ACMP Board Member Vivien Schweitzer (Pf, Long Island City, New York) describes the joyful task of picking music for her recent wedding.
There are a lot of logistical chores that pile up during wedding planning, but when I needed a break from organizing menus, cake decorations and flowers for my nuptials I always returned to my favorite task - planning the music! I was lucky enough to have some stellar musicians among the guests, including the violinist Mark Peskanov, baritone Levi Hernandez, violist Ellen Butters, and three friends I met my freshman year at the Eastman School of Music (sopranos Elizabeth Beers Kataria and Tami Schuch and pianist Luciano Laurentiu).
The ceremony and reception took place in August at a venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sarathi Ray, my husband, delegated the music planning to me, but approved all selections. I chose pieces that reflected my personal tastes and complemented the Hindu and Jewish elements of the multicultural ceremony, which was officiated by my brother, Gareth Schweitzer. A Moment of Silence, reflecting Quaker traditions, was also integral to the proceedings.
During the prelude, Mark and Ellen serenaded the guests with Mozart’s gorgeous duos for unaccompanied violin and viola, then Mark and Luciano performed the “Meditation” from Thais as everyone took their seats. I’ve always loved Handel, so for the processional I asked Levi to sing “Where'er you walk" from Handel’s Semele. For the Garland Exchange, a part of the Hindu tradition, Tami and Elizabeth performed the Flower Duet from Delibes' opera Lakmé. After my sister-in-law read the Seven Blessings (part of the Jewish tradition), Tami, Mark and Luciano performed one of Eric Whitacre’s Hebrew Love Songs. And for the recessional, Mark and Luciano performed an instrumental version of the Drinking Song from La Traviata, perfect to dance down the aisle to!
We had a Cuban vibe during cocktail hour, for which I had asked our DJ to play artists such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, and the Buena Vista Social Club. While dining we listened to Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Bille Holiday, as well as live music. Sarathi was born in New York to parents who emigrated in the late 1960s to the U.S from Kolkata, India. After the toasts one of Sarathi’s cousins, Subhra Goswami, a talented singer who lives in Queens, performed a Bengali song by Rabindranath Tagore, an expressive selection that moved some guests to tears. And after dinner, the guests packed the dance floor for disco and 90s club hits!
Musicians from left: baritone Levi Hernandez & violinist Mark Peskanov; violinist Mark Peskanov; sopranos Elizabeth Beers Kataria & Tami Schuch, pianist Luciano Laurentiu; singer Subhra Goswami
Vivien Schweitzer is a music journalist, pianist, author, and former New York Times music critic. Her book A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera was published in September 2018 and named one of the Ten Best Books of September by the Christian Science Monitor. She is a volunteer ESL and civics teacher at the Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans in Astoria. (www.vivienschweitzer.com)