We were at a wedding in the Berkshires this weekend. Two of our best friends got married at their house and as soon as the Justice of the Peace arrived and we discovered her surname was Funk, we knew everything would be cool.
Being with people you love as they dedicate their lives to each other puts a lot of things in perspective. It got Mrs Beatbelow and I thinking of when we were married two summers ago in Ireland - the second go around for both of us. It was a remarkable, lovely, humbling experience.
This project will be finished before we arrive at our anniversary, so I hope you don't mind if I take time now for a quick memory, since music was so important to both of us on the day and throughout the trip. Beforehand, we'd stayed at the Clarence in Dublin and taken our extended family on the Musical Pub Crawl where everyone had a great time. If you're visiting, and remotely interested in music, or pubs, we'd heartily recommend it.
Up in Enniskillen, we had a Quaker ceremony, but in combination with that beautiful silence and reflection, our subsequent wedding party was full of music and dancing. Family and friends came to sing and play; my stepdaughters sang songs by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, while Mick Kavanagh, a musician friend of mine and former FT colleague from London brought his banjo and the two of us played some bluegrass and traditional Irish songs.
Before and after the ceremony itself, we had a terrific Uilleann piper called Eamonn Curran play for us from the minstrel gallery overlooking the room where the wedding took place. Eamonn has played all over the world with people like Dolores Keane and we were lucky to have him be part of our day.
But the music really got going when our friend Jim McGrath brought some local musicians - a guitarist, bodhran and a fiddle player to play alongside his accordion - so we could dance the night away. Jim had been working on a project called Hidden Fermanagh, gathering traditional songs from the area, and had appeared at the Smithsonian Folkways festival in Washington DC a couple of weeks before playing at our wedding.
He'd played at our venue before and told me evenings like this one were reminiscent of the life of traveling musicians a century or more ago, where they would arrive at the local manor house to play for the squire and his guests to dance, then move on to the next party.
The following evening, we bumped into Jim in town and went to hear him in a session with some other local players. They dedicated a song to us newlyweds and even invited me up to play, in between Guinnesses. I did a lyrically-challenged version of 'John O'Reilly' by Charlie Robison.
For me, it's hard to imagine joy without music. And it's harder to imagine a life without joy. Now, thanks to Mrs Beatbelow, I'll never have to worry about being without either.