Some days start out normal and then seem to stray.
Wedding gigs are a typical part of most string players' lives. They bring easy income without intense effort. In my current situation of financial incapacitation, I'm usually thrilled when offered a wedding within a couple hours drive of where I am or will be at the time.
This was no exception.
When the email offering a nice wedding duo gig came up I eagerly agreed without knowing the address or music to be performed.
Keeping in touch with the violinist for the gig (I was hired to play cello), I discovered the bride wanted oldies and pop tunes. Terrific. Super easy for a bass part. I couldn't have been more thrilled.
A few days before the wedding, the violinist texted me the address. I Googled it and saw it was out in the country. Many weddings are. No big deal.
The day came and my video editor and I set off on our three hour journey to the wedding. Outside of some city traffic, nothing was particularly awry or seemingly abnormal. Yet.
As the drive continued off the interstate onto local highways for quite some time, the houses grew fewer, towns became non existent, and the cell coverage in and out. Off of the highway we turned onto local roads and then, it happened, the navigation was telling me to turn and drive for miles down a gravel road.
I grew up on gravel roads so driving them is no matter, but I was driving miles down this one to get to a good paying wedding. Really?! The farther I drove, the less wealthy the "population". There was the occasional collapsing trailer house but that was it. What in the world.
After over 5 miles of very slowly driving down the gravel road to avoid kicking up the rocks and scratching the car, the road came to a dead end. The address for the wedding was through the enormous gates now facing the car. The gates were certainly out of place on this road and I couldn't imagine a lot of folks driving all this way on gravel roads out here from the city, but who knows. The gate was open so I drove through.
Inside was a giant area with two roads leading off in ninety degree angles. Both had gates on them. One of the gates was closed and one was being closed by someone. I chose to drive up and ask the man closing the second gate where the wedding was. He smiled, reopened the gate, and said, "To the right."
Once inside the gate there was a sign that read Headquarters and had an arrow pointing to the right. Guess that's where I'm headed. As soon as I turned right and headed down the road I could catch glimpses of water on my left and very soon a giant, no, enormously huge, man-made lake came into view. The road in front narrowed to one lane and crossed the dam leading toward a massive house-like structure. Opposite the lake as I drove by were game animals like deer and antelope freely grazing on the green grass.
What was this place and how did it get here?
I drove up near the massive stone structure that could only have been called the "house" because there were no other houses in sight. Boys and men in golf carts were driving people around and directing traffic to different parking areas. The violinist was already there and watching for my arrival. He waved me down and I pulled over to get my cello out of the car before driving some ways to park. After parking, my video editor and I climbed on board a waiting golf cart and headed back to the structure I'll now call the venue.
The wind was fairly strong and it was late afternoon turning evening and the sun hadn't shown all day. The temperature was getting quite chilly even with a sweater under my dress jacket. I strode up to the violinist and his wife who was assisting us that day. We greeted each other and I then looked to see that we were indeed not only playing outside but also in the path of the wind. Great.
As a duo we had only a few songs that the bride requested, but found out we were to play a bit longer. So I put my coat on, pulled out my trusty Bach Suites, sat down and started. It was actually a welcome warm up for my hands since it was quite cold in the wind and I had no gloves I could perform in with me.
After a little while the violinist joined me in the selected songs the bride had requested. We'd been instructed that the wedding coordinator would be behind us off to the left since we would be positioned behind the wedding party at the front and unable to see the aisle or the bride and groom. We got the first cue and off we started for the wedding ceremony. I turned around to check and see how much more music we would need to play, and therefore what repeats to take, when I noticed there was no one there except my video editor. Uh oh!!
We had two music stands side by side with piano scores laid out 8 and 9 pages across them, so the violinist's wife was around the corner putting music in order.
What ensued during that wedding was a true hilarity. Without any cues, wind blowing our music pages so we couldn't see them, and page after page out of order, I was glad when the groomsman on the end turned around and waved at us to stop playing because we couldn't hear that the pastor had started praying and we hadn't been able to see the processional arrive from our spot.
We reset the stand with the music for the recessional and I watched in amusement, with my cello sitting on the floor at my side, as one of the flower girls tried repeatedly to get under her mother's skirt at the front. None of the women or girls had on jackets and the poor girl was cold, quite understandably, and trying to get warm the only place she was allowed to stand. When I realized she wasn't just being ornery and bored and was cold, I unzipped my jacket so if she turned around I could put it on her.
I'm guessing about 10-15 minutes had passed at this time and I had just unzipped my jacket when the groomsman turned around and started waving at us to start playing. What?! One, that was the shortest ceremony ever, and; Two, my cello was still sitting beside me on the floor, and; Three, the speaker had not yet said, "It is my privilege to present to you Mr. and Mrs. So and So". I'd been listening and they hadn't been instructed to kiss yet either. Oh well, recessional it is. And away we started. Fortunately the song was long enough for the bridal party to retreat so we didn't have to try putting up and figuring out any other music.
But, whoa, what a wedding!
Turns out the owner of the property invented something quite profitable and, my guess is, purchased the land on the cheap and built a sanctuary there. In addition to the venue, there were a couple of airplane hangars and airplanes, what looked like an RV park already built with sheds being constructed nearby for its use. I imagine there was also a log of game hunting land considering the animals present on the drive to the venue as well as perhaps a golf course and staff housing that were so far away they were beyond sight.
The wedding taught me that day that you never know what's at the end of a dead end road: Not on a far away gravel road in Texas and not in life.
Always keep expecting the unexpected!
Check out this blog's video below!