Yesterday was the last Wedding.
After 42 years of Mendelssohn, Wagner, Widor, Guilmant, Bach, Dubois, Faulkes, Elgar, Hollins, Whitlock and many others, it had become time to stop. Not that it was not a doable thing anymore, rather that the stamina required to do these things is disappearing.
This was not a decision taken lightly but one which has been rather painful and worrying for some time – more especially since the spell in the Cardiac unit and the subsequent rehabilitation.
Still, 42 years is a respectable working life and lucky is anybody who lasts the stretch.
To tell the truth, yesterday’s wedding was one about which there was much anguish. Performance nerves too because of much new material which would remove a comfort zone.
Not in a church either but in a stately home. There are six flights of stairs to reach the long gallery where the ceremonies take place. How unlucky then that the door to the gallery was locked…so with briefcase in hand, back down the six flights for the key, which was gladly handed over…”Now do bring it back, won’t you?” they said, “you will get your exercise today!” and of course, that was right…
…so back up the six flights again with briefcase in hand…unlock the door, deposit briefcase by Steinway grand…and then, back down again with the key …..only this time, just the merest nudge in the chest….and arrive at the ground floor…return the key….then back up only this time, it is necessary to wait a little on each landing…and then it all comes flooding back: the early start, the early breakfast, the packing up of the car for the lounge piano part of the job…and the tablets; now off Ticagrelor and only the beta blockers, aspirin and nitrates to swallow and of course…there they still are on the bedside cabinet, unswallowed.
Yes, so take it easy Old Bean and just go at it gently…and thus it was. A pleasant wedding.
The piano and the thinner and older pianist featuring in no less that five photographs. The groom enjoying his day and his bride looking perfect in white; beautiful bridesmaids in blue watered silk; everybody looking very smart indeed along with the pretty bouquets.
Playing the choices, the room falls silent. This is the last wedding and the guests really are listening. How unusual. Would that it had always been so – not every wedding attends to the performance of the choice of music.
The personalised readings and vows are very nice to hear as are the wise words from the Registrar.
And it is done.
Then with a deft nod, the organiser from the venue summons the Wedding March music and the worried pianist hits keys in an order never before used in this context and a happy couple processes out.
As the photographs are being taken in the box-hedged formal front garden, a side door allows a discreet exit to the lounge in the restored tithe barn for the champagne reception. This was to prove the most memorable part of any wedding to date for there were requests…
…A mother comes over and asks if requests are allowed. Receiving a yes from the musician, she then explains that the requests are for her son who is at present in the rose garden. She goes away and brings her son – a little three year old who would like “The Wheels on the Bus”. It is played and sung by the three of us, all the verses. A little shy smile creeps over the face. “Speckled Frog” is now requested, agreed, played and sung. This is followed by “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. A happy thank you and a nice wave of the hand follows that and hopefully made the occasion memorable for him too. For this musician, it was the high spot of the last forty two years.
On the journey home, reflections take place about all the past venues – good and grim; brides – early and late, old and young; music unsuitable, music unplayable; churches with toilets and those without; clergymen who could sing and those tone deaf; the wording of services and the various rewrites that have taken place over the last forty years; cold churches, damp churches; organs that sounded worse the more stops that were added; organs that were really nice to play; monies that never turned up; tips for the musicians; and so on…
All in all, a very nice way of spending Saturdays and other days, accompanying that special day and hoping in a very small way to have been one of the more private tracks on the soundtrack of somebody else’s life.
So let’s raise a glass together (mine contains only lemonade these days) worldwide to all the happy couples – whomever and wherever they now are. And say for the last time, as ever it were thus: “Thank you for inviting me to play for you”.
The pleasure really was mine.