualify as wedding topics, don't you think? I agree, Greg, what fun it would be to try out that instrument at St. John the Divine. But the foot thing scares me to death. I have enough to worry about with just my hands. And I'm quite sure that whatever I played would sound like a very loud version of ice-skating music. Couple skate only, ladies choice. I can see the Zamboni rolling down the center aisle, threatening to take out the choir, the Consort, and the congregation.

I love that word, CONSORT. I think it adds a certain weight to anything that comes before it. The Robin Meloy Goldsby Consort (of one). The Greg Guarino Consort—now there's a band name that would get you some wedding gigs.

My dad's friend (and one of my former piano teachers) Vince Lascheid was the organist for the PIttsburgh Pirates and the Penquins. He was not a consort, but he knew a million tunes and could get a stadium rocking and laughing with his song choices. He died last year. Every time I read anything about an organ, I think of him.

The Visiting Dignitaries from a Foreign Land will be with us in the castle for the next few months. I am now on a first name basis with the entire security team, which, in the cocktail piano biz, is not such a bad thing. Unlike the gigs in New York, NOTHING unruly ever happens at this place, but hey, should someone attack me with an espresso cup or a plate of fois gras, at least I'll have hulking men packing heat to cover me.

Played a private party there last night, not for the Visiting Dignitaries, but for an all male Titans of Industry group, unrelated to the Dignitaries. I'm playing for a castle wedding on Saturday. The magnolia is in bloom, the black swans are zooming blissfully around the little lake, Wilma has yet to rear her Bridezilla head, and all is well in the land of pianos, fancy food, and funny accents.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/16/10 09:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

Played a private party there last night, not for the Visiting Dignitaries, but for an all male Titans of Industry group


Playing cocktail piano for an all-male gathering may present its own set of oddities, but consider the following:

My current band is 9 pieces, but I've played with groups of varying size down to as few as three (sax, drums and yours truly on keys, LH bass and vocals -- not one of my favorite combinations). But no matter the size of the group, our purpose at a catered affair is to get people to dance. That's what they pay us for.

Apart from some brief event-specific bits, catered affairs are largely similar. Weddings, engagement parties, 50th birthdays, 30th anniversaries, charity banquets, Corporate Holdiday parties, Christenings (yes, really) and most other functions are 4 hours of eating, drinking, dancing and talking, in slightly varying proportions.

But...

A number of years ago we played for the retirement dinner of one of the higher-up Chiefs of Police in NYC. It was a large group of perhaps 500 people; all of them, save the retiree's family, Police officers of high rank. No spouses. No significant others. No dates. Out of 500, at least 450 were men. The few women were police officers as well.

I believe the retiring Chief danced with his wife. Once. No one else did. In fact, we were scarcely noticed, except as a slight impediment to talking and networking.

I'm sure that I must have played other gigs where the band was entirely superfluous and ignored, but I can't remember many quite like that. We're too loud, if nothing else. cool

I played at a party for the tenth anniversary of a fitness studio business a couple of years ago. This was one of my rare gigs with a different group. Apart from the proprietor's husband, the drummer and myself, the entire room was filled with women, including fitness instructors, club members, clerical staff and the two leaders of the quartet I was playing with.

Oddly enough that group danced the whole evening. Go figure. smile
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/16/10 03:22 PM

here's the organ i get to play tomorrow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7z1cqXqXZY
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/17/10 04:31 PM

well that was one nerve wracking wedding. the trumpet stop for the solo voice on Purcell's Voluntary was absolutely stupendous.. i about had a heart attack. I am surprised I am still alive.

I somehow got some bells or chimes working on the Canon in D.. and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to turn them off.

shudder.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/18/10 02:40 AM

Congrats, Apple! You did it. That was one serious instrument you were playing. So glad the trumpet stop didn't knock you off the bench. You probably can't have too many chimes at a wedding, but still, that must have been unnerving.

Thanks for the report!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/25/10 03:21 PM

All is well in the land of blooming magnolia and castle weddings. The brides of early spring possess a certain sophistication not found in the high summer brides. They are calmer, more confident, more serene. Maybe it's drugs, maybe it's the scent of cherry blosoms, who knows.

Last night, I took my thirteen year old daughter with me to work. Julia plays the piano herself, and may well be able to sit in for me in a few years, should she decide to pursue a castle-piano type career.I suspect she has other things in mind, but as I point out to her every so often, playing at this place ain't exactly digging ditches. Anyway, our castle is very kid-friendly, offering a large park, a lake with ducks and those famous black swans, and lots of century-old trees to climb. Julia's brother, Curtis, once got stuck in a womping willow on the castle grounds, and, right in the middle of Moon River, I had to leave the piano to go rescue him. But that's another story.

Last night, as we arrived at work, we were greeted by the director, who informed Julia that a brand new duck was about to released on to the castle lake. The duck was sitting in a box back in the purchasing office and the Emotional Moment of release into the wild would take place within the hour. Perfect. Jul had brought her camera and was hoping to take some wildlife shots.

One of the Visiting Dignitaries (yes, they are still with us) was given the royal privilege of naming the new duck. Her Highness chose the name Sally. Don't know why, but it's a nice name for a duck. I went to the piano and began my first set by playing All the Things You Are for a lovely group of wedding guests who did not know the difference between Jerome Kern and P. Diddy, but that's okay, because they were wearing nice outfits and they smiled at me.

Meanwhile Julia was down at the lake, waiting for the Emotional Moment. The Director and one of Her Highness's security guys carried the box to the water's edge. Her Highness stood at the window to her suite, waiting to witness the Emotional Moment. The box was opened. Sally glided out onto the lake, And then, before the eyes of Her Highness, numerous castle guests, and my daughter, she was jumped and pummeled by one of the male ducks. Duck Porn. After the male duck (let's call him Dagobert) had his way with Sally, he swam away. For several moments, the witnesses thought Sally was, well, a dead duck, but she recovered and began paddling— cautiously—around the perimeters of the lake.

"Well," said Julia, as she plopped herself down in one of the leather sofas next to the piano. "THAT was brutal."

"Did you take pictures?"I asked.

"Are you crazy? I could hardly watch. Poor Sally."

I drifted into my second set, playing a medley I call "Songs I Know in the Key of A Major." The wedding guests had moved on to their nuptial dinner. It was a mellow night, and I was happy, watching my pretty daughter edit her photos and the nice people in various shades of black floating in and out of the main hall. I was playing in The Zone, when all of the sudden Julia jumped up and yelled NOSEBLEED! and ran out of the hall. I kept playing,

Okay, just so you don't think I am a bad mother, you should know that Jul has frequent nosebleeds, particularly in the spring. She stays cool and knows what to do, and hardly ever requires my help. These are not drip-drip nosebleeds, but projectile nosebleeds, the kind that Linda Blair would have if she were to make Exorcist: Part Six. They cause alarm to everyone but Julia.

By the time I arrived in the Ladies' Room, Jul had two Titans of Industry Wives hovering over her. They had her stretched out on a counter, were applying cold compresses and were about to call an ambulance. We convinced them she was fine and they went back to their lemon-grass infused dinners. I sent CDs to their table before we left.

This is one of the things I love about my daughter. She was not mortified or ashamed or even upset. As we were leaving, we walked past the piano. "Mom," she said. "I may have to rethink the piano business. Nose bleeds and ball gowns are not a good match."

True, that. The dry cleaning bills are already high enough. But now I'm thinking it would be convenient to be able to have a nosebleed on cue. Drunk guy with bad combover making a request for My Way? Nosebleed! Mother of the bride with puffy hair and a sweater appliqued with sequined hummingbirds asking you—in the middle of a song— for directions to the coat check? Nosebleed! 5th Titanic request of the night? Nosebleed. You get it. Imagine the possibilities.

PS: Sally is fine. I played for lunch today and she was cruising the lake as if she owned it. She is the Buttercup Blondeau of Ducks. Either that or she has royal blood.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/25/10 04:17 PM

ok - i'm going to buy your book. i just knew the duck story was going to involve another duck. haha
Posted by: Greyhound

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/27/10 04:12 PM

Robin: Just read Piano Girl...excellent!! I caught myself chuckling out loud a few times! Very enjoyable, fun read.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/27/10 05:51 PM

a ha!

i have just made the purchase. this family I am in doesn't purchase things often. We're savers, not consumers of the usual type. We buy things like property and pianos and organs. That said, we own 6000 books and I am in the process of packing them in apple boxes (oddly). We really own 6000 books. My husband is a total nut about them. I'm on apple box #131 and have more to go. I don't have time to read because we are finishing building the house and I am now responsible for mowing my property and this new one. 3 acres total.. not to mention all the deep cleaning. I am so tired when I go to bed I get thru about a page and a half and crash.

I am looking forward to it coming in the mail.

My husband will say " Mary, why don't you write a book about pianos?.... books are so valuable".
Posted by: Greyhound

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/27/10 09:31 PM

Apple: That is very impressive!! It's neat that you're using apple boxes. I thought we had alot of books but you're in a different galaxy @ 6,000! I have such a hard time getting rid of books...I'll donate them to the library, to assisted living places, etc but they still seem to grow. I'm now trying to buy only "reference" style books, or books that I know I'll want to read or refer to again. Otherwise, I'll request it from the library & be put on the waiting list if it's in demand (waited ~4 months for Grafton's latest).

Have fun with the move. I've seen the pics on your blog & it looks like it'll be a wonderful house!

You'll enjoy Piano Girl...a fun read.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/28/10 03:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Sally glided out onto the lake, And then, before the eyes of Her Highness, numerous castle guests, and my daughter, she was jumped and pummeled by one of the male ducks.

I have detailed some of our encounters with the local fauna at outdoor gigs in another thread...

Want to Know What it's Like to be a Pro?

...but stuck mainly to insects. Your Looking for Mr. Goodbill story has reminded me of some other animals we have run across.

One of our regular Summer concerts is at a State Park on Long Island. It's named for the stream that runs through it, although it seems to me that a garden hose could produce the same water flow. Even so, the park is home to a large population of what we musicians call "Canada Geese". Zoologists may call them something entirely different, but no matter.

Each kind of social animal has a name for it's "group"; a "pride" of lions, a "swarm" of bees, a "passle" of varmints, etc. The correct term for the Long Island Park Geese is "Squadron". There may be Dagoberts among the crowd in the downtime between missions, but they are all Baron Von Richtofens when we play, pelting the audience from above with Stogie-sized bombs.

Not Rock 'n' Roll fans, I guess.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/29/10 03:08 AM

Quote:
After the male duck (let's call him Dagobert)

ha Funny story - really quacked me up. grin I used to know of someone named "Quackenbush" (a doctor, believe it or not).
I think it's called a gaggle of geese around here.. confused smile
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 04/29/10 09:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

I drifted into my second set, playing a medley I call "Songs I Know in the Key of A Major."


We have a "Medley in D". All Fifties, all I - vi - ii - V; a trip down memory lane for those who can still remember. We don't play it very often anymore, but there's one tune, the name of which I have forgotten, that we get frequent requests for. Since several of our musicians also have trouble remembering the song, the bandleader usually calls "Medley in D, one song".

The One-Song Medley (TM), another innovation brought to you by Older Musicians Who Have Played Too Damned Many Songs.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/02/10 11:21 AM

i'm loving your story Robin.. I'm on page 89 and should be packing.. so i'll leave you now.

only found one typo so far... (i used to be a proofreader tho you'd never know that from my webspeak.)

funny that i remember competing with the Flintstones and Mr. Rodgers for living room time. My mom made a compromise for me.. "Why don't you fold the diapers while watching Mr. Rodgers with the babies?... and you can practice before school".
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/03/10 01:40 AM

Greg! I love the One Song Medley™. Very funny. I never plan what I'm going to play, so sometimes I crack myself up with the medleys I come up with. Ridiculous, the things we do.

I remember your wildlife stories from the "Pro" thread! I think we had a back and forth about wasps on the gig (not the people kind, the stinging kind). I think SQUADRON of geese is entirely appropriate. Canada Geese are somewhat exotic over here, but I know in parts of the USA they are big problem. Haven't yet ben pelted, so I consider myself lucky.

Speaking of wildlife, CLEF, where are you?? I'm missing you.

Glad you enjoyed watching Mister Rogers when you were little, Apple. My dad played music for his program for 35 years. Fred was a family friend and a true hero.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/03/10 10:13 AM

Robin.. you are fortunate to have known Mister Rodgers. In my childhood I absolutely hated him, as he cut into MY piano time... I would glare at the TV as I sang 'won't you be my neighbor' to my sibs. I never could figure out why the kiddies adored him. (I'm the oldest of 9).

I came to appreciate his gentle ways and genius later.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/03/10 05:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg! I love the One Song Medley™. Very funny. I never plan what I'm going to play, so sometimes I crack myself up with the medleys I come up with. Ridiculous, the things we do.

Our old wedding band used to have a number of medleys, all of which consisted of more than one song, strangely enough. We had several Motown medleys which we would sometimes string together into a Medley of Medleys if it was a good dancing crowd.

But our present band does very few medleys, much to the chagrin of our sax player (who was the leader of the wedding band). Instead, if lots of people are dancing, our bandleader (one of the vocalists) uses hand signals to tell the drummer what the next song will be. He'll point to his eye for Brown Eyed Girl for instance. But he'll also point to his eye for two other songs that have the word "Eye" in them, but in minutely different ways that only the drummer can decipher.

Holding the chain around his neck signifies "Unchained Melody"... or "Unchain My Heart". One is a sleepy ballad, the other a rockin' R&B number, so they are hardly interchangeable. Mustang Sally is a pantomime of holding the reins of a horse. There are dozens of them, hardly any of which I have managed to learn. Tommy, our drummer, usually gets it right, but occasionally gets confused and steals third base instead.

It's strange to think about how many songs you've played over the years. Back when rec.music.makers.piano (and Usenet in general) was more viable and active, there was a thread about how many songs you need to know to play gigs. One guy, a jazz player, said he knew 634 songs...he had a list. This of course scared the daylights out of the original poster, who was trying to work up to 40 songs. (That could be barely enough, BTW. You don't really need 634)

I don't have a list, but I'm sure that over my varied demi-career I have played at least that many, probably more. Among the "ridiculous" things our band does is take requests for songs we don't know. The way I see it, it's easier than rehearsing. When we "prepare" at all, it's uaually via email; MP3s circulate, each guy works out his part, we try it at the gig. I'm know for doing my prep work in the Guarino Mobile Music Analysis Pod. I have two of them actually, one red, one blue, both made by Toyota.

Where better to work out a tune than on the way to the gig? It preserves the spontaneity and sense of adventure. [Not recommended for musicians under 40. grin ]

Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/04/10 12:07 AM

What types of songs are most requested? What era?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/04/10 01:37 PM

Greg, you and my husband would get along very well. He is also a great believer in CAR PREP. What a perfectly good way to make use of driving time.

Oh boy, the bandleader with the hand signals is a riot. I can just imagine the train wrecks. Peronally, I would like to see the MUSTANG SALLY sign language. This is like a combination of charades and Name That Tune.

As I write this, my 17 year old son is in the music studio rehearsing a piano medley called FAST, FURIOUS AND LATIN. I keep trying to get him to add a ballad to the mix, but no go. He has a gig coming up on Friday, for a bunch of seniors who enjoy hearing young people play frenzied jazz. He plays the world's fastest version of Donna Lee. I hope his audience survives.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/04/10 03:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Elssa
What types of songs are most requested? What era?

We play mostly '50s through '70s with a smattering of other styles. Those genres, plus some Standards, is generally what we get requests for.

But people are not always that observant. We are nine pieces, nine men, to be more specific. Yet we get requests for "It's Raining Men" and "I Will Survive" pretty regularly. I try to goad our bandleader into doing Gloria Gaynor (I play the long diminished arpeggio that opens the song), but so far he hasn't taken the bait.

Some years ago someone asked for "(I Want to Be) Bobby's Girl". Our leader, mocking the absurdity of the request, sang the first line in a sort of strangled falsetto. Before he knew what to do, I slid in behind him with the chords, and the rest of the band chimed in on the next line. He ended up singing a verse and a chorus. Oh, for a video of that night!

Our old wedding band accompanied one groom as he warbled that classic ballad of undying love..."Stairway to Heaven". I think it was my first gig with that group. We've gotten requests (several) for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light", with its 17 verses, rhythm changes and baseball play by play announcer. That one we haven't tried.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/04/10 08:38 PM

Quote:
We play mostly '50s through '70s with a smattering of other styles. Those genres, plus some Standards, is generally what we get requests for.

But people are not always that observant. We are nine pieces, nine men, to be more specific. Yet we get requests for "It's Raining Men" and "I Will Survive" pretty regularly. I try to goad our bandleader into doing Gloria Gaynor (I play the long diminished arpeggio that opens the song), but so far he hasn't taken the bait.

Some years ago someone asked for "(I Want to Be) Bobby's Girl". Our leader, mocking the absurdity of the request, sang the first line in a sort of strangled falsetto.

ha I hate that song (Bobby's Girl) - would probably have just blown it off, but good for you all for having a sense of humor. grin You and your group sound very versatile. :-) "I Will Survive" is one of the few disco songs I really like and can actually play (follows the Circle of 5ths). Do you play by ear or by sheet music? That's nice that you rehearse - even in the car! smile I play a lot by ear and am pretty good at that, but a request for playing a song like "Colour My World" (a popular wedding song) can throw me for a loop. confused Sometimes I really need the sheet music/fake book/lead sheet to get it right.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/04/10 08:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Greg, you and my husband would get along very well. He is also a great believer in CAR PREP.

We used to occasionally rehearse, once or twice a year.We were very efficient too. We'd work out four or five songs individually and then just get together to run through them once or twice. There was one time that I hadn't gotten around to listening to the last song on the list. Why? "Ralph's house wasn't far enough away". If there had been traffic, I'd have listened to all of them.
Quote:

Oh boy, the bandleader with the hand signals is a riot. I can just imagine the train wrecks. Peronally, I would like to see the MUSTANG SALLY sign language.

You'd like "Hang On Sloopy" then. He pantomimes hanging from a noose. And yes, there are some train wrecks, but not always because a hand signal is misinterpreted. Sometimes the drummer gets the message just fine, but forgets to tell all of the musicians.

We used to have a singer who would pantomime the lyrics to the background vocals on one song.
"We'll have a time"
(touches his watch)
"We'll dance and dine"
(moves quickly between a ballroom pose and lifting a fork to his lips)
"We'll have a ball"
(pantomimes dribbling a basketball)
"Dancing and all"
(more ballroom)

This was helpful, since I had never actually heard the record, but I had to keep from laughing.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/05/10 10:09 AM

Yes, "Bobby's Girl" does not have the most enlightened, empowering set of lyrics for young women to draw inspiration from. But there sure is comic potential for a group of 50+ men, wouldn't you agree?

As for sheet music, my connection with written music was alwsys tenuous, even when I was taking lessons, and that was (jeez) 40 years ago. I've been on a sheet-free regimen for several decades now. I've occasionally written chord charts for other people, but I don't use them for myself.

I actually find reading chord symbols a bit of an impediment. For me to play naturally and fluidly, I have to be able to "hear" the song in my head. Reading adds an extra mental activity that gets in the way. I know all the chord names, but I don't actively think about them.

The first chord of the intro to "I Will Survive" (if memory serves) consists of an E bass note with an Fdim7 chord played over it. That is correctly named E7 b9, but if I read E7 b9 on a sheet, I'd have to spend a second deciphering it. Hearing the sound in my head gives me quicker access to the appropriate things to play.

There's a chord I use frequently that is essentially an Ab Major triad played over a C7 chord. That's a C7 #9 b13, I think (the b13 could be an augmented 5th instead). But I guarantee you that I have never thought of naming it until now. Furthermore, that name on a sheet would likely stop me in my tracks. But when I hear that "sound" on a record, I know what to play.

All of our guys play by ear, and learn quickly. But that's my personal specialty, hence the learning in the car bit. My biggest challenge is usually to remember the arrangement in the correct order. Luckily, I can usually rely on my more studious bandmates to have done that for me. smirk

As far as the rehearsals go, I don't want to give the wrong impression. In fifteen years with this group I think I've been to 8 rehearsals, and the first one wasn't until I'd been in the group for at least five. Advancing age has its drawbacks, but experience sure helps you learn more quickly.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/05/10 12:18 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
Our old wedding band accompanied one groom as he warbled that classic ballad of undying love..."Stairway to Heaven".


I'm not sure there's any combination of instruments that has NOT tackled that one.

