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Playing the organ at weddings


MAB

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I know this is an easy target to hit, but I did want to share a recent experience with the board as it crystallised so many of the problems we seem to face when wishing to be taken seriously as musicians.

 

It is many years since I last played for a wedding. Having given up my full time organist's job and started a family, and having been given the run - around by too many brides over the years, I decided that I valued the time with my family at weekends far more than the fee.

 

However, I was recently asked to play for a wedding at my local church. After some consideration I agreed to play. Balancing all the factors I have mentioned above, I asked for a fee which some might find high, but which I regard as a respectable reflection of my professional ability. The bride had no hesitation in agreeing.

 

I was first contacted by the bride 6 months before the wedding and suggested a timetable whereby we worked towards an order of service, with all music being agreed at least 8 weeks before the date. I reserved the right to charge a little more if I had to buy and learn a piece specially.

 

I offered to meet the bride, who lived locally. She never got round to this, although we exchanged ideas regularly by e- mail.

 

I pointed her towards various wedding CDs and sent her internet links for appropriate pieces, none of which she seemed to understand.

 

Eventually, after some gentle suggestion from me that with a week to go we really ought to be finalising the music, she said that she liked a piece called 'Remembered Joy' which she had found. No composer, link or reference was given. After some investigation it turned out that this was a piece of, bluntly, hotel - lift muzak on the site of an American wedding organiser. I explained that if she could have got me the music in time, I would have been prepared to play it but, sadly, I could not guarantee to get the score from America in the 4 working days left to us.

 

Eventually we agreed on fairly standard repertoire.

 

On the day, I started to play introductory music for 20 minutes before the service. The bride eventually arrived 35 minutes late which meant that I was playing for nearly an hour before the service started.

 

The congregation started to drift in with about 10 minutes to go. In many years of playing the organ I have rarely heard a congregation talk so loudly, including numerous mobile phone calls (which continued through the service). The only time they stopped was when I paused between pieces. As soon as I started the next piece, they started to talk again.

 

I played Lord of the Dance and Give me Joy in my Heart (about which much has been written elsewhere on this forum). No - one sang.

 

During the signing of the register, it was announced that the bride's niece would sing a song accompanied on the guitar by her boyfriend. It was also announced that after this, I would play, as requested, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. The girl sang nicely, without it being exceptional. The congregation sat in perfect silence, and burst into a storm of applause at the end.

 

The second I started to play Jesu Joy, they all started talking again at the tops of their voices.

 

As I hope you will see from the above, I am not a prima donna either musically or liturgically, and I am more than happy to bring music to people where they are rather than expecting them to fit in with my tastes. However, this service highlighted for me so clearly how as organists in church we are so often not regarded as serious musicians, but at best labourers who, it is assumed, will provide a professional service without for a moment either that musicianship or professionalism being acknowledged.

 

When I recounted the story to my wife, she mentioned that the day before, You and Yours had featured an article on 'the organists fighting back', the gist of which was that some organists refused to reduce their fees when vicars tried to offer cut - price weddings to prospective brides. In full credit to the priest of the church, when he first gave me the bride's contact, I asked him if I was free to name what I considered a suitable fee, and he entirely supported my freedom to charge whatever I wanted.

 

As you may imagine, the experience gave me no reason to change my views about playing for weddings and I imagine from now on, unless I am asked to play for family weddings (which always gives me the greatest pleasure) they will not feature in my musical life.

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WOW !

 

I thought these things only happened in the US.

 

Of course, the clergy are to blame.

 

 

 

I know this is an easy target to hit, but I did want to share a recent experience with the board as it crystallised so many of the problems we seem to face when wishing to be taken seriously as musicians.

 

It is many years since I last played for a wedding. Having given up my full time organist's job and started a family, and having been given the run - around by too many brides over the years, I decided that I valued the time with my family at weekends far more than the fee.

 

However, I was recently asked to play for a wedding at my local church. After some consideration I agreed to play. Balancing all the factors I have mentioned above, I asked for a fee which some might find high, but which I regard as a respectable reflection of my professional ability. The bride had no hesitation in agreeing.

 

I was first contacted by the bride 6 months before the wedding and suggested a timetable whereby we worked towards an order of service, with all music being agreed at least 8 weeks before the date. I reserved the right to charge a little more if I had to buy and learn a piece specially.

 

I offered to meet the bride, who lived locally. She never got round to this, although we exchanged ideas regularly by e- mail.

 

I pointed her towards various wedding CDs and sent her internet links for appropriate pieces, none of which she seemed to understand.

