Spirits of holiday parties past haunt the “Deck the Halls” gala at VMI’s Marshall Hall.
You remember all the Christmas and Holiday parties adorning the December calendar, not so long ago. That’s because the generous gestures of employers and holiday hosts are never forgotten.
“Fezziwig, old Fezziwig,” Ebenezer Scrooge exclaims, seeing his old boss alive again in a vision conjured up by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Feeling grateful for a Christmas Eve office party jump-started Scrooge’s transformation from tight-fisted sinner to Tiny Tim’s savior.
That jovial, foppish Fezziwig was onto something, leading workers bewildered by the industrial age into the modern world -- helping office parties become part and parcel of a hustling, bustling, enchanted time -- the holidaze.
In recent years, Holiday Party halls have stayed dark in December. Bosses gave us bonuses and sent us home, filling our wallets but not our hearts. What value can we place on a gathering reminding us how much we need one another, during the holidays and always?
In a hall at Virginia Military Institute honoring the leadership and vision of General George C. Marshall where the walls are lined with photographs of soldiers who gave their all so we could freely gather, Project Horizon holds an annual holiday gala called “Deck the Halls.”
Last year, Marshall Hall went undecked on the second Saturday in December, while we social-distanced through a pandemic Advent. This year, the charity ball helping to shelter battered women in Rockbridge County leapt back to life – the day after a Rockbridge County husband was arraigned on charges of murdering his wife, a woman the Project Horizon family knew and loved.
We take the stage and photograph some special days in the Blue Ridge, never happier to see the spirit of St. Nick reappear.
Through a silent auction, a live auction and a lively pledge session a legion of benefactors contributed around seventy thousand dollars to Project Horizon, up from forty thousand dollars raised two Decembers ago at Deck the Halls.
Old Fezziwig! The New Scrooge, feeling light as a feather and generous beyond reckoning, waking up Christmas morning with another chance to do good, must be forever grateful his boss threw that Christmas eve bash. Believers in the big-hearted work of Project Horizon, and all who long to gather around the punch bowl with people who matter all year long, may you roll out the trees and tunes and treats!
We’ve seen our share of decked-out holiday halls, filled with friends and employees dressed to the nines posing for photographs, breaking steak, stepping onto the dance floor together and having a ball. We treasure the return of hot dates on the December calendar, in a season of light and sound and celebration.
Fezziwig, old Fezziwig! The spirit of a holiday party stays with us when the weather warms, benefitting the good people at Project Horizon, blessing us all, every one.
What are you buying, really, when you book musical entertainment for your wedding through 20 South Productions? Arranging a professional musical performance for your friends, family and fiancé is a ticket to the experience of a lifetime.
Picture the folks you love enough to invite to your wedding and you’ll see a medley of styles, tastes and personalities. Picture the place you’re inviting them to and you’ll hear the rootsy, romantic, fist-pumping, dance-floor bumping sound of a celebration in Charlottesville — calling for the unique talents of our area’s music makers, on a day when every song matters.
A classic concordance of violin, viola and cello, the old-time harmonies and tuneful twangs of guitars, banjos and mandolins, the raucous, funky, soulful jams of a party band and the beats of an innovative Dee Jay can comprise the soundtrack for your wedding day. Ultimately, choosing musical entertainment means selecting a playlist to please a most special guest list, while expressing who you two truly are.
Your selections for seating music, playing as your guests gather under a sacred roof or open sky, set a tone for all that follows. This is an opportune time for musicians to perform classical and contemporary selections, setting the stage for your appearance at the altar. A Dee Jay can play your requested seating music as well, preludes to a most romantic moment.
The selections grow more prominent, and perhaps more personal, as time for the ceremony draws near. What song sums up the emotions of the groom, walking to the altar with the officiant, maybe with brothers, best friends, even grooms-women?
That entrance leads to a procession of bridesmaids, yet another evocative musical moment.
Always you will remember the faces of family and friends and your intended as you walk toward your new life, accompanied perhaps by a mighty special escort and song selection. A traditional processional, “Here Comes the Bride,” composer Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” from the 1850s, has been joined in recent years by “Canon in D,” performed with varied instruments and styles.