My favorite by far is Dixie Power Trio, a local Baltimore group composed of tuba, cornet, and banjo. Definitely worth a listen!
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/05/10 01:09 PM

Quote:
But there sure is comic potential for a group of 50+ men, wouldn't you agree?

Well, I just about fell off my chair laughing thinking of that "strangled falsetto" improv. grin

Sounds like you have a great play-by-ear talent. I can hear if a song is C05, 1-6-2-5, etc. and can recognize a diminished (b9) chord when I hear one, but that's about it. laugh
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/06/10 09:44 AM

As my dad always says, "Why waste a good performance on a rehearsal?"

I was forced to have a rehearsal this morning. My Mother's Day Concert is on Sunday, and these events involve music (no rehearsal necessary) and text from my books in two languages (rehearsal necessary). But I work with this very talented German actress named Heike Bänsch and she always nails everything in the first run-through. No hysterics, no diva fits, or, as my Irish friend says, "no one throwing a floppy."

I hardly ever sing (I write lyrics for real singers), but for this program I am intending to sing one song at the end. Might as well stir things up a bit. The lyric fell into my head a few weeks ago. The song has a James Taylor vibe.

Happy Mother's Day.

Mother’s Hands
©2010 Robin Meloy Goldsby
Bass Lion Publishing

Mother’s hands, they teach me,
They’re small, and yet they reach me,
I love the way her fingers stretch and curl.
Her hands are sometimes worried,
Other times unhurried,
The part of her that still remains a girl.

Her hands are never resting,
They're worn out from requesting,
Asking more than hands alone can hold,
Sheltering her garden from the cold.

Her hands are on my shoulder,
Standing guard like love’s last soldier,
Rough in spots, they smell like rose and sage.
On days when she feels tired,
And more or less inspired,
They barely lift to gently turn the page.

Her hands are never resting,
They're worn out from requesting,
And pointing out a million stupid things,
They flutter like a fallen angel's wings.

She taught me what I know,
Hold on, but still let go,
So I wave hello, with hands that look like hers.
I wave goodbye, with hands that look like hers.




Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/07/10 04:56 PM

nice poem (lyrics)

I'm almost finished with Piano Girl. I am struck that in the lives of artists, the very rich and the very seedy happen to meet. .. often.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/09/10 11:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Elssa
Quote:
But there sure is comic potential for a group of 50+ men, wouldn't you agree?


Sounds like you have a great play-by-ear talent. I can hear if a song is C05, 1-6-2-5, etc. and can recognize a diminished (b9) chord when I hear one, but that's about it. laugh


That's about it, for now. As a brief survey of posts on this very group will attest, there are lots of people who would love to be able to learn by ear at your current level, but have not yet developed the skill. What you can already do can seem like a magic trick to a musician who is still unable to play anything without sheet music.

I am good at playing by ear; even at playing by "ear" from the memory of what a song sounds like. I'm better at it than most people, even those who are better musicians otherwise. I don't know how much of that (if any) is due to any innate tendencies. Maybe there are inherent differences in potential. But I know too many people who do all their music learning by ear to accept that it requires a rare gift of some sort.

You've already unlocked the door, which seems to be the hardest part. I encourage you to play along with records you like. Concentrate on the melody and bass notes. Leaving aside that "Colour My World" is all arpeggios, which actually makes it a little simpler, try to hear how the melody and bass define the basic chords.

The first line melody is C F G A, with an F bass note. Can you see that an F Major of some sort is very very likely?
The next bass note is A. The words "Just What You.." are on the melody notes A Bb C. That C, with an A bass strongly suggests a minor, doesn't it? The next bass note, Bb, pretty much only has a Bb melody note over it, which doesn't help us define the chord. But we still have a strong "feeling" of being in the key of F Major, don't we? Lets use Bb Major.

The next chord has an Eb bass note, and a G in the melody ("Me"). Probably Eb Major, right? But now let's listen to the actual arpeggio. We had been playing the Bb Major in the second inversion on the previous chord, and I think you can hear that only one note has changed in the Right Hand. The first note of the arpeggio has changed from F to G, giving us an Eb Major, with a Major 7th and a ninth. (G Bb D F).

Next line. "...now, now that you're...". That's C, Eb C Ab, over an Ab bass note. Now there's a well-defined chord, wouldn't you say?

"...here...promise your..." Bb melody, Gb bass. Gb Major of some kind, got it?

"...love, that I'm waiting to..."
...A, D E F# G A... melody, D bass. Can you see the likely chord here? (not all the melody notes have to be in the chord, but what scale are we singing?)

Now "Colour My World" won't sound right with just Major and minor triads, and in this example, the "color tones" (7ths, 9ths, etc.) tend not to be suggested in the melody. The "Melody + Bass Notes" method won't always give you every nuance of every chord. But you can usually get the "framework" of Majors and minors, which is most of the battle.

The best thing about this "method" (I don't consciously do what I'm describing here, BTW, but I think it may be what underlies my ability to recognize chords "automatically") is that it uses the parts of the music that are the easiest to hear and remember. Many people get stuck trying to identify what a "chord" instrument is playing. In a dense pop mix, this can be pretty difficult. But if you're listening for the Melody, the Bass and thirdly the general "flavor" of chord, you don't need to identify the "interior" notes individually.

Once you have your "framework", you will then have to accustom your ear to recognize the sound of certain chord forms, such as Major 7ths, which is what most of the "Majors" in this song are . But can you hear that the last chord mentioned (the D...something) is "different" sounding than most of the others; that it's a dom7 instead?

Try the last few chords. Once you have the basics, PLAY ALONG with the record. I can't stress that part enough. You're not learning a trick, or even a technique; you're laying down data points, thousands of them, slowly building the "feel" for music and chords that we call "playing by ear". <Yoda> There is no "knowing how" -- many of us can't easily describe how we do it -- there is only the doing, over and over, until you can do it too. </Yoda>

Earlier this evening my mother was recounting her attempt to learn her grandmother's "recipe" for a certain Greek cookie. Of course, she got frustrated, because her grandmother didn't have a recipe; a set of discrete instructions that would yield a good batch. In a sense, she didn't know how to make the cookies, she could, however, do it. My mother was looking for a shortcut, a way to reduce the cookies to an algorithm, rather than learn as her grandmother must have, helping out her own mother dozens upon dozens of times. Is the batter too wet, too dry, sweet enough, etc.? She could "feel" it.

Don't think you've reached the end of your potential in this area (or any area, really). Do more of it.

And now an aside on the disconnect between the merits of a performance and the appreciation of the audience. Back in the Jurassic era, when "Colour My World" was new, my band played it, a lot. Our guitarist knew it on piano, and sang it pretty well. This afforded me the opportunity to play the flute solo on flute, an instrument I had only the barest acquaintance with. I'd spend four sets burnin' it up (as much as my 17 year-old skills would allow, anyway) on my main instrument, but on breaks I'd invariably hear "Hey man,I like that flute". Drunks oblivious to forty songs I played on Rhodes would still remember two dozen notes from a shiny silver object.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 02:11 AM

MAY 8th has come and gone. I truly believe that every musician in Germany was busy. Even my kids had gigs.

Here is my Dresden wedding report.

I got up at 5 AM and drove to the Cologne airport, got on a 6:50 AM flight to Dresden. The groom himself picked me up at the airport, then drove me into Dresden and gave me a one hour speed-tour of the city, which I truly appreciated, even though I was suffering from sleep deprivation. Germany has spent a lot of money reconstructing the city (it was blown to smithereens during WW2) and it has been restored to its former glory.

We left the city and headed to the wedding site, a small villa situated at the base of a vineyard. The groom is a internationally-Known sommelier, so the selection of the site was perfect. Piano (lovely Bechstein) arrived at 10, along with a technician. Ceremony was to be held outside.

Now. My husband and I have a theory that there are maybe two days a year when it's appropriate to hold a party outside. It's always too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too, too, too something. But yesterday was one of the good days. Bright blue sky, slight breeze, and 75 degrees. Perfect.

I was given a room in the villa, upstairs by the bride's apartment, so I was privy to all of the last minute bride hysteria. I had forgotten what that's like. You'd think the fate of the world depended on the perfect eye shadow color. The bride, in this case, was Portuguese, so she was by nature more relaxed than the standard lady in white.

Ceremony started at noon. Everyone (60 people) arrived en masse from a neighboring villa. I played as they came in and were seated.

During the ceremony I was asked to play the following:

Pachelbel Canon in D (can’t escape it, but really, there are worse fates). This was the processional. The bride’s dress was so poofy that she kept catching her feet in it, so her father spent the enter time on his hands and knees, adjusting her dress as she walked down the aisle. It was one of the most touching things I’ve seen in a long time.

A River Flows in You (I was the first on the block to learn it a year ago when my teenage daughter flipped over the Twilight movie. NOTE: I predict this will overtake the Canon as the number 1 wedding ceremony request, so if you’re not playing it yet, get cracking---it has four chords and you’ll be able to learn it in three and a half minutes.

Bach Air on a G String (as a former stripping pianist, don’t get me started about that title. I play an improvised fake book version of the piece, but it sounds really pretty and it feels good).

Lerbach Nocturne (always nice when the happy couple requests something I have written. This piece is on one of my CDs, which is what got me the gig in the first place)

Your Song (the Elton John classic. I learned it by ear years ago and even though I have my husband the Chord Doctor here to help me, I've never quite gotten the right voicing for that refrain, so the following lyric always runs through my mind while I'm playing: " And you can tell everybody, that the chord isn't right. It still sounds awfully funny, though I've practiced all night. I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, that the chord isn't right . . . ."

Somewhere in Time (insert drummer jokes, here, please)

The pastor made time in the ceremony for each of these pieces, so it was really like a little concert in the middle of a wedding. Aside from a few ants that made their way on the keys, the day was unmarred by critters. Too early in the season for the wasps to come out. The sun was warm on my back, the rows of grape vines stretched out like a sentry in perfect formation, a feeling of something beautiful—let’s call it hope—lingered in the early spring air.

I was back home by 7:30 PM, tired, but feeling like I had done something worthwhile. Every so often, as musicians, it’s crucial to be reminded that what we do has a little bit of magic attached to it, and that when all the other elements are in place, it’s not just a job, but an honor to play.

Will post about the Mother's Day concert later! I'm in recovery mode.

xoxo
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 08:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Bach Air on a G String (as a former stripping pianist,


I admit I am having some trouble picturing the mechanics of this one.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 08:50 AM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino

That's about it, for now. As a brief survey of posts on this very group will attest, there are lots of people who would love to be able to learn by ear at your current level, but have not yet developed the skill. What you can already do can seem like a magic trick to a musician who is still unable to play anything without sheet music.



I'm a beginner at piano but have played trombone since the 60's. I've always sightread exceptionally well and assumed playing by ear was simply beyond me. My brief efforts always ended up as a train wreck.

But in my 50's I ended up directing a Praise & Worship band in a local church, and played a bit of trombone with them. Much of the music was just guitar chords and words, not even a lead sheet. To my surprise I could do it, as long as I could really get the tune in my head. Not having the stand and sheet music in the way made the experience better and the connection to the audience more direct.

I don't know what made the difference, and I probably would have said I was too old to learn. Maybe we're never too old! I haven't added that skill on piano yet but I'm hopeful, if I'm granted enough time <grin>.
Posted by: TromboneAl

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 10:16 AM

Quote:
The groom himself picked me up at the airport, then drove me into Dresden and gave me a one hour speed-tour of the city


I think that a groom giving a one-hour tour to a pretty blonde on his wedding day is not a good omen for his marriage.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 11:25 AM

It warms my heart to know there TWO trombone players contributing to this thread.

Very funny, Al! But our tour-guide groom was a perfect gentleman. And I genuinely think he wanted to show off his city. But I also kept wondering if maybe he should have been conducting tours three hours before his wedding. At one point we were standing in a craft market place looking at BIRDHOUSES. Of all things.

The details of the stripping pianist story are in a chapter of Piano Girl called GYPSY, TEMPEST, and ME.. In 1980 I had a three month stint in a Burlesque show as the featured stripper. I played a Chopin Nocturne then stood up and stripped. You must trust me on this—it was a classy strip act. Right.

But that was three decades ago. Now I've graduated from stripper to wedding pianist. If I was younger I could probably book some bachelor party piano gigs, not that any of those bachelor party places have grand pianos.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 01:44 PM

"...now I've graduated from stripper to wedding pianist. If I was younger I could probably book some bachelor party piano gigs, not that any of those bachelor party places have grand pianos."

Well they would, if they got the idea the lid was going to open up and a hottie was going to come out.

You'll have another situation on your hands, though, with the piano rental folks. They are highly polarized on the issue of pianos which are returned containing sequins, feathers, and pasties.

Years ago, I used to be buddies with some of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Part of my popularity (let's face it) was because I owned a pick-up truck; ever so handy for getting materiel to and from gigs. As goes the pick-up, so goes the piano: let a drag queen in your car and you will never get all the sequins and glitter out. Ever.

How things fare with the piano renters depends on the reaction of the next customer, who finds that overlooked pastie in some cranny.

There's a country song in this story; Keith Urban or George Straight could bring down the house. Maybe at a private party.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 02:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
In 1980 I had a three month stint in a Burlesque show as the featured stripper. I played a Chopin Nocturne then stood up and stripped.


Ah. My apologies. I was trying to picture someone playing accompaniment while stripping, and not having much luck.

Do you suppose the groom who did the tour knew that story? Inquiring minds etc.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/10/10 04:34 PM

There was a thread on this board entitled something like, "What piece to play to impress a girl?". How to impress guys? A Chopin Nocturne, apparently.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/11/10 01:10 AM

Quote:
Once you have your "framework", you will then have to accustom your ear to recognize the sound of certain chord forms, such as Major 7ths, which is what most of the "Majors" in this song are.

Thanks so much, Greg, for the helpful tips. smile I can usually recognize the general sound/flavor of certain chords like Maj7th/Maj9th chords (dreamy), minor and dim/7b9 chords (mysterious/dramatic), b9#11 chords (dissonant/jazzy), etc. That's a good idea to focus on the bass together with the melody first. The play by ear courses say match long melody notes with chords, but that doesn't work well if that long melody note is an extension note.

Quote:
" And you can tell everybody, that the chord isn't right. It still sounds awfully funny, though I've practiced all night. I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, that the chord isn't right . . . ."

ha Well, now I feel a little better that someone who is so accomplished and plays as beautifully as you, Robin, has occasional chord trouble. Nice to have a "Chord Doctor" around, though. smile
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/12/10 11:08 AM

CLEF! In honor of your return to this thread, I have accepted the country-western song lyric challenge. Greg, I think you should write the tune. xoxo Robin

ELVA ON A G-STRING

I sit at the piano,
At Pinky’s Pink Place,
The men wearing jackets,
The women in lace,
Now I’m just a singer,
With a knack for the keys,
I play my first chord,
My heart starts to sieze—

Cause that’s when the stripper jumps out of the piano,
Twirlin’ her tassles for beer,
And this ain’t no regular bar room piano,
Elva the Body is here.
Oh! Elva the Body is here.

I play a cadence,
A nice country tune,
Elva she shimmies,
Men start to swoon,
Sequins are flyin',
With each grind and bump,
She yells “Take the coda”
Then slaps her own rump.

I love when the stripper jumps out of the piano,
Twirlin’ her tassles for beer,
And this ain’t no regular bar room piano,
Elva the Body is here.
Oh! Elva the Body is here.

"Air on a G-String,"
She shouts out my way,
Well shucks I don’t know that,
But still I must play,
The glitter, the glamour,
I struggle, I try,
A pastie it hits me,
Right smack in the eye.

I love when the stripper jumps out of the piano
Twirlin’ her tassles for beer
And this ain’t no regular bar room piano
Elva the Body is here.
Oh! Elva the Body is here.

Alas I am blind now,
And grwoing quite old,
But still I remember,
Her bra made of gold.
Her feathers, her rhinestones,
Her perfect red lips,
The portraits of Chopin,
Tattooed on her hips—

I love when the stripper jumps out of the piano,
Twirlin’ her tassles for beer,
And this ain’t no regular bar room piano,
Elva the Body is here,
OH! Elva the Body is here.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/12/10 11:49 AM

Bravo!!! Greg, you have GOT to come up with a tune for this song, and Robin, you have got to perform it somewhere, or better yet, put it up on YouTube so we can all enjoy it. "Air on a G string" -- I LOVE it!! laugh laugh laugh
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 09:41 AM

I was wondering why your song seemed so familiar.

Then I figured it out! It's the meter!

I sit at the piano,
Twas the night before Christmas

At Pinky’s Pink Place,
And all through the house,

Nice job!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 10:35 AM

But of course, Tim, it's always the meter. I'm a drummer's daughter and a bass player's wife. Meter is everything. Didn't intentionally use Night Before Xmas for this, but yeah, you're right, the verse hooks up with it! Good catch. Chorus takes a left turn, though.

Glad you liked it Monica!
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 11:55 AM

I heard it as a country waltz right off and had several variations of chords changing in my head. For several years I did exactly that sort of thing for some local would-be songwriters. They'd sing me their fledgling ideas and I'd put together the rest. But alas, I don't at present have an easy recording setup at hand. (I plan to remedy that soon).

For the moment, this would just about work (with slight adjustments to the chorus)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn3JB51NH_M
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 12:32 PM

A tour-de-force, Robin. Of course, it would have to be staged with a pop-top piano made of plywood and gator-foam, because the idea of having a stripper push up the lid of a real concert grand is the merest fantasy... and if it did, she would have string and frame impressions etched very deeply into her luscious skin. Though, maybe an audience of horny, liquored-up bachelors might overlook it.

(Perhaps the "piano" could actually contain a bubblebath, and the young miss could emerge clad in fluffy suds; hmmm...)

Still, piano to pole... it has possibilities. Did you know? There are classes in pole dancing these days, offered to bored suburban housewives. There are even some guys that are taking it up. Yes, things have come to that in marriage-land.

So, the wedding limo has lurched off the road, spraying dust and gravel as it panic-brakes at the roadhouse. Maybe it flattens the hitchin' post; well, that's a cinematic detail the critics can pat themselves on the back over. In the relative silence after the crash, the wail of the pedal steel misses not a beat. It's a country song called, "There's a Trailer Park in Gilroy." Why, it's about this very place--- Miss Lula's! And up comes the chorus:

"Well the jukebox is playin'
"And they dance their fill,
"With the covergirl cowgirls
"From Watsonville."

The shaken wedding party look at each other, shrug, and say, "Why not?" One two-step is about as good as another; besides, they all need a drink. There's a clatter and clump of dress shoes and pumps as they cross the porch, and the creak of spring and hinges as the screen door opens, and someone calls out, "Have y'all got any whiskey?"

Their whistles are barely wetted when they spot the 'piano'--- and the pole!


(to be continued)
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 02:53 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
I heard it as a country waltz right off and had several variations of chords changing in my head.


I went back and re-read it as a country waltz to see if you were right.

A melody appeared in my head, and !cr@p! now I've got an earworm. Kind of like Lucille, pretty close actually.

Thanks loads.

And yes you're right.

Works great. <less filling>
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/13/10 02:57 PM

Go for it, boys. Country waltz is exactly what I heard. But with stripper drums on the chorus.

Greg, loved that clip/

Clef, you are too funny.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/14/10 07:09 AM

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, I suspect we'll hit the "50,000 hits" mark in the next day or so, appropriate somehow since we are coming up on the first anniversary of this thread.

What fun this has been. There are too many highlights to list them all here. Personally, I favor the back and forth letter exchange with Wilma von Weasel. That was truly a group effort.

I guess we'll keep going as long as we have something silly or sad or important or whimsical to say. Here's to another 50,000.

And now I am off to work. Gotta go play a wedding. No vineyards this weekend.

Cheers.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/14/10 05:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef


Their whistles are barely wetted when they spot the 'piano'--- and the pole!


(to be continued)


i hope there is a mechanical bull in the outline

(i've a mechanical bull poem, ready and waiting)
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/14/10 09:03 PM

"i hope there is a mechanical bull..."

A poem waiting, have you, Miss Apple? A modern-day Pavlov, you are; ringing the bell just to see the dogs salivate.

I deny that an outline exists, though.

Gilroy (site of the action) is right down the road from Hollister, the site of the annual Hell's Angels convention. So if you're going to have a mechanical bull at Miss Lula's, I'd like to see a squadron of bikers roar up, park their Harleys, and ride it.

Maybe they will have a biker wedding, as the jukebox plays your song about the mechanical bull.

