Once upon a time long, long ago, before Glee was even a twinkle in Ryan Murphy’s eye, I was a choir kid. From age 7 to age 17, choir was my extracurricular de-jour. By high school, I had sung numerous times with the San Francisco Symphony; toured to Latvia, Finland, and Estonia; participated in the 6th World Choral Symposium; and even been part of the “children’s chorus” on a Grammy winning album. Yes, I’m kinda bragging but honestly, it was kinda a big deal. I had “mad skills” (this was California slang when I was a teenager) for singing and sight-reading four-part harmonies.
Then one day, I grew up. I was no longer a child, thus the days of singing in a world recognized children’s chorus had to end. I went to college. There the college choir was so beneath the standard I was accustomed to that couldn’t bear to sing in it. So I didn’t. The years passed.
Today I find myself mere days away from turning 27. My days of singing are almost exactly a decade past. It seems a life time ago, in some ways. Yet it’s all still close to my heart. The friendships I made from choir include Miranda and Charlotte. I’ll never find better friends, I know that with certainty. Plus, I still sing! Easily with more strength, ease, and control than I ever had as a choir kid. My sight-reading skills are abysmal compared to what they once were, but put a four-part piece in front of me and I’ll figure it out. This was put to the test when Charlotte asked if I was available to sing for a wedding proposal in Central Park.
It was a glorious Saturday in June. Sunny, warm but not unbearable. We stood on the hill up from Bethesda Fountain, the 12 of us in a circle, and rehearsed the 2 songs together for the first time. We sounded pretty good, for that circumstance. Jake, the man planning to propose in T-minus one hour, told us so as he stopped by. He looked appropriately nervous as he handed each of us a 50 bill, thus making our ensemble professional, and a bag of rose petals. He went over the proposed proposal plan.
This is what great tales of romance are made of. Well, at the least, romantic YouTube videos. The plan began with a boat ride on Central Park (a splendid past time as I recently discovered). Jake would row his girlfriend (hopefully soon fiance) across the lake. The twelve singers he had hired would be waiting a top the bridge. As their boat neared the bridge, we would begin singing- casually, like street musicians. Once they disappeared under the bridge, Jake was going to propose. Presumably she would say yes. Then, as the boat emerged from the other side of the bridge, we would burst out into “Ode to Joy” and throw down rose petals from above.
It all sounded perfect in theory. But as us singers gathered on the bridge, we realized how many things could go wrong with this plan. How would we recognize their boat from afar? Would we know when she said yes? She would say yes, right? What if we began singing to early, finishing the song prematurely? Suddenly, these small worries melted away, replaced with a large, glaring one. Musicians began setting up on the south entrance of the bridge. We stood in the middle, our mouths agape in disbelief. A wedding was about to take place on this bridge! A wedding march would obliterate our proposal sound track!
Yet, somehow, love prevailed. All the worry was for not. We recognized the boat and simply sang the song twice as they approached. They disappeared under the bridge and a moment later we heard applause and a shouted Congratulations! from the lower shore line. There was no doubt she had said yes. We burst into song, raining down rose petals. The look on the new bride-to-be’s face when she emerged was perfect. A glorious combination of shock, awe, joy, and love. The flower petals floated on the water. I, a notorious sap, struggled to hold back tears. I gotta admit, it was awesome to be part of such a moment.
We tried hard not to stare, not to watch them row away, letting them share the moment together. Two people who had just agreed to be married and spend the rest of their lives together. It is impossible to have a private moment in Central Park on a glorious summer day. As the group of singers left the bridge, a bride and groom approached, about to be married. Not 20 yards away was another bridal party, two people who had just been married, now approaching the bridge to take picture to commemorate the wedding.
This Central Park bridge on this glorious June Saturday was the ultimate cross-section of love.
Happy wedding season! Central Park is full of them, positively crawling with brides!