A couple of weeks ago at her bachelorette, a very dear friend of mine announced that she would be walking down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon at her wedding. I oooooo’d and awwwww’d along with the other girls but meanwhile, fought to hide a multitude of facial contortions, twitches, and ticks. I felt it would be in poor taste to tell her that I despise the song–for good reason.
Her wedding this past weekend was beautiful. When she came down the aisle I was so overwhelmed with how breathtaking she looked that my feeling toward the serenading musical score was the furthest thing from my mind. Well, it was pretty far from my mind. Ok, it was in my mind, but not at the forefront. Fine, it was in my mind, not at the forefront, but close enough for me to notice. Actually, I didn’t think of it at all because that would be self-centred…
I bet you’re thinking I don’t like it because I’m single and cynical and it’s music that’s most associated with weddings and I’m bitter and jaded.
I wish that was the case.
Rewind 12 years ago to 14-year-old Lauren in Grade 10 keyboarding class. Are you picturing it? No no, the Grade 9 pigtails are gone now. Think more along the lines of a giant, frizzy bun at the top of my head and Nike flip-flops with bright, multi-coloured socks. There you go. This was my first high school music class (and incidentally, my last). I got a super fancy keyboard from my parents for Christmas and was very excited to be able to secretly practice at home and become the next Alicia Keys. Or, probably more accurately, the next Ross from Friends.
Note: I have a history of dabbling in different instruments to no avail. Years later, I convinced my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar in my first year of university because many of the girls on my residence floor played and I wanted to be a part of the fun. I learned how to play “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias, “Time of Your Life” by Green Day, “What I Got” by Sublime, and “The Hanukkah Song” by Adam Sandler. Then, I was done. Haven’t touched it since. The guitar is now stored in the vicinity of Tiger Max’s thong, and, come to think of it, the keyboard (now I get why my parents were so hesitant to indulge my random, impulsive passion for musical instruments…huh!).
In the keyboarding class, we were asked to choose a song to work on throughout the semester to play at our year-end recital. While most students in this beginner class chose songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Happy Birthday,” I chose Pachelbel’s Canon–a bold choice for someone who had never played piano before. But, you know, I’m just so awesome like that. Oh God.
Fast-forward to the end of the year. The recital was in the drama room at my high school, which had a small stage that the keyboard was perched on. I believe there was even a spotlight. The audience was about 20 or so of my fellow classmates and their parents and guests. I was slotted to go first because I had a ballet exam to get to, so I was going to play and run. My teacher did a short introduction and told the crowd she was so proud of our class and the progress we had made. Then, she introduced me and said I was a perfect way to start the show since I had no piano experience before taking this class and took on such an ambitious song. “I think you’ll be very impressed. Take it away, Lauren!”
Deep breath. Place the sheet music on the stand. Lightly let my fingers float down to the keys like a pro (or a douche). And begin.
Ok, don’t go too fast. Watch your breathing. Here comes the tricky part. And you did it! You’re awesome. This is such a breeze. Almost at the home stretch….wait, why aren’t your fingers moving? What are you doing???
I aggressively smiled at the audience in a blind panic and looked to my teacher. She said, “That’s ok, Lauren. Just back it up to that last bar.”
Seems easy enough. But oh, here’s something I forgot to mention:
I can’t read music.
Remember that keyboard I got for Christmas? Well, it had a digital screen with a lovely function that shows you which keys to press to play many different songs, including, you guessed it…Pachelbel’s Canon. So everyday after school, I’d learn more and more of the song by cheating and getting my keyboard to teach me. I memorized where to put my fingers without learning any notes. Sure, I could read music well enough to pass the beginner-level tests and such throughout the semester, but Pachelbel’s Canon is not beginner-level stuff. I cheated so that everyone would think I was gifted or special. Oh yeah, I was special alright. Idiot.
“Ok,” I said. I squinted my eyes and pretended to concentrate really hard on the music notes in front of me. I even drew my finger across the page as if I was reading the notes and looking for the correct spot to start. But I had no idea what she was talking about. I was hoping the music would just come to me so I could fake my way to that “bar” she spoke of, but my mind was completely blank.
After a bout of dead silence with the exception of me softly talking to myself and awkwardly giggling–“Maybe I’ll start there. No, that’s not a good spot. Maybe I’ll turn the page and…no. Not there either…”–my teacher finally said, “Just start from the beginning, Lauren.”
“Ok!” That I could do. And begin.
OK….YOU MORON….SO FAR SO GOOD. DON’T FUCK THIS UP, YOU EMBARRASSING EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING. THERE GOES YOUR A IN THE CLASS, YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING LITTLE….well there you go again.
I froze in the same spot.
I looked helplessly at my teacher and sensed the crowd squirming for me. She said, “Just bring it home. Play the last few bars.”
Again with this “bar” talk. I didn’t even know what it meant!
This part I must have blacked out from my memory (PTSD, no doubt) because I barely remember stumbling through the end of the song. But I did. I recall very emphatically banging the keys on the last note.
Whew, it was over. I got up from my chair, did a little bow to be funny (but remember, it would not have been funny because I was an awkward adolescent not far from my headgear wearing days) and started to make my way down off the stage. In the process, my hip hit the keyboard and sent my song book crashing to the floor, spilling loose papers everywhere. I remember just standing on the stage for a moment staring down at them thinking, “Yup. That’s about right.” I crouched and struggled to pick them up as my mom stood from the audience and explained to everyone that I had a ballet exam to get to, which is why we were running out of there, and not because of what just happened. We scurried out like bandits while the room remained silent and stunned.
So now, as you might understand, every time I hear the classic, beautiful melody of Pachelbel’s Canon, my thoughts automatically shift to a dark, twisted place as I’m reminded of my secret shame and embarrassment. Who knew cheating could bite me so aggressively in the ass? Though I have to admit, I never told my teacher about the secret magical keyboard. I also blamed the slip-up on being nervous for my ballet exam. I still got an A in the class.
Who said cheaters never prosper?