A wedding in Watford

This weekend, I attended Sandra Kasturi’s and Brett Savory’s wedding in Watford. Here’s the run-down.

Some minor corrections made on Wedmesday, August 14th at 1 p.m.

I have the best publicity agent in the world and he works for free. My friend Cory Doctorow, quite possibly one of the most authoritative geeks in the world, always recommends my work, whether it be my weblog, my programming or my accordion playing. Months ago, he recommended me to his friend Sandra Kasturi to provide some music for her wedding to Brett Savory, which took place this weekend.

I wasn’t feeling very well on Friday. A deadly combination of a hard week of unbloggable crap, both business and personal, followed by a combination of some pretty serious drinking with my friend Karin the night before and some nagging worries about the future (sorry, also unbloggable) made it that way, and a work emergency of the “we need to get this done, or there won’t be a company on Monday” order popping up at the last minute didn’t help. I didn’t have much of a chance to practice all week. I crawled into bed on Saturday morning at 3 a.m. filled with exhaustion and dread about the ceremony that would take place twelve hours later.

The directions to the wedding, which took place on Brett’s mother’s farm, said that it was a three hour drive from Toronto to Watford. I pulled myself out of bed at 10:15 and was on the road by 11:00, which didn’t leave me much of a margin for traffic and other delays. There wasn’t any time for breakfast — I ran in and out of the shower, tossed my accordion, a pair of patent leather dress shoes and a suit I hadn’t worn before into the car (a black Hugo Boss number that my Dad had bought for my cousin Freddy to get married in. Freddy forgot to bring back to the Philippines for his wedding, and he let me hang onto it. Thanks, Dad and Freddy!) and lead-footed it to west on Highway 401. I spent most of the trip doing 140 km/h, with a couple of ten-minute periods where I got the CR-V to do 160 and managed to make good enough time to wolf down a quick lunch at a roadside Wendy’s. I arrived at my motel at 1:50, and put on my suit. The pants were looser than the one time I tried them on last year — always a good sign and nothing that can’t be fixed with a belt — and the jacket fit comfortably. A half-hour later, I was at the farm, having a boutonniere pinned on my lapel and meeting Brett for the first time.

The wedding was held outdoors, with about eighty chairs arranged in two groups to form an aisle between them. The aisle led to the altar, a wooden table covered by a tent situated between two trees and some floral arrangements. I took out my freshly-polished dress accordion — the three-reed Crucianelli with the fifties-style chrome grille — and warmed it up silently by holding down the air button and moving the bellows a few times. Both the setting and the accordion looked especially good under the mid-afternoon sun, and the constant breeze made what would otherwise have been a very hot day a little more bearable.

Brenda noticed that on the next farm over, one bull was mounting another.

“It looks like hot bull-on-bull action,” she said. “I don’t see any swinging udders in that mix.”

“I’m sure that’s considered some kind of good omen,” I replied.

While I talked to Sandra, Karl noticed me and called me over. I should’ve known that he’d be here; a wedding of two genre writers should have a lot of genre writers on the guest list.

“And what will you be playing today?” he asked.

“I’m backing up the bridesmaids for their big number, and I’m playing something when they sign their licence and when they march down the aisle at the end. I was thinking of a Beethoven’s Ode to Joy / Louie Louie medley.”

A woman beside him laughed. She probably thought I was kidding.

It was only fitting that the minister had a strong resemblance to Isaac Asimov. He wore the traditional black robe and a big gold-coloured crucifix medallion.

“I love his medallion,” said Jen, one of the bridesmaids.

“I think even Shaft would approve,” I said.

Jen sang an a capella version of Ave Maria, which was followed by a couple of readings from the Bible. The minister warned us that the first one would seem old fashioned — it had some lines about a good wife being silent, which got a good chuckle out of everyone (and the loudest laughs out of the people who knew Sandra well). The other reading was one of the solid gold hits of weddings, the reading from Saint Paul about love being patient and kind.

