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Artist Profile: Ann Keeler Evans, The Wedding Priestess

In Artist Profile on April 27, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Ann Keeler Evans, the Wedding Priestess

Meet Ann Keeler Evans, the Wedding Priestess. We are sure you’ll love her as much as we do.

You are a Wedding Priestess. Can you explain a little bit about what that means?

A priest concerns herself with the rituals of life rather than the more pastoral “ministering to people’s needs.” I am most interested in celebrating and supporting the transitions that move people from one segment of life to the next. While I have worked with churches, and with one small congregation for 10 years, I enjoy my work with individuals, couples, families and communities. I work with people wherever they are in their lives, in their souls and in the world.

The term Priestess is a result of both my feminine/feminist bent and a pet name that one of my couples used. It describes both who I am and what I do.I tried it. I liked it. It stuck.

Much of the work I do today is focused on weddings, because people understand the importance of weddings. After their wedding experience with me, a couple’s understanding of ritual grows to include the many other kinds of celebrations of life passages that exist. I love when people realize that they can celebrate their lives all the time, and ask their beloved community for support.

I prepared for ministry in both Mainstream (an M.Div. at Union Theological Seminary) and traditional ways (with Native Teachers, shamans and witches). All of these added to my understanding of the importance of ritual and celebrating life passages. (And I’m sure a lifetime closet addiction to romances hasn’t hurt my ability to think grandly about romance and marriage! Shhh. Don’t tell anyone!)

Ritual matters and it makes a difference. The goal of a good wedding ceremony is to produce a lifelong marriage that the couple can live in happily and healthily forever.

How do you help couples create their own, unique wedding ceremonies?

While I write personal weddings for every couple I work with I follow an outline of what I believe belongs in a ritual very closely. I believe that there are 10 steps that take you from (in the case of wedding ceremonies) engaged to married. The ritual form remains constant whatever ritual is being celebrated.

The wedding becomes unique to the couple when their romance, their values, their personalities and their intentions for marriage begin to form and inform the ceremony.

No wedding happens without at least 4 meetings with the couple and lots of backing and forthing with the wedding document. Together, we edit and add and subtract as they find permission to open up. I blend in ritual activities as they reveal family traditions, personal interests and activities that center them as a couple.

I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now, so I’ve gotten better at asking the right questions in the initial meeting, but you never know when people are going to tell you something that will lead to an absolutely magical moment in their wedding ceremony.

What kinds of questions do couples usually ask you?

Couples come with a question about price, but proceed with questions about what is possible in wedding ceremonies and how they can celebrate this aspect of who they are.

What was the most unique wedding(s) you ever officiated?

It’s so easy to say it’s the couples who incorporated Thai dancing or personalized song or poetry whose weddings were the most interesting.But what made those weddings interesting was that the art form or the ritual activity fit that couple. When there’s a good match between who people are and what people see, everything works really well at the wedding.

So, really, I specialize in unique weddings: weddings that look exactly like my couples. It’s so fun!

How does art play a role in your business?

My job is to move people. Couples to the possibility and the reality of life-long promises, communities to support of such important endeavors and the world to the understanding that the sacred celebration of people’s goals, intentions and promises makes a difference in society. I might define the making of art as the use of your gifts whether visual or musical or verbal to help folk to see the world differently, appreciate it more greatly, value it more highly.

It demands our being present – present to life and present to it. It doesn’t work unless you put the hours in day after day, hour after hour. I’m a word artist. My words don’t mean much unless I work at the craft of writing, so the wild wondrous stuff has a platform to stand on. (Sort of like marriage, you need strong well-crafted wedding vows as a platform so your marriage can soar!)

And then it becomes great when you start working with other people (people like Chloé or Anna who add their gifts to a ceremony, or people like Gisele Perez who listen to what you say and what you’re doing during the wedding ceremony and carries that out into the reception food!). The combination of arts can explode the transformative possibilities of a wedding exponentially.

How does art influence your life?

Well, aside from my writing, I live with my beloved mom’s fabulous oils all over the apartment. Other artists are a big part of my life. (For instance, Darling Drummer, my beloved husband.) We work together. We hang with people who like to think about their art and talk about it and make it better. Those conversations get blended with what’s happening in the world and how we can use our art to make those things better.

You write a regular column. What have been some of your favoritearticles? Where do you come up with all of the imaginative ideas?

