Musings on One Fun Gig

Today I had the pleasure of performing background music at a 90th birthday party. The "birthday boy" is looking very hearty and hale. Both he and his wife could easily be mistaken for being 20 years younger. When I first spoke to the couple, they requested that I play a wide range of music as the youngest family member is 3 months old, while the "birthday boy" represents the top end. I really enjoyed putting this program together, which had everything from All of Me and Fly Me to the Moon to Avril Lavigne's Breakaway and Super Mario Brothers; with some improvising thrown in.

The great grandchildren came to chat with me about music, Guitar Hero II and karate while I played the Inspector Gadget Theme and Willy Wonka's Welcome Song. One six-year old asked if he could play with me so we jammed on a boogie pattern while his cousins bopped to the music and "comped" when the inspiration struck.

They said my hands moved pretty fast. Meanwhile, I was thinking, "I need to practice my scales even more!" I stayed to chat afterwards with one of the grandchidlren, a former coworker of mine whom I haven't seen in years. It was a pleasant surprise to see her there.

The gig wasn't without its glitches. My break was used up over a dropped key. When the party moved to the venue's dining room, I found the piano locked. I went to get the key when it fell into the piano. Three gentlemen (four if you count my six-year old assistant) tried to pull it out because it fell in the most inconvenient spot.

I also think perhaps the Heritage Park ghosts decided to play a practical joke on me as my pages kept flipping on their own during my Beatles songs and Breakaway. Perhaps it was their way of saying that they wanted more ragtime and boogie? Who knows?

With a bit of tweaking and revising, I think I can reuse the program at future gigs.

(c) 2008 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Busy Season

As merchandisers will tell you, there are only 32 shopping days left before Christmas.

Any musician will tell you that right after Halloween, we have mere weeks before we are up to our eyeballs with Christmas concerts and party gigs. I'm currently working my Christmas gig repertoire back under my fingers, along with some of the songs from Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms syllabus. Well, I'm finding that it's one thing to stay a couple of pages ahead of my students. It's a complete other story getting their songs up to performance standard.

In the end, some of the new songs won't make the cut this season. They'll be replaced with old standbys with a twist. For instance, I've discovered that God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen sounds very nice with a Latin pattern or a Boogie Woogie pattern and that Blue Christmas sounds neat with a Honky Tonk bass.

Be brave. Next time you practice your holiday music, add some zip to your songs by changing it a bit. You'll find it entertaining and quite enjoyable.

(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Valuable Lessons for Wedding Musicians and Brides

Wedding season is winding down. Phew! Today's wedding should go well. The bride and I met months ago and got all the songs selected. I've played at this church before and last night's rehearsal was a snap.

The jury is still out on the one scheduled in two weeks. There are quite a few special requests for this one, which I didn't get until recently. Over the summer, Bride #2 rescheduled our meeting twice. She finally came with her fiance late this week.

At the meeting, she said that she wants five hymns sung. That was three more than what I was told initially. One thing I've learned is that if you want singing at a wedding, bring in singers. Don't expect the congregation to sing with enthusiasm. Most will mumble, if at all.

To make a long story short, she's going beg her friends over the weekend to form a choir and then we'll have to work out some time (when I'm not teaching, at meetings, etc.) to rehearse.

A few lessons here for brides:

  1. If you plan on having numerous special requests, book your musician(s) well in advance. Yours isn't the only gig on the roster. We musicians want to make your day special by playing well. Many musicians have busy music studios. Most musicians/teachers' schedules are extremely tight. The more time you give us, the better.
  2. Factor in rehearsal time and fees if you book more than one musician, such as a pianist and a singer.
  3. Meet with your musician(s) well in advance. If they are not familiar with some of the music you would like played at your ceremony, they need time to prepare it.
  4. If you put off booking a musician to one month or less before your wedding - good luck finding one. If you find someone willing to take you on, most likely, no special requests will be allowed.

And for musicians:

  1. If the client has to reschedule once, fine. If he/she must reschedule twice, unless it was for a dire emergency, drop the client. The money is not worth the hassle.
  2. If you decided to take on a client and are presented with several last minute requests, take control of the situation. Be very firm about what you require, your availability and what you are willing to do.
  3. Do not bend over backwards for problem clients. You should not compromise your other loyal clients (or your sanity) for this. The money is not worth the hassle.
  4. Charge for rehearsals. This is above and beyond the contracted terms.

*** Ironically, as things turned out, I choked on the third line of the Recessional at today's wedding (Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Tune). I drilled it a lot at home too. How frustrating. I stumbled my way back to the beginning of the piece as quickly as I could, segued into an improvisation on Canon in D and finally, segued into Houki Boshi, the Japanese pop tune I performed at the APTA Festival.

I guess I'm too used to playing Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary. I really should review the other, less requested recessionals more often, just in case.

