Thursday, January 8, 2009


Billy Ray Barnwell here, I’m getting ready this week to play for a wedding at our church, Ashley and Dustin are getting married, and they’re a lovely young couple, really they are, but every time I think of the phrase “Ashley and Dustin” I don’t see the beautiful blond girl and the handsome tall boy, what plays on the movie screen of my mind is, wouldn’t you know it, right out of the movies, only it’s kind of warped, I see Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy walking down the streets of Manhattan but Jon Voight is not walking next to him wearing that great fringed cowboy jacket, no, who I see walking next to Dustin Hoffman is Leslie Howard, the actor who played Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind in 1939, he was the one that Scarlett O’Hara wanted and sweet Melanie got, and it really freaks me out as to why Dustin Hoffman would be walking with Leslie Howard, Leslie is all dressed up in his Ashley Wilkes Civil War uniform, gray for the Confederacy, and Dustin and Ashley are holding hands in my movie just like George W. Bush and that prince from Saudi Arabia did, maybe I’m finally going off the deep end, I’m sorry but that’s what I see, whatever happened to good old-fashioned names like Willard and Edna, Cletis and Eula Mae, Herb and Phyllis, Walter and Margaret, Arthur and Irma, Clarence and Mildred, Vernon and Gladys, you just knew with names like those that their marriages were solid as a rock, nobody ever got divorced in the old days, or if they did we don’t seem to have kept a record of it, they were pretty good back then about making their bed and lying in it, not like nowadays where if a relationship doesn’t make you tingle all over at all times you just shed it and try another one, it’s kind of a serial polygamy if you ask me, which I know you didn’t but I’m just saying, but at least Ashley and Dustin, the real ones I mean, not the figments of my overworked imagination, are getting married, they haven’t forsaken the institution, their mamas raised them right. So anyways I thought as a public service I would include a list of light classics that are suitable for playing at weddings, it’s also a fitting tribute to my piano teacher, Mrs. Alyne Eagan, who had polio when she was younger and walked with crutches but it didn’t keep her from driving a car and after I had taken piano lessons from her for about eight years she suddenly married a Mr. Cyrus and moved to Las Cruces New Mexico with her slightly crazy teen-aged son and the only person left in town who taught piano was Miss Clara Malone of Holly Springs Mississippi, how Miss Clara ever wound up in Not Grapevine Texas would prolly make a story in itself except I don’t know it, but I do know she couldn’t teach piano worth a lick, mostly she prepared people to go back to their church and play hymns out of their hymnbook, she was a Methodist but she preferred the Southern Baptists’ Broadman Hymnal to the Cokesbury, I never did know what Mrs. Eagan was but she would drive into Fort Worth every month and play for the Downtown Kiwanis Club’s monthly luncheon meeting and she claimed to have accompanied Ginger Rogers before she became a famous dancer and movie star, Ginger I mean, not Mrs. Eagan, now that would have been a sight to see, her doing everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in high heels while also using crutches, well anyways back to the list of wedding music, there’s “Clair de Lune” which means moonlight and also “Reverie” which means reverie, both of them are by the French composer Claude Debussy, there’s “Liebestraum” which is German for Dream of Love by Franz Liszt, I always have to work hard to get the cadenzas right, and there are several good ones by Frederic Chopin which is pronounced SHO-pan such as his “Etude in E Major,” and there’s the “Eighteenth Variation From Rhapsody On A Theme By Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, no kidding, that is what it is called, Eighteenth Variation From Rhapsody On a Theme By Paganini which is not by Paganini but by Rachmaninoff, the Variation I mean, not the Rhapsody, which is by Paganini, or maybe it’s the Theme, how confusing can you get, and by the way the composers’ names are pronounced SAIR-GAY Rock-MAH-nih-nawf and pagguh-NEE-nee respectively, one was Russian and the other was Italian, you might have heard it in the movie Somewhere In Time if you weren’t drooling over either Christopher Reeve or Jane Seymour, so if you want a classy wedding choose those pieces, I have also played at weddings where the bride wanted things like “Beauty And The Beast” which I definitely think sends the wrong message about the groom, or “The Little Mermaid,” Disney stuff, people have gotten away from songs by Karen Carpenter and that one by Noel Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, I can never remember whether Noel was Peter or Paul but he definitely wasn’t Mary, and certain movie themes are popular like the themes from Ice Castles and Somewhere In Time and “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With The Wind, hey, there’s Gone With The Wind again, some of the older wedding music is completely dead and buried now, “Oh Promise Me” and “I Love You Truly” and “Because” to name three, they’d laugh you out of the church if you sang those today or maybe they’d just sit there in complete shock, oh one that is quite popular of late is “The Prayer” as sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, it says so right on the sheet music, only most of the times I have heard it sung it hasn’t sounded the least bit like Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, but at least people are still getting married and I have to hand it to Dustin and Ashley for respecting the institution of marriage, like I said, they were raised right, Ashley’s mother plays bass guitar in our church’s praise band and Dustin’s mom and dad sing alto and bass in the sanctuary choir, well to be precise his mom sings alto and his dad sings bass, I didn’t mean to imply that they both yodeled in the choir. I guess Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof was right, there’s something to be said for tradition, of course the Bible says that you have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition, don’t get mad at me, Jesus is the one who said it, and by you and your he meant the scribes and the Pharisees, they were the ones he was talking to, so if you are neither a scribe nor a Pharisee then you needn’t get your panties in a wad or your knickers in a twist as they say in Great Britain which is also called the United Kingdom even though it has a queen, but if you are one, a scribe or a Pharisee I mean, not a queen, then do us all a favor and clean up your act, the world would be a much better place, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

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