There were also a number of personal contributions to the ceremony. Gemma, another bridesmaid, also sang a capella, the celtic song Marry Me Down By the River. Phil read Ogden Nash’s Tin Wedding Whistle while Jason read an allegorical piece he wrote for Sandra and Brett called The Gorge.

Then came accordion time. Before the vows, I backed up the bridesmaids as they sang I Say a Little Prayer, and during the lull that comes with the marriage paperwork, I started with the Ode to Joy. After three verses, I decided to make the switch. This was a wedding that didn’t stand too firmly on tradition, so I switched to Louie Louie, still staying in the same key.

Smiles of recognition from the crowd. Good. The bluesy solo gave me a just enough wiggle room to switch to B-flat / F/ C, the lull made it okay for me to sing and the song’s lyrics were copped from a gospel tune anyway:

We’ve come a long long way together

Through the hard times and the good

I have to celebrate you baby

I have to praise you like a should

The groomsmen and bridesmaids swayed to the beat. Amada whispered something to Rebecca, who turned around and mouthed out the words “White Wedding” to me.

“Are you sure?” I asked

“It’ll work. Do it!”

I used to play keyboard in a Billy Idol cover band back in high school (Hi, Steve!), so I can play number of tunes of Rebel Yell in my sleep. I somehow made the transition to B minor and started to sing:

Hey little sister what have you done

Hey little sister who’s the only one

Hey little sister who’s your superman

Hey little sister who’s the one you want

Hey little sister Sandra

It’s a nice day to start again

It’s a nice day for a white wedding

It’s a nice day to start again.

And back to Ode to Joy as they marched down the aisle.

The accordion got a really good reaction out of this crowd. Sandra’s Estonian, and the accordion is beloved instrument in that country; her relatives ate it up. As for the folks our age, most of them were a brand new audience who’d never me before and were in complete shock that you can play non-polka material on an accordion without it bursting into flames.

Brenda told me about what one guy was saying:

Guy: I can’t believe it! He was playing it like a church organ one minute, and then Fatboy Slim! It was cool!

Brenda: You should tell him that.

Guy: I’m so amazed, I can’t hardly talk about it right now.

The reactions were mostly like this for people who lived in smaller towns well outside Toronto’s gravity well. Maybe it is true about city people being more jaded. Karl suggested it was the combination of accordion and suit that gave it some extra power.

(That’s about the point that I noticed that a good fraction of the younger men weren’t wearing suits. That’s what insipred the rant.)

A good number of people walked up to me and thanked me for my performance, and one couple offered to fly me to Minneapolis to play at their wedding in May. I took them up on the offer because it sounds like fun and it’ll also give me a chance to catch up with a few people who live there.

The wedding had a small uninvited guest, who was still very welcome.

A tabby kitten had wandered in onto the farm the previous day. That day, it was very skittish kept its distance from people, especially the kids who were trying to pet it. On the day of the wedding, someone gave it a little food and it became less wary. Someone gave it some of the main course — cedar-smoked salmon in dill sauce — and it became our friend forever. It must’ve been very hungry; the kitten wasn’t that much longer than the piece of salmon it ate, and afterwards, it slept very contentedly in people’s laps.

The cat was from a littler of kittens that had been born in a neighbouring farm. The owner of that farm was one of the guests and let another guest adopt it. Another happy pairing.

Brett and Sandra put me up in a motel in the nearby town of Arkona. The motel was famous around those parts for its wood-burning pizza oven, and we couldn’t leave town until we tried it. The pizza was amazing and the staff were friendly. If you’re ever in the area between London (Ontario, that is) and Sarnia, I suggest you drop by the Rock Glen Motel and sample their pizza. Tell ’em Joey sent you.

I’d like to thank Brett and Sandra for inviting me to play at their wedding. I had fun, and I hope my playing made it memorable!

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