Maybe the bikers will... let's just say, maybe the bride and groom will marry people they're not expecting to. And could we throw in a lady wrestler? Such a lady picked me up hitchhiking, many years ago. I've never forgotten her kindness, and she deserves a cameo.

Yes, I can picture it. The thirsty and nervous wedding party swills down the last drop of sour mash bourbon. There is some big talk; a challenge; a showdown: two out of three falls on the mechanical bull and then another two out of three with the lady wrestler. And the loser...

(to be continued)
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/14/10 10:25 PM

Wham, bam, twist and slam,
the cowgirl's on the ground.
"Will you ride again ma'am?
the bull, it can rebound".


it's a shorty..
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/16/10 12:57 PM

Last night's wedding featured a corpulent bride, a welcome site after a year of size -2 ladies in white. I don't know how some of these women make it down he aisle. So thin! I don't know when everyone got so thin.

Had to play that MUSIC OF THE NIGHT thing from Phantom. I survived.

No cowgirls or mechanical bulls last night. Somehow I doubt that will be a theme at the castle.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/17/10 09:37 AM

maybe you could take a picture or two Robin... I'd love to see the castle (or perhaps a link).
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/17/10 09:45 AM

Apple,

If you're talking about the Castle, just join us on our European Tour next summer. Robin has graciously offered to play for us, so we're going to try to work the castle into the piano builder's tour.

There's a picture and link to the castle in the tour thread...

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1413511.html#Post1413511
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/17/10 08:34 PM

thank Frank.. what a nice link. I would love to come. that is decidely outside our ghetto budget... but who knows, maybe I'll get another job soon... perhaps playing for Jewish service on Saturday morning.

I've looked at the 39 photos in the gallery. Gorgeous.

Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/17/10 11:21 PM


Trust me, I can't afford it either.

I'm doing everything I can to come up with the money, which means I'll probably
end up maxing out my credit cards.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 02:50 AM

Hope to see some of you over here! I promise NOT to stage the stripper portion of my book. I'm pretty sure my castle colleagues don't know about that chapter of my life. Whatever would Her Highness say?

BTW, I met her the other night after the wedding. I actually curtsied and said, "Good evening Your Highness," a greeting I used rarely in Pittsburgh or New York. I felt like I was in a Mel Brooks film.

She listens to my music (her suite opens onto an upper-lobby area where she can sit without being seen) whenever I play but I rarely see her. I assume she has recovered from the duck incident.

Okay, back on topic—I am playing a wedding next week for four people. Groom, bride, two witnesses, and me. Jeez. Steinway D in a villa not far from here. That's a lot of piano for four people, but I'll take it. So far, no goofy requests!

Note to aspiring wedding musicians: one of the advantages of having a CD (or two) of your own is that people tend to request things they have heard on the recording. Assuming you record pieces you love, this works out nicely for everyone. And you don't have to spend 17 days learning some difficult piece that no one will really hear.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 12:17 PM

I haven't played any weddings yet but I am going to be playing at an engagement party in June as the guests are arriving, the daughter of a friend is getting engaged and most of the guests will be people I know. I'm scheduled to play for an hour which is twice as long as I have played solo piano in front of an audience before.

It would be easier if I had a repertoire of jazz standards to play but I don't - I haven't yet figured out how to avoid having each chorus sound exactly the same when I play from a fake book, or having each song sound kind of the same for that matter. Instead I'm going to be playing a selection of pieces by Scott Joplin and Ernesto Nazareth with one Chopin waltz thrown in. The event is outside so I'm going to need to bring a digital keyboard and small PA. I think things will go fine if it doesn't rain, it is not windy ( so my music does not get blown off the stand ) and there are not any wasps circling - I will make sure I am nowhere near the food. One good thing about doing this is that it is forcing me to build my repertoire up to an hour by polishing up a lot of songs that I used to play but had become rusty. Wish me luck, I might need it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 03:12 PM

Hi Chris,

Repeat after me: Everything will be FINE.

It will, I promise. Sounds like this will be a typical background music gig. People will most likely be chatting and eating and drinking, possibly running away from the wasps, socializing with long lost friends,snapping pics of the happy couple, etc. The last thing they will be thinking about is the music. Play things you enjoy playing. If someone asks you for something you don't know, smile and say it's not yet in your repertoire but it's a piece you'd like to learn.

The only way to learn how to do these jobs is to do them. There's no real way to prepare, except to remember to play for yourself, play what you love, wear a nice outfit, and smile. As my best friend Robin Spielberg likes to remind me—the piano will rescue you every time. It's true. Just play and get lost in the music.

Best of luck to you and let us know how it goes. And hey, see if you can book the wedding while you're there.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 05:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Chris G
(a litany of worries)

It's a shame I can't find this on YouTube.

There was a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Daffy Duck has rigged a piano with dynamite. The dynamite is set to be triggered by the playing of a specific key.

(what follows here is entirely based on a 40+ year-old memory, so any or all of the details may be wrong)

Bugs sits down to play a famous waltz, whose famous name eludes me right now. He plays the well-known melody, with one conspicuous modification:

C C E G G (octave up) G G Eb Eb

Daffy, who has been hiding backstage, waiting for the big Kaboom when Bugs plays the second "E" above Middle C, comes running out, screaming that Bugs has played it wrong.

Bugs takes another look at the music, and says he'll try it again. Again he plays the Eb. Daffy comes out, even more agitated than the first time, yelling again that that's NOT how it goes. Bugs says he'll try it one more time.

Of course, Bugs plays the Eb yet again. Daffy comes out, this time completely apoplectic. "Nooooooooooooooooooo!" He shoves Bugs aside. "This is how you play it!"

C C E G G (octave up) G G BOOM

And that, complete with talking animals and a box of dynamite, is about the level of screw up that is necessary for a cocktail pianist to penetrate the consciousness of your average catered-affair guest.

I second Robin's advice. Don't worry about it. You will make mistakes, and you will be the only one who notices them.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 07:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Hi Chris,

Repeat after me: Everything will be FINE.



Thanks Robin, I'm sure it will be. I'm not one of those people who gets stage anxiety so I'll be fine once I start playing, in fact it will be a relief because having to expand my repertoire of songs that are ready to play is a lot of work. I figure I need about ten songs to cover the hour and I feel like I'm juggling these ten songs, trying to keep them all in the air without dropping any.

As you say this is going to be a great learning experience and I'll report back after the gig.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/18/10 07:17 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino

There was a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Daffy Duck has rigged a piano with dynamite. The dynamite is set to be triggered by the playing of a specific key.


I will try not to think of that while playing - it would be very distracting if I started to keep track of which keys I had already played.

Originally Posted By: gdguarino

I second Robin's advice. Don't worry about it. You will make mistakes, and you will be the only one who notices them.


Yes that is good advice. I will definitely make mistakes and no-one will be counting them.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/19/10 01:27 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino

Bugs sits down to play a famous waltz, whose famous name eludes me right now. He plays the well-known melody, with one conspicuous modification:

C C E G G (octave up) G G Eb Eb



Blue Danube? (blaue Donau, for Robin?)b
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/19/10 03:58 PM

"The Blew-Up Danube"
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/19/10 05:02 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: gdguarino

Bugs sits down to play a famous waltz, whose famous name eludes me right now. He plays the well-known melody, with one conspicuous modification:

C C E G G (octave up) G G Eb Eb



Blue Danube? (blaue Donau, for Robin?)b

Back in 1989 my wife and I traveled by hydrofoil down the Danube from Vienna to Budapest. It was more accurately described as greenish-gray than blue. I guess the "Greenish-Gray Danube" wouldn't have the same romance about it, though.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/20/10 03:02 AM

The Gray Danube does have a certain poetic charm, though.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/20/10 09:39 AM

would that not be the Grey Danube?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/20/10 01:57 PM

Nope. Gray.

gray: adj
1.having the color of ash or lead
2.dismal or gloomy
3.dull and colorless

Grey is also acceptable.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/20/10 04:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Nope. Gray.

gray: adj
1.having the color colour of ash or lead
.


There, fixed that for you.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/20/10 06:05 PM

The exploding piano segment starts at around 5:40. grin

BALLOT BOX BUNNY

Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/23/10 12:55 PM

I have already admitted that the details of the Bugs Bunny cartoon have faded in my memory, but I'm almost sure that this is not the clip I was referring to. It's the same gag, to be sure; maybe the Warner Bros. folks recycled an idea now and then.

We played a house party last night, outdoors by the pool. The people had pretty over-the-top ideas about home decoration, but were very nice to us and presented no other story fodder. No one ended up in the pool, for instance. Although I can't be sure, as our part of the party ended early (11pm). That's one plus about outdoor gigs, we get home early. Any later and some uninvited guests in uniform would have been likely to show up.

I was thinking we ought to come up with an IPhone App. Coupled with Google Earth and GPS, it would let you know which neighbors you'd have to invite to the party to prevent them from complaining about the loud band you hired. You could walk around the neighborhood looking at the screen. "Yes honey, we have to include 59 Baker St., but 61 is outside the perimeter". "Thank goodness, you know what they say about the Fleagles, don't you?.

We played a memorable house party a number of years ago. It was bigger: Bigger house, bigger yard, more people, more alcohol. As might be expected, that last bit is an important element of the story.

I have to stop for a moment and stress that the following actually happened, just about exactly the way I am about to tell it. I have witnesses.

There was a guest at the party, a good friend of the host, who played bass guitar. The host asked if his friend could sit in with the band for a tune or two. We generally accommodate such requests. We've been playing a long, long time and can withstand a high degree of inexpertise on the part of a "guest artist".

As it turned out, this guy could actually play. Judging by his body language ("Rock Star wannabe"), bass position (nearly at his knees) and merciless thwacking of the strings, his preferred genre was something overloud, overfast and lacking in vocal articulation. But he played something like the right notes with a tune that we know.

The tune we chose was one that our bass player (Willie) sings. Perfect. Willie would get a chance to step out in front of the band without having to play.

The guest bassist apparently played with a band, and band that had at least one rabid fan. Said rabid fan was at the party. He was built like a giant chubby infant; all soft rolls of fleshy fat without a hint of definition, or melanin. He danced in front of our guest artist; a large, pink, 80 proof Jell-O Shot of a man shaking in all directions simultaneously, all the while yelling "Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!".

[I feel the need to remind you again, there is not a bit of fiction in this story. ]

At this point he decided that the shorts and T-shirt he had on were too restrictive to allow him proper freedom of movement. He ripped off the shirt and dropped his shorts around his ankles, now as naked as the day he was born, and looking remarkably similar.

There were eight guys in the band at the time; we didn't yet have a sax player. Seven of us had seen him drop his drawers, and were chuckling merrily, already imagining the wording we would use to tell this story long into our dotage.

Willie - remember Willie? - was getting into his star turn singing in front of the band. He had taken to it like a natural, confidently moving around a bit, putting a little more effort into his vocal, when in the middle of a line he happened to turn to his left. Michelin Man was maybe six feet away, gyrating his generous proportions wildly.

Willie was blown back like a stunt man shot in an action flick. As he still had the microphone, his immediate reaction was broadcast, with reverb, over the sound system. It is sadly not repeatable in a family-friendly forum.

Willie is a very funny guy, usually among the first to see the humor in any situation. But not this time. The shock had made him too pissed off to laugh. Conversely, his reaction made the scene even funnier to the rest of us.

This is not, however, the most unbelievable part of the story. Really, I swear. And yes, it is all true, even the next bit.

Mr. Silly Putty ran off in the direction of the house. We figured that was the last we'd see of him. Likely a couple of his buddies would find him a couch in the basement to sleep it off on. Not so.

In the middle of the next tune we saw him again (Really...on a stack of Bibles) this time on the roof of the house, a huge amorphous shape framed in the moonlight.

"Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/23/10 07:02 PM

"Fiddler on the Roof Rides Again"

Well, I'm dying to know what the hosts had to say. Of course, they may not have said it within the hearing of the band. It had to be choice.

Being rich, I'm sure they had excellent homeowners' coverage. If this were a movie, you know the roof tiles would have given under the load and the Go-Go boy would have either have gone through or over.

So... did the band strike up "Twist and Shout," or take a break?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/25/10 11:20 AM

I don't know what the host had to say. It was a pretty big yard and we were playing pretty far from the house. Our roly-poly friend was hardly the only drunk at the party.

As for the band, we handled it with our usual aplomb. We were in the middle of the next song when we spotted him on the roof, pumping his fist to the heavens and bellowing.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/30/10 05:28 AM

How I wish I could have seen Big Baby Diaper Pants up on the roof. As I have often said on this forum, you can't make this stuff up.

Oh my, I played the weirdest wedding on Tuesday. The bride-to-be booked me to play, but she told me there would be no one there except for the groom (a high-profile guy who likes my music) and the mayor, who would marry them. And me. I was to be a surprise for the groom, which really got me thinking about Air on a G String and Elva the stripper.

The wedding took place at the city hall. Piano (Steinway D!!!!!) was outside of the salon where they were married. I was instructed to HIDE in the Ladies Room and wait until they were inside the salon before I started playing. The Ladies Room wasn't as bad as it sounds—actually it was quite posh—so I sat in there with my iPhone and wrote emails to piano pals while I waited. The city hall worker came and fetched me when the coast was clear.

"Okay," she said. "You can play now. Everyone is gone."

Kind of the ultimate job if you ask me: Wait until everyone leaves and then start playing. But they weren't really gone, just taking care of business on the other side of two huge wooden doors.

The bride requested the Forest Gump theme, Feather, which is kind of an odd wedding song, but whatever. I played it and a lot of other things, and fell in love with the piano. There is nothing like playing an instrument like that in a big empty hall. I was in heaven. Anyway, 30 minutes later the happy couple and the mayor burst out of the salon with a bottle of champagne that cost more than my car. I played a few more tunes, then joined the bride and groom when the mayor left and they seemed to need someone to talk to. A photographer showed up and took 12,000 photos of the three of us.

The whole thing was over by 12 noon. I was home in time to drive my kids to their piano lessons.

This week's castle bride did not hire me. She opted for two opera singers and a classical pianist. I got to have Saturday night off. I watched the Eurovision Song Contest, which is, in my opinion, the funniest thing on TV. Now I know why there is no Las Vegas in Europe. They have this instead. I particularly liked Greece's entry, which featured macho men in tight white jumpsuits suits yelling OPA! and flinging their limbs around while plumes of fire shot up behind them.

I am sad. The Princess leaves the castle today. Her Highness has been the ultimate guest. I hardly ever saw her, but she sent notes and gifts to the piano and seemed to genuinely enjoy the music. I will also miss her security team. They were nice guys.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/30/10 05:33 AM

Here is a little slideshow my 13 year old daughter put together for the Princess. It features the famous Black Swans, two very handsome geese, and Sally the Duck, the Buttercup Blondeau of water birds. If you're curious about what the castle park looks like, this is a good way to see it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctaaXDnUeT8
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/30/10 11:26 AM

If you can believe it, there is a Barn Owl hooting this morning in this somewhat suburban part of San Jose, California's second-largest city. Calling for a mate, maybe, or declaring a territory. No, there are no barns; maybe he has made-do with a garage or a nice, roomy tool shed. As long as there are mice, voles, ground squirrels, and the Dusky-Footed Wood Rat (and there are, even here), I suppose a Barn Owl would be indifferent to the accommodations. We have Burrowing Owls, too; many a developer dreads them mightily. Threatened, you know: habitat destruction. The same developers who have turned the owls out in the street in order to build many thousands of acres of office parks and parking lots (over former orchards) are themselves Endangered (or at least Threatened) as their developments stand empty, after a big real estate boom and then a couple of pretty deep recessions.

Maybe the empty real estate is where the Barn Owls are roosting. There is a rather handsome high-rise downtown, put up about ten years ago, which has never had a tenant--- not one.

Anyway, it's a quiet morning so far. The hummingbirds are singing and fussing--- not at me, I filled the feeder--- with voices that sound like the creaking of a rusty gate. Yet, they don't seem bothered, and who knows, maybe to a hummingbird it sounds very musical. You would never know that on this date in 1942, Cologne endured an intense bombing raid by air. One thousand RAF airplanes... and that was only one of its 262 air raids during World War II. Twenty-five seconds of an earthquake seems like forever, so I can't think what ninety minutes of carpet bombing must feel like.

I enjoyed the video about the castle and the waterfowl, and I think even a Princess would find it touching as a gift. Even more so, those of us who already know the backstory about those swans. And what delicious understatement: the Registry Office surprise; the favorite pianist hiding in the ladies' room until the doors were closed on the ceremony. San Franciso's City Hall is a domed marble palace in the best Gilded Age tradition, with an immense marble grand staircase. It has seen many a wedding, and a few shootings. I got married there myself, but I don't believe they allow shotguns on the premises these days. I assume the ladies' rooms are at least to the standard of the mens': as posh as the lobby, nearly. No electric torchelieres, though.

No one is going to top Greg's stories. So there. My new piano teacher has busted me back to the third grade, where I belong. It is harder than I would have thought (or more work, anyway) to be taking piano lessons at my age. I've shattered a couple of personal expectations already: so much for the hour-a-day routine; it wasn't cutting it. Van Cliburn said, in an interview, something like, "If you watch the clock, you never get anywhere. You have to just lose yourself in practicing, so that when you look at the clock, you wonder where all the time went."

He has, all the same, remarked that when I play my own compositions I show perfect form and perfect technique (not so much when I'm reading the lesson, though). That is something. He also said that my understanding of music is well beyond my performing and sightreading ability. But if that were not the case, I would be giving lessons instead of taking them. I do find that it's a nice experience to be placing myself at the outer edge of the wavefront of my personal bubble of expanding knowledge; no matter how much you know, that edge is going to be somewhere. And my teacher is a student also.

It serves a purpose, too, in that I think I may get out of that wedding and reception next month. I have a performance that night: no, not playing; turning pages while my teacher gives a performance. It is more fun than you might think. I did a couple of gigs with him last month, and it was worth the whole tie-wearing trouble to see him blush when the kids (it was a chorus) screamed for him as he was called up for a bow. His complexion supports a blush nicely (I am far too jaded for it myself)--- and they didn't scream for the choral director; the applause was polite. Umm hmm.

And speaking of wildlife, that bat roost on Market Street in San Francisco, where the cover of "Piano Girl" was photographed, was having some kind of competition recently; it was in the newspaper. Anyway, the place is still in business. We have that much in common.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 05/31/10 10:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

No one is going to top Greg's stories. So there.

The Pillsbury Doughboy Au Natural is a pretty good one, I'll admit. I'm surprised he took so long to make his "appearance" on the forum. But musicians tend to have uncommonly good stories; I can't say why. There's always a topper.
Quote:

He has, all the same, remarked that when I play my own compositions I show perfect form and perfect technique (not so much when I'm reading the lesson, though). That is something. He also said that my understanding of music is well beyond my performing and sightreading ability. But if that were not the case, I would be giving lessons instead of taking them. I do find that it's a nice experience to be placing myself at the outer edge of the wavefront of my personal bubble of expanding knowledge

Much the same could have been said about me at any time during my musical development. My musical ear has always far outstripped my finger skills.

The simplest and perhaps most cynical explanation for your expertise when playing your own compositions is that they don't often wander outside your comfort zone. This is undoubtedly true to some extent. But I suspect there's more. It's always easier to play music you can really "hear"; music that is not a collection of written notes, shapes, fingerings, accents and forced co-ordinations of RH and LH parts, but a coherent sound that you are making as a whole. You play with good technique because you are playing essentially without "technique", you are playing with feel.

Keep it up. There's music down that road.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/01/10 08:58 PM

That was a lovely slideshow Robin's daughter and the arrangement of Canon in D sublime.. i loved it. really clever and beautiful.

I play it beautifully on the piano and absolutely massacre it sometimes on the organ.. i just don't know how to arrange it. there are so many options. (i guess i don't have the skills).

i really enjoyed listening.

(also just saw the picture of you and Marian McPartland. that's nice)
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/07/10 01:40 PM

Thanks, Apple. I have also been known to massacre that piece. I play it differently every time, and got lucky on that particular recording. I can imagine an organ version would prove to be quite challenging. Lately I've been having mixed results with a double time left hand thing. If I'm relaxed it's very pretty. If I'm nervous it sounds, well, nervous. Think Dusky-Footed Wood Rat on speed.

CLEF: Greg wrote exactly what I wanted to write, except he was more articulate than I would have been. I write pieces that do not exceed my (considerable) limitations as a player. My very wise dad once told me that the key to sounding good is to know when you sound bad.