 

Eventually, after some gentle suggestion from me that with a week to go we really ought to be finalising the music, she said that she liked a piece called 'Remembered Joy' which she had found. No composer, link or reference was given. After some investigation it turned out that this was a piece of, bluntly, hotel - lift muzak on the site of an American wedding organiser. I explained that if she could have got me the music in time, I would have been prepared to play it but, sadly, I could not guarantee to get the score from America in the 4 working days left to us.

 

Eventually we agreed on fairly standard repertoire.

 

On the day, I started to play introductory music for 20 minutes before the service. The bride eventually arrived 35 minutes late which meant that I was playing for nearly an hour before the service started.

 

The congregation started to drift in with about 10 minutes to go. In many years of playing the organ I have rarely heard a congregation talk so loudly, including numerous mobile phone calls (which continued through the service). The only time they stopped was when I paused between pieces. As soon as I started the next piece, they started to talk again.

 

I played Lord of the Dance and Give me Joy in my Heart (about which much has been written elsewhere on this forum). No - one sang.

 

During the signing of the register, it was announced that the bride's niece would sing a song accompanied on the guitar by her boyfriend. It was also announced that after this, I would play, as requested, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. The girl sang nicely, without it being exceptional. The congregation sat in perfect silence, and burst into a storm of applause at the end.

 

The second I started to play Jesu Joy, they all started talking again at the tops of their voices.

 

As I hope you will see from the above, I am not a prima donna either musically or liturgically, and I am more than happy to bring music to people where they are rather than expecting them to fit in with my tastes. However, this service highlighted for me so clearly how as organists in church we are so often not regarded as serious musicians, but at best labourers who, it is assumed, will provide a professional service without for a moment either that musicianship or professionalism being acknowledged.

 

When I recounted the story to my wife, she mentioned that the day before, You and Yours had featured an article on 'the organists fighting back', the gist of which was that some organists refused to reduce their fees when vicars tried to offer cut - price weddings to prospective brides. In full credit to the priest of the church, when he first gave me the bride's contact, I asked him if I was free to name what I considered a suitable fee, and he entirely supported my freedom to charge whatever I wanted.

 

As you may imagine, the experience gave me no reason to change my views about playing for weddings and I imagine from now on, unless I am asked to play for family weddings (which always gives me the greatest pleasure) they will not feature in my musical life.

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The rumpus in the church will happen if the officiating minister lets it. The organist has two options - to carry on playing or to stop. Neither is satisfactory. The officiant should outline the rules at the beginning of the service - even if it's only 'turn off your cell-phones and don't take pictures until the Signing of the Register'.

 

With regard to choice of music, I try to be as flexible as possible. I can rely on the Dean to support any decisions I make, but my basic rule is that I will play anything that isn't anti-Christian and that I can make sound right on a pipe organ, and that singers must perform without microphone. If I haven't got the music, the couple must provide legal copies.

 

The anti-Christian caveat came about a few years ago, when a singer sang 'Imagine'. He sang very well and accompanied himself skilfully on the guitar, but afterwards I decided that it had been a step too far. I'm happy enough with soloists and ensembles, including guitars, at weddings, if the music is appropriate. I might suggest that a certain piece is more appropriate for the reception.

 

I have the odd run-in with soloists who want to use mikes. The argument I present to them is that the cathedral has good acoustics, the organ cannot be miked, and if the singer uses a mike the balance will be wrong in every part of the building - which seems self-evident to me. This can cause consternation with RC cantors, or RC wedding singers. The answer to this is to point out how awful the music is in RC churches here, but I dress it up tactfully - Anglican tradition and so on.....

 

I will bend if I think it's for the best - a very gentle mike for a soloist who really isn't up to doing without (but not for professional cabaret singers), transcribing a song from YouTube and cooking it up to sound right, and so on. The latter happens only very occasionally - if it became I regular thing I would rethink. But I don't allow electronic keyboards as a substitute for the organ.

 

In the worst scenario, one does one's best, checks that the fee is right, and goes home for a G&T.

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Mark, I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I think we've all encountered these sorts of weddings at some point and I know how miserable these things can be.

 

From bitter experience I've made the following "rules" for weddings. I usually make these clear to wedding parties, although a little less bluntly than I put them below.