A special ceremony performed at the altar, such as the lighting of candles, the commingling of sand, earth, ropes, or wine, can be accompanied by a song played at background volume.
The moment you two first kiss and are announced as one couple, walking back down the aisle to applause and cheers, calls for a most joyous song, performed live or played by a Dee Jay, reverberating forever. “The Wedding March” composed by Felix Mendelssohn in the 1840s is a traditional recessional. What whimsical, ecstatic, upbeat tune would fully express your joy at this moment, and reverberate forever?
The sky is the limit. Have fun picking this one!
Couples booking musicians for the ceremony can extend that performance into the cocktail hour, making full use of the performers’ time, and presence, at your wedding. Every wedding professional you hire is selling a date on the calendar, as well as talent and expertise. Chamber musicians already on hand can be a classy addition to your cocktail hour.
That mingling of libations, mirth, and old and new friends may take place without you, at least for awhile, as your photographer captures portraits of family, friends and newlyweds for posterity. At least you can hear familiar voices and tunes across the way, as your guests enjoy one other and a cool collection of tunes. The cocktail and dinner hours are opportunities to request beloved songs that maybe aren’t dance floor anthems.
When you stand at the doorway to your reception, introduced by your new name, applauded by those who helped make you who you are, you are in the hands of history, and your emcee. The fanfare you select, performed by your band or Dee Jay, enlivens your entrance, and ushers you into the party of a lifetime.
After enjoying the formalities and wedding feast, what kind of music will fill your dance floor? Consider the widest possible variety, a mixture of old, new, borrowed and blue, representing everyone on your guest list yet sounding like you.
A seasoned wedding band offers a varied setlist, with a signature sound. A Dee Jay can play every song under the sun, moon and stars.
Every selection is significant. Fewer songs than you might think are played on a wedding day.
Many popular modern songs are three to four minutes long; older hits are shorter, while jam bands play longer. So you’ll hear maybe sixty to eighty songs over four hours of an epic reception. Each selection should seem like a chapter in a story, progressing into the evening, hanging together yet keeping guests guessing, building to a transcendent ending.
Most couples have friends and family far more diverse than any Spotify algorithm, a collection of characters akin to Drake and Willie Nelson, Jay-Z and Bon Jovi. Doesn’t every loved one coming to celebrate with you from afar deserve a musical shout-out?
Your Dee Jay should see, hear and sound out those family ties, and multi-faceted relationships, connecting crooners with Motown, finding the Reggae roots and Rhythm and Blues beats behind Modern Dance Music, Hip Hop and rock – all originating in a garden in Africa, no doubt.
The differences between any of us amount to less than .04 per cent of our DNA – especially while dancing alongside a couple celebrating their wedding day.
A matrimonial music mix should be considered a sacrament, bringing a bride and groom and all co-celebrants closer by the end of the evening, enhancing the bonds of a lifetime. That is a sacred calling, beat for beat, amplifying the heart, soul and sound of one eclectic wedding mecca.
We all know a Charlottesville wedding when we hear one.
Snow fell on the journey to Monticello, after a New Year’s Day wedding in Williamsburg, and Tom and Martha Jefferson unhitched the horses from the carriage to ride up to their new home and uncork some old wine. Following those trail-blazers, couples marry in Charlottesville in the Spring, Summer and Fall, on those crisp Autumn days when there’s no home football game at UVA.
So many couples marry within a day’s ride of the Jefferson’s place that we all must wonder: Does any town of 40,000 souls host more weddings than ours? What makes Charlottesville, Virginia – distinguished by bricks and ivy, encircled by estates and foxes – such a mecca for weddings, and a well-spring of hope?
Every two hours, on Saturdays during “wedding season,” couples walk into the chapel on the Grounds of Mr. Jefferson’s University and say their vows. Those lovebirds literally won the lottery. Rent for the two hours is two hundred fifty dollars for UVA students, three fifty with a university “affiliation” and seven fifty for couples smitten with the UVA chapel and educated elsewhere.
Standing on that altar and remembering the day you gazed up at those gothic bells and and made your plans is priceless.
