Sunday, October 11, 2009

Holy terrors (literally)

Lord have mercy.

This morning ended up being quite the adventure for me.

As some of you know, my profession in life is that of a pianist. I only work part-time since my full-time gig is that of being a mama, but I do work anywhere between 3 and 10 hours on a given week. It's not much, but it's extra money and a great way to keep up my piano skills.

One of my part-time gigs is actually on Sundays. Every Sunday we get up, get ready for church, take two cars to our church where we attend the early service and Sunday School, and then we split. My husband picks my son up from his class, and they go do whatever floats their boat for an hour while I hurry down a few blocks to another church where I accompany one of the children's choirs for that hour. You could say I get "extra-churched" on Sundays, haha. Usually we are just in one of the rehearsal rooms, but once every month or two, the children are scheduled to sing up in the late service. Because it is a different denomination than my church, I've enjoyed learning a few new things. (Both churches are of the Christian faith, but denominations can still have several different ways of doing things or different focuses, etc.)

Today was a normal rehearsal day (or so I thought), so I left my Sunday School class ten minutes early to drive to the other church. I walked in with a few minutes to spare just like every other week since I don't like to be late, and was shocked to find them in robes getting ready to walk up to the sanctuary. This church is quite formal compared to what I am used to -- all musicians wear robes (along with the clergy), it is a very traditional service, and there is lots of participation from the congregation as far as readings and such. Oh, and it is televised in our little city. Yep, when I walked in, that room full of little robes was a dead giveaway that I had totally missed the boat somehow.

I had no idea they were scheduled to sing in the service, had somehow never been told of this date, but nevertheless I felt terrible that I had made the poor choir director worry about whether or not I was going to show up because, had I known about it, I would have been there thirty minutes early and able to rehearse them. I am quite OCD when it comes to schedules, so it would have been on my calendar for sure. In fact, just last week I had been wondering when they would be singing next, but we went out of town (so I wasn't at this last Sunday's rehearsal), and I figured she'd let me know this week when the next performance would be.

But you know, things happen, occasionally there is miscommunication, life happens. No biggie. As an accompanist, I have had more than my fair share of times when I have had to go with the flow in an instant, so I threw on a robe, grabbed the music handed to me by the director and went upstairs. I sat down at the front of the sanctuary by myself, followed along in the service, and when it was time, slipped quietly up to the piano bench and opened the music. The director nodded to me, and I began the introduction. I love the song they were singing, although we hadn't rehearsed it the previous few weeks I had been there. Thankfully it was an easy one to play, so I plodded along...

...until my page-turner turned the first page, and HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. The music she handed me skipped from page 4 to PAGE 9. Oh yeah, friends, FOUR WHOLE PAGES OF MUSIC were missing from this copy. In all my 20 years or so of accompanying (and yes, I mean 20+ years because my mom had me accompanying church choirs starting in late elementary school), I can't really remember having this happen before, missing pages in a piece of music. I've had music drift off the stand during performances, I've had page inserts be turned upside down or out of order, etc., so if I've had it happen before, there's probably at least been another choir member standing near with their copy that I could somehow signal and grab after a few measures or that sort of thing. This time, however, no back-up plan at all. And let me just say, this wasn't exactly the type of church service you want this to happen during. At our church, if the kiddies sing, it's usually on a Sunday night where everything is very laid-back and wayward kids picking their noses or waving at their parents or even crying while standing up there will get chuckles out of the crowd.

The whole time my hands were moving across the keys playing the last few measures of page 4 before it would soon drift into the Black Hole of who-knows-what-in-tarnation-they-would-be-singing-for-four-whole-pages, my mind was racing. Is there a way to tell the director? (Man, we should've established some system of eye-winks and nose-wiggles or something.) Will they have to stop the song in front of the whole congregation and all of Local TV Land? What in the world was I supposed to come up with for FOUR WHOLE PAGES? Pianists are pretty good multi-taskers -- I can sight-read music while thinking up a grocery list with the best of them, so I was trying my best to come up with some sort of solution in my head while my fingers kept moving.

There really seemed to be no solution that wouldn't involve total humiliation and embarrassment on my part, so I did what any self-respecting pianist would do. I kept playing. Above all, I kept that rhythm going. Made up chords I thought could be in there. Boom-chucked my way up and down the keyboard. And prayed. Prayed with my whole being that they would hurry up and get to PAGE NINE. This is where the Bible verse about "making a joyful noise unto the Lord" comes into play -- it may not have been the right chords, it may not have sounded right, but by golly, with that smile plastered on my face to cover my terror, it sure was a joyful noise! Got quite a few interesting and frustrated looks from the poor music director who at that point was probably wondering if I'd lost my marbles, but thankfully kept going as well. And since little kids, as we all know, can be pretty unpredictable, especially when it comes to something that is performance-based, if the congregation suspected anything at all, they probably thought it was that the little kids didn't know where they were in the music and that I was having to compensate. Haha, at least that's what I hope.

Thank heavens page 9 finally surfaced, and we got caught up. After the song ended and the children were all filing out to their seats in the congregation I tried whispering to the director what had happened. I hurried out of there, thankful to have the rest of the time off to breathe a huge sigh of relief, and, wouldn't you know, I even got a few compliments on my playing from the unsuspecting parents in the hallway who had stood at the back to catch the performance.

Ha. Guess who's going to be checking and double-checking her copy of music from this point forward?

9 comments:

Tina said...

Wow! That is crazy! That is amazing that you were able to do that!

katie said...

O my gosh, Val!!! That is the WORST feeling! I hate that! That happened to me once, but I didn't recover as well as you did! I think my heart was racing a million beats a minute and I shook like a leaf. You're so talented.. you can do anything on piano, so I'm not surprised at you at all! :)

mo said...

Hey- I think Ihad that nightmare once! Only I do not play piano or read music. Way to work it out- I am impressed!

Phyllis said...

Oh Valerie...I can't imagine that!! How awful. I'm so glad you got through that without it being a disaster. You are GOOD!!
Phyllis

Baloney said...

Dang. I was holding my breath waiting for you to get to page 9! You must be very talented!
I'm on a 14 year piano hiatus. Keep meaning to start back up...

Amy said...

Val, I really enjoy reading your blog. You are entertaining and have great stories! I'm sorry some happen to you but no matter what happens, good or bad, you always tell it great!

kara said...

You are impressive, my friend.

dobco said...

You did good! Not sure I could have winged something like that. Of course I am in no way musical! You know the saying...on a prayer and a song!

Christa said...

OK... While I am really sorry that that happened, that cracked me up. I have NO problem picturing you sitting at the piano with a smile plastered on your fast and a WHAT-AM-I-GOING-TO-DO look in your eyes. I am sure that whatever you played sounded fine. :) And you have come to reason #1 that I have never in my life accompanied anyone. I'm terrified of such an event.