 

* The music I play before the wedding is entirely my perrogative. I make this clear to wedding parties, especially the more pushy ones. As I see it, I know best because I've played for weddings for so many years, have impeccable taste in music and so I know what works best for weddings at our church. Taking a leaf out of the vicar's book for the sermon, I normally play the same pieces before every wedding, varying things slowly over time and sometimes adapting for couples as I wish. This cuts down the amount of preparation considerably. It also means I can play music I actually like so even if people don't listen much I don't care much. This year, everyone gets Toccata and Fugue in F major.

 

* Hymns and music choices for entrance of bride/ signing of register/ procession can only be taken from the list. Many couples struggle with hymns and music choices. So I've prepared a sheet of hymn suggestions and music choices and very useful they find it too. In practice it's very rare for people to stray outside this list and I point out that anything not on the list is extra. I've also got a list of the music choices on an email with YouTube links that many people find helpful. Longer term I've got plans to do my own recordings on the church organ so they can hear the pieces as they'll sound at their wedding.

 

* Speak to the Church Wedding Co-ordinator, not the organist. We have a wedding co-ordinator, who deals with all aspects of the wedding at the church for all the couples - from the initial booking, banns, bells, flowers, heating, music, meeting the vicar, etc. So I tell the couples to tell the church wedding co-ordinator what their music choices are. If they want something special, the church wedding co-ordinator puts the couples in touch with me to discuss it. Our church wedding co-ordinator is wonderful - this system really works for us. Bear in mind this wedding coordinator works for the church - not the couple so please don't confuse this with that strange breed of people who become wedding co-ordinators for couples.

 

* Singers and musicians - do the bare minimum, under no circumstances take any responsibility. I don't usually have a problem with singers and other musicians performing during a wedding, even if they are more off the wall than Florence Foster-Perkins. If they want me to accompany, I ask for the music and an extra fee. We organise a practice, usually just after the wedding party practice the evening before, to run through the music. Even if it is a 5-minute run through of panis angelicus with an ex-Cathedral Girl Chorister I've know for 10 years and who knows it all backwards, I still charge. It makes up for those times when it's considerably harder work. I try to avoid responsibility for organising practices or getting the music - I see that as the singer's responsibility and they're usually keener than I am to have a practice.

 

* Parking. Find a parking space where you won't find yourself parked in after the wedding so you can make a speedy exit and you don't have to wait for the photographer to finish. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting around after a wedding for your car to become free again.

 

* Seating Plans. At the poshest and most control-freaky weddings at our churches, seating plans of who sits where are not uncommon. Whatever happens, make sure that no wedding guests sit too close the organ console for comfort. Certainly the choir stalls should be out of bounds, even if there is no choir. I once had a wedding where wedding guests occupied the choir stalls according to the seating plan and I had to put up with a Very LOUD conversation 6 inches behind my back about where Fiona was going to University, her Gap Year, her New Boyfriend James and other idle family chit-chat while I was playing for the signing of the registers. This was completely unacceptable.

 

* Emotional detachment. I completely switch off the emotional involvement switch for weddings these days. I stopped caring a long time ago what the wedding is actually like. Everything is lovely, even if it sounds or looks like a car crash. I have a perma-smile stuck on my face for everyone, except ushers, who I scowl at. Smart phones with Facebook, Twitter and mobile web have revolutionised my wedding experience. I usually like to have a treat planned for after a wedding - like a meal, a drink, visit a friend - it gives me something to look forward it during the wedding and it makes it seem less worse if it turns out to be horrible.

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The bride eventually arrived 35 minutes late

 

In the days when I was playing regularly for weddings I had an agreement with my Parish Priest that, if brides were more than half an hour late, I could leave. When seeing wedding couples prior to the wedding I used to make it clear that I was happy for the bride to fulfil the tradition of being late by being a few minutes late but that anything else was just bad manners and that, if she was more than 30 minutes late, she would walk into church in silence.

 

I only did it once in 20 years - brides tended to 'play ball'.

 

The last wedding I played for was a nightmare and I was a visitor in another church. The organ was at the front in full view of everyone. The wedding was at 4pm and the guests had clearly been imbibing. At 4pm there was nobody in church. Eventually they started to drift in, talking loudly (mobile phones hadn't been invented!) with, very clearly, little idea of how to behave (I'm not precious about it but this lot were the worst I had ever seen!). I started to play quietly, I used to find that some quiet music often quietened the atmosphere. They started to make comments, shouting out "Could I play so-and-so"? Eventually it became unpleasant and I got off the bench to speak to the Priest. He refused to do anything, in truth I think he was in a difficult position, by himself with a hoard of drunken yobs. I made a decision - I'd had my fee and I walked out.

