The Wedding Pianist…

This weekend saw the marriage of two dear friends in a wonderful church and dozens of friends, family guests and church people. My task was to perform two modern hymns chosen by my friends as a piano solo, to be played whilst the register was being signed. Initially I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility of performing these pieces as a solo. They were not pieces I would usually play and I knew I would feel exposed when there would be absolute silence. I felt the pressure to justify myself as “music lecturer” and often that can be a distraction. I have tried to over complicate things in the past and forget, i just need to do what has been asked for. My job is to do the same preparation as anybody else and give the music the respect and consideration it deserves. My advantage is that I know that through learning and experience.  It doesn’t matter if I have been playing music for 1 year or 30 years, the ingredients for preparation are the same.

The list of reasons for my fears were many but the main one was, what if I spoil this and spoil their day?
This fear was something I knew I could turn around into something positive. The advice from the session drummer Rob Brian was solid. Learn the pieces inside out and immerse yourself in them for as long as possible. Learn why they are important to the people who requested them and really feel their importance. The day came and alongside comforting and calming the nervous groom, I was meeting and greeting the guests from the wedding. I had learned the pieces from memory and had the lead sheets just in case I had to lengthen the pieces to fill the gap while they were signing.
Two people read for the wedding and they were quite nervous and this did add some nerves to me but I kept focused on the event, the special day and significance of the music. To control my heart rate somewhat, I did some slow breathing exercises which calmed me down and I was re-focused again. I had practiced the opening few bars of both pieces lots of times so it would be absolutely auto pilot. The opening to any set, piece or performance must be second nature. Then I was fine. I took my time when I sat at the piano, no urgency to start. I Started when I was ready. I Thought of the melody and got the tempo from this. I started the piece slightly slower than I thought I would because I knew if I was focused and a little excited then I would probably feel the tempo was slower than it actually was. The tempo was fine. After a few bars I was fine. I made a few mistakes but only musical ones, ie chords that fitted but were not the chords that were written. Nobody noticed and I was focused on the next bar anyway.It is good to know that the techniques work even for strange situations in which I don’t normally Play and for music which unfamiliar to me. It is easy to say to yourself, I should be able to do this easily. Actually, you just need to do this so it is good. Sometimes, that is easy sometimes that may be hard but one must do proper preparation and leave the hot air of could and should, behind. Give the music and occasion the respect it deserves and it will reward you.
The event was a success and my friends are happily married and nobody notice the two different chords I played…

About clivemusic

I have taught music, enabling musicians to be confident about performing for over 20 years. I also train teachers and trainers to be confident in the classroom. Keyboard, piano and composing, arranging and singing are my musical loves. I love performing and play Jazz with a Quartet and also sing and direct my own Barbershop Quartet called The Sherlock Combs. I used to be an incredibly nervous performer, suffering from stage fright and through teaching music and learning many mind training techniques, come with me on a journey to confident performing.
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4 Responses to The Wedding Pianist…

  1. Kari says:

    You played beautifully & did Clare & Jolyon proud – congrats on all your playing throughout the day – u do have an incredible talent.


  2. gramma3llie says:

    Found this post via a Google search for “Wedding pianist nerves.” I’m a “hesitant performer” prone to miserable stage fright and your post reassured me with many approaches I’d already arrived at myself, so you’ve validated me! Wedding tomorrow w/ not enough notice to prepare properly. Practicing so much I’ve got pain in my pedal knee.


    • clivemusic says:

      Thank you for the kind comments. It can be quite nerve racking but just play things your way, the way you want to play them. Let me know how it goes. You can use practice in your mind to help you without a piano. It makes the playing more accurate as you do not make mistakes in your imagination. Also the sub conscious does not know the difference between imagining and real events. Imagining a performance also fires the same parts of the brain as a full work out. Quite amazing really.


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