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November 2003

November 20, 2003 23:47

After playing in yet another wedding last weekend, I’m trying to remember how many weddings I’ve played in. Dozens? Millions? They are all a blur. Yet they all have had one element in common: inevitably, something unexpected will happen. For example, someone will forget the music stand. Or you’ll be outside on a windy bluff with no clothes pins to hold the music down. Or someone gets lost and is fumbling with a map on the other side of town. Or the contractor forgets the cello music, “Can you read off the score?” Or you get well into a piece and realize that a whole page is actually missing!

It’s a strange combination: the importance and stress of this day for the bride and groom vs. the faux easy-goingness of the sight-reading string quartet. I try to refrain from making too big a deal of meeting new people at wedding gigs, Brides tend to get a little flustered when you say, “OH IT’S SO NICE TO MEET YOU!” to the violinist sitting next to you, thus revealing that the members of the string quartet playing for the most important moment in her life are meeting for the first time.

But more often than not, that is the way it is. Quartets don’t get together to rehearse the Pachelbel canon; most violinists had it memorized in high school. The only problem is that different players have different arrangements of the classics, and unless you are using your own charts, you just don’t know what might come up! Chances are, though, that a group of seasoned musicians are all old friends with this music and quite comfortable sight-reading whatever arrangement is laid before them.

I do enjoy seeing the myriad ways different people take their vows: in backyards, at mansions, on a bluff overlooking the ocean, at a tiny mountain shack, in a room at a hotel, at a beach house, in a grand cathedral. Some are quite religious, others secular. Some seem like children, others have their own children as members of the wedding party. What a strange privilege, to be at the heart of such an occasion for so many people I barely know.

One thing is always the same: they love the music. It’s what brings on the tears that mother has been holding back all day, what brings back the memories of the bride as a little girl or the groom as a little boy, what makes the bride and groom remember the first time they saw love in each other’s eyes. For them it’s certainly not just “another wedding” or the umpteenth running of the Pachelbel canon: it’s music they’ll never forget.

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