 

I suspect that you will hear a wide variety of horror stories from organists on here. Doctors in A & E can tell the same stories - of people who have no idea how to behave and who seem to have different standards from those I, certainly, was brought up with. I find it a bit depressing.

 

And then there is another side. A wedding I will never forget.

 

A young couple came to see me after High Mass one Sunday morning to ask if I would play for their wedding. They didn't know any music, they didn't want the traditional music but they would leave the choice to me. They didn't want any hymns because there wouldn't be anyone to sing them. They were getting married with the minimum of fuss. They wanted to know if they could pay me there and then. The wedding was some time away and I suggested they put it in an envelope and gave it to the Priest at the rehearsal but they insisted and counted it out in coins in front of me. Clearly having the organ played was something they thought was important and they had saved up to come and see me. I played the organ for their wedding. There were two other guests and that was it. As I drove home I saw them, newly married, standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus to take them to their flat. Later that evening I put an envelope through their door with a card and the fee - wishing them 'all the best'

 

A world of contrasts.

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In the days when I was playing regularly for weddings I had an agreement with my Parish Priest that, if brides were more than half an hour late, I could leave. When seeing wedding couples prior to the wedding I used to make it clear that I was happy for the bride to fulfil the tradition of being late by being a few minutes late but that anything else was just bad manners and that, if she was more than 30 minutes late, she would walk into church in silence.

 

I only did it once in 20 years - brides tended to 'play ball'.

 

The last wedding I played for was a nightmare and I was a visitor in another church. The organ was at the front in full view of everyone. The wedding was at 4pm and the guests had clearly been imbibing. At 4pm there was nobody in church. Eventually they started to drift in, talking loudly (mobile phones hadn't been invented!) with, very clearly, little idea of how to behave (I'm not precious about it but this lot were the worst I had ever seen!). I started to play quietly, I used to find that some quiet music often quietened the atmosphere. They started to make comments, shouting out "Could I play so-and-so"? Eventually it became unpleasant and I got off the bench to speak to the Priest. He refused to do anything, in truth I think he was in a difficult position, by himself with a hoard of drunken yobs. I made a decision - I'd had my fee and I walked out.

 

I suspect that you will hear a wide variety of horror stories from organists on here. Doctors in A & E can tell the same stories - of people who have no idea how to behave and who seem to have different standards from those I, certainly, was brought up with. I find it a bit depressing.

 

And then there is another side. A wedding I will never forget.

 

A young couple came to see me after High Mass one Sunday morning to ask if I would play for their wedding. They didn't know any music, they didn't want the traditional music but they would leave the choice to me. They didn't want any hymns because there wouldn't be anyone to sing them. They were getting married with the minimum of fuss. They wanted to know if they could pay me there and then. The wedding was some time away and I suggested they put it in an envelope and gave it to the Priest at the rehearsal but they insisted and counted it out in coins in front of me. Clearly this was something they thought was important and they had saved up to come and see me. I played the organ for their wedding. There were two other guests and that was it. As I drove home I saw them, newly married, standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus to take them to their flat. Later that evening I put an envelope through their door with a card and the fee - wishing them 'all the best'

 

A world of contrasts.

 

 

I have become increasingly depressed at what the church-wedding has descended into- it should be a joyful occasion full of reverent and appropriate behaviour and music, but only too often it resembles a farce! There are so many issues here; and the gradual secularisation of society now results in a greater mass of the population who simply have no idea of what is appropriate in a place of worship. Loud talking and laughing, over music being played, and a general lack of decorum is all too frequent, and when our own congregations talk over us, how can we expect the 'un-churched' masses to be any better? I cannot understand why those who have no religious faith beyond a nodding acquaintance from their childhood wish to marry in church. Worse, such is the lack of knowledge and experience in church music that the same old garbage is requested over and over again.

 

"Morning is soken", "Make me a flannel", All things fright and beautiful"... the list goes on! I was even told once that a bride wanted "You'll never walk alone"- it must be a hymn, she reasoned, "because they sing it at football matches"!! Needless to say, neither the vicar or the organist agreed with her on that one!

 

Once upon a time, everyone knew how to behave in a church- those days are gone forever, and so should the 'right to marry' for all but those who actively belong to the church concerned.

 

CP

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Once upon a time, everyone knew how to behave in a church- those days are gone forever, and so should the 'right to marry' for all but those who actively belong to the church concerned.

At the joint risks of sounding sanctimonious and derailing the thread, I was under the impression that the Church of England, so long as it is the Established Church, should be available for every person in every parish, so long as they not excommunicate.

