Surprise Song with Custom Lyrics Performed at Rehearsal Dinner
Late in 2021, one of our longtime clients on Long Island reached out to share that he was planning an epic musical surprise for his son’s wedding: a totally re-written version of “One Day More” from Les Misérables. He wanted it to be performed live in tribute to the Bride and Groom with many family members singing, and as a total surprise to everyone else! He said it might take a while to get the family on-board. After a while he found out that he was really the only family member comfortable jumping up and belting out an iconic Broadway anthem in a Long Island Steakhouse. So, we shifted course and arrived at the idea of having professional singers deliver the surprise performance.
The performance at Opus Steakhouse was a HUGE success. We disguised the pro-singers as servers and planted them in various sections of the private dining room. One of our tech’s also set-up a speaker system and played background music throughout the first half of the event. He simply told unsuspecting guests that he was a DJ that the Father of the Groom had hired. This ‘hiding in plain sight’ worked really well as other family members began to ask to use the wireless mic for toasts and their own speeches.
Unknown to the Father of the Groom, one of the sons approached our tech/DJ and asked us to play the “Saturday Night Live” Theme song in the background while they introduced the family in the tone of the SNL announcer! This was almost like a rehearsal of the Wedding Introductions to take place at the reception the next day. This totally improvised bit turned out to be very funny, and also set a tone for the bigger surprise ahead.
We’ve written quite a bit about surprise performances but what I want to focus on here is the custom song writing. Our client has a longstanding relationship with musician, Larry Siegel. Larry typically performs at their home on the night before Thanksgiving, which they call “Friendsgiving.”
Larry is a master of many things, but one of his unique talents is re-writing iconic songs as a ‘parody’ or ‘tribute’ to a specific person or organization. This particular client is a big fan of this sort of surprise! They previously commissioned us to have Larry write and record a version of “Desperado” to one of their close friends whose name lined up well with the syllables.
What are our steps to writing a great custom song:
- Choose the song
The song should be very famous or even iconic. The meaning of the original song should also be considered. The struggling characters of “One Day More” create a comical foil against the light and joyful details of our couple’s journey to their wedding day. In another case, the American Songbook standard, “Thanks for the Memories” was re-written as a retirement song.
- Share details with the lyricist
This process isn’t for someone who’s shy! Funny, personal, and even slightly embarrassing details make for the best custom song. Oftentimes we will request additional details or more
biographical factoids to focus the direction of the song.
- Get a demo
It is so easy for our musicians to do a simple demo recording on their phone. This type of project can be very subjective, and how something appears written on a lyric sheet is certainly not the same as hearing it sung. These demos can be revised a few times as we get closer to the finished song
- Deliver the performance
There are so many ways to deliver a custom song performance. It could be an intricate live surprise, like the flash-mob style singers for “One Day More” or even a pre-recorded video.