The phone rang late one Thursday evening. A male voice on the line calmly asked, “Are you free a week from this Saturday at 9:00 am to play a wedding for my daughter at the North Mission, and do you know the Ave Maria?”
“Let me see,” I said as I checked my book. I was surprisingly available.
“Oh, good. We have a relative who sings the Ave Maria” he responded.
“I will need to know which one, and what the key is. Does your daughter have something she would like for the processional?” I prodded, thinking this was probably a very last minute wedding arranged in an urgent hurry.
“Oh yes,” the man continued. “Do you know a ukelele player who could play Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World in the style of that very large ukelele player from Hawaii who just died?”
Amazingly, I had just met a ukelele player the day before, and we rehearsed that very same arrangement for a show we were doing together the next night. “I’ll see if Karl can make it a week from Saturday. Will there be any attendants?”
“Oh yes,” the man answered. “16 bridesmaids, 10 groomsmen, 2 flower girls, 3 ring bearers.”
I cautiously added, “Is there something your daughter wants for the recessional?”
“Oh yes. Do you happen to know two trumpet players who could play The Beatles version of All You Need Is Love?”
“Well, I know one trumpet player in the area, but this is sort of last minute, and I don’t know if he is available 8 days from now. This might get kind of expensive. Are you sure you want me to call around?”
“Well, this is for my daughter, and she wants everything to be perfect!”
I had a phone conference a couple days later with the dad, bride and groom. Miraculously, the ukelele player was available, and the dad said he would bring a CD of the Beatles tune so they could hear the two trumpets for the recessional. They said an aunt would sing the Ave Maria, and since she was a good singer they were sure she could do it in any key.
On the wedding morning I packed my music bag with about 6 keys and versions of the Ave Maria, just in case the aunt was more of a closet singer and needed extra help getting through the wedding, and also threw in a Beatles Songbook just in case something went wrong with the CD.
After an hour’s drive I arrived at the Mission to find the usually well-composed wedding coordinator running around in a frenzy like a sprayed roach. “What happened to the music planning?” I asked. She could only throw her hands up in the air in desperation.
“Do you have something – anything at all – you could play for the recessional? The dad forgot the CD!” she panted.
I tapped my music bag. “I brought All You Need is Love just in case.”
I watched in utter disbelief as the 16 bridesmaids (all in matching gowns, shoes, and hairstyles), 10 groomsmen (in coordinated tuxes), and the 5 kids (in fancy dresses and little suits) processed down the aisle to ukelele and piano. The men looked a bit green, (probably from the night before’s bachelor party), but the women looked stunning. You know they had to have planned the outfits months in advance – why didn’t they consider the music? Oh well… just another day in the life of a wedding pianist!
My next blog will be about the most unusual tune requests I have gotten for both weddings and funerals, how to accommodate people in finding the perfect tunes for their event, and what extra music duties you may encounter beyond the basics as a wedding pianist.