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A young couple came to see me after High Mass one Sunday morning to ask if I would play for their wedding. They didn't know any music, they didn't want the traditional music but they would leave the choice to me. They didn't want any hymns because there wouldn't be anyone to sing them. They were getting married with the minimum of fuss. They wanted to know if they could pay me there and then. The wedding was some time away and I suggested they put it in an envelope and gave it to the Priest at the rehearsal but they insisted and counted it out in coins in front of me. Clearly this was something they thought was important and they had saved up to come and see me. I played the organ for their wedding. There were two other guests and that was it. As I drove home I saw them, newly married, standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus to take them to their flat. Later that evening I put an envelope through their door with a card and the fee - wishing them 'all the best'

 

A world of contrasts.

 

 

==============================

 

That's rather sweet of you. I recall doing something similar for a delightful couple who had really suffered. The bride had lost her first husband when he was killed on a building-site. She was left to bring up a 3 month old baby on her own, with very little family support.

Her new fella was a charming Chilean refugee, who had fled the horrors of Pinochet after losing most of his family.

 

There were three people at the wedding, and in addition to playing the organ, I acted as "best man" and held the toddler in my arms; even when playing the hymns! (Left arm toddler; right hand and pedals music).

 

There are moments when it is better to give something back rather than just take the fee, and I am pleased to report that they are still very happily married and the toddler is now a doctor.

 

A world of contrasts indeed.

 

MM

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I know how you feel.

 

I was playing at another church a few weeks back, it was so full people were leaning against the organ console. I thought at one point someone was going to sit on the bench next to me. The congregation talked and texted through out the service. At one point I overheard one of the female guests said " I ain't gonna 'ave no songs at my wedding, 'cos nobody (rude word) sings' em".

 

It was a classy do!

 

I played, was paid and went home for a libation

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I played, was paid and went home for a libation

 

 

Thats the best thing to do - make sure you get the fee, get out as fast as you can, go home, have a large drink and try to forget it - otherwise it starts to upset or annoy you!!!

 

I'm so glad to be out of it.

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Mark, I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I think we've all encountered these sorts of weddings at some point and I know how miserable these things can be.

 

From bitter experience I've made the following "rules" for weddings. I usually make these clear to wedding parties, although a little less bluntly than I put them below.

 

* The music I play before the wedding is entirely my perrogative. I make this clear to wedding parties, especially the more pushy ones. As I see it, I know best because I've played for weddings for so many years, have impeccable taste in music and so I know what works best for weddings at our church. Taking a leaf out of the vicar's book for the sermon, I normally play the same pieces before every wedding, varying things slowly over time and sometimes adapting for couples as I wish. This cuts down the amount of preparation considerably. It also means I can play music I actually like so even if people don't listen much I don't care much. This year, everyone gets Toccata and Fugue in F major.

 

* Hymns and music choices for entrance of bride/ signing of register/ procession can only be taken from the list. Many couples struggle with hymns and music choices. So I've prepared a sheet of hymn suggestions and music choices and very useful they find it too. In practice it's very rare for people to stray outside this list and I point out that anything not on the list is extra. I've also got a list of the music choices on an email with YouTube links that many people find helpful. Longer term I've got plans to do my own recordings on the church organ so they can hear the pieces as they'll sound at their wedding.

 

* Speak to the Church Wedding Co-ordinator, not the organist. We have a wedding co-ordinator, who deals with all aspects of the wedding at the church for all the couples - from the initial booking, banns, bells, flowers, heating, music, meeting the vicar, etc. So I tell the couples to tell the church wedding co-ordinator what their music choices are. If they want something special, the church wedding co-ordinator puts the couples in touch with me to discuss it. Our church wedding co-ordinator is wonderful - this system really works for us. Bear in mind this wedding coordinator works for the church - not the couple so please don't confuse this with that strange breed of people who become wedding co-ordinators for couples.

 

* Singers and musicians - do the bare minimum, under no circumstances take any responsibility. I don't usually have a problem with singers and other musicians performing during a wedding, even if they are more off the wall than Florence Foster-Perkins. If they want me to accompany, I ask for the music and an extra fee. We organise a practice, usually just after the wedding party practice the evening before, to run through the music. Even if it is a 5-minute run through of panis angelicus with an ex-Cathedral Girl Chorister I've know for 10 years and who knows it all backwards, I still charge. It makes up for those times when it's considerably harder work. I try to avoid responsibility for organising practices or getting the music - I see that as the singer's responsibility and they're usually keener than I am to have a practice.

