As a cellist who's currently a poor college student, I take pretty much any gig I can. Weddings, though, are special. Each one presents different annoyances and challenges for musicians to sort out, from transporting a whole string quartet in a Ford Focus to dealing with procrastinating couples. Here are my top five frustrations with playing weddings.
Musicians are stereotypically introverted, so being surrounded by hoards of people can be disconcerting. We know well how to put on a good face, though, and step into the spotlight. However, at weddings there's always a photographer getting in your face, looking for a picturesque moment to capture. There's always a toddler who ambles up and starts to poke you in the back — or worse, hit your cello. At the reception, the mother of the bride will approach you and offer gushing compliments in a slurred voice — and creepy guys might stand a few feet away and watch your playing for an uncomfortably long time.
4. Folding chairs
I've stopped asking the wedding planner for a chair. Now I bring my own. Any cellist will tell you how uncomfortable it is to play sitting on a folding chair, but it's also terrible for our bodies. I end up with my knees at about the height of my belly button and my endpin about four inches long, then all through the service I fight gravity sliding me backwards on the slippery, angled metal. It's not exactly ergonomic.
3. Pop tunes
So you want to walk down the aisle to your favorite pop song? What a headache for the quartet. We scrounge the Internet for decent arrangements, then proceed to edit them to pieces in order to make them sound close to what they're supposed to. Then, after two minutes of rehearsal, we all want to murder Taylor Swift and quit the gig.
2. Outdoor weddings
Sometime in the last half-century, people decided that beaches, forests, or their backyards were much prettier than old churches. I've played in a lot of gorgeous churches, but I guess there's a certain charm in the biting flies and storm clouds at outdoor weddings. People do not understand that my instrument is worth more than most college students' cars, and nobody but me seems to mind it getting wet. Whoever scheduled an outdoor wedding in October certainly didn't consider the poor musician trying to play in a formal dress and parka. On a windy day, clothespins only help so much. I have yet to play in a nice outdoor wedding. Take it from me, all you wedding planners: they just don't turn out.
1. "Pacho Bells Cannon"
Constantly requested (and horrendously misspelled) by clueless, starry-eyed brides, Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is my least favorite piece in the history of Western art music — and not just because I'm a cellist. Sure, the cascading melodies are beautiful — but there's a difference between tradition and cliche. Sometimes I'm asked to play the solo version at weddings when they don't want to hire a full quartet — kind of ruins the whole point of a canon, but it's still pretty, right?
By all means, hire musicians for your wedding. We need work. Keep classical music alive! But when you do, keep these things in mind. Pass them along to your betrothed friends and relatives, so that someday I might like weddings again.
Abigail Sandberg is originally from Hutchinson, Minn. She currently studies music performance at the University of South Dakota.
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