I'm really good at certain styles. I suck at others. Or, as a Japanese jazz musician once famously said at a recording session with some A-list NYC studio players: "I AM SUCK." I try to acknowledge when I've ascended to my level of incompetency and avoid attempting anything over that limit. I've made a career by strict adherence to this rule.

All of this, of course, applies to performance. In the practice room, anything goes.

A few words regarding Greg's excellent point about sensitivity in playing—I try not perform a piece unless I have an emotional connection to it. Life is too short to commit to learning a composition that doesn't speak to me in some way. That might sound like a lot of hooey to the players here who are excellent readers and technicians (my husband being one of them), but for me, it's critical for me to connect to the music in order to get a decent interpretation.

I joke a lot here about playing music that doesn't particularly inspire me (Phantom, Titanic, etc.), but the truth is that once upon a time I liked those pieces enough to learn them. When I play those songs now, I can still tap into that long-ago connection. Does this make sense? I am into my second glass of wine after a long day of writing, so I may have slipped into my loopy mode.

Beautiful weddings at the castle this weekend. The weather cooperated, and the front garden of the castle was filled with beautiful people admiring the black swans. Lovely. No fat boys howling on the castle roof, but you can't have everything.

On the literary front, I've gotten word that my new book will be published in both German and English in the spring of 2011. Translator is hard at work and so am I. But, I've been thinking (this is for you, Clef), NOTHING is as difficult as sitting at the piano and playing a piece of music. Anything else is easy in comparison.

Here's to you, my fellow pianists! Cheers. We are NOT suck.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/07/10 02:28 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Life is too short to commit to learning a composition that doesn't speak to me in some way.


This is a good credo, and one that I try to live by ("all Einaudi, all the time" laugh ). I'd rather have a narrow repertoire that I find emotionally fulfilling than be well-rounded yet indifferent to what I'm playing. One of the nice things about being strictly amateur is that I don't get hounded by a lot of requests! grin

...incidentally, can't wait for your next book to come out! I hope you'll let us know when the official release date comes around.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/07/10 02:43 PM

"I'd rather have a narrow repertoire that I find emotionally fulfilling than be well-rounded yet indifferent to what I'm playing."

Great quote Monica! I also think that the audience would agree.

I will certainly let you know about the book! It's a long stretch between now and next spring, but when the time comes, you'll be the first to know. Thanks.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/07/10 03:55 PM

Ok, it's Monica by a nose; I know when I'm beat, even when it takes a photo-finish to be sure.

However, I'd like to be the second, third and fourth in line to sign up for the advance order. One for me, one for Darlene, one for Stahl.

Have you chosen a title yet? Hal Leonard publishing it again? If you'd like to tell us a little bit about the book, it might tide some of us over until the release date.

Will Humpty Dumpty and the black swans be on the cover?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/08/10 12:32 AM

Thanks, Clef! Working title is Waltz of the Asparagus People, but that may change. Book is a non-fiction collection of stories about making music and raising an American family in Europe. Some of it's funny, some of it is serious. I'm excited about it!

Publishers:
Buecken und Sulzer/German International Print Rights
Bass Lion/ English International Print, Digital, and Audio

xoxo to you, Darlene, and the fabulous Stahl.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/08/10 12:06 PM

Waltz of the Asparagus People--- I like it. Don't let the marketing people twist your arm, this is one of those thunderbolts of intuition, and people will recognize it... intuitively. Ok, maybe it's the heat lightning of intuition. And ok, maybe asparagus is a cool-season vegetable. And as for Marketing, I would put them in the same general category as wedding planners.

My new collection bears the working title, Dragged Through Life by the Pianist. Think it has nothing to do with weddings? I'm not so sure, not so sure at all. Ok, so I don't expect it to be reviewed in Brides Magazine. And ok, so the marketing guys might shrink in horror, and I have no intention of letting the wedding planners get hold of it, them and their clipboards. Maybe I should, after all, entitle it something like Against My Better Judgment; no lightning striking dangerously near, but it's better than explaining the title to one talk show host after another. Especially Letterman; all I could say is, "And who should know better than you?"

"The simplest and perhaps most cynical explanation for your expertise when playing your own compositions is that they don't often wander outside your comfort zone. This is undoubtedly true to some extent. But I suspect there's more. It's always easier to play music you can really "hear"; music that is not a collection of written notes, shapes, fingerings, accents and forced co-ordinations of RH and LH parts, but a coherent sound that you are making as a whole. You play with good technique because you are playing essentially without "technique", you are playing with feel. Keep it up. There's music down that road."

It's true that I play, pretty much, up to the limitations of my technique, and get around it by multi-tracking. The tactic benefits from a keyboard track that doesn't hog all the bandwidth... and I've had thirty years to polish some of these pieces up. That's one reason I'm taking lessons now: I'd like go somewhat beyond what my fingers don't know how to do. It is very illuminating to see how other composers write; the written page and what they do with the hands takes you into their mind more than just hearing a performance. The truth is, they write for players.

It's the funniest thing about composing, though. It is like I "hear" it first; as if I were 'tuning in' to the music, like it was coming from somewhere else. Then I have to learn to play it (sometimes I can't--- another reason for studying now). I'm always surprised at the way it sounds on piano.

Which reminds me--- better get practicing. My teacher moved the lesson up by a day, and I've got to do a little housecleaning, since he comes here. My idea of the minimum hospitality of the house is having a bathroom where you're not afraid to sit down, and a piano lid where you can't write your name in the dust.

On a different (but related) topic: Happy Birthday, Robert Schumann. June 8, 1810. I have the impression that Clara also felt dragged through life by the reproductive organs. Her great enthusiasm for bearing her first child cooled down, enough to have been noted by biographers, for numbers Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven. Given the known inconveniences of womanhood, I would think the expression might apply even more to the ladies. It’s like the chain drive said to the rollercoaster, up at the very top: “Brakes? What is that?”

Oh, Waltz of the Asparagus People is so much better a title. You know, for one thing, that the action must take place either at a ballroom or a Farmers’ Market.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/08/10 05:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Thanks, Clef! Working title is Waltz of the Asparagus People, but that may change. Book is a non-fiction collection of stories about making music and raising an American family in Europe. Some of it's funny, some of it is serious. I'm excited about it!

Publishers:
Buecken und Sulzer/German International Print Rights
Bass Lion/ English International Print, Digital, and Audio

xoxo to you, Darlene, and the fabulous Stahl.



That title is quite a mouthful and you missed the opportunity to use one of the best sounding words in the German language. Did you consider "Waltz mit spargel"
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/08/10 05:52 PM

for some reason i am reminded of the watermelon boiling Germans in the 'Accordian Tales'.
Posted by: David Sprunger

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/12/10 01:10 AM

Ha! I'm laughing and in pain at the same time. I truly think weddings are some of the most stressful gigs on the planet.

Here's my scorcher - I was approached by a bride who had a stack of classical music for me. It was a bit intimidating, but I thought "Hey, I'll get paid to practice". This lady was of the "A++ type" personality and decided she wanted to audition me every week to see how I was doing. Again, a bit of a stresser, but the challenge was intriguing.

4 months later (!) the big day came and I was running late for the wedding. By the way, this happened back in my college days, so I was even later to events than I am now. Also, I was a poor college boy, so my car was a pitiful 1964 Toyota Crown (anyone heard of that one?)

I was flying pedal to the metal trying to get to the church on time when my shift linkage broke. Now I only had 4th gear.

Mentally, I went through the upcoming intersections and decided that if I kept rolling, I could make it in 4th gear.

Lug... lug... lug... my poor car was bucking like rodeo horse, but I made it to the church just in time.

As I walk in the side door, the bride tells me "The Organ is right over there".

"Organ? What?!!! I don't play the organ!" I replied.

She went from a stressful bride to a murderous looking woman and tried to get me to play the organ. I guess she thought if you can play classical music on the piano, you can just as easily play it on the organ.

I told her that I'd play all of the prelude music on the piano and then play the recessional on the organ. She had to agree - it was time to begin.

I played the prelude music - I think I did a rather good job. Then, after the ceremony began, I snuck around to the organ. Here's where the real trouble began.

I had no idea how which knobs to select. All I could remember was that when I was a young kid messing around after church on the organ, it always sounded great when I turned on everything. (ha)

So I turned on everything. What I didn't know is that I was turning on chimes, bell sounds, and everything else this beast could produce.

The ceremony dragged on....

With a bit of time to kill, I noticed that the organ had pedals, and thought "why not?". So I silently practiced what I thought would sound good.

Unfortunately, I didn't know that organ pedals will only produce one note at a time. If you press two, the sound will oscillate wildly, kind of like a bucking rodeo horse. Kind of like my car.

My big moment came, and when I hit those famous chords, the organ did begin to buck, bringing most of the church with it.

I got dagger eyes from the bride all the way down the isle. Haaa!! It's still funny.

Unfortunately again, I had no idea why the organ sounded like a broken ship engine, so I played on.

As soon as I could, I snuck out the side door.

Unfortunately for the third time, the bride and groom had exited the church and were making their reception line right in front of my 1964 Toyota Crown.

I tried to get in my car without her seeing me, but no luck. Dagger eyes looking in my car!! Yikes.

I then remembered that I only had 4th gear.

Yep, you know what happened. The bucking keyboard player lurched and bucked away from the church in front of everyone. Bang, crash, buck.

Very funny.

I don't do weddings anymore.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/12/10 01:48 AM

Well. That bride (Wilma von Weasel makes a return appearance) deserved the Sci-Fi organ sounds for forcing you to rehearse for her every week to "see how you were doing." She must have been extremely evil, that bride. Wonder where she is now? We could send her a "Let's Talk Weddings" group greeting card for her anniversary.

Funny, isn't it (or maybe not) how many civilians assume a pianist can play an organ.

Thanks for posting this story here, David. It's a wonderful tale, especially the Toyota Crown part. I always say that getting to the gig is the hard part. For me, this was extra-true when I lived in New York City, where a ten minute trip could take two hours. Anyone here ever try to get crosstown while the Puerto Rican Day parade was happening?

There are NO weddings going on in Germany right now. World Cup madness has taken over. It seems even the most determined bride is no match for a soccer ball.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/12/10 12:05 PM

Some of these brides have watched more "Bridezilla" episodes than is good for them. Why, just last week one pitched the biggest snit because her sister tipped a beautician (behind the bride's back) because she didn't pluck the bride's eyebrows to suit her.

The bride had never heard of the saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," nor had she heard of Jenny Craig. Pluck as you may, it's not going to take 75 pounds off.

The Waltz of the Asparagus People has made me rethink the title of my own collection. Though it may have less of a "jump off the shelf" impact, I'm liking the lower-key title, A Pocket Full of Awry.

Also reconsidered: the 'jiggler on the roof' can go on the cover of Greg's book. I see a cartoon for Asparagus, along the lines of the original jacket of Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano--- still in print (and even on the shelves) thirty years after its release.

I confess I'm a little surprised at the lack of weddings. Many brides might be oblivious, others might take advantage to snap up a bargain or to squeeze themselves into a long-booked month, where cancellations are granted only when there are no vital signs.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/13/10 01:14 AM

CLEF: I was wrong. There were several weddings at the castle last night. Three very small parties were in the lobby having cocktails during my regular Saturday night set. The joint was jumping, much to my surprise. Usually a bride can't stand having another bride around, but lasts night's groups were civilized. Nice people. I played all original material, people listened and applauded politely, and one of the brides sent me champagne. I was out of there at 8:30 and able to make the second set of a wonderful classical concert at the Kultur Zentrum in our village.

Jiggler on the Roof is a riot! A Packet Full of Awry is way too hip for the room, which means it's a perfect title for a book penned by you.

My husband John (who was in his twenties at the time) did a huge tour with Claude Bolling in the late seventies to publicize Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. My mother-in-law still thinks that tour was the high point of John's career, because he got to be on the Tonight Show and Johnny Carson introduced him. I have a video of that somewhere--you've inspired me to dig it out!

Tonight we are going hear Lang-Lang in concert at the Ruhr-Rhein Klavier Festival. How's that for a spectacular way to conclude the weekend?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/13/10 01:51 PM

I'm relieved to learn that brides are not letting June go to waste at the Castle. I was about to examine the Earth, to see if it was still spinning on its axis.

Not that it's any further comfort, but yesterday was the anniversary of Trisha Nixon's White House wedding, later satirized in a movie that did for Trisha what Tina Fey has done for Sarah Palin (or more).

Alice Roosevelt Longworth also had a White House wedding. The Wiki article on her life was very spicy and worth a look, but I was not able to discover if hers was a June wedding. Some of her quips (as well as her glamorous and free-spirited public image) would have given Mae West a warm glow, including the scene of her cussing out the television set as she watched Richard Nixon's farewell address (which featured 'inspiring quotes' from her own father's private letters). So much for Trisha! I am glad to learn that this June's crop of brides' deportment has been seemly and gracious. After awhile, one starts to wonder.

I may have seen your husband's performance with Bolling and Rampal, at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. So long ago, but still memorable. All the musicians were the best--- there's no other word for it. I still remember the bassist (each instrumentalist did a solo turn during the concert)--- a happy man with a million-dollar smile. Does that sound like John?
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 08:56 AM

Originally Posted By: David Sprunger

Unfortunately again, I had no idea why the organ sounded like a broken ship engine, so I played on.


Further evidence that musicians, even those without the advantage of late-night well-lubricated clientele, have the best stories.

I've only got a couple of brief gig notes. We played a retirement community dance last Saturday evening. I use the word "evening" deliberately; the gig went from 7-10 pm. We probably could have gotten a club gig in afterwards. There were energetic early retirees, a sizeable walker contingent and everything in-between.

The posters advertising the affair made the genre of music clear. Old Time Rock 'n' Roll. It was sponsored by the "American Bandstand Club". In addition, we've played there before, two or three times before. These people know us. Nevertheless, there was the obligatory person who felt he had to make his grievance known. We were just too damned loud, even through the Safety Orange Ear-Protecting Headphones he brought with him. I'll bet all the people who were cheering after every song were too loud as well.

One more minor chuckle. There were posters around the Club House advertising upcoming events. One was a bit of participatory Dinner Theatre, "Tony Soprano's Retirement Party". There was a cautionary note: "For Mature Audiences Only".
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 09:56 AM

organs can be stressful and i've experienced the bell thing. on an unfamiliar organ, it is difficult to ascertain which stop needs to go (ha ha) when you are sightreading. kudos to you David, for playing 2 pedals at once without practice.

and i reiterate, brides are the most difficult of people to please.. they are so INTO micromanagement.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 10:14 AM

Oh, I love, love love the guy with the orange earphones.

A musician friend of mine was playing in a cruise ship band that specialized in oldies but goodies. A geriatric guest had a heart attack while on the dance floor (it's strenuous to do "The Mashed Potato" with a walker), and died right there in front of the band.

The next day, I kid you not, the life insurance company for the Poor Man, sent a rep to the ship to determine if the band's volume had caused the heart attack. Really, the rep showed up with audio equipment and everything, and then tried to blame the drummer and the bass player.

I completely ripped off this story for a scene in Rhythm (my novel). It was just too ridiculous not to use it.

I hope they have a couple of ambulances standing by for Tony Soprano's Retirement Party.

Hey, did I ever tell you about the Murder Mystery theater company that showed up at the castle? They were hired for a corporate event. It was one of those deals where actors were "planted" among the unsuspecting hotel guests. Plan was, one by one, the actors would be "murdered." The guests would then have to figure out who was the murderer.

Okay. Fine. Problem was everyone on the staff knew about this, except for me. Nobody ever tells the piano player anything. I showed up for my gig a few minutes late and sat down at the piano. I was thinking, "wow, there are some eccentric looking people here tonight. Even more than usual." Then, THERE WAS GUNFIRE, and then a body fell down the steps. I flipped out and started screaming for an ambulance. An ambulance did come, but it was a fake ambulance, along with fake Polizei. Holy friggin dinner theater, Batman!

I had to be yanked out of the lobby by the valet, who told me what was going on. Meanwhile, the actors thought I was just playing along with them. The head of the troop offered me a job based on my realistic performance, but they were off to do a murder mystery in Slovenia and I had to be home to make lunch for my kids. So I declined.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 10:21 AM

I loved that chapter in Rhythm, Robin. Funny to think that it was based on real life!

...but you definitely need to work the mystery dinner story into your next (or some future) book. What a story!! Of course, it's hilariously funny for everybody who didn't actually have to go through the experience of thinking they had just witnessed a murder (= everybody but you!).
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 11:26 AM

Hi Monica! That story isn't in my outline for the new book, but outlines are made to be tampered with. I hadn't thought of that episode in years. This forum is wonderful for jogging the middle-aged memory of this young-at-heart cocktail pianist.

Who, I wonder, will make the 500th post here?
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 12:10 PM

"A musician friend of mine was playing in a cruise ship band... A geriatric guest had a heart attack while on the dance floor... and died right there in front of the band.

"The next day... the life insurance company for the Poor Man, sent a rep to the ship to determine if the band's volume had caused the heart attack. ... audio equipment and everything, and then tried to blame the drummer and the bass player."


It is not widely advertized, but cruise ships carry on board at least four or five coffins. They have learned by experience that many of their passengers are, well, old. The insurer who came out on the wrong side of the actuaries might better have sued the tempting buffet spread, the skimpy bikinis, the racy floor show, or the bingo tables--- they give more heart attacks than the bands.

As it happens, I know someone who passed away on his annual Caribbean vacation cruise. It happened very gently and naturally--- and he loved those cruises. Not such a bad way to go out. (There was no house band involved, by the way.) One suspects that the hospital cartel may have sicced the insurer on the cruise ship band, displeased that the insured dropped dead in his tracks from booty-shaking rather than enjoying an expensive hospital stay.
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 03:01 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Really, the rep showed up with audio equipment and everything, and then tried to blame the drummer and the bass player.


Well, blaming the drums and bass gives the rep at least a little bit of scientific credibility. smirk

One of the shorter versions of the classic joke:

A scientific expedition disembarks from its plane at the final outpost of civilization in the deepest Amazon rain forest. They immediately notice the ceaseless thrumming of native drums. As they venture further into the bush, the drums never stop, day or night, for weeks.

The lead scientist asks one of the natives about this, and the native's only reply is "Drums good. Drums never stop. Very BAD if drums stop."

The drumming continues, night and day, until one night, six weeks into the trip, when the jungle is suddenly silent. Immediately the natives run screaming from their huts, covering their ears. The scientists grab one boy and demand "What is it? The drums have stopped!"

The terror-stricken youth replies "Yes! Drums stop! VERY BAD!"

The scientists ask "Why? Why? What will happen?"

Wild-eyed, the boy shrieks as he runs away,

" . . . bass solo!!!" -
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/16/10 04:08 PM

I recall that there was a woman who decided to spend her final years on the QEII, because it was not that much more expensive than a good nursing home, and the care was at least as good. When they retired the ship, they moved her to the new one.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/10 02:20 PM

A friend of mine who is a guitar player was telling me about how he was once playing in a bar when someone was shot. I asked him "what did you do?" and he said "We kept on playing - what else would you do".
Posted by: gdguarino

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/10 05:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Chris G
A friend of mine who is a guitar player was telling me about how he was once playing in a bar when someone was shot. I asked him "what did you do?" and he said "We kept on playing - what else would you do".

I'd say that either your friend is a lot tougher than I am, or he's full of crap. What else would I do? I can think of a pretty long list, mostly involving maneuvers like ducking under, diving behind and finding (or creating) the nearest exit.

I have kept playing through insect swarms, rain, fog, wind, shouting matches, fistfights, a wedding cake dropping and smashing to pieces, a hurricane (OK, a mild one, but we were in a tent) and a fat naked man climbing a roof, but I draw the line at gunfire. Left with no other option, there'd be a Greg-shaped hole in the wall like in the cartoons.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/10 08:12 PM

Do you notice how casually Greg scarcely mentions that tale of the wedding cake mishap? People would read through a whole book just to get to a story like that.

I see an imaginary image of the guests lapping their way across the floor (and still praising the delicious wedding cake)... unlikely perhaps, but less unlikely than that any bride would let such an incident pass. Maybe this was the hurricane in the tent...?
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/21/10 08:17 PM

Originally Posted By: gdguarino
Originally Posted By: Chris G
A friend of mine who is a guitar player was telling me about how he was once playing in a bar when someone was shot. I asked him "what did you do?" and he said "We kept on playing - what else would you do".

I'd say that either your friend is a lot tougher than I am, or he's full of crap. What else would I do? I can think of a pretty long list, mostly involving maneuvers like ducking under, diving behind and finding (or creating) the nearest exit.