The imaginative ideas come from making connections. You write about this and you start thinking about that. Or you write a sentence and you realize that it is profound and fundamental to what you believe about (in my case) weddings and marriage. That becomes a favorite article for sure. Today I wrote”Marriages aren’t for getting ahead, they’re for getting along and getting on with life.” I didn’t know that I believed that until I wrote it. I’m testing it now to see how true I really think it is.

It’s fun when a wedding article sparks something amusing: last night’s article about a trail-ride wedding considers how to take something that’s a real part of a couple’s life and values. I loved an article I wrote a while ago on creating a wedding for a people with sight disabilities. I wanted to do that wedding so badly. I’m sure someday I will.

Could you share a detail or two about your own wedding?

Darling Drummer and I had such a pageant! It was an amazing combination of the gifts and talents of our beloved community and our own values. My 93 year old father spoke at my wedding ceremony only 6 weeks before he died. A young man danced to two friend’s gift of song. People sang songs I wrote, played music Steve arranged. We didn’t marry legally because we won’t until gay marriage is legal in Pennsylvania where we live. We exchanged gongs rather than rings. (Mine keeps moving into the instrument collection for performances!) A friend served as our elder and wrote the most extraordinary poem. My beloved god-daughter stood up with me and one of Steve’s daughters stood with him.

We had a pot luck. For 300 people! The food was unbelievable. The decorations were done by our community, an artist friend of mine designed wonderful hearts that were scattered everywhere. The one that most captured my heart arrived soon after as a wall sculpture.

14 bands played. A friend made my dress. Others consulted and painted my nails and laughed, oh we laughed. People came from all over the world, all areas of our lives and blessed us beyond belief. Not that we have any intentions of splitting, but can you imagine how desperately disappointed our community of 300 people would be in us if we didn’t make the dream succeed?

We’re both extroverts and show people, so we wanted something grand and extravagant, as big as we are, as big as our love is as rich as our middle-aged history is. I think we made it!

How do people learn more about what you do?

You can find me here. I write also write here and I’m the Philadelphia Marriage Examiner over There are tools to make your wedding what you want it to be if you’re DIY kinda people. I think there might be a radio show soon. All this moves slowly, so don’t be holding your breath out there, but keep looking!

I’m looking forward to the challenge of making a wedding ceremony for you that is as perfect mine was for me, even if that’s a quiet wedding for two beside a softly burbling stream!


Artist Profile: Anna Huckabee Tull of Custom Crafted Songs

In Artist Profile on April 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Anna Huckabee Tull

We look forward to sharing Anna Huckabee Tull’s background as an artist. Enjoy her website, too!

What is your artistic training?


My training is really in Psychology. The “music” part of what I do really just grew out of this unstoppable desire to find a way to communicate some of the powerful transitions that people go through. I went through a huge personal shift, and an unexpected very intense break-up, around the age of thirty. And as I was struggling to make sense of it all, I started discovering that “singing” my way through it–finding words to not only express the pain but also  to give voice to what I might sound like when I became more “healed” around this experience was really transformative. I put out an entire album or really “extremely autobiographical” (as my husband likes to say) songs. And I found that making that album really moved me out of a painful place and into…surprise! a growing relationship with my own ability to use music to heal, and, importantly, to celebrate. At the time I was only healing ME, but eventually, when others started coming to me and commissioning me to create songs for them, I learned that I am every bit as astute at translating other people’s experiences into music as I am my own. So the music–especially the composing part–seems mostly to be something that grew up out of necessity. I had something to say, I knew music was the way I wanted to do it, so I just kept digging around musically till I started finding it. SO! That’s what a couple years of childhood piano lessons and a stint on violin in the public schools can get you! A whole wide world of song after song after song of poignant and joyful musical expression!



How does art influence your life?