 

* Parking. Find a parking space where you won't find yourself parked in after the wedding so you can make a speedy exit and you don't have to wait for the photographer to finish. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting around after a wedding for your car to become free again.

 

* Seating Plans. At the poshest and most control-freaky weddings at our churches, seating plans of who sits where are not uncommon. Whatever happens, make sure that no wedding guests sit too close the organ console for comfort. Certainly the choir stalls should be out of bounds, even if there is no choir. I once had a wedding where wedding guests occupied the choir stalls according to the seating plan and I had to put up with a Very LOUD conversation 6 inches behind my back about where Fiona was going to University, her Gap Year, her New Boyfriend James and other idle family chit-chat while I was playing for the signing of the registers. This was completely unacceptable.

 

* Emotional detachment. I completely switch off the emotional involvement switch for weddings these days. I stopped caring a long time ago what the wedding is actually like. Everything is lovely, even if it sounds or looks like a car crash. I have a perma-smile stuck on my face for everyone, except ushers, who I scowl at. Smart phones with Facebook, Twitter and mobile web have revolutionised my wedding experience. I usually like to have a treat planned for after a wedding - like a meal, a drink, visit a friend - it gives me something to look forward it during the wedding and it makes it seem less worse if it turns out to be horrible.

 

 

For those poor souls still at it, there is a lot of very sensible advice here.

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I was even told once that a bride wanted "You'll never walk alone"- it must be a hymn, she reasoned, "because they sing it at football matches"!! Needless to say, neither the vicar or the organist agreed with her on that one!

 

Your church obviously doesn't have the BBC Songs of Praise...its in there! Our Headmaster wanted it once for a service...as there is only one verse we sang it twice!

 

I don't play at weddings these days, only for friends or family, these are the best type. THough I must admit to note that most of the weddings are great occasions and can have spin off dividends. (Many years ago I went to see a new accountant and we very soon realised that I had played the organ for his wedding earlier in the year...my tax bill/accountancy bill was virtually nothing!)

Everyone has their wedding horror stories - the first wedding I played for was in 1978 the bride wore a plain dress, but the groom and his friends were in teddy-boy outfits with bright yellow frock coats, bootlace ties and DA haircuts...they were very lively (hic) too quite an experience for a 12 year old!

At a village gypsy wedding, all the guests arrived just before the bride and left during the signing of the registers. I played the wedding march to 3 people and the vicar. (Incidentally the bride's mother had more than a passing resemblance to "Mad Madam Mim" from Disney's "Sword in the Stone", complete with hair and no teeth - I never quite understood why the groom hadn't twigged what he might be in for in 30 years!).

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I'm sure in the recent past I have grumbled on here about noise and chatting during the music before the wedding starts, but it doesn't particularly worry me if it comes from guests; in fact I would find silence unnerving - it is supposed to be a happy occasion, after all.

 

The behaviour of other musicians 'parachuted in' to perform during the signing of the register has been an eye opener for me, and I expected better. They presumably anticipate rapt attention and silence when they are performing, but they don't always behave likewise when I am playing; they talk quite loudly, get up and walk over to chat with their friend in the opposite stall and I am probably something of a hindrance to their socializing.

 

Similar things occurred recently when a friend was deputizing and I had a chance to observe from the back pews (for a change).

 

If these musicians were spectacularly good one could perhaps overlook the bad form (oh, all right. No I couldn't :unsure: ) but it makes me feel better about the service I provide. Rarely do I accompany a soloist but it has happened and I have never asked for an extra fee.

In this parish you receive the fee for the whole months' weddings the following month so the rewards are deferred, but there is usually gin in the house somewhere.

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What I'm sensing is that it is not so much the music which gets to us so much as the attitude of the people involved. This is certainly true for me. Few of us, I think, expect weddings to be musically groundbreaking, but provided things are gone about in the right way, most of us can put up with the more pedestrian/daft choices on the understanding that it's "their day".

 

I've found that where I play, weddings tend to fall into two categories:

i) The couple is pleasant and appreciative , (in most cases local, but not always) they've been to church, so you know who they are, they communicate with you, EVEN if it's to tell you they want "Here comes" (Wagner), "There goes" (Mendelssohn) Jesu Joy, Lord of Dance (after having pointed out the sky turning black on the Friday) and Jerusalem

ii) County do's, pushy parents of the couple whom you have never before seen, pushy women (sorry, it is usually women) doing the flowers, more often than not hideously over-the-top lily arrangments on mock stone plinths, braying yahs "Giles, you old b*****d, I haven't seen you since Gstaad" but for all that not a penny in the collection plate...

