“So, where did the two of you meet?” we are often asked.
“In the back of a Greyhound bus,” we respond by rote, and await the inevitable follow up question.
It was exactly 25 years ago, April 25, 1993, on the way back to NYC from the big Gay and Lesbian March on Washington we had individually attended that weekend (back then Bi and Transgender were yet to be added to codify LGBTQ). I tell that story, and how our marriage exactly 5 years later made us out-law marrieds until the final federal seal of approval in 2015, in my “Our Time Has Come” blog post.
Today, on our 25th anniversary of togetherness, and 20th anniversary of marriage, let me share some little bits from our wedding, specifically the music of our wedding.
Ed is a Quaker with a capital Q, and so our wedding was a Quaker ceremony in the 15th Street Meeting House, with all the traditional Quaker trappings, including the marriage certificate with our vows written out in beautiful calligraphy, signed and witnessed by all assembled wedding guests. I like the Quaker wedding traditions, but call myself “spiritually unaffiliated”; if I have a religion, it is Music. So we found ways that music would be as much a part of our wedding as Quakerism.
But before I show how we accomplished that, let me start with the musical tradition that features in pretty much every wedding, the married couple’s first dance. We chose a double feature of songs, starting slow and then going full swing.
Heirat (Married) – Greta Keller – from Cabaret
Oh wie wunderbar, nichts ist so wie’s war, durch ein winziges Wort: Heirat
Aus dem Erdgeschoß wird ein Märchenschloß durch ein winziges Wort: Heirat
In the movie version of “Cabaret”, my all time favorite movie musical, only the German version of “Married” is heard playing on the phonograph. I’ve always found this recording awfully lovely, and it being from “Cabaret” and me having been born and raised in Germany, this “marriage” song felt just too appropriate. Besides, Ed and I do live in a ground floor apartment (Erdgeschoß) we’ve turned into our dream castle (Märchenschloß). Ed wanted to dance to something more upbeat too though. So after slow dancing to “Heirat”, we swung out to Ella Fitzgerald belting out Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On”.
From This Moment On – Ella Fitzgerald
And how did Music frame our wedding as much as Quakerism? It started with our wedding march, a theme I composed for viola and piano, the two instruments Ed and I play. Longtime readers will know that I compose an “Evocation”, a viola/piano duet, for Ed every year for his birthday. April, 1998, there were four Evocations already composed (I write about the first two here and here). A professional violist and pianist played the wedding fanfare as Ed and I walked down the aisle together. (Earlier, wedding guests had been handed their programs with the ushers winkingly asking “groom or groom?”)
Then the clerk of our wedding committee explained how in the Quaker tradition we would start with a Silent Meeting before Ed and I would say our vows to each other; and then anybody in the congregation may rise to speak as the spirit moves them. Before the Silent Meeting part of the ceremony there would be a performance of the first four Evocations I had composed for Ed. I already knew when I composed Evocation IV the previous summer that it would lead into the Silent Meeting portion, so I made sure to compose a gradual fading out to calm stillness to conclude the piece, rather than a rousing climax, the better to transition from concert mode to silent mode.
After some silence Ed and I rose to say our vows (and stomped on a glass under a napkin for good measure), which was followed by an hour of messages, recollections, hymns and well wishing from the assembled. Then the clerk signaled the end of the Meeting portion by shaking her neighbor’s hands. Everyone shook hands with their neighbors, and Ed and I exited the hall to the strains of the Wedding Fanfare, which, by the way, would form the basis of Evocation V at Ed’s next birthday.
The wedding guests lined up to congratulate the groom and his pretty groom, sign the wedding certificate, and eat the plentiful good food and only water, because someone forgot to put out the cases of sparkling cider (Ed and I ended up with a year’s supply of the stuff afterwards), and take part in or wait out the taking of wedding photos. All that which is pretty regular for weddings.
But we brought more Music into the day by including a cabaret after the meal. Wedding dinner theater, if you will. Anybody who wanted to could perform a song or poem or whatever. Some performances were preplanned with the grooms. One singer friend asked what song he should prepare and I requested “I Could Be Happy With You” from “The Boyfriend”. My mother sang the first “Art Song” I’d ever composed for her as a teenager, a rather odd Ophelia-mad-scene-esque number called “Tree Top Singing”, and the somewhat more appropriate romantic ballad “Lead Me to the Morning” from my musical “Witches” – although arguably the final lyric “make me burn, then leave me in the morning” isn’t the most appropriate for a wedding either? In a far more traditional vein, Ed’s parents and aunts and uncles sang rousing choruses of “No Two People Have Ever Been So In Love” and, but of course, “Sunrise, Sunset”.
I Could Be Happy With You – The Boyfriend (Sandy Wilson)
Lead Me to the Morning – Witches (Lund / Ashkenasi)
Sunrise, Sunset – Fiddler on the Roof (Harnick / Bock)
Today, 25 years after first meeting in that Greyhound bus back seat, and 20 years after our fabulous wedding, Ed and I will throw a much more modest party with a musical playlist specifically curated for the occasion shuffling out of my Ipod through the sound system. The five songs above are on the list of course, as are a slew of marriage minded tunes (hello, Bruno Mars), Queer friendly anthems (You go, Kinky Boots), happy making songs (like a dash of Desplat), Brazilian classics (Olá, Jobim), pop party tunes, singtastic jazz, and certain other personally resonant tracks.
If not necessarily the complete unabridged Music of our Lives, a fine accompaniment for it, with many more songs to be added during the next 25 years.