I have kept playing through insect swarms, rain, fog, wind, shouting matches, fistfights, a wedding cake dropping and smashing to pieces, a hurricane (OK, a mild one, but we were in a tent) and a fat naked man climbing a roof, but I draw the line at gunfire. Left with no other option, there'd be a Greg-shaped hole in the wall like in the cartoons.


It's been a while since I heard the story - said guitar player got deported back to England from the US several years ago for being in the country without a valid visa. I don't remember if he said that they finished the song or the set, probably the song. The story sounded plausible though, some of the bars that have live music are kind of on the rough side and the part about someone getting shot did not seem so unlikely. I can also see how if you were in the middle of a song the best way to avoid drawing attention to yourself would be to finish the song and then casually announce that you were taking a break and walk slowly off stage.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/22/10 08:53 AM

RE: Playing through gunshots, fat naked guys on rooftops, and dropped cakes. I thought this excerpt from Piano Girl would be appropriate. xoxo R

There's a Small Hotel
©2005 Robin Meloy Goldsby
Piano Girl
Excerpt provided by Backbeat Books

The Marriott Marquis hovers over Times Square like a giant spaceship, but when I enter the ground-floor level there isn’t much to see. Oh, there is the standard marble floor (where do the hotels in New York City get all that marble, anyway?), and there are little men in fancy uniforms with fringe on the shoulders. They hold open the doors and say welcome to the Marriott Marquis have a nice day with thick outer-borough accents. But the lobby? Nowhere to be seen. The clever designers have placed the lobby on the eighth floor, a practical scheme for keeping the street people out of the lounge area—a feature that does not go unappreciated by me. After my episode with Reginald, I’m relieved to have the piano far away from the street.

In order to access the lobby, you must pass the scrutiny of the Highly Trained Security Team situated on the ground floor. Well, that’s good. The Highly Trained Security Team looks very official with their bordeaux jackets, secret-service-type earpieces, and multiple television monitors. Once you’re past the Highly Trained Security Team, you have to wait forever for an elevator. Or you can ride the escalator, winding and climbing up through the bowels of the hotel, past the Broadway theater and floors of ballrooms, convention halls, and administrative areas, until you arrive—plop—in lobby-land. And what a lobby it is—a spectacular expanse of metal and leather and empty space that soars so high it makes you dizzy to look up.

The Marquis boasts five restaurants and two lounges. Two of these outlets are revolving. If you live in New York, what you want, at the end of the day, is to sit still—I enjoy a good sunset as much as the next guy, just not when I’m spinning around. But I’ve underestimated the appeal of the ever-changing panoramic view, especially to tourists. Harlan has promised me that I will not be playing in the revolving Broadway Lounge on the eighth floor, or in The View restaurant on the top floor. He knows I have a problem with motion sickness and has assured me that I will be sitting perfectly still at the piano in the Atrium Lounge, on the eighth floor.

The piano, a Yamaha conservatory grand, stands off to the side of the atrium, surrounded by ficus trees and huge beds of white flowers that are already starting to turn brown around the edges. I introduce myself to the waitresses, most of whom are miserable because of the unfortunate uniforms they’ve been forced to wear—full-length black skirts slit up to the hoo-ha, white polyester sleeveless tops cut down to you know where, black belts and gloves trimmed with rhinestones, and, as if that isn’t enough, a little black hat that looks like something you’d see on an organ grinder’s monkey. I’ve read somewhere that the Marriotts are practicing Mormons, but after I see these outfits, I begin to wonder. Marie Osmond wouldn’t be caught dead dressed like this.

The ceiling of the atrium stretches up to the sky, fifty floors above the lounge. The glass elevators zoom up and down, and the passengers’ faces press up against the windows as they streak, Jetson-like, through the atrium. The Marriott surprises visitors not with its design—which isn’t unique—but with the audacity of its location, right in the middle of Times Square. Looking at the absurd amount of open space, it’s easy to forget this is a Manhattan hotel. In spite of the Marquis Broadway theater downstairs, the catchy New York names on the menus, and the droves of unemployed actors working as waiters and waitresses, I feel like I’m somewhere else, in another city’s fantasy of New York. The gentrification of Times Square is in the early planning stages, and the Marriotts are foot soldiers in the battle to turn the area into a family entertainment mecca. Sitting there at the Yamaha, I’m on the front line.


Dozens of giant ficus trees—rumored to have cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece—form a green umbrella over the Atrium Lounge. New York isn’t a ficus tree kind of place. The trees agree: two weeks after we open, they begin shedding leaves. Autumn in New York. The falling leaves drift by my piano and they aren’t red and gold. They’re brown and dusty and they land in the piano and crunch when they bounce on the strings. It’s quite a predicament—a spanking-new hotel lobby that looks like it needs a good raking. Management appoints housekeeping workers to stay on top of the crisis, twenty-four hours a day.

“Shitty leaves,” mutters Carolyne as she coasts by the piano. Carolyne wears the standard Marriott housekeeping uniform—a variation on the French maid theme—and big white fluffy slippers. I don’t know if the slippers are a fashion accessory or a medical necessity, but either way, she has a nice gliding motion on the marble floor. She looks like she’s skating. She carries a giant broom and dustpan. What she needs is a leaf blower.

“This is the thirteenth time I’ve been around this lobby in the last hour,” says Carolyn as she coasts by the piano with a nifty little crossover step. “Shit. Whose idea was it to buy these shitty trees?” She stuffs the last of the leaves into her trash bag. Then she looks over her shoulder as more dead leaves begin to fall. “Shitty leaves. They oughta just chop down the shitty trees.” And off she skates, broom in hand. This goes on for weeks until the trees are completely bald. The hotel hires a new firm to replace the old branches with artificial ones. Another ficus crisis averted.

The sound of the music in the Marriott is marvelous. With all that empty space above me, I can play and play, full-out, no holding back, no managers giving me the international sign for keep it down. What a joy! In the lounge itself, listeners sit close to the piano. People who want to talk with friends or review quarterly sales reports sit far away. It’s an immense area with deep leather chairs and sofas.

Hotel guests report that they can hear the piano, clear as a bell, all the way up on the top floors. The balconies around each floor open onto the atrium; reasonably high railings planted with philodendron prevent people from falling over. Occasionally guests lean out stories above me, and I can see their little heads silhouetted against the midday light that pours through the windows. They wave or sing from high above. Some of them, teenagers probably, throw ice cubes or paper airplanes.

One weekday afternoon when I arrive for work, one side of the lobby has been cordoned off and covered with black drapes. Several of the waitresses, monkey hats akimbo, cluster in the corner and sob. The manager on duty hustles me to the piano, where I’m instructed to play so that the guests don’t notice the dead body behind the black curtains. A traumatized waitress tells me that some poor soul has thrown himself from one of the sky-high balconies into the pit of shedding ficus. Thank God I wasn’t playing at the time of the jump. Playing after the incident is bad enough. I look around at the people reading newspapers, chatting with each other, and sipping cappuccinos. Do they know what has happened? Do they care?

What do I play in a situation like this? Nothing is appropriate. Choking priests, heart attacks, fistfights, suicides—all lounge musicians, sooner or later, will be expected to play the soundtrack for some kind of disaster. Look at those poor guys playing in the Titanic band. Better to have tunes ready that no one knows. At least then the customers won’t sing along.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/22/10 09:17 AM

sigh..

i haven't experienced any thing more traumatic than 'my alzheimer's affected tenor' pulling my wig off as he walked past the organ, the first time I wore it.... a moment visible to perhaps 1/4 of the church, and the audible gasps drew everyone else's attention. I am glad my hair is back and he is still 'my tenor'.

today i play the Ave Maria with my blind friend. I have taught her piano and she is studying opera. She has a fantastic voice but the challenges of sightlessness affect her singing. We won't have a chance to rehearse. .. this is at my own dear mother's wake. i'm sure my mother will be delighted.

nice to catch up on my favorite thread and i ponder that musicians are used to the drama of life's largest events.

Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/22/10 10:17 AM

The band on the Titanic played Nearer My God to Thee.

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway made a very good concert number out of another hymn tune, Come Ye Disconsolate--- I was just working on it a little bit yesterday, giving my ears a little break between the Burgmuller studies assigned for my lesson. Tune 1792, from a collection of motets, verse 1816; they could have known it. Then again, Eternal Father, Strong to Save would have served the purpose and is less morbid and frightening in its lyric than Nearer My God. But they would have had to survive another forty years or so to have had Vaughn Williams' reworking of the arrangement--- keeps your mind on heaven and off drowning.

I'm sure, in the moment, they did the best they could.

From Wiki:

"Edward Howard, lyricist: "What was going through my mind... was Donny, because Donny was a very troubled person. I hoped that at some point he would be released from all that he was going through. There was nothing I could do but write something that might be encouraging for him.'"

True for so many of us. We may not grapple with paranoid schizophrenia and depression as Hathaway did--- blinding talent though he was--- but we all have our troubles and the least encouragement can fall on our ears like rain to the flowers.

Back to the reception. "Oh, Sugar, now don't you worry about that cake for a single second... No, the guests loved it! It didn't matter one bit that it got a little bit broken up--- why, we were going to eat it anyway, and... Well, no; it was like one of those parties where the guests play... No, no no no no. It was fun! And you couldn't beat the reception for excitement."

"Well now, your mother-in-law. Yes, yes, I heard what she said. I'm sure she'll cool off; she didn't mean it like that, she was just worried about how her old stick-in-the mud friends would talk. They just get overexcited at a wedding sometimes. And the champagne... well that's just it, honey; when you drink gin, the champagne can sneak up on you. Well, the ambulance came right away, and I'm sure when you get back from your honeymoon she'll be fine.

Now, you just take your husband's cell phone into the airplane lavatory and flush it. Yes, it can ring all it wants in the septic tank.... Well, she can talk to him when he gets home. Next month. Ok?
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/24/10 05:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
The band on the Titanic played Nearer My God to Thee.



I had always thought it was Autumn (the popular waltz, of course, not the Episcopal hymn, because lay people recognize the song title or first line, not the name of the tune)

But snopes says you may be right: http://www.snopes.com/history/titanic/lastsong.asp

Though Autumn is not ruled out.

I agree with you about Eternal Father being a good choice. But that's selfish, it's one of the few SATB hymns I can play smoothly without cheating. Hee, hee. Even with all those double thirds.

I noticed Robin's comment about the audience singing along, and I have a recent story. I hope that I haven't shared it already, I sometimes feel Alzheimers creeping in. However if I have, I'm confident I will soon forget the shame.

My child, the shy one, volunteered to sing at the annual church youth service. She found the music to the beautiful Rutter version of For The Beauty of the Earth and talked a soprano into singing with her.

But at Saturday's rehearsal both girls had colds and couldn't hit the high notes. So we dropped back to the old standard For the Beauty, the tune for As With Gladness Men of Old.

And went home to practice. And to my utter astonishment, I could play it. Despite having been the designated church musician, my lack of skills usually require a week on a hymn, if I can play it at all. So my daughter learned the alto part, both with accompaniment and a cappella. (I wear a belt AND suspenders.)

Sunday morning the mikes wouldn't pick up their voices. So we made a third change, drop the piano and just let them sing two part harmony. By this time all the changes have Daddy pretty anxious, but the kids seem to take it in stride. At this point they've had only one runthrough of a song they've both just learned, and will now sing two part harmony without accompaniment.

They started fine, though quietly, and all ears strained to hear. And then......... this sweet old gentleman, who actually does have Alzheimers, thought he should sing along. In a different key. Train wreck, of course, though they stumbled through to the end somehow. Sigh. It was almost SAB harmony. Well not really almost!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/24/10 09:57 PM

Nice to hear from you, Tim. Haven't heard a story quite like that since that unfortunate mix-up with the hand-bells. Between your stories, and Greg's, and Robin's... I'd better hedge my bets; one of you is going to end up winning the Triple Crown. I suppose my old nag will trot across the finish line some time or other.

Thanks for the link to Scope's. It was very moving, and right on the topic of encouragement and how music can help even in the worst case. Why, even at a wedding.

On further thought, I believe that Vaughn Williams' rendering of Eternal Father Strong to Save, to the tune 'Melita' (also by John Dykes, composer of a setting of Nearer My God To Thee, but not 'Bethany')... anyway, it was set for SATB and probably organ. Not a house band on an ocean liner, though surely any sailor would have known it. Anyway, beside the question, good choice or not.

Now, I somehow assumed the Titanic's deck band must have been a brass ensemble, but no. (The sources below are either abbreviated from Wiki pages or links cited by them.)

***************************************************************************************

Titanic's orchestra

The ship's eight-member orchestra travelled as second-class passengers, and were not on the payroll of the White Star Line. Until the night of sinking, the orchestra performed as two separate entities: a quintet led by the bandleader, Wallace Hartley, that played at teatime, after-dinner concerts, and Sunday services, among other things; and the violin, cello and piano trio of Roger Bricoux, George Krins and Theodore Brailey, that played at the Á La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.[12]

Name↓ Age↓ Class↓ Hometown↓ Boarded↓ Position↓ Lifeboat↓ Body↓
Brailey, Mr. W. Theodore Ronald 24 Second London, England Southampton Pianist -- --
Bricoux, Mr. Roger Marie 20 Second Monte Carlo, Monaco Southampton Cellist -- --
Clarke, Mr. John Frederick Preston 30 Second Liverpool, Lancashire, England Southampton Bassist -- 202MB
Hartley, Mr. Wallace Henry 33 Second Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England Southampton Bandmaster -- 224MB
Hume, Mr. John Law "Jock" 28 Second Dumfries, Scotland Southampton Violinist -- 193MB
Krins, Mr. Georges Alexandré 23 Second London, England Southampton Violist -- --
Taylor, Mr. Percy Cornelius 32 Second London, England Southampton Cellist -- --
Woodward, Mr. John Wesley 32 Second Oxford, England Southampton Cellist -- --

****************************************************************************************

In the United Kingdom, the hymn ["Nearer My God..."] is usually associated with the 1861 hymn tune "Horbury" by John Bacchus Dykes. "Horbury" is named after a village near Wakefield, England, where Dykes had found "peace and comfort".[6] In the rest of the world, the hymn is usually sung to the 1856 tune "Bethany" by Lowell Mason. Methodists prefer the tune "Propior Deo" (Nearer to God), written by Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan) in 1872. Sullivan also wrote a second setting of the hymn to a tune referred to as "St. Edmund", and there are other versions, including one referred to as "Liverpool" by John Roberts.[7]

RMS Titanic and SS Valencia

"Nearer, My God, to Thee" is associated with the RMS Titanic, as one passenger reported that the ship's band played the hymn as the Titanic sank. The "Bethany" version was used in the 1943 film Titanic and in the Jean Negulesco's 1953 film Titanic, whereas the "Horbury" version was played in Roy Ward Baker's 1958 movie about the sinking, A Night to Remember. The "Bethany" version was again used in James Cameron's 1997 Titanic.[15]

Wallace Hartley, the ship's band leader, who like all the musicians on board went down with the ship, was known to like the song and to wish to have it performed at his funeral. He was British and Methodist, and would have been familiar with both the "Horbury" and "Propior Deo" versions, but not with "Bethany". His father, a Methodist choirmaster, used the "Propior Deo" version at church for over thirty years. His family were certain he would have used the "Propior Deo" version, and it is this tune's opening notes that appear on Hartley's memorial.[16][17]

"Nearer, My God, to Thee" was also sung by the doomed crew and passengers of the SS Valencia as it sank off the Canadian coast in 1905 – indeed it may be the source of the Titanic legend, since the Titanic claim is made by a Canadian passenger who could not have actually heard the band playing.[18]

***************************************************************************************

All young guys, that band: many in their twenties, none over 33. Not a single brass instrument or even a reed; all strings and piano.

The question of the last tune remains ambiguous. One source states that light tunes suitable for keeping spirits up were played, including at least one ragtime number. Weddings again!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/25/10 09:02 AM

Thanks for digging up the info on the "band."

In my head I had always pictured an American style big band, with trumpet trombone and sax sections, and rhythm with drum, bass, and piano. My brother did a cruise ship gig with that type band, though the sections were pretty small, more like a modern Dixie (if modern Dixie isn't too anachronistic.)

The snopes article was dismissive of the band's ability to play a popular piece not found in their arrangement book. But that kind of instrumentation really should have had no trouble with it.

I was way off. This was almost a string quartet.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/27/10 12:12 PM

Long entry coming up. I was the victim of a hit and run wheelchair accident at the castle last night. Wheelchair (the size of the Popemobile) hit the piano, caused it to lurch, and pinned me against the wall. I'm fine but bruised, piano is chipped. Promise to get some authorial mileage out of this one. Hopefully will post tomorrow.

Still waiting to read about that cake accident.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/27/10 02:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Chris G
I haven't played any weddings yet but I am going to be playing at an engagement party in June as the guests are arriving, the daughter of a friend is getting engaged and most of the guests will be people I know. I'm scheduled to play for an hour which is twice as long as I have played solo piano in front of an audience before.

etc. etc.


I played this party yesterday and Robin and Greg were absolutely right - everything went fine. The setting was outside at a small house with a large garden area which sloped away from the house. I was set up on a deck which overlooked the gardens where I set up my digital piano and had an external powered speaker on a stand. Fortunately there was a large cafe style umbrella keeping me shaded, without this I would have been fried since it was a bright sunny day. I did a sound check before the start to make sure that I could be heard but was not so loud that people would have to raise their voices to hold a conversation.

I had previously done a trial run of the performance a week before the show by setting up my DP outside and running through the setlist, one thing which was apparent was that even the slightest breeze made it very hard to play from a score because the pages would change on their own. I could use heavy clips to keep the page open at the right place but then page turns became more cumbersome. I tend to play 80% from memory and 20% reading so I figured I would make sure that I could play my entire repertoire by memory and just use the score as a safety net and spent time working on playing

I started playing just before the guests arrived and as they were arriving. I started to hear people talking around me, a couple of people complemented me on my playing and I did my best to keep playing through my set despite the background noise. By about halfway through my set the background noise was louder and while I could still hear myself play I'm not sure anyone else could so I just kept playing until I had completed the 12 pieces I had rehearsed, total time about 75 minutes. The only piece which was rough was a Chopin waltz where I really needed to read the score and the wind was making this hard - I had to keep rearranging the clips I was using to hold the score down.

I would definitely do this again although I have to say that playing outdoors adds a new set of challenges not found when playing indoors.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/27/10 03:23 PM

Way to go, Chris! Thanks for letting us know how it went. Smart of you to memorize the music. In addition to avoiding wind-related accidents, it also looks about 300% more professional to play without notes in front of you.

It's almost always a drag to play outdoors, so it seems like you had a pretty good day, weather-wise. I once had a sun umbrella collapse on me (and the piano). And don't get Greg started about wasps and other insects.

Anyway, so happy to hear it went well for you. ONWARD!!!
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/28/10 12:37 PM

Here you go, my friends. Hot off the press. True story, by the way. Just sayin.'

The Wheelchair Guy

©2010 RMG

Here’s the thing about having a steady piano gig in a hip place. You drift along night after lonely night, artistically satisfied, planning your next project, grateful to all the lovely people who stop to listen, make nice comments, and buy your recordings. You start to think you have a dignified job, one that will carry you into your senior years with a little style but not too much drama. Then the Wheelchair Guy shows up.

*

I arrive at the castle for my 6:30 PM start time. It’s a Saturday night in June, in the middle of the World Cup soccer tournament, an event in Germany that commands tremendous attention. Beer is guzzled, hunks of meat are grilled, and large public viewing screens appear on every corner. Fussball is the buzz word. I’m a vegetarian, non-beer-drinking American artist who hates crowds and knows nothing about soccer, and even I enjoy the hype. I particularly like the outfits. The players are adorable in their tricots and matching kneesocks—sort of a Brazilian boy scout look—but this year I’m really into what the German coaches are wearing. They look like they stepped right out of the fall-winter Talbot’s catalog. At the first game they sported twin sets. No pearls, but still. Second match featured double-breasted jackets and perfectly knotted cashmere scarves, sort of a snappy Dutch sailor look. Last night they were wearing Easter-egg lavender silk knit sweaters, like they might be getting ready to play a jazz concert at a chi-chi supper club owned by Calvin Klein. Who’s their stylist? Sign me up.

