Brenda K’s take on whether or not to do weddings 

Listen while you read to “I Will Say ‘I Love You’ Again” from “10 Strings” by the Panache Orchestra.

ca. August, 2011

I know….WTF?!

To confuse my readers further regarding that cryptic title, I’ll disclose that when Chi and I got married, I opted for No Wedding.  Why?  Well, to put it bluntly and in the simplest possible terms, I couldn’t see any sense in going to that amount of expense and stress over something that had such a statistically marginal chance at surviving long enough to amortize out the cost.  Additionally, I really didn’t think any of my family or friends would be willing to go to the massive expense and disruption of traveling to Japan to attend a wedding, and didn’t want to put that burden on the Japanese side of our family by doing it in the US either.

Furthermore, since I’d been a professional performer for my entire adult life, I had no inclination to put on a hugely expensive, self-sponsored piece of theatre that probably no one would go to.  Besides, Chi’s mother had committed suicide a couple years before we got married, and aren’t weddings mostly for the moms?  In retrospect, I wonder if in making this decision I inadvertently deprived my mother of getting to be the mother of the bride?  My brother and sister in law did a wonderful big wedding a few years earlier, so I figured my dad at least would be happy about all the money I was saving them by opting out.

Anyhoo, the point of this post is about once again being put in the position of having to make a decision about  “weddings or no weddings?”, or “to do or not to do?” in the context of The Panache Orchestra.  Readers are probably still wondering what the hell I mean by that.  Keep reading.

After several inquiries from various couples about to tie the knot, TPO landed our first wedding in July of this year, and what an exquisite wedding it was!  (For clarity, both of us have individually performed at dozens of weddings with different ensembles, and I’ve even done a couple just with solo violin.)  The wedding coordinator and sound engineer who regularly work events at the opulent location where the wedding was held were very complimentary toward us and made a specific point to get our contact information, so it all went swimmingly.

One of the things that made this wedding especially unique and interesting was the choice of music for the processional.  The bride requested violin-guitar arrangements of two of her and her fiancé’s very favorite punk songs, which had already been re-recorded by the original artist (The Vindictives) in “unplugged” arrangements for vocals and guitar with violin and percussion.  It was still a bit challenging to condense them down to only two instruments, but it turned out well, and they sounded perfectly lovely and not at all out of context of our normal repertoire.

As part of the process of creating the custom arrangements, I looked up the original (non-acoustic) versions of the songs, and they were a bit dreadful, even by punk standards.  Chi found the acoustic renditions we were working with poor on the execution side, and the vocals disturbing, even though he couldn’t understand them.  He even went so far as to say “I hope the bride and groom aren’t going to jump off the cliff into the ocean and commit suicide together at the wedding!”  He also remarked that us performing the pieces as instrumentals would spare the couple’s relatives from being mortified at the music selection.

The more I listened to the song that sounded the most suicidal, the more I realized it was actually life-affirming rather than death-affirming, which was confirmed at the wedding ceremony during the vows.  Also, the big smile that lit up the lucky young bride’s face as she began her walk down the aisle while we played the opening bars of “her” song brought tears to my eyes.  But Chi, with his dogmatically judgmental tunnel vision warped by his mental illness and (suspected) alcoholic dementia, adamantly insisted that it was totally wrong and inappropriate, and flatly refused to entertain any positive spin on the concept.  However in writing this, it just occurred to me that Chi has a particular sensitivity to the subject of suicide (in addition to poorly executed music), and that may have been a considerable factor in his intransigence in this particular instance.  After the wedding, he seemed interested in playing more weddings, but insisted that I no longer accept special requests for music outside of our own repertoire.  I don’t know what to say to that other than heave a weary sigh and walk away rolling my eyes at the pointless refusal of an additional income source.

At any rate, I am inclined toward “no weddings” even though it could be a particularly successful and well-compensated market segment for us, simply because they are just too stressful and confining.  They are practically always booked at least 6 months in advance, and I find the prospect of having to cancel on a bride, who is already overwhelmed and under more than enough stress and pressure already, unconscionable except under force majeure conditions (such as the sudden death or hospitalization of a band member).  For that matter, I find the prospect of being held hostage to a gig several months out and forced to endure intolerable asshattery the whole time pretty damned aversive too.

The verdict: given that Chi’s favorite tactic for coercing me into doing his bidding, however outrageous, is to threaten to scuttle performances I have worked very hard to set up, I am leaning in favor of only booking dates that I can easily get out of, so I can just cancel them and tell him to bugger off when he starts up with that infantile nonsense.  And if he makes a routine of it, then just get rid of him altogether and scrap the entire thing.

When (and if) he gets to the point where he is ready to acknowledge that he has a calamitous mental illness that is critically interfering with his ability to lead a normal, productive life and have normal, healthy relationships with other people, or be successful in anything at all for that matter and seek treatment for it, then perhaps I’ll become more willing to trust that he will honor all commitments I make on behalf of our band.

Oh well, I guess I should give a little more clarity about my marriage to Chi, in case anyone might be wondering.  It started out as a romantic relationship that developed into a musical collaboration, and ended up as a hostage situation in which I am literally imprisoned by his drug addiction and mental illness, shackled by a technicality of U.S. immigration law since I sponsored his visa.