Beware: Long rant post ahead.
In all my years of wedding-singing, it has definitely not been the first time I have people coming up to the stage to ask if they can sing a song (or not). But never has it ever been delivered to us in such a low-brow method.
I was singing a duet with my pianist when one of the emcees walked over to me and started talking to me, just as I was going into the first line of the chorus to harmonise my pianist. It happened so sudden, my mind couldn’t decide which to do, sing or listen (esp when she was speaking in normal speaking volume and I was singing through a microphone). I lost my bearing for a split second and I heard myself singing rubbish lyrics. Ok, that was fine, because sometimes I do find non-musicians amusing – they think we can play an instrument or sing while listening to their requests when they suddenly come to our sides. Yes, sometimes we can, but it depends on what song we’re playing, and for singers, most of the time we can’t listen and sing at the same time.
Back to the point of why the emcee came up to me – in my split second of losing concentration on my harmonising to catch whatever I could catch of her request, I sort of got it that we should end the song like asap because they’d a dedication coming right up. Actually the dedication word sunk in only after I finished that chorus and I was like – what dedication?
The other emcee was already onstage to announce 2 guests who would like to perform a song for the wedding couple. I looked at the direction of the female-singer-guest, and realised that she was the guest who was looking at me intently for some period during the evening.
My pianist and my violinist was shocked too. My pianist threw me a dirty look questioning “WTH?”. I could only smile because the guests were looking and I didn’t really want to be seen as ungracious (Pls note I’m describing my feelings, I mean, just in case we appear to be musicians without pride or simple basic human emotions to some people).
The female singer asked if my pianist can play xxx song, he didn’t understand the title cos it’s in Spanish, so the male guest took over the piano and promptly started their performance. The female singer actually told my pianist “He’s actually more of a guitarist” when he took over the piano seat. We quickly shifted to a corner from our very small stage, which was really just a small patch of space between the grand piano and a table of guests.
Once she started singing, I knew she’s a professional, trained and all that jazz. Now at this point I want to say that I wasn’t angry or mad, I was just disgusted. I am no longer in the angry phase because these kind of things had happened quite a few times, but there and then at this stage in time, I just felt disgust. Ok but before you think I’m just green in the eye, I admit here that she’s a good singer, and I would have enjoyed this brief change of voice and style if I were one of the guests. But honestly, that’s not my point.
When she finished the song, she continued promptly with a second song, to our wildest surprise. By this time, I was panicking because we were only left with 2 songs to go and now they had taken up our performance time, I felt torn between keeping my musicians behind, and letting the ‘guests’ perform. And guess what, when the male-guest-pianist’s playing nearly went down to pieces cos of the difficult chords, my pianist went to his rescue so that the female guest could sing in peace.
Halfway through the song, one of the uncles seated in the table next to the ‘stage’ turned to look at me, beckoned me to his side and asked me sternly “Why do you allow her to take over you?”. I was stunned by his protective emotions for the band. My most primal reply was “Oh… they didn’t ask us for permission, we had no idea….”
Which was the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Actually I had to hold myself back from lunging at the uncle to give him a big hug and say “THANK YOU!”
Ok, here’s the thing. Honestly I do not mind guests coming up to us requesting that they would like to sing a song, it can be in good fun and for getting everybody to enjoy (but it stops short at 1 song; more than 1 song and you’re treating the live band like a karaoke machine, in which case you need to note that it is a wedding and not your own living hall).
But, if the guest is also a professional, that changes the whole story. First of all, if we are the musicians assigned to that stage for a particular event, we own the space. The only difference between us and dogs are, we do not pee to mark our territory. Any musicians who disagree pls let me know.
So if you are a professional or semi-pro, unless you have been invited by a singer/musician onstage to perform on THEIR stage, you do not volunteer to perform on THEIR stage. If you really do not understand this code of musician-territory thing, let me present it to you with another example: You have just been assigned by your boss to do a presentation on a research project to a big auditorium of colleagues/staff/people you don’t know. Halfway through your presentation, a colleague cut you short, go to the front of the room without warning, took over your mic/rostrum/whatever spot you were standing on, to do a presentation on the same topic… from out of nowhere. The information happened to be stuff he….just ‘happened to have’. So you had to sit down, let him present to your boss and voila. How does that feel? Oh, and you had to walk back to the stage and continue with your presentation, which was rightly to be presented by you in the first place.
Non-professionals may not be sensitive, or may really just want to enjoy that moment of much-cherished opportunity to perform with a live band. That I can understand, and I am most willing to stand aside and let them use my personal mic, which as the name suggests, is only allowed to be tainted by my own saliva and lipstick. But for professionals with accumulated knowledge in performing, commiting this act is really deemed a sin to me. I simply do not understand.