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Wedding guests hum 'Here Comes the Bride,' but phantom organist provides big finish

Mystery performer, friends, family pitch in to save ceremony when hired musician a no-show

Saturday, August 30, 2003

By Bob Batz Jr., Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Now she can laugh.

But two Saturdays ago, all Kellie Murphy could do was cry as she sat with her wilting bridal party in the air-conditioned limousine outside Epiphany Church, Uptown. It was five minutes past 4 p.m. Five minutes past the time she was supposed to marry Peter Piotrowski. She panicked, wondering, "Has he changed his mind?"

Inside the big, beautiful, not air-conditioned church, most of the 200 guests wondered what the holdup was, too. Had the bride gotten cold feet?

The best man announced that both bride and groom were present and eager to proceed. But one person was missing -- the organist.

This news did little to make Kellie feel better. Inside, her stressed mother, Leslie Murphy, had repeatedly tried phoning the organist but couldn't reach him. Was he stuck in traffic? For this long?

One man came forward to say he could play, but no one could figure out how to turn on the huge pipe organ. The church felt like an oven.

People are going to start dropping like flies, Leslie Murphy worried. So, at 4:25 p.m., she told her husband, James, to go get their daughter. The show had to go on.

The bride felt as though she was watching her wedding go down the tubes as her seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen filed down the aisle in total silence.

But as she and her father took their first step, she heard a woman hum the familiar opening notes of "Here Comes the Bride" -- Hmm hmm hm-hmmm.

Another woman joined in. Then a man. HMM HMM HM-HMMM ...

"OK, Kellie," her dad whispered, "we can do this."

Each pew they passed joined in, and the impromptu tune propelled them like a wave. By the time they reached the front, the whole church was humming beautifully. "They love us," Peter said. Kellie beamed.

The Rev. Jack Walsh felt rattled, but to hear the couple tell it, the rest of the service went smoothly -- even for their hired soloist, who simply sang a cappella.

Then, just as Father Walsh had the couple turn around so he could introduce them as Mr. and Mrs. Piotrowski, the organ breathed to life and filled the church with music. The song was "Ode to Joy."

The crowd laughed at the shock on Kellie's face and applauded.

Unbeknownst to just about everybody, a friend of the groom had gone out onto the street in desperate search of someone -- anyone -- who could play music. Somehow he'd found a guy coming out of Mellon Arena who said he could and who, despite feeling self-conscious in his T-shirt and cutoff shorts, agreed to come in and play for a couple he didn't know.

The couple thought the timing was perfect, because the ceremony ended on such high notes.

But, alas, after they exited the church, they realized that the organ player had left too, before they saw who it was.

Leslie Murphy, who'd thought it was their late-arriving hired organist, was angry until she found out the real story. She later learned that their organist had written down the wrong date, and she accepted his sincere apologies.

As for the "phantom organist," she says, "He gave me faith in mankind."

The Hickory, Washington County, mother wishes she could tell the man how grateful she and everyone else is for the flourish he added to this wedding. "It was just really sweet."


Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.

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