practicing for gigs

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.

Wedding Music and Wedding Gigs

What goes into preparing for a gig? A little bit of administration and a sufficient amount of practice. Things never go according to plan, so you also need to be prepared for anything. I played at a wedding on Saturday. I don’t mind sharing it since it was an interesting gig (and the couple were wonderful to work with, so I hope they don’t mind that I share this).

The bride contacted me in the summer to perform at her wedding. We played phone tag for a couple of rounds first. She was in the process of finalizing the date and venue but wanted to check my availability.

One week later, she dropped of a deposit to secure my services, with the balance to be paid at the ceremony. By mid-September, we had enough information to negotiate length of the engagement and cost.

 

 

This wedding was a little different from the norm. The couple wanted cocktail music prior to the ceremony. No processional, signing of the register or recessional music. After the ceremony, they asked me to play Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond.

 

 

They made several special requests, which I was fine with since they gave me ample notice. A little My Fair Lady, a little classic rock and some rumbas. I wound up purchasing a fake book with over 1,000 songs in lead sheet format. It was a good excuse for me to learn how to improvise an accompaniment. Slowly but surely, I am getting better at it.

 

 

I began practicing in earnest for the gig three weeks before the wedding. However, a horrible cold impeded my practicing two weeks before the wedding. That’s when we finalized all the details that were required on the booking agreement. The bride paid the outstanding balance when she submitted the signed contract.

 

The families were in the throes of last minute preparations when I arrived. Musicians feed off of the excitement in the air on performance day. But my stomach churned when I reached the piano. The damper pedal was broken. Of all the pedals, it had to be the one pianists need the most for pop songs.

 

 

 

After a mild panic attack, years of lessons kicked in and I remembered finger pedalling, which involves holding notes longer than written and blurring the sounds together that way. It went all right but I was completely thrown off by the loss of my favourite tool. My right foot kept reaching for the pedal that wouldn’t work.

 

I had a couple of false starts in Forever in Blue Jeans but smoothed things over with comedic patter. Other than that, was quite pleased with my faking prowess that evening. I had a healthy break when I dined with the guests (prime rib, yummy!) and sat through speeches.

Want to know more about what it’s like to perform at gigs? I’m writing my first novel (it’s fiction but inspired by reality). Not sure when it’ll be published, seeing as I’m only on Chapter 3. Stay tuned!

 

© 2005 by Musespeak™, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. All rights reserved.