Because of all of the football mania, I’ve expected to find a half-empty castle. But the place is swarming. A huge wedding reception is taking place in the back garden. I’m not playing for the wedding because the bride wanted a solo saxophone for the two-hour cocktail party. As much as I love the saxophone, this doesn’t seem like the greatest idea to me, but I admire the bride’s resolve to do something different. I’ve recommended a guy named Torsten, a kick-ass jazz musician who is now in the rose garden blowing like crazy in the steamy late afternoon heat. It’s a wedding gig, so no one is listening. He spots me in the doorway, and gives me a military salute while continuing to play with one hand. Cool guy. In the banquet room, a DJ is setting up to play post-dinner dance music, which will probably include a Gloria Gaynor/Village People/ Donna Summer medley. I’ll be long gone by then, but my co-workers, the hardest working bunch of twenty-somethings in this part of Germany, will be pouring champagne and serving gourmet delicacies until tomorrow morning.

My job tonight is to play the piano for our regular Saturday night guests. I sit down and begin playing the “Theme from Romeo and Juliet,” trying to block out the residual saxophone sound coming from the garden. Fine. If I don’t take too many dramatic pauses the saxophone won’t distract me. But the DJ decides to hold a sound check and all at once the lobby rings with the sound of Celine Dion. The DJ cranks up the music. It’s loud enough for a football stadium. I pause and wait for Celine to stop but she keeps singing about how her heart is going on and on and on. I ask Herr Ries, our intrepid banquet manager, to put an end to the sound check before Ms. Dion can modulate to an even higher key. I don’t know what Herr Ries does to the DJ—maybe he conks him on the head with an ice bucket— but the music stops abruptly. I continue with Romeo and Juliet.

The guests float in and out of the lobby, checking out the blushing bride, the little boys in their starched white shirts, and the nubile young ladies in their sorbet-colored evening gowns. One dress, a turquoise strapless chiffon creation, makes me wonder if I should revamp my Piano Girl wardrobe, but I realize that to wear this dress I would need to lose fifteen pounds, have breast reduction surgery, a tummy tuck, and give up playing the piano. Better to stick with the German football coach wardrobe. It’s more my style these days.

The service staff, smiling and carrying enormous trays of crystal glasses, glide through the lobby, sidestepping around the guests, dodging the children who dash back and forth in a chocolate-induced race to the front door, where they will be given more chocolate before they race back to the other side.

I play some of the music from the Amelie film. On top of the piano is a silver urn holding a cluster of eleven dark pink orchids. I know it’s eleven, because I count them while I’m playing.

Beautiful colors, beautiful clothes, beautiful people, and a soft light washing over it all. It’s a European castle ballet, one I never grow tired of watching.

Four pre-teen boys discover the antique kicker table in the corner of the lobby. The kicker table is a low-tech toy, with little soccer players operated by levers turned by the players’ hands. Four players can play at once, two on each side. It’s hardly an attraction for a five-star hotel, but this table, made with burled wood and hand-painted players is more of an art statement than a recreation device, meant to give a nod to World Cup fans. No one counted on a bunch of sixth grade boys showing up and starting a tournament. The sound of the little wooden men kicking the ball echoes through the lobby, along with the shouts and cheers of the boys. They are cute for about three and a half minutes, at which point the noise reaches an almost unbearable level. Where are their parents?

Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick.

I am playing “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“TOR!!!!” one of the boys shouts.

I can hear Torsten playing a blues in a key that clashes with my song.

Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick.

The DJ cranks up Celine again. Her heart is still going on.

“TOR!!!!” the boys yell again.

Monsieur Thoman, the Maitre D of the gourmet restaurant, peeks through the French doors of the restaurant into the lobby. He smiles at the boys. Monsieur can flip out when he needs to with unruly adult guests, but he is always kind to children.

“Bon soir!” he says to the boys.

“TOR!!!” they scream.

“Mon dieu,” says Monsieur.

Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick.

I give up. I do not blame the boys. They are eleven. In two years they will be sullen and subdued and doing everything they can to look like gangsters. Let them have their fun. I go to the bar, sip a glass of very nice champagne, and thank my lucky stars that I have a job. It’s usually so peaceful in his place. One night of extreme noise never hurt anyone, least of all a musician.

*

Fifteen minutes later I slip behind the grand piano to begin my second set. The lobby is blissfully quiet. I can see from the piano bench that most of our guests have been seated in their respective dining rooms. Torsten has finished playing his two-hour solo saxophone extravaganza, the DJ is in the bar eating an expensive dinner until it’s time for the Titans of Industry disco contest to begin, and the kicker boys have gone to the lake to feed the swans. Monsieur assures me that the kicker ball has mysteriously disappeared for the remainder of the evening.

I play through a selection of original music, songs I like to break out when there’s no one really listening except me. They are pretty songs from my younger years, with girly-girl names like “Twilight,” “When Stars Dance,” “Peaceful Harbor,” and “Following Your Light.” I close my eyes and play and play and play. It’s what I know how to do.

Zoom, zoom.

I look up and see a vehicle the size of the Pope-mobile rumbling through the lobby. Maybe it is the Pope-mobile; this castle is known for major celebrity sightings. Oh no. This is an extremely large electric wheelchair, being driven by a very assertive—and tragically disabled— middle-age man.

I’m now playing a piece of mine called Lerbach Nocturne, which has a Chopin feel to it. I try not to stare at the Wheelchair Guy, because I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable, but I guess if he’s riding around in a Pope-mobile contraption a couple of stares from a curious pianist aren’t going to send him off the deep end. But I’m good at being discreet, so I avert my eyes and continue playing. An entourage of concerned adults chase after him, but they have trouble keeping up.

Yikes! He almost took out one of the banquet waiters on that last turn.

Zoom, zoom.

I decide that when he passes the piano I will acknowledge him with a warm greeting, in the same way I greet all of our other guests, even though most of our other guests are not riding through the lobby in wheelchairs the size of Hummers. Some of them own Hummers, but they usually keep them in the parking lot next to the smaller cars.

Did he just run over that woman’s foot?

Zoom.

Monsieur, who will be seating the Wheelchair Guy and his family in the gourmet restaurant, stops in his tracks when he sees the size of the vehicle. He smiles, greets the guests, then spins on his heels to begin rearranging the restaurant furniture. It’s a challenge: a party of four that needs space for sixteen, arriving right in the middle of a sold-out Saturday night.

“Did they call in advance?” I ask the reservationist as she passes by the piano.

“Yes,” she says. “But they said they were bringing a wheelchair, not a tractor with a hydrolic lift system. The poor guy has to eat standing up. He can’t bend. At all.”

“Oh no,” I say. Words fail me. Now the size of the vehicle makes sense.

I’m still playing “Lerbach Nocturne” when I hear Monsieur attempt to discourage the man from going into the bar. The entrance to the bar is directly on my left. “There’s a beautiful view of the park from the bar terrace,” Monsieur says. “But there are steps onto the terrace, so you won’t be able to get out there from this direction.”

Or any direction, I think. Unless you have a crane. It makes me sad. What a thing: A beautiful view that you can’t see, just because of a few steps. Just as Monsieur turns to talk to the other members of the party, the Wheelchair Guy, with what I perceive as a look of defiance on his face—he’s so high up I can’t really see him all that well—steps on the gas and speeds into the bar.

I hear a tray of glasses crash to the floor. Then I hear another voice patiently explain that the steps will indeed prevent him from getting on to the terrace. There’s no room for a three-point turn in the bar, so the Wheelchair Guy, pissed off, backs up at about eighty miles an hour.

Zoom. It’s as if he’s being shot out of a cannon backwards. The Pope-mobile crashes into the piano so hard that it lurches sideways and pins me to the wall.

“Mon Dieu!” says Monsieur.

“Help.” I say. The piano is jammed against my upper thigh (thank goodness for fat). My upper arms and elbows are flush against the wall, and my wrists and hands are flapping in the air over the keys.

I reach down with the tips of my fingers and resolve the cadence. What a pro. Soon to be a pro in my very own wheelchair. The piano is wobbling and the Wheelchair Guy doesn’t realize that his Pope-mobile fender is hooked onto the underside of the lid to the piano. He jams his stick shift to forward, then reverse, then forward, then reverse. The piano rocks back and forth and I am certain it is going to crash to the ground, taking me, the Wheelchair Guy, Monsieur, and six waiters with it.

“Straight ahead, drive straight ahead, s’il vous plait,” says Monsieur to the Wheelchair Guy.

“Robin, don’t move,” says one of the managers. Like I have a choice.

Zoom. Reverse. Zoom. Reverse.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Straight ahead!” says Monsieur.

Finally, like a mother lifting a Volkswagon off of her trapped child, someone picks up the piano enough to unhinge the Pope-mobile. It races forward and nearly collides with the teacart. For a moment I think I have escaped having my legs crushed by a grand piano only to be hit with the world’s largest tea samovar., which is, of course, full of boiling water.
But the Wheelchair Guy misses the teacart. Instead, he zigzags over to the entrance of the restaurant, followed by the newly appointed Pope-mobile Task Force, a group of employees designated to prevent more damage. A lot can go wrong in a gourmet restaurant, especially when a disgruntled disabled man with a Hell’s Angels mentality starts zooming around during the soup course.

I am still pinned to the wall. A member of the Wheelchair Guy’s entourage, a lovely young woman in a perfect black dress, returns to the piano.

“Has the piano been harmed?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I squeak. I’ll have to unpin myself before I can check out the damage. For a second I wonder why she doesn’t ask me if I’m okay. But she hangs out with the Wheelchair Guy. Maybe to her a pianist with a bruised thigh isn’t such a big deal.

I heave the piano forward enough to slide out from behind and limp around to check out the damage. Amazingly, only a small chunk of wood is missing. The legs seem to be stable. I’ve always claimed this Yamaha Conservatory Grand is a warhorse. Now I know it’s true. I wonder if the Pope-mobile has a dent, a ding, or at least a couple of good battle wounds.

That’s enough music for me tonight. I leave the castle through the bar exit, step down onto the terrace, and take in the lush green of the June evening. The trees droop in the weighty twilit heat, and the roses seem plump and content. I walk down a stone staircase to the little lake, where two blacks swans coast across the water like they own it. I think of the Wheelchair Guy and how angry he was to be denied the very simple pleasure of stepping outside in the summer night. And how angry I am that he almost caused a really serious accident. And never apologized.

I skip a stone across the dark green pond, and watch the ripples in the water spread. When the surface becomes calm again, I look down once last time and see a sadder version of myself.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/28/10 02:18 PM

"Was the piano harmed?"

Your personal gentility exceeds anything I would have been capable of. Out of my mouth would have been sure to come, "The piano? I'll give you a piano where the sun don't shine, lady--- get this thing off me!"

And I would have smiled as I looked in the lake. Bruises, and yet a warm glow. Apology? Never mind. My lawyer will accept an apology from his lawyer. The lady with the crushed foot might find it expedient to join you in a single settlement action.

Witnesses galore, video footage from the security cams, physical evidence...

Why, he might be surprised to learn how much a crushed lady's evening slipper costs.
Posted by: Plowboy

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 06/29/10 12:30 PM

Being disabled is no excuse to be a jackass.

What a story!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/02/10 08:30 AM

well, imagine the frustration of constant barriers and prejudice and how very difficult it would be to be graceful in social situations.

That was a beautiful account of an unusual night Robin.

I have my own entourage of the disabled.. an autistic brother, and brother in law with Down's syndrome, and elderly piano student with advanced cancer.. 2 blind piano students. i resonate with those that need extra help.

One of the pianogirls is actually a singer (a recitalist who is booked often at football stadiums because she is blind, beautiful and has a huge mezzosoprano voice). I accompanied her on the Ave Maria in one of the most beautiful, acoustically sophisticated buildings in Kansas City. Too bad they don't have Steinway or something in that space. The 5'1" Kawai adequately filled the venue.. altho the bass (actually anything below middle C) was funky.

glad you weren't injured Robin
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/03/10 02:18 PM

I would hardly try to argue with you, Apple, since I pretty much agree with your views about public accommodations for people with disabilities, and people's attitudes about them. I say 'them,' but we all have something of the sort going on, later if not sooner. And I agree that Robin's story was well said.

It seems to me that the venue did try to accommodate this person, and make him feel welcome, even though they were not properly informed about what to expect.

I've had my troubles trying to get through a crowded bar on foot, let alone in a Hummer. One would hope the facility would take thought for the future (more about that later). Maybe there's some other way to that terrace area that could have been offered to the gentleman, one that involved the exit. Calming customers who are displeased or aggrieved about one thing or another is something bars and eateries do every night of the world.

I recall one evening when a customer backed his chair out suddenly and a waiter's try--- loaded with cordials and sticky liqueurs in every color--- went flying... alas, onto a lady in an expensive fur evening wrap.

Yes, there was a fuss. Yes, the manager came. But no, she didn't charge through the place like a bull in a china shop, injuring persons, property, and propriety.

Oh where is the little girl with the wrinkle creme when we need her?

It's purely a guess, but Robin may be waiting to see whether that proper note of apology arrives, accompanied by flowers and chocolates, before she says anything more. Or maybe, having good manners herself, she'll say nothing. Sometimes, when people make enough of an ass of themselves, they're too humiliated to apologize like a decent person should.

A canny maitre'd, if the Hummer presents itself at the dining room door again, might say... oh... how about, "Look out--- the wasp's nest, someone knocked it over! Run!!!" And slam the door.

PS-

Unlikely, you say? This very minute, a news story came over the TV: "Over Seventy People Stung By Wasps at the Alameda County Fair--- Fireworks Show Blamed!" I've heard of mishaps with either fireworks OR wasps, but I have to admit, combining them is a first for me. Although it seems I heard something about wasps at a wedding...
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/04/10 04:01 PM

Apple: Thanks for being so understanding about what happened. I'm still reeling from the wheelchair hit, but my leg is fine and I'm back on the bench. Maybe I should get a purple heart.

Jeff, it almost seems like you KNOW Monsieur, our Maître'd. Canny is his middle name. He would LOVE that wasp line. By the way Monsieur is completely bald, quite striking, and on the night of the wheelchair hit was wearing a black satin (satin!) suit with a deep purple shirt and black tie.

He once looked into a salon where I was playing a wedding for an unruly group of guests and referred to the room as the GARDEN OF THE APES.

I am so pleased that my rendevous with the Hummer did NOT involve a tray of cordials. Imagine, just imagine, what that would do to a piano. Dave Stahl, I can feel you cringing all the way from Market Street.

No apologies yet from the WG. No chocolate. No flowers. We have moved on to the next Event. This weekend's shindig was glorious. The bridal party had booked the entire hotel for the entire weekend, with music on both Friday and Saturday. I played for a very fine but very informal dinner in the rose garden on Friday, the night before the wedding. The weather was perfect, the piano was right on the terrace, the technician was there to tune it immediately after it had been moved outside. Dream job. I played for four hours under the stars. Even the wasps were behaving.

I was off on Saturday night, since the wedding party had booked a small orchestra for the big day. I stayed home and watched Germany beat Argentina. I must say, Germany has the best looking coaches.

Apple, what theater were you playing in in KC? I spent 6 weeks there many years ago in a fabulous old vaudeville theater that had perfect acoustics. Maybe it was the same place? the name escapes me. I love Kansas City.

I'm on my way to Berlin. I've written all the lyrics for a new CD by singer Jessica Gall called Little Big Soul. Tomorrow night is the press launch/concert/party. Looking forward to being in the audience, doing the queen's wave from the third row, and listening to someone else do the work. Should be fun!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/04/10 05:03 PM

Robin, I bet it was the Folly Theater.

That is a gorgeous building. I wish I had played there. I did used to cater and bartend and once was called onto stage to bring a 7&7 to Tina Turner who was giving a concert. "Thank you baby she said".

I've attended many performances there.

I was playing at a church for a wake.. a gorgeous church with a 900,000 $ organ, seating for 1000 and INCREDIBLE acoustics. It hosts quartets, choirs, etc. They offered me a job playing the chapel organ (it weighs about 50 pounds) in a chapel on Saturdays.. no thanks. I would love to play that big beast.. and I have as a sub, but apparently my pedalling is too inaccurate for the high standards.. heh.

Actually I used to play there when I was a teenager... 15 bucks a Mass. The church was remodeled a while back and is now high falutin.

I hang around a lot of blind people.. it's kind of a family mission. My bro Joe was letting them drive golf carts and filming them when one of them hit me. the golf cart then had a little tipover with the blind kids and my bro Joe inside.

(I didn't realize you were in Cologne.. I've been listening and trying to memorize/transcribe bits of the Koln Concert by my all time favorite, living pianist in a popular way, Keith Jarrett.)
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/05/10 11:30 AM

News update from Channel Two:

"A nest of wasps has been removed from the Alameda County Fairground after over one hundred people were stung during a fireworks display over the weekend. Some were treated at the scene for stings, but no one dropped dead suffered from anaphlactic shock brought on by an allergic reaction to the stings, Fairground management said."

Please convey my compliments to Monsieur. A good maitre-d makes all the difference in the world. Of course, I knew the Castle would have a very fine one.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/05/10 01:08 PM

Originally Posted By: apple*
They offered me a job playing the chapel organ (it weighs about 50 pounds) in a chapel on Saturdays.. no thanks. I would love to play that big beast.. and I have as a sub, but apparently my pedalling is too inaccurate for the high standards.. heh.



I played one of those little chapel organs for the English language services in a big cathedral in Wuerzburg. Like you I wasn't allowed near the big pipe organ in the main cathedral section.

The little consort organ was fun. One manual, no pedals, the blower was in the seat, and there were only four stops. But it was a real pipe organ, with the pipes folded to fit into the console, and a nice sound.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/11/10 09:34 AM

thank goodness I didn't take that chapel organ job.. because I got the Saturday job I wanted... two months after i auditioned for it.

darling little pipe organ in an adorable church.. I am organist #2, so I doubt if I will ever get to do a wedding there. I need to learn how to play that little organ.. i sounded pretty timid and trepidatious yesterday. i know there are ways to boost the volume and make it sound fantastic.. just haven't figured it out.

(I am having my piano and organ moved to my new house this week on Thursday).

cheers.
Posted by: Rui725

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/13/10 12:05 PM

Hi everyone, I guess it's official and I'm "booked" for my own sister's wedding in October, if things go well, that won't be the only event I get play at! I'm very excited at the moment but I get the feeling as the time approaches nervousness will start to kick in (hundreds of guests). The setup of the wedding is just a banquet with all the guests already seated at round dinner tables. The bride enters twice and I'm planning on going with the following program:

1. Bride enters the first time: Canon in D, I was leaning towards Claire de Lune, but Canon is more traditional, going to stick with the Lee Galloway version, it's simple yet very pretty and a bit new age.
2. Some formal introductions da da da, people start eating then I start with more light hearted Chopin Waltzes (3 in my head at the moment, 64/1, 64/2 and 69/1
3. The bride changes into a evening gown and enters again: Chopin Nocturne 9/2
4. The people then start getting drunk, and I go with another Chopin Nocturne 9/1
5. When nobody is listening anymore, I go with a few pieces from Yiruma like Kiss the Rain and background music.

What do you guys think?
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/16/10 08:28 AM

I'm sure that will be so much fun for you. When the bride enters again in an evening gown I'd do something pompous and ceremonious.. perhaps a rocked out version of the bridal march.. just for a bit, to gather everyone's attention. You may need to have more music ready. Will there be recorded music? dancing?
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/16/10 08:31 AM

on a different note, I moved my piano into my new house yesterday.. actually paid for a mover. We will be moving our furniture ourselves. (yuk). I knew the piano would sound better in the new space but I was blown away by how absolutely awesome, powerful and divine it sounded. it's in a bit of an indoor ampitheatre... so I am very happy. that's my daughter.

Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/16/10 03:55 PM

This may have something to do with weddings, or it may not. I was just enjoying my first bite of a delicious Haagen Das bar, covered with chocolate and almonds, when the news came over the TV: this Sunday is National Ice Cream Day.

Technically, it may apply only to the United States... but I like to think that, in the name of international solidarity, people all over the world might like to join in, if they care for ice cream. Even people who are getting married; even people who are moving house.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/18/10 01:52 AM

I agree. Ice cream for everyone. Even the brides. Just don't eat it at the piano.

Some guests at the castle, who mean well but just aren't thinking, insist on giving me food while I'm playing. I once received a tiny dish of raspberry sorbet at the piano, as close I've gotten to ice cream. I took a break and ate it at the bar.

Apple, that new place look gorgeous! Congrats on having such a fabulous spot for your piano!!!

Rui, I think your program sounds lovely. Just remember one thing, the bride will be down the aisle in about 5 seconds flat. If they want to actually hear the entire piece of music, I advise telling the bride to WAIT before making her entrance. Sometimes I even cue the bride, with a subtle nod. (You could get creative here, right, Clef??)

