New Year’s Day, 2011 – I sit, relaxing in a nice bath – which is something I rarely do – reflecting on the year that’s past and anticipating the year ahead. And where does my mind go first? How many times I’ll hear Canon in D – in other words, the number of weddings in which I will participate.
You see, as of Jan 1, 2011, I have been a pianist for eight different weddings. That number might not seem so large, but compound it with the fact that I am a single wedding pianist, constantly helping other in-love-and-happy-for-eternity couples, I guess that number seems a bit big to me.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I absolutely delight in being a part of “the moment” when the bride walks in, the groom sees her for the first time, hearts swell, tears glisten and the bride makes her way down the aisle toward her husband-to-be, on the arm of her faither or mother. From my vantage point at the front of the church, the view is incredible – part of the excitement and emotion of the ceremony. But even that delirious happiness can get a little - how do I say - nauseating at times? I do not blame them, the fault lies with me...
There is nothing quite like the process of being a wedding pianist – the couple eagerly approaches you with large smiles, looking at each other then at you, asking – almost precariously, “We were talking.. and we were wondering if you would be our piano player for our ceremony?” Through gritted teeth and overly-large smile, I manage a, “Oh wow – thank you for asking! Let me check and see if that date works.” A few weeks later, the discussion usually turns to, “So, in terms of songs, do you have ‘a song’?” The normal response is that they do not and would love to know what I have played at previous weddings. Now, this is where the creativity usually enters the discussion - for I have been asked to play everything from Queen’s Fat-Bottomed Girls, to Hockey Night in Canada theme (for the prelude), to U2’s Beautiful Day and of course, the traditional Bridal March, Canon in D to round things out. When it comes right down to it, there are usually about four or five songs that seem to be the recurring favourites for each and every ceremony - and try as you might to get them to think a bit outside the box, the traditional favourites usually reign supreme.
It’s not so much the fact that I’m asked to play, it’s that in some kind of cruel joke, I am always single at these weddings. Helping friends and even some couples I do not know at all – but were referred to me – celebrate the best day of their lives, I suppose I start to get a bit misty and nostalgic, thinking and hoping that one day I will be needing my own wedding pianist. I’m sure single people out there can relate to the drama, emotion, the horror, even, that attending a wedding can be. Add to that the rehearsal, the many meetings, phone calls, e-mails with the bride in advance of the ceremony and the overall pressure of, “We’re trusting you with this, our wedding day – if you make a mistake, it will be captured forever by video and in the memories of our guests, so please don’t screw this up.” Yup. Thanks for that.
Also add to this that my circle of single friends gets increasingly smaller and smaller where I now seem to be hearing about a new engagement every few months. Participating in and being a part of so many “special days” can be overwhelming at best.
So, this tale of my secondary role in society – that of wedding pianist – is meant not to provoke pity, rather feel better about your situation as you stare long and hard into an upcoming Valentine’s Day with no spouse or significant other. Or, if you find yourself happily married, engaged, dating someone – let this tale bring you a smile. And for those engaged and planning a wedding, might I request – on behalf of wedding pianists out there – that you have a list of possible songs you are interested to have played at the ceremony? Having the pianist “suggest songs” can be rather trying and frankly, most of the songs available use lyrics like, “I honestly love you” or “everything I do, I do it for you” or “I would hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love” ….personally, gag. I still hold out hope that truly great wedding songs will be written – lyrics that do not sound like insipid words of mush that only alcohol-laced crowds would appreciate and find endearing - but lyrics that speak truly about love, the realities, the let-downs, the potential failures, but the enduring quality of loving someone no matter what. And don't forget, a good melody line too.
So, happy Valentine’s Day to you all, in whatever stage of life you find yourself. May you celebrate the day best suiting you – oh, hold on, the phone is ringing. Ah, well, whaddya know, my friend who was engaged over Christmas just called asking if I could play for her outdoor wedding. “Oh wow – um, any ideas of songs you’d like?” Here we go again, da dum da dum.