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On gigs and myths

I've been playing a lot of gigs lately.

For clarification, a gig is defined as "a live performance by a musician - a job, especially one that is temporary or has an uncertain future". It also means "a light two-wheeled carriage pulled by one horse", or "a harpoon-like weapon used for catching fish". And it's the abbreviation of gigabyte.

Anyway! There's lots of different kinds of gigs, and I define mine as "anytime I'm playing in something that doesn't qualify as A Project".

Lately, it's been lots of weddings - three in one month - and at senior citizen's homes - also three in one month - and I think it is time to debunk some myths about those particular kinds of performances.

First, on weddings.

Pachelbel's Canon in D and Mendelssohn's Wedding March are notorious, in that people "always want those" for the entry of the bride.

I hereby declare that I have never once been asked to play the Mendelssohn, even though there's quite a lovely piano arrangement for it. As for the Pachelbel, it's only been requested once in three years... so I would call this a distinct false.

Then, The Couple will only want nice, romantic background music for the signing of the mariage license.

I would say this is generally true - some happy Liszt, Fauré or Field is generally a favorite - but I've had requests for Grieg's Hjemve - which is most definitely NOT a happy piece - and even Chopin's Black Key etude, which I actually had to loop because it was over too quickly for all five people to sign!

Finally, there is always something with the rings. The adorable little child that was supposed to bring them throws a tantrum, they don't fit, or someone has forgotten them somewhere.

This, I must say, is categorically false and probably made up for a comedic interval in a bad romcom. Although there has been the occasional battle with a disobedient finger joint....

Now, for the senior citizen's homes.

The biggest stereotype is that the elderly are hard of hearing, and therefore that you must play extremely loud to make sure they don't go "WHAT? IS SHE STILL PLAYING?" right in the middle of a delicate phrase.

I have found this to be completely wrong. Usually, I am asked to play softer! Apparently, high pitches - especially when played in rapid succesion - can become quite painful to listen to, not to mention very confusing. So, since the moment this was explained to me by a very sweet old lady, I have made sure to play as softly as the music will allow.

Then, there's the assumption that the elderly don't want to hear any "exciting" music. I guess this is based on the premise that an older person wil spontaniously combust if they were to get enthusiastic about something.

This is also false. On one very memorable occasion, I had a lady who was down in the deep end of dementia in the audience - she was in a padded wheelchair, she didn't actually look all that awake, and the expression she did have was a vague one of "what am I doing here".

I was a little worried, but bullied on with my planned Rondo Alla Turca.

She actually danced. Also, I would argue that if an eighty-seven-year old with severe dementia wriggling in her wheelchair with a huge grin whist waving to the beat makes you think she's "too agitated", you have no soul.

Finally, there'll be someone making noise, be it talking, tapping along, singing or farting.

This is true.

Depending on how senior the citizens are, but still, generally true.

But it makes the concert "more real", at least to me. Besides, you can't help but smile when someone goes "It's real beatiful, that," at their neighbor in what they think is a stage whisper but is actually audible throughout the entire room. Of course, there's also the occasional "Bah! When is she going to stop!", but those are fortunately fewer and farther between.

Plus, when someone who hasn't been responsive all day according to the nurses suddenly joins in with "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" and keeps it up for at least two verses - and I'm talking the violin bit, not the chorale - you do feel like you've done your good deed for the day.

So there you have it! I hope this diatribe of trues and falses has provided some insight on gigs.

I have also realized I'm going to have to do a definition of "A Project" now, too.

But that is for another time....

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