ENDE VOM LIED
There is no greater joy for a professional pianist than to play the familiar Bridal March as a
beautiful young woman strides down the church aisle clad in a perfect white dress. Your whole career falls into place: the unwanted piano lessons at ten; the emabrassing yellow bow tie at your piano concert at sixteen; the unfaithful girlfriend/producer who thought you had talent until she found out you didn’t like cats, then dumped you and left you to wither away in the bottom-scum eternity of amateur musicianhood.
Nobody wanted to hear about a premature grey-hair who played piano for a living. Especially when nobody recognized the name, and especially when they had an unbalanced mole on their left cheek.
Jerry had a mole on his left cheek. And when the ushers uttered his name to questioning patrons, most smiled and said, “That’s nice”, but many didn’t ask, and most didn’t even notice. You expect a pianist at a wedding. They play pretty little classics in the background until the grand moment, when the pianist cracks his knuckles and busts out with all their gustoWagner’s Bridal Chorus. Then Auntie Vivian erupts into tears. Even Uncle Alex tears up watching the pretty bride take one-step-two-step-one-step-two-step down the aisle. And the children sing amongst themselves, “Here comes the bride, all dressed in white”—
But then Jerry has reached his third round of the chorus, and there is no bride dressed in white, off-white, baby blue, canary yellow, or any other pastel colour. Jerry chances a glance around the room. The groom has a melange of emotions on his face: perplexed, angry confused, devastated; none of them compliment his tuxedo. The father of the bride informs Jerry in hushed whispers that he needs to delay. Jerry considers joking that a delay isn’t music at all, but he has been a part of these interrupted wedding procedures before and knows they are the last place for any kind of humour. It was astonishing at how quickly a joyful ceremony could be rendered utterly false; how high hopes could sink into utter despair so quickly. It was so beautiful that Jerry always wanted to play a solemn nocturne whenever he was told to delay.
Instead Jerry played Mozart’s Turkish March, hoping the archaic humour would lead the patrons to believe that the bride had broken a heel or misplaced her veil. But who was so stupid? Everyone here had seen the cold feet scene play out a thousand times for their entertainment. They knew the age-old cliché of being left at the altar. It was nothing unique--but now that they were steeped in the situation, it all appeared brand new and mysterious. So as Jerry came to the bridge, he was already being drowned out by whispers.
But then the father of the bride and the groom re-entered the church. The groom had his head bowed. The outcome of the wedding was painfully obvious. Nevertheless Jerry had reached his favourite part of Mozart’s march, and wouldn’t stop. It would be unprofessional.
The crowd hushed as the father of the bride cleared his throat from the front of the church. For a few bars, Jerry had the attention of the entire crowd, and it made for a magnificient coda.
The inevitable is sometimes so expected that it sickens the bearer and the witness. Those who didn’t moan sighed, and those who didn’t sigh turned to the person beside them and said, “I told you so.” The wedding party dispersed. The people in the pews sat uncomfortably, unsure of whether they should leave right away or mourn a little more.
Jerry smiled to himself and tickled the first few notes of Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor. Looking up from the piano and seeing no one watching him, he went right into the song. For those familiar with Chopin’s canon, it was easy to recognize the classic. But for those who just spent all morning getting ready to go to an aborted wedding, it was easily the saddest song in the world.
An old lady, presumably the grandmother of the groom, strode up to the piano. She licked her lips with every step. She paused at Jerry’s side, then lay a thin hand on his shoulder.
“Could you play something else?” the matriarch asked. “It’s just so…tragic. Have a little respect, please.”
“Of course,” Jerry smiled at the old woman (not out of sympathy, of course, but just to show her his healthy white teeth).
“Do you know that Beethoven song they play in the milk commercials?” she asked.
“No,” Jerry lied. “But I will play something nice.”
The grandmother stayed at Jerry’s side, expectant.
“My husband used to play,” she said.
“That’s fantastic. Would he want to play now?”
“I buried him two years ago.”
“It’s okay. He wasn’t that good anyway. This sure is a terrible thing, isn’t it? I just never…”
Jerry nodded, hoping she would finish her thought and leave, but she hung on to her last words. So Jerry drifted back over the keyboard, his only solace in a party full of strangers who were getting ready to leave him, and started a piece from Schumann’s Fantasiestrucke, the song he played in repetition when his girlfriend left him for a concert violinist with a cottage.
“Oh that’s nice,” the matriarch cooed.
She closed her eyes, swept in the gentle notes.
“What is this?” she asked Jerry.
“Ende Vom Lied,” he accentuated the German title.
“What’s that?” the lady asked as she leaned her ear to his mouth.
“The end, madam. The End of the Song.”
Jack Caseros is a Canadian writer and environmental scientist. He currently resides in a small prairie town far from the maddening crowd, although he was born into the concrete thickets of Toronto, Ontario. His first novel, Onwards & Outwards, was defiantly independently-published in 2012 to zero acclaim. His newest novel is looking for a publishing house to call home. You can read more about Jack here.