It started with a surprise. When the bride-to-be at the DiGregorio wedding asked if Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band could perform at her wedding, she wanted to know if we could shock her husband with a jaw-dropping entrance. As a stationary marching band, that is our specialty.
She also had a special request: for us to surprise her betrothed with his favorite love song, “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townshend, which is not part of our repertoire. However, for a nominal fee, we are more than happy to make special requests happen. So in the weeks leading up the wedding, the song was prepared.
Because our wedding invasion was to be a surprise for both the groom and the guests, upon our arrival at the Boston Public Library we were secreted to a room filled with ancient history: George Washington and microfiche newspapers.
We only had 30 minutes to tune, warm up, and rehearse before the guests arrived and we would have to stop making sounds. We immediately started to tune but the little noise that we did make was apparently enough for the groom to hear on the other side of the library.
We were quickly led further away to the second floor of the Johnson Building, which is closed for renovations. That is where we circled up and played through “Let My Love Open The Door” with all members for the first time. The space was huge and echoey. Mr. Squirrel wandered off through the empty stacks to explore.
Ripley realized she would be sight-reading the music at the gig. She has been investigating creative ways to mount music, but hasn’t found anything suitable. (While brass instruments have lyres to hold their music, no such thing exists for violins because marching is so atypical.) This time Ripley had a new idea for mounting the music.
She found a volunteer to help. Well, not really a volunteer. More of a threatened, frightened rodent.
Ripley pinned the music to Mr. Squirrel’s shirt and insisted that he stay in front of her.
Once rehearsal time was over, we planned our invasion of the wedding. (Since each venue and event is different, we often make last-minute plans for exactly what we will do.)
Our objective was to envelop the wedding party in a pincers-like movement. But our approach was narrow — we needed to march down the aisle with wedding guests on each side. So we split the band into two columns, the rhythm section being one and the other with melody and harmony. We lined ourselves up to make sure that everybody knew his/her place.
We also planned our retreat. Once the wedding was complete, we were to form a rear guard for the wedding party, and get the guests in a dancing mood before the exit was complete.
With the music ready and our operation planned, it was waiting time for our cue. We received occasional updates — “the bride is here” and “the ceremony has started” — but otherwise it was radio-silence. Some band members looked over music, others read books, some let their minds wander, and others just wandered.
When the “I do’s” were imminent, we were escorted through the food preparation area to outside the wedding hall for another five minutes of anticipation. Keeping a raucous band absolutely silent is difficult. Tambourines jingle with every movement. Sousaphones often crash into overhead signs. And some people just can’t shut up.
After our cue, we started “Let My Love Open The Door” and marched in double file through the aisle according to plan. The looks of excitement and surprise of the guests were priceless. And, of course, the groom was shocked and thrilled.
Once we surrounded the wedding party, the bride and groom began their recessional down the aisle to our funky version of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback”. As the rest of the wedding party exited, we transitioned into our original piece “No Me Sa Sa”, a čoček composed by Mr. Squirrel. We followed the wedding party and made sure that all the guests were up on their feet dancing before we left the room by keeping the music intense and doing a little booty-shaking ourselves.
We moved to the end of another hall where the guests would feast on the hors d’oeuvres that were coming and going. We kept performing while the servers squeezed their way between and through us to the food preparation area (sorry about that, guys). Our “Master Metaphor” funk-disco jam kept the guests entertained as the conversations started up. And we closed with the well-known jazz/swing from the “Mos Eisley” bar scene in Star Wars to much applause.
After the performance, we quickly made our way back to Mr. Washington’s microfiche home and found a cart of fried chicken, salad, doughnuts, and soup waiting for us. (Thanks, guys!) We were there from 6 until 8, so most of us skipped dinner and the cart was a godsend.
With the permission of the bride, we went out to meet the guests, grab some champagne, and thank the bride and groom. The newlyweds invited the band in for a picture with them, which was sweet. The groom confirmed his astonishment at our wedding entrance and shared stories about almost ruining his own surprise. And since no wedding is complete without a photobooth these days, we had to take advantage of it.
Best wishes from Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band to the happy couple!