*** (Sept. 22/07) Wedding #2 went more smoothly than I thought. To my surprise (and the bride's delight), the wedding guests did sing with enthusiasm and reverence, even on the hymns that were earmarked as just background music.

The only bumps occurred at the start when I thought the groomsmen were ready to enter the Sanctuary. They weren't, so I had to segue from Doxology to an improvisation on Canon in D; which I did so I could keep both eyes on the back door. The first bridesmaid entered too soon, so I had to make up some transitional chords in my left hand as my right quickly flipped to the bridal party's song. Other than that, everything went well.

(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Summertime Music Musings

The double whammy wedding gig weekend is behind me. The first one went quite well. I had a lot of fun improvising on Canon in D. Everything was timed very well. I like it when that happens. The "rock music" wedding was interesting. I was shaky in a few spots and kept getting stuck in one part of "Another One Bites the Dust".

Another One Bites The Dust



Another One Bites The Dust By Queen. For piano, voice, and guitar (chords only). Film/TV; Pop; Rock. 4 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.2135)

...more info

However, I just plowed through. Sometimes, I really "faked it", but it turned out ok. The groom got a little teary eyed saying his vows, which was quite touching.

Today, I returned to the place I temped at last month. I'm filling in for two admin assistants, one week in each department. My primary function will be to keep their seats warm, so I'm bringing my lesson planning binder with me and I anticipate that I will complete the year plans for my 40 students while on my assignment. Granted, it will be done in between answering the odd call, scheduling a handful of meetings and filing, but I'll have time to complete it. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have a chance to score study my intermediate students' repertoire while I'm there too.

During my last temping assignment there, I completed an article on rhythm and flow in music and Iaido for The Iaido Journal. I'm not sure when it will be published, but you could check the link regularly.

I got promoted to First Vice President for the local branch of the Alberta Registered Music Teachers' Association. At first, I was a little leery but now, I'm excited at the idea of completing my time on the Board one year early. I'm trying to wrap up my work on the Governance Committee this month so that come September, I will just focus on the Website Committee and the behemouth project known as the Honours Recital. I have to get caught up on the latter this weekend and call a committee meeting...on my week off.

On a completely different note (but just as exciting), the Calgary Iaido Club, where I train, got the green light to host its first national Open Iaido Tournament. We'll have seminars in other disciplines as well. Our planning meetings have been a welcome change from some of the Board meetings I've attended. Has anyone else ever noticed that when there are mostly men at a meeting, it goes far more quickly than when there's mostly women?

Alas, I've mused long enough. It's time to get back to putting together my music card games for the students. (c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.


Gig Music Selections

I just drafted up my playlist for the "rock music" wedding this upcoming long weekend. The book I am using for most of the ceremony is a lot better than I thought it would be. Pretty decent arrangements. Here are some of my favourite books that I like to use at gigs throughout the year:

Classic Rock

Lounge Music Collection

Lounge Music look inside Lounge Music (E-Z Play Today Volume 162). By Various. For Organ, Piano/Keyboard, Electronic Keyboard. E-Z Play Today. Softcover. 104 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.100049)Smp_stars50 (6) ...more info

 Best Fake Book Ever

I recently purchased a jazz fake book but the title escapes me. I'll add that onto the list at a later date, once I've had a chance to try it out.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Four Weddings, Two Filing Cabinets and One QuickBooks

July is nearly halfway over already? Where has this month gone? The office temp work isn't going so well. So far, I've only had one one-day assignment. I did register with a second temping agency (Mark Staffing), which sounded extremely promising and cast my resume off to a few community businesses. Someone has got to bite.

Oh I typed that in too soon. I just got a couple of phone calls - one from another temping agency that wants to see me and another from temp agency number one with a one week assignment next week. Things are starting to pick up.

In the meantime, Maestro and I have been keeping busy. We're having a lot of fun with our summer students, who are enjoying improvising, exploring popular and world music, and composing. I have completely caught up on the bookkeeping, including the adjusting entries for depreciation. Perhaps the biggest project that I finished was the filing cabinet merge/purge/clean-up.

I've got four wedding gigs slated for the summer so far, with two on the same day. Last night's rehearsal went all right. Unfortunately, the church doesn't have a piano, so the couple had to rent me a digital piano. Thankfully, I've got over a week to play with the sound settings.

This one is a unique gig because the bride is a friend and former co-worker. In the span of two hours, I wore four hats last night - hired musician, friend, kitchen helper and anime otaku. I'm looking forward to the wedding, which will be in English and Spanish. Of course, that's not the only reason why I'm looking forward to it. I'm always glad to see a friend marry a good guy.

Well, it's back to the grind. I promised Maestro an adventure as soon as I complete this afternoon's tasks.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.