On “Swamp Pit”, the latest single from Rebecca Zapen’s critically praised and award-winning “Nest” album, the Jacksonville-based musician sings about romance with whimsy and wonder. Little did Zapen know when writing and recording the song that the universe would soon cast her in a real-life fairy tale.
“A few years ago, I was hired to play violin in a canoe on the Hillsborough River as a surprise for a young couple for Valentine’s Day,” Zapen explains. “When the day came, I arrived with violin in hand, wearing my classical violinist attire. The canoe paddler arrived soon after with the canoe and we began to paddle upstream. Other paddlers passed by, and seeing something as out-of-the-ordinary as a girl dressed in black with a violin in a canoe on Valentine’s Day, they seemed to figure out that something was about to happen.”
Zapen continues, “Kevin the canoe paddler tucked us away behind some trees and finally the Valentine’s Day lovers came paddling along and I began to play ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ from the opera ‘Gianni Schicchi’. I heard the young lady mistakenly say ‘Isn’t that sweet? She’s playing for her boyfriend.’ The gentleman confessed ‘No, she’s playing for us,’ which the young lady didn’t believe until she noticed that we were following them down the river. When she realized that the music was just for her she started crying,” Zapen recalls.
Skipping ahead, Zapen says, “We arrived on the shore, said our goodbyes, and as I walked with two older married couples back to the parking lot, we were stopped by a man wearing a bow-tie held on by a piece of elastic asking if any of us were notaries. It became clear that the man was a groom on his wedding day and was lacking an officiant. One of the men I was with said, ‘You’ve got two Baptist ministers and a violinist here,’ and with that, we walked over to a tree where the bride and a few friends were gathered and a wedding ceremony was assembled.”
Zapen concludes this tale by saying, “It was beautiful hearing them exchange vows, occasionally changing a word here and there to better suit each other, though unfortunately, the experience was given even deeper meaning when we learned that the bride was a cancer patient with a six-month prognosis. Regardless of the circumstances, she actually lived for two more years, passing away peacefully at home this past September. I knew throughout the ceremony that this was a magical day, and that the coming together of these people, the minister, and me at exactly the right time was meant to be.”
Jacksonville, Florida native Rebecca Zapen recently released Nest, a record about building a family (and the ups, downs and lessons along the way) that was literally recorded while Zapen was pregnant with her now two-year-old son. The record, filled with varied instrumentation and genres where strings and horns (and the ukulele’s South American cousin the Cavaquino) mix with finger-picked folk and cinematic vocal harmonies, was recently named “Florida Album of The Year” by the Florida Times-Union and Zapen’s local performances have since become sold-out, standing-room-only events.