My friends, I am headed to Ireland for a few weeks, where my husband is teaching at the Sligo Jazz Workshop and I shall try to get some writing done. I'll be checking in.

Happy summer!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/19/10 08:22 AM

have a wonderful trip Robin.

Jeff.. I will eat anything tasty but ice cream.. I have never enjoyed it much. My family adores ice cream. My dear mother (bless her soul) was an addict.

((((I am enjoying my little job at the church erected in 1892. I was told I could play more emphatically, so I went to listen to the head organist who has been there 35 years. OMG - he is a theatreorganist, able to get that little pipe organ to do all sorts of cheerful, rhythmic things. I've never heard anyone play at church like that so I look forward to learning some new skills.

This will be the week from hell for me. I have been cooking for my father in law for 10 years now and we had to call hospice for him. Relatives are coming in to help care for him and eat my cooking. It will be an absolute zoo. the weather here is dreadfully oppressive nice and warm. I went to check my piano last nite. It has been sitting under 5 quilts in high humidity.. and it sounds still fantastic. I envision a clean organized home and 3 hours sitting in front of me, maybe in September when my tvzombies darling children go back to school. )))

back to weddings
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/19/10 12:34 PM

Sherbet, gelato, snowcones? Well never mind, dear Apple, you eat what you like. As for ice cream, we're safe for another year. Anyway, it's not like it's health food; some say it exists only to pad the bottom line of Jenny Craig and 1-800-DENTIST.

I'm sorry about your father-in-law. Thank goodness hospice is there. Is he to receive palliative care in-home, or to go to a facility for skilled nursing care? There's something to be said for either.

I enjoyed your strike-throughs, though I think you're wise to replace your initial thought with the most positive outlook you can muster. Don't ask me how it works--- I don't know--- but sometimes these 'replacement thoughts' have a way of coming true.

My own little darling, my bitch Roxie, just came back from a short office visit with the vet to have her sutures removed, after a bladder cancer was detected in time for a surgery to do her some good. She is well and happy now, and we will do everything we can to keep it that way. I'm not much good at predicting the future--- I'll be lucky if I can tell what the future holds when it gets here--- but she ate enough ice cream yesterday to make up for you. So, you're excused for this year.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/19/10 03:44 PM

i like snowcones.. yep. I like creamy sauces.. mixing cold and creamy doesn't work for me... I guess I'm fortunate.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/19/10 03:53 PM

Rui, I'm working on that Galloway version of the Canon right now myself. (And I wish that *I* could call it easy! grin ) I think it would work well if you could tell the bride to time her walk down the aisle to start right when the bass changes to all those 16th notes. If she walks slowly, that would give you the chance to finish up the piece, even if they have to stand there for a little bit until you wind up the big concluding chords.

Robin, great story about the wheelchair guy. I loved the last few lines especially.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/21/10 06:22 AM

Hi Everyone!

Ireland is just as green and lovely as one might expect.

Apple, I'm sorry to hear about your father-in-law. With the new job, the new house, and the illness in your family you certainly have your hands full.

Rui, Monica's advice is sound. It would be tragic to learn that piece and not be able to play it through. Frank Baxter posted something about this way back at the start of this thread--it was very funny!

Clef, happy to hear that Roxie is on the mend!

Monica, glad you like that story. It has been revised about 12 times at this point and has gone to my translator. It was kind of tricky to write, but at this point I feel as if it's ready to go. That may well change in a few days---I tend to agonize over these things and re-write everything up until the last minute.

It's a foggy and damp morning here on the Emerald Isle, so I intend to use the time to write a bit. We're here because of the Sligo Jazz Project, so there's lots of music!

Cheers!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/21/10 04:42 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Monica, glad you like that story. It has been revised about 12 times at this point and has gone to my translator.


I hope you remember not to confine yourself to the facts.

You are a storyteller, not a historian.

Hee, hee.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/22/10 08:04 AM

Hi Tim,

There's a new term floating around literary circles. "Faction"

Fact = Fiction = Faction

I think that comes close to describing what I do. The minute a writer puts pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) the truth becomes blurred by the writer's point of view. My friend, the esteemed author and hobby pianist William Zinsser, calls this "Inventing the Truth." But I think calling it storytelling is just as appropriate. My stories are all true stories, but, you know, they have my spin on them. So they destined to be a bit warped.

Okay, I am staying in a place in Sligo that was a former MENTAL HOSPITAL. The name of the road is Mental Hospital Road. Perfect spot for a jazz workshop. They also do weddings here. Hoping to check out an Irish wedding on Saturday.

There is music EVERYWHERE in this country!
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/22/10 08:19 AM

faction = excellent


I prefer not to confine myself to the hard cold truth.. it's too boring. facts often need a bit of pizazz... just a little exaggeration works for me.

btw Robin.. i love how a white scarf looks over a black outfit. why haven't i thought of that?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/22/10 12:45 PM

Oh yes, get yourself a beautiful white silk scarf. It will become a critical part of your wardrobe. I try not to wear all black (my outfit of choice) to weddings, so I often throw the white scarf over my shoulders. It's the girl-version of a tuxedo. Perfect!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/23/10 12:15 PM

And "Today in Wedding History:"

1986, Andrew, Duke of York, marries the Duchess Fergie at Westminster Abbey.

I'm dying to tell a joke to lighten a dark occasion, which I am sure the Royal Family is not celebrating--- just for once, I'll leave bad enough alone.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/10 07:59 AM

thank you all (particularly RMG) for this wonderful thread. It's a delight to read through.. calms my nerves and makes me laugh. It's definitely worth a re-read. There is so much going on in my life it's absurd... two major deaths, freaking grieving relatives, a move postponed weekly, and genuine grief for two of the most absolutely wonderful people who were a major part of my life.

My relatives are wearing me out.. my sister, the drama queen of the universe who hates and blames everyone and everything for her supposed horrid life (she really had nothing to complain about), the inlaws from Wisconsin who'll boost anything not nailed down, who let my FIL lie in his own **** because they were too ****ing lazy to wake him up, feed and nebulize him, my SIL, the micromanager of the world who is so stressed out and grieving that she is demanding that everyone else lose it too..

The main organist at my new job asked if he could go on vacation for August. He hasn't had a vacation in 13 years (poor guy). I'll happily play the 4 services weekly, one wedding scheduled, and any funerals that pop up. I'll just perform those moving chores Mon. thru Fri. and hope I get it together before the school year begins.

I now have a guest room. wink.. if anyone pops thru Kansas City and wants to test drive the Estoniette.
Posted by: Rui725

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/10 08:22 AM

thanks for the advice everyone!

I've decided to just do Darth Vader theme and have my sister pay for pushing me around when i was kid hahahhah... grin

just kidding!

I was chatting with her about the music, she said she actually wouldn't mind walking down the aisle with the Darth Vader theme, just that the parents would not be so keen on this idea....

Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/10 08:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Rui725


I've decided to just do Darth Vader theme and have my sister pay for pushing me around when i was kid hahahhah... grin




I have a better suggestion.

Back in the 70's, Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) wrote the classic Love the One You're With.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/10 09:13 AM

The pianist for my wedding (jazz trio---so it wasn't just piano) threatened top play "Prisoner of Love."
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 07/27/10 10:19 AM

apple*, every once in a while the universe throws so many curveballs at you there is no option other than throw up your hands, laugh helplessly, and go play the piano. It sounds like this is one of those times in your life. Realize that you can't change your in-laws and do what you need to do for yourself at this time. heart
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/01/10 06:45 AM

Anyone know who played the Clinton wedding? Now there's a gig that's bound to have some stories attached to it.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/01/10 01:02 PM

I could not tell from the news report.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/01/10 02:17 PM

What, they didn't use your demo CD?
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/01/10 05:02 PM

Mr. President does indeed have my CD (and a copy of Piano Girl), a story you'll read about in the next book. But sadly, he didn't write, he didn't call. Would have loved to have played that wedding!

Okay, no joke. headline in the County Sligo newspaper: Naked Man On Roof Arrested. The article also mentioned his girth. Do you suppose this is Greg's "Jiggler on the Roof" guy? Could be. Let us not forget—in Sligo I was staying in a hotel on Mental Hospital Road.

Spent the last day on one of the Aran Islands. If you've ever thought about visiting Ireland, go for it. It is incredibly beautiful here.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/01/10 05:24 PM

Bill had asked me but i was busy. darn, I wish you i had known of your interest Robin.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/02/10 10:54 PM

Mental Hospital Road, you say? A resort, is it?

I like to think that it is simply that Ireland has come, though hard experience (all those depressing months of rainy weather; potato famine and mass starvation; bubonic plague; civil unrest; sectarian violence; foreign rule; partition; a serious and widespread alcohol problem; the enshrinement of depression within the national character; need I go on), to value and even treasure mental health. We should all take a lesson. If that place is a resort, maybe more of us should be taking vacations.

No, I mean it. It's a crazy world; we either make an effort to hold on to our sanity, or watch out hairdo's wilt from the steam coming out of our ears. Now you know that is expensive.

Being Irish on my mother's side (and Scots in one branch of the family), I know what I'm talking about. But, my red hair and musical ability come through those same genes, and there's an argument to be made that my dark outlook crazy sense of humor does, also. But enough about that--- you did bring up the subject, Robin. Several times... and I hope its in the book.

Now, as to this epidemic of nudity. Rooftop nudity. International eye-popping jelly-roll-flaunting wedding-ruining booty-shaking nudity, with its girth published in the public press. Like some germ-warfare experiment that got loose from a guarded secret lab and its--- dismayed? Or maybe not--- rogue-scientists, I have to wonder if this may have been some Jenny Craig publicity stunt that got away from them and went terribly wrong. Or maybe Nutri-System had an idea for some TV endorsement scheme, which they have now thought better of, and pray never comes to light.

If some cable-news investigative bulldog reporter gets their jaws into it, the bite could be worse than a pack of pit-bulls. Sit back, folks, and don't change the channel: more, and worse, after this message from our sponsor, Weight Watchers.

As for the disappointing neglect of the President and Secretary of State. You know they are very busy and their time is taken up with this and that, all matters of great importance. They are known to be voracious readers (and music lovers); I'm sure they enjoyed Piano Girl and the CD, even if they did not write or call through some oversight. And the wedding, well, Chelsea probably picked out the music herself, and if her mother liked your CD, she would be sure to pick out something else. You know how kids are. The veil of silence precludes us from knowing of her preferences, and who could blame her since those very cruel remarks Rush Limbaugh made about her appearance as a sensitive teenager--- I won't repeat them. Anyway, she has outgrown that ugly-duckling stage (and ill-considered curly perm) and made a lovely bride. And it may be worth mentioning that the task of staging a wedding that would be acceptable to both the Jewish and the Methodist sides of her new extended family, must have presented certain challenges. No doubt there were political considerations in the choice of artists and repertory.

Besides, you were vacationing in the Emerald Isle, with a husband you already have. You, too, are a person busy with matters of importance.

In other wedding news, the television reported a mishap at a lakeside wedding, involving a misunderstanding with a bride and a swan. Let's just say it: the swan got after the bride. Probably some territorial issue. It is known to happen with their relatives, the geese, who are known for their aggressive manners and short tempers. I once suggested, to a friend, a piano tuner, who had a problem with intruders, that she keep a few geese on the property as watch-dogs (so to speak). "Those guys will be back over the fence before you can say 'concertina wire,'" I told her. But she was never one for animals, and instead sold the place during a real-estate boom.
Posted by: Kevonfire

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/03/10 02:55 PM

There's the song "Wedding Dress", which I think is quite beautiful.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ADuckFatality#p/c/4A3A3C4BB0AC9C2C/2/J_8Mt80MJ1Q

But the actual lyrics are extremely sad and not really suitable to play at a wedding unless you're into those kind of things =)
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/04/10 11:01 AM

"Today in Wedding History:" 1693, Dom Perignon invents champagne.

And in associated news, on August 1, 2010, the surface of the sun seethed as FOUR coronal mass ejections sent as many as ten billion tons of charged particles on a three-to-four-day journey from the sun, toward the earth, resulting in widespread displays of aurora borealis and aurora australis. For those contemplating hastily-planned weddings, the next few evenings might be a good time to celebrate them in Canada, Alaska, Siberia, the Scandanavian countries, Antarctica, and New Zealand. Excellent wedding photos were obtained as far south as Lake Superior.
http://spaceweather.com
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/sunearthsystem/main/News080210-cme.html

And, on the night of August 12/13, the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its maximum, when as many as 50 - 80 meteors per hour may be seen in a good viewing year. The position of the radiant favors Northern Hemisphere viewers.

Aurorae and the full moon are not so favorable for meteor viewing; dark skies are preferred for these ephemera, though wedding planners view the full moon as more dependable when engaging caterers, preachers, and musicians.
http://meteorshowersonline.com/

The U.S. Naval Observatory lunar ephemeris was not consulted for this story. However, it's possible that it may not matter:

"On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright, the glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1859_solar_superstorm
http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services
Posted by: Exalted Wombat

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/04/10 12:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Kevonfire
There's the song "Wedding Dress", which I think is quite beautiful.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ADuckFatality#p/c/4A3A3C4BB0AC9C2C/2/J_8Mt80MJ1Q

But the actual lyrics are extremely sad and not really suitable to play at a wedding unless you're into those kind of things =)


That song's popping up everywhere this week! Is there a tune? I can't make one out from the piano versions I'm hearing, most of which seem to suffer from drum-machine-inflicted rigor mortis.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/04/10 02:42 PM

Oh Clef, thank you for those beautiful descriptions of all things aurora and meteor. Who needs those wedding fireworks when you've got this? Several years ago I had to play to accompany a firework display. The wedding couple wanted (OF COURSE) the Pachelbel Canon. I have to say it was kind of cool playing that delicate piece with fireworks going off. There's a type of firework that is "silent." Much better than the big boomers.

No kidding, just yesterday my dear husband the bass player was contacted about doing a jazz tour of Siberia. Sadly, he was booked and had to turn it down. Wait until i tell him what he's missing in the Siberian sky.

Wombat, I'm guessing that what "Wedding Dress" song has is a really great title. As far as the tune goes, well, I probably won't be playing it, mainly because, like you, I can't figure out the melody!

I'm back at home now and headed to the castle again on Friday. Weddings going on left and right. The World Cup in June pushed the entire wedding season back a month.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/05/10 12:51 PM

I left it out of the story, but there also have been a surprising number of near-earth-crossing asteroids recently, in case those foot-dragging wedding planners are thinking of putting it off still longer. Talk about 'crashing the party.'
Posted by: J_D

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/05/10 07:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Anyone know who played the Clinton wedding? Now there's a gig that's bound to have some stories attached to it.



Bill Clinton at an event for hours with pretty women dressed to the hilt. I bet there are some stories...
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/06/10 12:05 AM

Doesn't Bill play the sax? I hear he's a pretty good jazz player.. Maybe he sat in with the band at the wedding. wink
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/07/10 12:14 PM

No asteroids this weekend, but lots of pretty wedding weather. My husband played a "jazz wedding" last night—duo: guitar and bass. All went smoothly until a group of eighty-year olds pulled their table up right in front of John's amp. He said one woman was so close, he could have tapped her on the shoulder while he was playing. This happens quite often . . . the seniors insist on sitting right next to the music and then they complain that we're too loud.

Anyway, it all worked out, except that the caterer—who was serving really sloppy finger food (obviously this was NOT at my castle) refused to give the guitar player a fork and there was almost an altercation.

"What? he said. "If I give YOU a fork then everyone will want one."

The guitar player got the fork. Score one for the jazz guys.

Oh BTW, this wedding took place at the summer home of Napoleon's sister, in Aachen. I love that very European detail. Jeff, take this and run with it.

If you go to my web gallery page
http://www.goldsby.de/robin/gallery.php
you can see a really funny picture of me with President Clinton. He was the "other" author being interviewed the day I taped "All Things Considered." I just about had a heart attack. He didn't have his saxophone with him that day, but we did have quite an amusing conversation.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/10 11:28 AM

wow Now THAT'S a photo to keep framed and sitting around casually in one's home, the positioning of which would be carefully and strategically planned so that visitors can't help but see it but so it's not too prominent. laugh

[Note to self: If ever playing a wedding gig, pack a spare fork in the supply case.]
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/10 02:13 PM

Yes, Monica, you can stash the fork in your gig bag with the extension cord and gaffers tape.

I was once served some gooey sort of fabulous chocolate truffle while playing a party at a private home that might as well have been a castle. The guests were all outside in the sculpture garden and I was in the music conservatory playing a Steinway D that was situated next to the windows so that everyone could hear. In a way, it was the ideal gig--nobody around to bug me, except there was a stuffed ostrich next to the piano (actually it was some famous taxidermy work of art, with an ostrich body, peacock parts, and a goose head. I could have lived without having to look at that thing all night. Variations on a Bird.

But I digress. The waiter or butler or whatever he was offered me one of these fancy chocolates, and I was STARVING so I took it. Bad move---I immediately had dark chocolate all over my fingers. And I was playing a piano with ivory keys. The rest you can guess. Emergency trip to the guest potty. Never ever eat at the piano, even if you do have a fork and a napkin.

That photo with Clinton is so goofy. Glad you got a laugh out of it!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/09/10 04:48 PM

Isn't there some kind of Swiss Army Knife that has a spork on it? The kind of thing that ought to go in every gig bag, that, and a pair of ice tongs in case they serve ribs or fried chicken.

Forgive me for not following up on Napoleon's sister--- I did look her up. An interesting story, maybe too interesting for PianoWorld, especially the story about kidnapping the pope.** But I was busy with my opera libretto, The Curse of the Oily Escapement, on the Piano forum ("Very Unhappy with my New Piano," the kind of thread that just shows you how the summer has been slow on news). That, and trying to figure out what cables to order to hook up the various electronic instruments and speakers that go with my DP. I used colored pencils to make the drawing more intelligible, but I ran out of colors. An octopus would have run out of tentacles.



**Elisa Bonaparte did not, herself, kidnap the Pope, but merely failed to welcome him personally as His Holiness and the kidnappers passed through Florence, Elisa's seat of government, and in fact told the kidnappers to move on along, wishing to avoid trouble with her brother. However, there was trouble anyway. Damned if you do, as they say.

There were many other interesting things about her. A person far ahead of her time... and maybe ahead of our time, too.

From (a much longer article) on Wiki:

"Élisa also got caught up in Napoleon's removal of pope Pius VII. Pius had opposed the Empire's annexation of the Papal States, refused to renounce his temporal powers and excommunicated Napoleon in the bull Quum memoranda on 10 June 1809, and so Napoleon put general Étienne Radet in charge of removing the pope and thus the opposition he was arousing against Napoleon. The removal occurred on the night of 6 July 1809 and in the following days took the pope towards Savona, passing by Florence, where Élisa not only did not welcome the pope in person but also asked his kidnappers to get out of the area as soon as possible, so as not to displease her brother by welcoming his enemy too comfortably or too long."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisa_Bonaparte
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/10/10 09:34 AM

I do believe, that in addition to her other many talents, our Miss Elisa Bonaparte was rumored to have invented the fork, directly after all that nonsense with the Pope.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/10/10 11:04 AM

The things you would never think to look up, if it weren't for "Weddings." Take forks, for a perfect example. Pitchforks and two-tined barbeque forks were known in ancient times and were even mentioned in the Bible, although I am practically sure that it was the French who invented the cocktail fork.

Their introduction into Northern Europe was not without resistance, and even controversy:

"The fork's adoption in northern Europe was slower. Its use was first described in English by Thomas Coryat in 1611, but for many years it was viewed as an unmanly Italian affectation. Some writers of the Roman Catholic Church expressly disapproved of its use, seeing it as "excessive delicacy:

"God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks — his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating."


[Note, that the piano had not yet been invented (though the cocktail party already existed), and the table manners of musicians playing stringed instruments of the violin family were beneath the notice of the authorities, being out of sight on a balcony.]

"It was not until the 18th century that the fork became commonly used in Great Britain, although some sources say forks were common in France, England and Sweden already by the early 1600s. The curved fork that is used in most parts of the world today, was developed in Germany in the mid 18th century. The standard four-tine design became current in the early nineteenth century."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fork

And after all, bathing did not catch on in England until the time of Queen Victoria.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/10/10 11:46 AM

Well. If only the wedding guitarist had known all of this, he could have pummeled that caterer with information. Perhaps Madame Bonaparte had something to do with the curved fork.

Or the tuning fork.

