What is Garry? Stunt Linguist? Raconteur? Space Pirate? Freelance revolutionary? He is all these things, and none of them.

He’s also an organist for hire, apparently.

I’ve just got home from a gig playing organ for a wedding. It’s the second time in a couple of months that I’ve been hired to play for someone I didn’t know.  It’s a nice little side project, and it means I get to call myself a professional musician. At least on a technicality.

I also got to play the super high tech digital organ at the catholic cathedral down the road from DMUC. I don’t mean any disrespect to the DMUC organ, which certainly gets the job done, and has been fighting with me a lot less of late. But to say that the DMUC instrument and the St. Mary’s instrument are both digital organs is a bit like saying that Garry with 2 Rs and Aaron Sorkin are both writers. It’s technically true, but in reality there’s no comparison. For one thing the St. Mary’s one cost about three times as much and has a whole extra keyboard. Also, while the DMUC auditorium has been carpeted and modernised and generally made more comfortable, St. Mary’s is still all polished concrete and panelling inside, so it reverberates like an echo chamber. That means when you open up all the stops and cut loose, you’re no longer just playing an organ; you’re playing the whole building. It’s pretty cool.

The strangest thing I’ve noticed about the last couple weddings I’ve played for is that the bride and groom have had no idea what music they wanted for the processional and recessional. One bride-to-be even told me to just pick whatever I wanted. I can’t imagine doing that, but then if it were me I’d probably have the music all programmed out weeks in advance, and then go looking at suits the day before. Each to his own, I guess. The couple I played for this afternoon apparently hadn’t even thought about it until I asked them. I told them my default offering is Purcell’s (Clarke’s) Trumpet Voluntary for the procession and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March for the walk out. Most people just agree to that to avoid admitting they don’t know what I’m talking about. That works for me.

Except that this time, just a week out from the service, the bride-to-be decided she’d like the overture from the Marriage of Figaro instead. And like an idiot I told her I’d learn it. I duly downloaded a copy of the sheet music and discovered it was fifteen pages long, and really difficult. Cue four straight nights of frantic practising and devious shortcut creation. In the end I managed to learn about the first three pages and the last page, and found a way to jump straight from one to the other. And fortunately it’s Mozart, so no-one could tell the difference. “Prestissimo” is your friend in this situation; go fast enough and it really doesn’t matter if you hit the right notes or not.

Well we got through alright in the end. The building helped a bit, reverberating over all the uneven quavers for me, and the friends and family seemed happy enough. The father-of-the-bride even came over and paid me in cash on the spot; slipped it to me in a gentlemanly handshake like some kind of mafia boss. That was awesome.

So yeah: I’m a free-lance organist now. And I’m building up quite a useful little repertoire.

Songs that sound surprisingly good on the eight foot diapasons:

  • A Song of Freedom
  • Blessed Be Your Name
  • The Theme from Doctor Who
  • 40 (The U2 version)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Aníron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen)
  • The Theme from Star Trek Voyager
  • Highland Cathedral
  • Gollum’s Song

Make of that what you will.



Garry with 2 Rs

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