The summer that I finished graduate school at NYU, my classmate Joe Perrino got married in Chicago.  I couldn’t go to the wedding, as I had started performances of Hamlet by then with Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Soft Spoken Serious Man”).  In fact, I didn’t even see Joe for almost a year after our showcase in LA.  I had taken a red eye flight back from California in order to arrive back in time for tech rehearsal in Central Park, and thus began my post graduate life in a whirlwind.  By the time I got online to look at their gift registry, all that was left was a trash can and a hand mixer.  I bought one of them (I honestly can’t remember which) and through the magic of the internet I assume it arrived at their doorstep.

Gretchen and Freddy get married today / We’ve come to witness their love

When Gretchen Hall and Freddy Arsenault (also classmates of mine at NYU) sent out invitations for their wedding, I promised myself I would give a gift that was a little more personal, a little more hip.  I had already started writing the song cycle, and after some thought, I decided that I would write a portrait of the two of them (the first song to be about more than one person).  I knew fairly early that it would be a Parisian waltz, with a tight structure and a descending bass line.  Lyrics soon followed, as I found it fairly easy to write about their relationship, which I admire.

When I had a draft, I eventually got up the nerve to tell Gretchen.  I had decided that no one likes surprises at their wedding.  I told them that their wedding gift was a song, a portrait of their relationship (“Gretchen and Freddy Get Married Today”).  I said I would record it for them and a burn a CD, or if they wanted, I would perform it at some point during the reception.  I tried to insist that I should play it for them before they decide, but Gretchen said no, she wanted to hear for the first time at the reception and that I should play it after the toasts.

I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous.  I mean, I’d only played it for my roommate Chris (“You Only Live Twice”) and his girlfriend Sofiya on the keyboard in my apartment.  I hadn’t yet played any of the songs from the cycle in public.  And it wasn’t a dinner party, it was their wedding, a day they would remember for the rest of their lives.  The wedding and reception were at the Player’s Club in New York City, which has a beautiful hall and (to my surprise) also a small stage with a grand piano.  After the toasts, Gretchen caught my eye and nodded toward the stage.

In the most basic sense, that has been my intent with these songs.  They are meant to be gifts, a tangible acknowledgement of what these people have meant to me, and how they’ve affected my life.  I wanted to make art that was deeply personal.  I got tired of giving people trash cans and and hand mixers.

We wish you life / We wish you light / We wish you well

Advertisements