Never mind.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/10/10 01:08 PM

I try to reuse as much as possible, something my wife has urged on me. So I have a little plastic bag with plastic utensils and napkins in it. It comes in handy, since I work during dinner time. By the time I get to eat, I occasionally would have to scrounge around for them, or eat with my fingers, something I do not want to do if I might have to touch the piano again.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/10/10 06:56 PM

But, there's more:

"In Perrault's... fairy tale of La Belle au bois dormant (1697), each of the fairies invited for the christening is presented with a "Splendid Fork Holder.""
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fork

Yes, "Sleeping Beauty," the French fairy tale whose long-expired copyright so inspired the Disney studio. You will note that the curse which was pronounced by the uninvited fairy was provoked because she was NOT presented with a 'splendid fork holder.' They do not mention if she played the string bass, but they don't say she didn't.

In those days, people brought their own fork to dinner, in a nice box with their spoon and dinner knife. This is the gift the evil fairy did not receive, to their woe.

So. The bass player's ire has a long resonance... and the French, of all people, who know how to behave at the table, certainly ought to have known better.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/11/10 10:49 AM

I'm sorry, no puns or jokes today.,, but i do send good wishes.

I am moved.. residing in a vast house that is perfect for the piano. lots of work.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/11/10 12:05 PM

And, "Yesterday in Wedding History:"

"Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko, a Ukrainian-Russian cosmonaut, became the first person to marry in space, on August 10, 2003, when he married Ekaterina Dmitrieva, who was in Texas, while he was 240 miles over New Zealand, on the International Space Station."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Malenchenko
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/12/10 02:21 PM

I love that a woman named Ekaterina living in Texas can marry a man who is hovering over New Zealand in outer space.

Who played THAT gig?

Things are looking good for 2011—just booked my first June wedding.

Congrats on the move, Apple! Vast sounds good to me. We don't have nearly enough house for our instruments. A grand piano, a studio upright, a set of drums, two double basses, numerous electric basses, a couple of guitars, congas, a Yamaha keyboard, and too many other percussion instruments to name. Oh, and a flute and a piccolo, but they don't count. Sometimes I feel like I live in a music store. So I ENVY your huge house! Enjoy it.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/12/10 02:41 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
I love that a woman named Ekaterina living in Texas can marry a man who is hovering over New Zealand in outer space.

Who played THAT gig?

Things are looking good for 2011—just booked my first June wedding.

Congrats on the move, Apple! Vast sounds good to me. We don't have nearly enough house for our instruments. A grand piano, a studio upright, a set of drums, two double basses, numerous electric basses, a couple of guitars, congas, a Yamaha keyboard, and too many other percussion instruments to name. Oh, and a flute and a piccolo, but they don't count. Sometimes I feel like I live in a music store. So I ENVY your huge house! Enjoy it.


Just don't forget, you have a date with your Piano World fans in June 2011! Our European Tour is shaping up to be an exciting event, and you are definitely part of it :-)
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/12/10 02:59 PM

public-inquiries@hq.nasa.gov

Dear NASA,

According to a recent item on Wiki:

"Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko, a Ukrainian-Russian cosmonaut, became the first person to marry in space, on August 10, 2003, when he married Ekaterina Dmitrieva, who was in Texas, while he was 240 miles over New Zealand, on the International Space Station."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Malenchenko

I have a query from wedding musician Robin Goldsby regarding this event:

"I love that a woman named Ekaterina living in Texas can marry a man who is hovering over New Zealand in outer space. Who played THAT gig?

"Things are looking good for 2011—just booked my first June wedding."

_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

********************************************

Robin is the originator of the widely-read thread, "Let's Talk Weddings," on the "Piano Corner- Non-Classical" forum, on the website, http://pianoworld.com . If you are able to provide any information on these historic space nuptials (especially the music), I'm sure it would be of great interest to the readers.

Some people have wondered where they had the reception, and where they went for the honeymoon, but that is, of course, more private. Still, the music for the first space wedding is part of history. Any assistance would be appreciated.

I personally wondered if Mr. Malenchenko viewed the Perseid meteor shower from space--- what a nice anniversary observance.

Thanks,

J. Clef


Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/12/10 05:38 PM

Wonder if they played SOMEWHERE MY LOVE laugh

Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/12/10 09:54 PM

let's see. 'we' have 2 electric keyboards, 4 guitars, a ukelele, a flute, a trombone, a church organ, a grand, some recorders and percussion instruments for ensemble.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/13/10 05:13 AM

Any of the Somewhere songs would do. Somewhere in Time, Somewhere Out There, (Somewhere) Over the Rainbow.

Frank, the Piano World event is firmly on the books—no wedding could ever get in the way of that! Although I might bring a bride along for my reading/concert---she would be a great visual aid.

So looking forward to meeting some of you.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/13/10 10:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
The wedding couple wanted (OF COURSE) the Pachelbel Canon.


There's quite a funny comedian ranting about the Pachelbel here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdxkVQy7QLM

I had not heard this one until this week. I spent the entire week training on a piece of Army financial software.

In the meantime, my hints that my family should surprise me with a garklein went completely unnoticed. Guess I'm going to have to buy it myself.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 01:04 AM

Rather than a Somewhere song, perhaps Swingin' on a Star would be more appropriate. Her husband could carry moonbeams home in a jar.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 01:37 AM

Tim: That Pachelbel video is VERY funny. Thank you for posting!

BDB, of course! Swingin' on a Star MUST have been the wedding song. I wonder what the lyric sounds like in Russian.

Played a wedding last night at the castle. People were fancy but funky. Easy. But I had a run in with the photographer who, on my break, decided to pile SUGAR CUBES on the grand so he could take a picture of the wedding rings on top of the cubes. What was he thinking? I sort of snapped. You know, I keep my cool with the guests (even the Wheelchair Guy) but I lost it when I saw that mountain of sticky cubes on the Yamaha.

He actually argued with me until I threatened to pile sugar cubes on his camera. Then he got my point, skulked away, and found a coffee table for his "Still Life with Rings and Cubes" shot. Jeez.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 01:40 AM

Do we love this, or what?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtyAsiZWktY
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 01:46 AM

The Mayo clinic has a Bösendorfer!
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 02:43 PM

My mom used to sing that song. She always eyed us kids meaningfully when she got to the verse,

"A pig is an animal with dirt on his face,
His shoes are a terrible disgrace.
He has no manners when he eats his food,
He's fat and ugly and extremely rude
So if you don't give a feather or a fig,
You might grow up to be a pig!"


Swinging on a Star ...music by Jimmy Van Heusen (who is well-worth a further look-up) and lyrics by Johnny Burke for the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for best song--- one of four for Van Heusen--- (Bing Crosby; Andy Williams, backup), and covered by numerous artists since then, including: Little Lulu in Bout with a Trout; Shari Lewis and Lambchop; Oscar Peterson; Tony Bennett; Maria Muldaur; Julie Andrews; Frank Sinatra; Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello in the film Hudson Hawk; and Muppet starlet Miss Piggy.

The song was parodied in The Far Side cartoon strip, which depicted a man-turned-pig saying to his wife, "Hey, so I made the wrong decision!"

Jimmy Van Heusen wrote numerous other standards, with various collaborators, including: All the Way; High Hopes; Call Me Irresponsible; Love and Marriage; Come Fly with Me; and My Kind of Town.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinging_on_a_star

*************************************************

"Today in Wedding History:"

2003 – Widescale power blackout in the northeast United States and Canada. Baby boom follows nine months later, for some reason.

August 14, 1880 – Construction of Cologne Cathedral was completed. The most famous landmark in Cologne, Germany and host to a multitude of weddings, it was built to house a reliquary of the Three Magi. The foundation stone was laid on October 15, 1248; construction was one day shy of 632 years, if the change from Julian to Gregorian calendars is disregarded.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 04:03 PM

A similar Van Heusen menagerie song is High Hopes.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/14/10 08:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
more on the couple
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/15/10 09:55 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG


Sweet!


Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/18/10 03:01 PM

Playing a ceremony on Saturday. Here are the songs the bride requested. Just in case anyone is interested.

1. Pachelbel Canon in D (so what else is new?)
2. Your Song (I still play the wrong chords on the B section, in spite of numerous interventions from my husband the chord doctor—it still sounds goofy to my ears)
3. Feather (Forest Gump–stupid is as stupid does . . .)
4. River Flows in You (Twilight —vampires, weddings, why not?)
5. Somewhere in Time (the only sensible choice if you ask me)
6. Oh Happy Day (I will sound REALLY stupid playing this, but what can I do? Hopefully there will be a lot of noise at that point)

So that's this week's wedding scoop.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/18/10 08:10 PM

Robin, you must immediately call the bride and tell her that she left out "We've only just begun." That playlist just isn't complete without it. Then tell her you'll only charge her double for catching such an egregious omission. wink
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/19/10 01:03 AM

Thanks for the tip, Monica. Your 15% is in the mail! I had forgotten about that song. It was our high school graduation theme song.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/19/10 06:19 PM

Karen Carpenter - the anorexic with the absolutely gorgeous, unsophisticated, mezzo soprano voice..(she could really nail those low notes). i loved her singing and would love to have heard how she'd sing My Heart Will Go On.

I should start a thread entitled "Let's Talk Funerals"©

That's all I do anymore (I'm glad for the employment but the cantor i work with drives me absolutely bats.. she's sooo cheery and forgets she is at a funeral!.. she is a vituoso performer so into herself. who thinks the altar is Carneghie Hall.... no one cares about her singing. .. she always, always, always, holds the note longer than i play.. i could i hold it for five measures and she is still singing.

oi vey

anyway, the priest is cute.. he is an older Italian from the Italy, who yesterday said "bravissima rigatoni"(or something like that).. the Italians are dropping like flies in this heat... thank goodness we have Anna to liven things up". hummph

------------

I love dropping in on this thread.

Jeff, you are almost as entertaining as Robin, and I'm thinking I'll be singing that PIG song to my son, who has the worst manners in Kansas.

Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 02:02 AM

Jeff is way more entertaining than I am, and furthermore, he actually KNOWS stuff. He is my hero. Where have you been Jeff? Lost in the stars? One can only hope.

I survived Saturday's wedding, but I had my doubts about some members of the wedding party. More on that in a second.

The preacher asked for my set list and when he saw the Pachelbel for the entrance music, he said: "This is what I use at funerals. I have a nine minute version of it."

The sister of the bride looked at the set list, sneered, and said: "Ha!"

I don't know what that meant.

Another member of the wedding party said he was really hoping for a group singalong of Kumbaya. I looked for the sarcasm in this statement, but trust me, he was serious.

I explained to everyone that the bride had chosen these songs and that any complaints should be filed with her.

Then the father of the groom cornered me and started telling me, a complete stranger, about his heart attack three weeks earlier.

"I collapsed right in the middle of the street—when I was headed to the grocery store—" he said.

"That's awful," I said. The discussion should have ended there, with a smile and me saying something like, "I'm so happy you're here with us today," but then he started telling me the details of every single hospital procedure . . . the tubes, the catheters, the tests, the allergic reaction to medication, the vomiting, etc. This went on for ten minutes, as the guests were being seated.

"I can't help thinking I shouldn't be here today. That I almost didn't make it," he said. "What if it happens again? It could, you know. I go down right in the middle of the ceremony."

"Oh, that surely won't happen," I said.

"But it could," he said.

"But it won't," I said. "I'll keep my eye on you." Those of you familiar with my career know I have a history of playing for events that involve some kind of medical emergency, so this wedding was starting to make me nervous.

I got the signal to begin playing. The wedding was outside, in the rose garden, and it was a perfect day. The bride, very beautiful in a black and white sequined Las Vegas dress (I mean that in a good way) rounded the corner, and, to my horror was wearing the exact same white beaded shawl that I had chosen for the occasion. I was wearing my standard LBD with white shawl, a good outfit to blend in to the piano. Good thing that Canon is easy—I was able to lose the shawl discreetly while she was marching up the aisle. I'm sure no one noticed—all eyes were on the bride.

All the other pieces were fine. It was actually a little concert, right out there in the middle of the park. The Heart Attack Guy made it through the ceremony in one piece, even though it was 90 degrees and very humid. I waved at him as he was leaving. He seemed happy. His son was married, and he was alive.

I got through Oh Happy Day with nary a raised eyebrow from my colleagues, who are not used to hearing me break into gospel tunes.

All was well in wedding land.

******

TIP TO WEDDING PIANISTS: About two months ago my teenage daughter posted a little slideshow video of the castle, with the Pachelbel Canon (no eye rolling, please) as a sound track. She graciously added my name and website info to the credits. Unbelievably (or maybe not) I have gotten two great wedding gigs for 2011 as a direct result of this video. The video has only had 240 plays, but two of them were brides shopping around for wedding ideas.

This video cost NOTHING to make and post. She did use the recording of the Canon from one of my CDs, but I'm guessing many of you have good quality recordings that would suffice for such a project. If you're hooked up with a good-looking wedding location and have access to an okay camera and an easy editing program (she used iMovie) you're in business. Please note: it's not a hard sell thing, in fact we weren't even thinking about marketing, Julia just wanted to make a nice slideshow about the castle.

So there you go, unintentional marketing that seems to be paying off. Thought some of you might be able to take this idea and run with it.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 02:03 AM

Here is the link if you want to check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctaaXDnUeT8
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 07:23 AM

interesting Robin re the link.

I chose a you tube link to share with brides who were choosing music. it was called something like 'various wedding songs to choose from'.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 11:00 AM

"Where have you been Jeff? Lost in the stars? One can only hope."

I have been married to music equipment manuals, since my piano teacher asked me to post a recording I made of him, to the Unsung Heroes E-cital on Pianists Forum.

"Oh, sure," I said, "when is the deadline?"

"Tomorrow," he replied blithely, and left for his next lesson.

That hill turned out to be a little too steep to climb. One manual may as well have been written in Chinese; it was like listening to a schizophrenic talk--- it sounds like conversation, but it's word salad, so entirely self-referential that only a clinical psychiatrist could have extracted the least sense from a paragraph.

Meanwhile, an asteroid was smacking into Jupiter, the third big strike in thirteen months. Back on earth, a quarter of over half a billion eggs--- that is 500 million plus--- were recalled with a salmonella problem. What will the weddings cakes do now? A hen cackles in Iowa and people get sick from Minnesota to California.

Well, the manual paid for it. Every page screams with highlighter now, plus I have a few pages with my own notes that actually do say what to do. Luckily it was a good recording, though I ended up having to ask for help to get it in the file format required on the website--- because I have two other manuals for two other devices to master to get it all to happen.

"Another member of the wedding party said he was really hoping for a group singalong of Kumbaya. I looked for the sarcasm in this statement, but trust me, he was serious."

Having grown up in the Deep South, I actually know people like this. Well--- I did know them. I don't know them now.

""I can't help thinking I shouldn't be here today. That I almost didn't make it," he said. "What if it happens again? It could, you know. I go down right in the middle of the ceremony."
"Oh, that surely won't happen," I said.
"But it could," he said.
"But it won't," I said. "I'll keep my eye on you."


The organizer of a mountain retreat I attended took care of this by telling attendees to be careful driving down the mountain on the way home. "If I hear," he said, "that you've wrapped your car around a tree on the way back... I'll dig you up and kill you again."

Everyone was careful.

On "Weddings in the News," nothing too much. There was a couple who jumped out of a plane and parachuted to the place where the preacher was waiting, at the Burning Man festival. My only surprise was that people who attended Burning Man actually got married. Perhaps the bride figured that if the groom survived the jump, she had little chance of getting rid of him anyway.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 11:04 AM

"...The bride, very beautiful in a black and white sequined Las Vegas dress (I mean that in a good way) rounded the corner, and, to my horror was wearing the exact same white beaded shawl that I had chosen for the occasion..."

PS-

So we've discovered a new category for Wedding Jeopardy: shall we call it "Off the Rack?"
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 11:45 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG

4. River Flows in You (Twilight —vampires, weddings, why not?)
5. Somewhere in Time (the only sensible choice if you ask me)
6. Oh Happy Day (I will sound REALLY stupid playing this, but what can I do? Hopefully there will be a lot of noise at that point)


N4 - And you are playing at a castle, aren't you? smile
n5 - love that one.
n6 - ... I was at a wedding where the bride and groom SANG this piece, a capella .... pretty much off-key and off beat....One has to wonder....I have a feeling it was the groom's first "yes dear" married moment and can only wonder how dopey he felt.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 01:39 PM

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
I was at a wedding where the bride and groom SANG this piece, a capella .... pretty much off-key and off beat....One has to wonder....I have a feeling it was the groom's first "yes dear" married moment and can only wonder how dopey he felt.



I was at a wedding dance where they did the traditional "clear the floor, nobody dances until the bride and groom do the first dance. (usually a waltz)"

The groom, while somewhat musical, did not dance. At all. Not even a little bit. This led to some truly awkward and painful moments stumbling across the floor with all eyes on him.

I know just how he felt. <ahem> Because it was me. Somebody could have warned me!

Have I told this story before? I was playing a wedding dance in the Chicago area with a polka band. Urged by some of the few teenagers present, one of the old timers kept tipping us to play some rock. We didn't have any rock (or any Caribbean!) in the repertoire. After a while one of the management came over quietly and explained that this guy was "connected," and it might be in our best interests to comply, sooner than later. If we wanted to make it home okay.

No problem. We did Smoke on the Waters, I played lead on the trombone.

He tipped us again, this time not to play it! I think that was my best payday ever with that band.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 07:45 PM

My sister used to work for Neal in Polkacide, the hard rock polka band. They started by playing at dances for the deaf. They needed something loud, with a beat. I knew him slightly. I knew his brother a little better, but he went off and became a monk.
Posted by: Piano Girl RMG

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 09:23 PM

Off the Rack for three hundred, Alex. (Love Wedding Jeopardy, Jeff!)

Hey Casinitaly, you're funny! Have you been here before? Welcome.

Oh dear, I have never in my life played a polka. Look how much fun I've been missing. I have, however, played for deaf people.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/23/10 10:12 PM

What? You are in Germany and never played a polka? Not even the Strip Polka?

There's a burlesque theatre where the gang loves to go
To see Queenie the cutie of the burlesque show
And the thrill of the evening is when out Queenie skips
And the band plays the polka while she strips

"Take it off," "Take it off" Cries a voice from the rear
"Take it off," Take it off" Soon it's all you can hear
But she's always a lady even in pantomime
So she stops! And always just in time
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/24/10 05:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
Off the Rack for three hundred, Alex. (Love Wedding Jeopardy, Jeff!)

Hey Casinitaly, you're funny! Have you been here before? Welcome.

Oh dear, I have never in my life played a polka. Look how much fun I've been missing. I have, however, played for deaf people.


Hi! Thanks for the welcom!
You're pretty funny yourself! smile

I've been on the forum since about March - I participate 95% in the Adult Beginner's forum. I just started playing piano 8 months ago and I'm having a blast.
I have been reading this thread for a while (it has taken me a while to get through it all - I think I've still got about 6 pages of posts to read...)
I just couldn't resist replying when I read about "Oh Happy Day".

Can't wait for the next installment!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/24/10 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: BDB
What? You are in Germany and never played a polka? Not even the Strip Polka?



I'm not sure most polkas adapt well to solo piano.

However, I'd think maybe Trisch Trasch might work, in Germany.
Posted by: Elssa

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/24/10 01:21 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: BDB
What? You are in Germany and never played a polka? Not even the Strip Polka?



I'm not sure most polkas adapt well to solo piano.

However, I'd think maybe Trisch Trasch might work, in Germany.




I can play "Beer Barrel Polka" fairly well on the piano - loads of fun. grin



Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/24/10 07:43 PM

Shall We Dance, from The King and I, is a good polka. It would be a good number for a wedding dance.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/25/10 10:48 PM

good idea. i love the King and I.

I am an old diver/dancer/gymnast and took to the polka as if it were 2nd nature. There is nothing like twirling in 2/4 time with a good partner.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/10 12:06 AM

Another Rodgers and Hammerstein polka is The Lonely Goatherd, although it is usually billed as a yodeling song.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings - 08/26/10 04:20 PM

Since "Today in Wedding History" not only has come up dry in recent days, but has nothing better to anticipate than an anniversary of one of the Moonies' Mass Weddings (the look-up is hilarious, if you have nothing better to do), we bring you:

"Today in Weddings of the Future"

Headline on http://spaceweather.com :
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters
On August 26, 2010 there were 1144 potentially hazardous asteroids.


Some might object that a wedding in space would be far too expensive, but anyone who watches "Platinum Weddings" on TV knows that there is really no such thing. It is a certainty that the future will bring us many of them.

For those in a rush to get to the altar, there are particularly tempting close passes of asteroids coming on Oct.