That’s just one church, however emblematic, in Virginia’s historic, progressive heartland. Couples, preachers, families and well-wishers congregate in vineyards, meadows, country churches and downtown sanctuaries in a climate Mr. Jefferson called “salubrious,” that more days than not warms grapes and weddings. Wineries around the Blue Ridge fill with romantic revelers, along with Beds and Breakfasts, outlying inns white as wedding cakes, resorts Mick Jagger wanted to sleep in, and country club ballrooms in our social heart. So many choices for brides and grooms who journey here for the first or ultimate time. So many memories swept up at midnight, whisked away with the table linen, that can only be guessed at if you weren’t on the guest list.
Weddings around Mr. Jefferson’s university unite graduates of the schools of medicine, law, business and architecture, diplomats marrying between Islamabad and Iraq, PR people who see our polo ponies from their offices in Times Square, aspiring singers heading to New York for the honeymoon, couples from Richmond and Washington wanting mountains in their wedding pictures, UVA football stars marrying before the NFL calls, lawn care guys from Waynesboro and teachers at Stuart Hall in strapless champagne dresses requesting Zydeco music at the reception, missionaries who postponed wedding after wedding until the groom got his visa, airmen braving wedding parties wielding paper airplanes, crossed swords and toasts from fox holes, a couple who dreamed on a grade-school field trip of getting married at the Frontier Culture Center — to each other — and a couple marrying there because on Mapquest it was equi-distant from the guests on the list.
Wedding around Charlottesville are held in a tent lit with chandeliers on a hill behind a farmhouse, with a Scotty dog dressed in a kilt carrying the ring, a recessional of “Freebird” played on the harp, requests for the Good Old Song and no Hokey Pokey and a charter bus bringing guests back from the best reception ever down a dirt road in the dark. You can get a deal on those buses if you go to UVA.
Of course weddings in Charlottesville are like weddings everywhere. Friends and family gather, photographers pose the wedding dress on the hanger, best men practice toasts, ushers joke and usher, bridesmaids titter and tear up, and parents stoically hold roses, welcome speeches and big bills while their childrens’ lives flash before everyone’s eyes. A couple stands at the altar, vows written, honeymoon plans finalized, gazing into each other’s eyes, hoping to God this works.
Even Thomas Jefferson, buried a stately walk from Monticello beside his wife Martha, must have sometimes wondered why he vowed to her, a widow when they met, that if she died first he’d never re-marry …
You must make choices, to get to your wedding day. And those umpteen arrangements, from the people you place on the seating chart to their outpouring of rice, birdseed, bubbles, sparklers, and love, define one day, and reverberate forever.
Through a winter of wedding planning, we long to see that white veil lifted.
Ran Henry is a Dee Jay, wedding and event photographer, author, writing professor at the University of Virginia and co-owner of Blue Mountain Weddings with Linda Henry, represented by 20 South Productions in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Fulfilling Our Vows ...
A secret service agent meets a bonnie lass in an Irish pub in D.C. and asks her to marry him, at Donald Trump’s Albemarle Estate near Charlottesville, on Halloween. In a manicured garden by a Koi pond, Reverend Claire awaits the couple at the altar. Her sweet, measured tones invite them to look around the garden, and into the lens of the camera Zooming their vows to people who love them, there in spirit.
Suddenly, a Fox news broadcast blares through the garden, damning Democrats. The couple turns toward the hills for a blessing from Reverend Claire, ignoring the broadcast.
I, the second photographer, tasked by the secret service agent with keeping the Zoom camera aimed at his bride, move the camera around by the Koi pond, working to steady the shaky tripod. Backing up to find steady footing for the tripod, standing it straight as the couple kiss, I fall into the pond, holding a Canon 5D camera and 70-200 L Series lens aloft for dear life.
Sean Connery has just died, on the Day of the Dead. Trump’s place feels like Goldfinger’s estate.
“I get immersed in my work,” I say to the astonished couple, trying to sound like Bond, James Bond.
Reverend Claire signs and presents the marriage certificate. The couple’s family and friends got to see them seal their vows with a kiss, across the digital miles, the Fox News commentators have piped down and the camera and lens are saved from the Koi pond, though the cell phone’s a goner.
The secret service agent stands by his bride.
“I just did what you would have done,” I say.
He nods gravely.
Of course we know he’d have done a whole lot more.