 

Granted, the music for a"ii" wedding might be marginally more interesting, but overall give me "i", any day of the week.

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The behaviour of other musicians 'parachuted in' to perform during the signing of the register has been an eye opener for me, and I expected better.

 

 

I could write a book about 'visiting' musicians. Sometimes they were good, more often than not they were awful with some interesting experiences in between.

 

There was 'Auntie Gywnedd' who wanted to sing 'di Ave Maria' (usually Bach/Gounod), a chap who was going to play the organ and sing at the same time, various relatives of the bride with varying degrees of incompetance who miss beats out all over the place making Bach/Gounod sound as if it has hiccups! And finally a lady who was going to play the organ for the whole wedding, the bride assured me she was an FRCO and so I left her to it. Eventually she came down to my office, with about five minutes to go, to find me to ask how to make it louder and what the 'buttons under the keys' were for!

 

Then there was a local tenor ( I have to be careful here!) who had achieved a brief moment of fame on Saturday night TV. He arrived, complete with his Italian accent (fake!), and his copy of Bach/Gounod in some stratospheric key. I started playing and he opened his mouth. My playing clearly wasn't loud enough! "More organ!", he shouted at me, so I gave him a bit more. It still wasn't enough "More organ!" (the accent started to sound a bit Brummie!) - but it still wasn't enough. Eventually he stopped and looked at me "you play loud". So I gave him full swell with the reeds and the box half open. "That's a good", he said, well satisfied. At the end he offered me his autograph, surprisingly I declined!!

 

Perhaps I will write a book - but nobody would believe me!! (to quote or paraphrase, Gordon Reynolds)

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I could write a book about 'visiting' musicians. Sometimes they were good, more often than not they were awful with some interesting experiences in between.

 

There was 'Auntie Gywnedd' who wanted to sing 'di Ave Maria' (usually Bach/Gounod), a chap who was going to play the organ and sing at the same time, various relatives of the bride with varying degrees of incompetance who miss beats out all over the place making Bach/Gounod sound as if it has hiccups!

 

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt! (illegible and ungrammatical MS copy in a key way above the capapilitiews of the vocalist).

 

The scary thing is that no-one seems to notice if it's any good or not, and if they do they're likely to blame the organist!

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I know this is an easy target to hit, but I did want to share a recent experience with the board as it crystallised so many of the problems we seem to face when wishing to be taken seriously as musicians.

 

It is many years since I last played for a wedding. Having given up my full time organist's job and started a family, and having been given the run - around by too many brides over the years, I decided that I valued the time with my family at weekends far more than the fee.

 

However, I was recently asked to play for a wedding at my local church. After some consideration I agreed to play. Balancing all the factors I have mentioned above, I asked for a fee which some might find high, but which I regard as a respectable reflection of my professional ability. The bride had no hesitation in agreeing.

 

I was first contacted by the bride 6 months before the wedding and suggested a timetable whereby we worked towards an order of service, with all music being agreed at least 8 weeks before the date. I reserved the right to charge a little more if I had to buy and learn a piece specially.

 

I offered to meet the bride, who lived locally. She never got round to this, although we exchanged ideas regularly by e- mail.

 

I pointed her towards various wedding CDs and sent her internet links for appropriate pieces, none of which she seemed to understand.

 

Eventually, after some gentle suggestion from me that with a week to go we really ought to be finalising the music, she said that she liked a piece called 'Remembered Joy' which she had found. No composer, link or reference was given. After some investigation it turned out that this was a piece of, bluntly, hotel - lift muzak on the site of an American wedding organiser. I explained that if she could have got me the music in time, I would have been prepared to play it but, sadly, I could not guarantee to get the score from America in the 4 working days left to us.

 

Eventually we agreed on fairly standard repertoire.

 

On the day, I started to play introductory music for 20 minutes before the service. The bride eventually arrived 35 minutes late which meant that I was playing for nearly an hour before the service started.

 

The congregation started to drift in with about 10 minutes to go. In many years of playing the organ I have rarely heard a congregation talk so loudly, including numerous mobile phone calls (which continued through the service). The only time they stopped was when I paused between pieces. As soon as I started the next piece, they started to talk again.

 

I played Lord of the Dance and Give me Joy in my Heart (about which much has been written elsewhere on this forum). No - one sang.

