I love a good challenge. I get bored playing the same set list over and over again. So long ago, I stepped up to the plate and accepted music requests, playing whatever my audience wants to hear. This can invite trouble, though…
My wedding couples deliver their music selections to me well in advance so that I can dust the cobwebs off songs that I haven’t played in a while. And when an unfamiliar request comes to me, as long as I have plenty of time to get the sheet music and work up a harp arrangement, I’m happy to oblige.
This is how I add new songs to my repertoire. Without taking requests, I might never find out about cool new material!
I also love taking requests on-the-spot, when performing at restaurants, on cruises, at wine tasting events, and at all kinds of public events. Besides delighting listeners when I honor their requests, they enthusiastically fill my tip jar. No complaints here.
But when the events are private where only invited guests are allowed, I stick to the music list that’s provided to me by my clients. If their list includes unusual songs with questionable titles or lyrics, I check with them to make sure those songs are okay to play.
Even though I’m not singing, guests may be puzzled about songs that are out-of-place. That’s why I’m careful about performing songs that are inappropriate for the occasion, such as selections typically played at memorial services that are requested for wedding music. In this case, it doesn’t even matter if the tune has lyrics or not–Even the wrong melody can bring about tears of sadness instead of tears of joy.
What’s the most ridiculous song request I’ve ever received? This one is hard to top…
I performed for a small wedding reception at the historic Cal-Neva Resort on the shores of North Lake Tahoe. Guests gathered in Frank Sinatra’s private Board Room for the meal service, lining up at the bar for drinks while I played music reminiscent of the Rat Pack days. Just after the bride and groom entered the room from their post-ceremony photo session, a small-framed man approached me in a drunken swagger and asked, “Could you play ‘My Ding-A-Ling’?”
“Do you mean the song by Chuck Berry?”
“Yes! I love that song!” he exclaimed while a fog of alcohol stench wafted in my direction.
Dear readers, are you familiar with this early 1970s novelty song? Chuck Berry was proud of this little ditty that unabashedly contained lyrics about playing with his private parts. The melody sounds like a nursery rhyme, and it would be uninteresting on the harp, even without the lyrics. (I’m not posting the song here, but you can listen to it and read the lyrics at songfacts.com.)
How did I respond to this request? I held back my laughter and said, “I’m sorry sir, but the bride gave me specific instructions to follow her list of songs. If I play something that isn’t on her list, she’ll get upset. Feel free to talk to the bride about your special request. She will ask me to play it if she wants to hear your song.”
I dared this blotto guest to approach the bride with his request for “My Ding-A-Ling”. My strategy worked. Even in his drunken state, he shied away from approaching the bride. He understood it was the bride’s day, so with a nod, he meandered back to his table.
What if this guest requested a nice love song befitting of a wedding, and not “My-Ding-A-Ling”? I still wouldn’t play it, because the request needs to go through my client for approval. I shudder to think how disappointed the bride would be if I played a song that reminded her of an ex-boyfriend, a deceased relative, or an unhappy time in her life.
To be safe, I try to avoid playing most songs bearing titles or lyrics that are suspect, unless it’s obvious that the audience is into that sort of thing (for instance heavy metal and hard rock songs are completely acceptable at a public wine bar, but playing religious church hymns would not necessarily be welcomed).
The safest thing to do is to play songs that don’t have any lyrics at all. Everyone can get into the action when a tune is just a fun toe-tapper, like this impromptu dance by the flower girl and ring bearer from Madison and Dean’s wedding reception. Madison’s grandmother requested an Irish jig at the reception, and dancing ensued. The tune played is “Considine’s Grove” from my “A Light in the Forest” album, available at Amazon.com, CDBaby.com or download the track and album at iTunes. Special Thanks to Cynthia C. for sending this cute video along to me:
Videos that include my live music and performances are hard for me to come by. Please send along attractive, fabulous photos and videos of me in action, and if I post them, you’ll be rewarded with a complimentary CD or album download of your choice!
Speaking of albums, my new collection “Blue Jeans & Velvet: Pop Solos on the Celtic Harp” is now available—A perfect keepsake filled with more than 50 tracks of modern favorites. Name my most popular song request for weddings (I’ve played it at almost every wedding for at least the past three years), and I’ll send you the signed, new 2-CD album release! Hint: This song was made popular by a movie released about six years ago.
Can’t think of the song but still want my new CD collection? Visit Amazon.com and order it today, or call 530-541-2575 to buy an autographed copy with a VISA, MC, or PayPal account.
Be the first to name the title of my most requested song for weddings, and this new 2-CD collection is yours! Post your answer below, in the comment section.
We’ll have to come up with a more creative request!
Can you think of something more creative than “My Ding-A-Ling”? Still cracks me up!
Bet it was A Thousand Years.
Congratulations, Susan! You won! Yes, I’ve been playing “A Thousand Years” at just about every wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, or reception. Feels like I’ve been playing it for about a thousand years, too! I will email you to get your info so that I can send you the CD collection. Congrats again!
For a memorial service a couple of weeks ago I was asked to play “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” by Willie Nelson, and “True Love Ways” by Buddy Holley. It was a large, very proper Episcopalian church. I asked the priest, and he agreed as long as it was in the prelude and not part of the service.
At Saturday night’s wedding I was asked in advance to play “Smash into You” by Beyonce. I really thought this was inappropriate, but after I learned it I decided that it sounded quite nice on the harp! I also decided that I liked the Willie Nelson song, too, and want to keep it in my repertoire!
Ah, so you take requests, too! Sometimes we find music that just lends itself to the harp, no matter the title or the lyrics. Thanks for commenting, Susan. I’ll have to check out those songs.
Hmm, I can’t resist guessing “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. As soon as I read your hint, that song immediately came to mind! It seems to be an extremely popular choice among brides for the past few years. It’s not my favorite choice, but what can you do? 😉
You are correct, Sharon. It is “A Thousand Years”, but someone else beat you to it and guessed the right answer before you did 😮 As I mentioned above, I feel like I’ve been playing it for 1,000 years! I don’t mind playing it at all, but I can’t believe how many brides love that song.
My goodness, I see the other comments, now! I think my phone may have had a slow day when I first read your post, haha. Yay for Susan! I haven’t really received any strange requests yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later.
Hi Sharon! I’d love to hear of any of your unusual requests–It’s a great source of humor for me 🙂
That is freaking funny…My Ding-A-Ling? Seriously dude?
Yep, Tracy, it’s absolutely true! I’m sure you’ve had some odd requests, too. What’s the craziest wedding song request that you received?