My sister’s played in five weddings before the one on Saturday, and all of them have been for people we already knew. In this case, someone in Joel’s church asked him to play in their wedding, and she wanted Pachelbel’s Canon, of course, which meant four musicians. He got JP and David, and then asked Olivia — he hadn’t quite taken her participation for granted — and she was able to. But the wedding was an hour and a half away, and she can’t drive herself yet, so I had to be there all three times: when the musicians practiced last Sunday (due to miscommunications), and at the rehearsal, and of course the wedding itself. Because they were hired musicians, apparently, they weren’t invited to the reception or rehearsal dinner and whatnot. And people kept coming up to them and asking them to stand together for pictures.
(A great deal more happened, but some of it is relegated to the realm of inside jokes, and some of it I’ve forgotten too much of it to expect the joke to still get across. Also, this is how they do things when they’re dressed up and relatively impressed with the dignity of the situation. You should have seen us on Friday.)
The choir loft is to one side of the nave, perpendicular to the end of the aisle, and that was where I sat, and where the others would be sitting when they weren’t playing, and where a lot of these conversations took place either while we were waiting for the wedding to begin, or sitting waiting for all the people to be dismissed so we could slip out.
The five of us got there early for the wedding and the four of them practiced together. David got to be unco-operative once in a while, and during one of these moments Olivia turned and sharply said, “Joel!”
Joel, who was standing on her other side, by the piano, looked up, wondering what he’d done. David gave her a blank stare and then started laughing.
On Sunday, a week ago, when the musicians got together to practice, Joel was pronouncing the J of Jesu (in Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) as in ordinary modern English, to alliterate with jewel. We enlightened him as to the Latin alphabet, upon which he began pronouncing it Hesu, as if Johann Sebastian Bach were Spanish, so we had to explain again. Saturday a woman asked him, “And what are you guys playing for the recessional?” and he proudly answered, “Iesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” The woman who’d asked couldn’t figure out why that would make his fellow musicians so happy.
When they had finished rehearsing on Saturday, David (who, by the way, plays cello — I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet) started playing the cancan, which the orchestra did for a concert this spring, and Joel joined in.
“Professionalism, guys,” Olivia scolded. “We need to look responsible.”
I went into the choir loft to sit while they were rehearsing, and on the floor between the front pew and the railing a black wasp was tangled up in a cobweb. It was long dead, but still very shiny, so I picked it up and put it on top of the railing where I could look at it.
There came a time when David wasn’t playing anything, so he started to wander around, and eventually fetched up against the choir loft, where he noticed the wasp.
“What’s that?” he asked, poking it.
“A black wasp,” I said.
“And it’s just sitting there? Where’d it come from?”
“It’s dead. It was on the floor over here.”
“Why’d you put it up on top?”
“‘Cos they’re pretty, but the only time it’s really safe to admire them is when they’re dead.”
“You think it’s pretty?” He jerked his hand away from it.
“Well, it’s shiny. . . er. . .”
He spun away from the rail and called to his brother, “She picked up a dead black thing and put it there because it’s shiny!”
“What?” JP said, looking confused.
“It’s called a wasp, if you want to be precise,” I said, though I was out of breath from laughing.
“She picked up a dead black hornet because it was pretty,” David repeated, apparently dissatisfied with his brother’s lack of reaction. “Why?” he said, whirling back to me.
“Well, if it were alive, I’d have to kill it first —“
“You’d kill it?”
“It’s not safe to pick them up when they’re alive, they’re mean — they sting.”
“You kill things? So it doesn’t have a soul?”
“Animals, like redheads, have no souls,” I said, but he missed the joke.
After the wedding, two girls came down the aisle and started snuffing the candles — both the unity candle (to the accompaniment of many wails from our side: “Oh, look, there goes the couple!” And as they hesitated and the flame flickered and didn’t quite go out: “Oh, be kind, do it fast, I can’t watch!”) and the candles which were decorating the dais on each side of the altar.
“Are they allowed to do that?” Olivia asked me.
“If it’s just a practical let’s-not-burn-down-the-church thing, yes,” I said. “If it’s part of the service —“
“Oh, we have girls light candles all the time,” Joel said. “They do the Christ candle at Christmas, and —“
“There you go,” I said.
“You mean you don’t let girls light candles at your church?” Joel asked.
“We don’t have candles,” I said, and Olivia added, “Except on Christmas Eve, and that’s a congregational thing.”
“You don’t have candles?” one of the Catholic boys said.
“We used to at our Tenebrae services, but our new pastor thought that was too Roman, so we don’t anymore,” I said.
“Roman candles?” Joel said.
“Not at a Good Friday service!” Olivia and I both said.
“Someone set off a rocket outside the back of the church one year at Good Friday, during the service,” David said, “and Father just looked at us and said, ‘Well, it wasn’t me’.”
“I think she means Roman Catholic,” JP said. “So you don’t have candles because Catholics have them?”
“The sisters built us a really tall bonfire one year for Good Friday,” David went on, “and it was like ten feet tall, and we were like, we can’t burn that all in one evening. We don’t think they know very much about our fire laws, usually the bonfire fits in a tiny pit.”
“A bonfire for Good Friday?” I said.
“He means Holy Saturday,” JP said.
I happen to be under five feet tall, and done growing, and David’s six foot two and definitely not done yet. People kept asking the musicians to stand together for pictures, and the third time that happened David (apparently being tired of having his picture taken) said, “Oh, have Sophia stand in for me, she’s about my height.” The next time Joel suggested I take his place.
Someone asked (I forget who) about my knitting, when we were sitting together after the wedding, and then asked after the blue thing I’d been making before. That was still in my bag, so I dug down to it and pulled it out to show it off.
“It looks awfully thin,” David said. “Is it supposed to keep you warm? Wouldn’t it just come apart when you pulled on it?”
“It helps that it’s partly silk,” I said, “which is the strongest natural fibre — only it’s too expensive to go making ropes out of it.”
“I don’t know about that,” David said, “because once we had a piece of silk and I ripped it really easily.”
“I don’t suppose you burned any of it,” I began.
“It’s one way of telling whether it’s real or fake silk, by how it burns.”
“Oh, good,” David said. “You burn it all up, now you know it was real, for all the good it does you now.”
“When burned in large quantities silk gives off a toxic gas like mustard gas,” I said (knowing this only by hearsay), “but in smaller quantities, if you just snip off a corner, it has a distinctive smell, and so you’d know what it was, and still have most of it to use.”
“Then you could put the ashes in a mixture of bleach and ammonia,” David suggested eagerly.
“That would get rid of all the evidence,” I said, since silk dissolves in bleach.
“He means it would explode,” JP translated.
A little while before the wedding was supposed to start, they were done practicing, and the four of them, and me, and a guy who would be playing piano, were the only people in the sanctuary. All at once we heard the opening of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue from the organ. The five of us looked toward it, but no one was sitting there — and JP and Joel, who’d played the same on that organ at other times during the week, were holding stringed instruments and not standing anywhere close. Olivia and David were likewise.
We all looked at the pianos. No one was there either.
“Did you play that?” one of us asked the pianist guy, who was doing something on his phone.
“What? No,” he said.
“Was fifty-five dollars enough?” I asked Olivia, when we were on our way home and she was eating a muffin (and grumbling about the state of the reception).
“What would have been?”