 

During the signing of the register, it was announced that the bride's niece would sing a song accompanied on the guitar by her boyfriend. It was also announced that after this, I would play, as requested, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. The girl sang nicely, without it being exceptional. The congregation sat in perfect silence, and burst into a storm of applause at the end.

 

The second I started to play Jesu Joy, they all started talking again at the tops of their voices.

 

As I hope you will see from the above, I am not a prima donna either musically or liturgically, and I am more than happy to bring music to people where they are rather than expecting them to fit in with my tastes. However, this service highlighted for me so clearly how as organists in church we are so often not regarded as serious musicians, but at best labourers who, it is assumed, will provide a professional service without for a moment either that musicianship or professionalism being acknowledged.

 

When I recounted the story to my wife, she mentioned that the day before, You and Yours had featured an article on 'the organists fighting back', the gist of which was that some organists refused to reduce their fees when vicars tried to offer cut - price weddings to prospective brides. In full credit to the priest of the church, when he first gave me the bride's contact, I asked him if I was free to name what I considered a suitable fee, and he entirely supported my freedom to charge whatever I wanted.

 

As you may imagine, the experience gave me no reason to change my views about playing for weddings and I imagine from now on, unless I am asked to play for family weddings (which always gives me the greatest pleasure) they will not feature in my musical life.

Thank you MAB, for this 'thread'. It's been a long time since I have laughed out loud so much when reading the replies.

Tempo Primo. :unsure:

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The behaviour of other musicians 'parachuted in' to perform during the signing of the register has been an eye opener for me, and I expected better. They presumably anticipate rapt attention and silence when they are performing, but they don't always behave likewise when I am playing; they talk quite loudly, get up and walk over to chat with their friend in the opposite stall and I am probably something of a hindrance to their socializing.

 

The number of times I have heard things like this, that organists are not only not respected nor appreciated (by audiences and other musicians alike), but are often not even apparent to them.

 

Is this because:

 

- organ music is just background muzak, like the stuff you hear in supermarkets, and is intended to be talked over?

 

- the organ is a machine, as well as a musical instrument and, therefore, plays itself?

 

- the organist is often necessarily invisible to the audience and, therefore, the organ seems to be playing itself?

 

- the organist is usually a 'one man band' and prefers not to associate with other musicians unless absolutely necessary?

 

- none of the above?

 

(Tongue-in-cheek suggestions - at least to a point!)

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At the joint risks of sounding sanctimonious and derailing the thread, I was under the impression that the Church of England, so long as it is the Established Church, should be available for every person in every parish, so long as they not excommunicate.

 

 

Yes, but in the days when this statute was created, the population of a parish had more connection with their church. It has simply become a convenience to the majority; use it when you need it, but not for the rest of the time! And those who's only connection is Christening/Marriage/Funeral are not to my mind true members of the Anglican church anyway.

 

CP

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Yes, but in the days when this statute was created, the population of a parish had more connection with their church. It has simply become a convenience to the majority; use it when you need it, but not for the rest of the time! And those who's only connection is Christening/Marriage/Funeral are not to my mind true members of the Anglican church anyway.

 

CP

 

 

All the same, Innate is right. The Church of England is bound by law to baptise, marry and bury any residents of a parish who wish it.

 

In Lutheran countries, the state church has similar obligations, and pays its organists a full-time salary to be available for such services.

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Yes, but in the days when this statute was created, the population of a parish had more connection with their church. It has simply become a convenience to the majority; use it when you need it, but not for the rest of the time! And those who's only connection is Christening/Marriage/Funeral are not to my mind true members of the Anglican church anyway.

What I meant to imply was that so long as the C of E enjoys the privileges of establishment, eg its representatives in the House of Lords, The Queen being its head, the near-monopoly of college chapels in our older universities and schools, then it should happily accept the responsibilities.

 

I have a feeling that there were periods in the C of E's history well before our modern pluralist society, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, when many people were less than regular congregants.

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What I meant to imply was that so long as the C of E enjoys the privileges of establishment, eg its representatives in the House of Lords, The Queen being its head, the near-monopoly of college chapels in our older universities and schools, then it should happily accept the responsibilities.

Is it really as simple as that? Our governments have always proved more than willing to move goalposts when convienient to them. Why should the Church of England not enjoy the same privilege?

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Is it really as simple as that? Our governments have always proved more than willing to move goalposts when convienient to them. Why should the Church of England not enjoy the same privilege?

Because it's a Christian organisation with faith, hope and charity at its heart?

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