One of the blogs that I read regularly, and enjoy immensely, is Jason Health's Blog, Arts Addict, found on the Adapistration collection of Blogs (he also publishes the Doublebass Blog, which has a certain amount of cross-over on his Arts Addict blog, but is worth checking in on). He has a knack at telling great gig stories, and his recent account of a wedding where a colleague was to play "Here Comes the Bride" on the double bass is a great example of this.
It got me thinking about a post that I've been meaning to put up here in a while, and I figure that it is time!
I've been playing or singing at weddings for over twenty five years now. At the hight of my wedding playing career, I would sometimes play up to three weddings a day, every Saturday from June to September. I have no idea how many weddings I've actually played in my life, but I figure it's in the neighbourhood of 200 to 250. 99.9% of the time, they go off without a hitch (except for the fact that they actually GET hitched). There are the odd few where a bride, or even groom, cannot get through the vows through the tears, or a flower girl or ring bearer doesn't do what they are supposed to do. There are the fainting groomsmen, and at least one case of "HELP ME" on the bottom of the shoes. This one wedding though - will be one I will never forget.
It was about fifteen years ago, at a small catholic parish in Ottawa. The box of whistles, which they called an "organ", was located in the back gallery of the church, about 2 stories higher that the rest of the church, and well back from the small group of guests. I arrived in good time to find the Father doing a few pre-service duties, including moving chairs, setting up the unity candle, and the elements for Mass. Two things I noticed about the priest. He was so old, I assumed the church was built around him, and his glasses where so thick, that they had to be made from the bottom of 750ml 7-up bottles.
About 20 minutes before the wedding, the first few guests began to arrive, and I opened up my trusty wedding book and started into my prelude music. The only connection I had with the front of the church was a 5x7 inch mirror on the console, giving me a view of about the front third of the aisle and the whole altar. All I really need as the usual cue to start a wedding processional is about 2 minutes after the bride's mum's pew has been seated, and the groomsmen are in a nice straight line with the priest looking down the aisle.
About 15 minutes into my prelude, I happened to glance in the mirror to see the priest lighting the altar candles. The one thing that caught my eye was that the tool he was using to light the altar candles (a typical combination snuffer and lighter, with an extendable wick) had the wick extended to about a half a foot, causing a very large flame to protrude from the top of the device. I kept glancing back and forth from the music, to the mirror. He began to light the candles with the agility of a hippopotamus. slamming the flame into the top of each candle. I looked away for a moment, and then heard an incredible GASP and CLUNK from the front of the church, and looked back in the mirror again to see the entire right side of the altar in flames! A candle had fallen over, and set most of the altar frontal on fire. I stopped playing, and planed my exit. A few of the ushers ran to the front of the church and very unceremoniously stomped on the fire until it was extinguished.
After the commotion had ceased, I resumed the prelude music. The music on the next page? a Suite from Handel's Water Music.