The Music Exchange
Weddings provide great opportunities for hairy music moments — those instances which rarely happen in a normal church meeting, but which occur more often at weddings because of factors like the involvement of less experienced musicians and slightly crazy musical requests.
I had one of my hairiest wedding music moments this summer at a wedding I wasn’t even supposed to be playing at. I’d thought it was quite strange when the visiting band stood up a couple of minutes before the entrance of the bride to play ‘La rejouissance’ from Handel’s Fireworks Music. I wasn’t sure how Handel was going to mix with electric guitars so I sidled up to the keyboard player and asked him if he was playing it from the piano. ‘No’, he said, ‘you’re playing it on the organ’.
Running for the organ
As I ran towards the organ past the bride who was waiting to make her entrance, my only thoughts, in between frantic prayers, were, ‘I can’t even remember how La rejouissance goes; how about I play Jeremiah Clarke’s trumpet voluntary? — those trumpetty things all sound the same to me — they’ll never know the difference’. I got to the organ with seconds to go, and it was then that I witnessed again the sovereignty and glorious humour of God: I’d been playing through some wedding music for another bride-to-be the previous Thursday, and the last piece I played her was ‘La rejouissance’. It was still there on the music stand.
That was a hairy musical moment that was experienced privately very energetically, but thankfully not publicly at the time. I have, however, experienced some very public blunders in weddings that could all have been avoided. Mostly, these blunders are to do with friends and family of the wedding couple who’ve been asked to play or sing at the ceremony.
Friends or professionals
In last month’s article I mentioned that musical demands at weddings are increasing as times goes on. Couples love to have good music, and nearly all of them want something ‘slightly different’, which is understandable in our individualistic age. At the same time, they also like their friends to be involved with the music, which again is natural. Friends are cheap, but even best friends are not always the best musicians. Also, they may not be the best people to help with the music because of the pressure of playing or singing in front of family, not wanting to let anyone down. I’ve accompanied many people who’ve had sleepless nights for weeks before the wedding, and who have choked spectacularly on the day.
If you are asking friends to play or sing, make sure it’s clear from them that they would count it as a privilege and not a burden; that is, don’t just ask them because it would please you, but only if you’re sure they’d be comfortable and confident. Often it can be much kinder not to ask friends to play or sing so that they can enjoy the day more.
The other option, of course, is to pay for musicians to provide the music. This may seem like not an option at all, but in my experience, paying a couple of professionals to come and help out still works out much cheaper than the flowers or photographs.
Some couples prefer the relaxed living-on-the-edge feel to their wedding, but if you want the job done well it’s best to use people who you won’t need to worry about on the day.
It would be worth mentioning a legal issue here about paying musicians. By law, if a fee is paid to musicians, 50% should be added for a sound recording and 100% for a video. It’s something to do with performing rights, I think, which sounds rather grand, especially as I’ve never considered a wedding to be a musical performance. The one organist I know who followed this up was playing for a wedding in a cathedral. As soon as he saw a video camera he left the cathedral and went home, refusing to come back till the groom came up with the extra money. I don’t know of any Christian musicians who have followed this up, but, out of courtesy, it’s worth checking that the musicians are happy for the service to be recorded or filmed, even if the musicians are friends playing for free. The church at which you are getting married may well have a policy on this.
Also, and more importantly, if you are printing any copyright songs in your service sheet, ask for permission to use the copyright licence number of the church in which you’re getting married. This number must appear on the sheet. The church may demand a fee for this.
I hope that at least some of these points from this and the previous article will help churches and engaged couples smooth out some of those hairy moments.