You know, it’s funny. I think for me it’s really the other way around. My LIFE seems to influence my ART. When someone commissions me to write a song, it is literally all about them. In the song interview, the whole world drops away and I actually deeply enjoy the experience of almost forgetting who I am, because I am so completely immersing myself in their experience. And it feels like that all the way through the process, right up until the day the song is recorded in the studio. But then, when it is finally complete–I have delivered the song and the job is done, often I will drive around in my car and listen to the song “from the outside.” I will listen to it as ME (as opposed to trying to see it and speak it and listen to it totally as they would). And when I finally listen to it as me, it is almost always this huge surprise because suddenly, once the job is done, I can hear all kinds of things in there that are as much about ME as they are about the person I wrote the song for, or about. I used to think, “Oh, NO! I was supposed to write it about THEM and I ended up writing it about ME!” But you know what? As I have matured into this I have come to realize that probably part of what makes so many of these songs to deeply meaningful, ultimately, to so many people, is their UNIVERSAL quality. Basically, if you take one data point (the person who commissioned the song, and all that their experience is about for them), and then you take a second data point (me, the way I see and experience the world), and then, suddenly, as soon as you have those two data points, you have all the countless “points on the line” in-between them. And it is that–all those data points in-between, that make a song go from one-dimensional (me me me) to universal. I get emails from people all the time saying, “That song you did about the Guatemalan adoption–that could have been, word, for word, a song about our family!”  or “I sat there and cried for forty five minutes when I heard your song about the mother who never got to say goodbye before she died. I know exactly what that feels like.”  Striking a universal chord with people just absolutely, positively the most amazing part of my job.




What is the process for arranging a custom song?

When someone comes to me for a song-interview–whether it is live, in -person or over the phone, there are really two things going on. One is that I am gathering information–what happened, what is the event to be celebrated, how might the song be used, who is it for, what are you hoping the result will be, etc. But the other is that, the whole time I am connecting with someone on their experience, a part of me is just kind of poised to receive. Not sure how to explain it exactly, but in every interview there comes this moment for me where suddenly I “get it.” I just kind of get the drift of what someone is saying. I feel it like a physical experience–often my eyes water a little, and I feel this “jump” feeling inside of me. Mathematically, the way I tend to describe it is that I get a sense of the vector of what they are saying, where they are coming from. (Sorry if this sounds a little “California” but that’s where I did my master’s work, so whatdayawant?!  🙂 Once I have this feeling, I am ready to go. We might talk for five minutes more or an hour more, but the main goal is accomplished. Then, after gently shoving the person out the door because I am so excited to start composing, I begin. Sometimes it percolates in pieces for weeks, sometimes it happens fast. But either way, when it is ready, I share a “rough cut” with them ( a simple recording with just my voice and some basic guitar). Much of the time they love it as is. Occasionally there is a little noodling to do on a line or two, but when we have it, we both really know it. And then, for me, the party begins! I use the commission budget to hire professional arrangers and performers-different ones depending on the song and what it seems to need, we al head into the studio, and have a ball. Basically, we bring it to life. I don’t mind telling you that, even after ten years of doing this, I am always squeaking and rubbing my hands together on studio day! When I die and go to heaven, I am thinking it is probably going to look like one huge recording studio!




How are the songs integrated into weddings?

Songs I’ve been commissioned to write for weddings have been used in so many different ways. There is kind of no limit to what you can do. It’s mostly about finding the truest expression of who you are a a couple. Here are some favorites: one time a couple commissioned a song together, in secret, so that none of the guests knew about it until it was time for their first dance. They explained to the group gathered that the first dance song had been created by them, about them. The whole room was totally blown away, with most everyone in tears as they watched the couple dance. This particular couple has shared with me that sometimes now, years later, late at night, when all their kids are asleep, they pull out their CD and dance to their song up in their bedroom. I love that. (Their song. )  Sometimes parents surprise couples with a song, and play it at the wedding. Here’s an absolute FAVORITE example of that. I LOVE this song! It was such a huge hit.  A lot of couples make the CD of their song into a gift that they give everyone who attends. It makes a really unique party favor. I have been commissioned to do a song for the father-daughter dance. One AMAZING favorite story was when a groom commissioned a song to surprise his bride with. This particular groom and bride had dated ten years before he officially made up his mind about committing. This was the source of much ribbing at the wedding. When it was time for toasts, one person after another got up and poked fun at the groom for how long it had taken him to commit. Finally, when they had all had their say, he said that he wanted to answer all of them, with a song. I was there, and at that point, I performed, live, the song “The Journey of This Love.” The song is all about how there is deep value in taking the time to really take someone in, and that when you have done that, to your satisfaction, it adds a level of depth to the experience of being with them that is truly phenomenal. All the ribbing melted away, and there was barely a dry eye in the house. When the song was over the entire room stood up and clapped and clapped…for this really amazing groom, and for their joy in suddenly understanding this couple in a different light. It was a night to remember.




Could you share a detail or two about your own wedding?

My husband Jim and I had the greatest wedding! It was so sweet, and heart-felt, and amazing, in so many ways. It was such a great expression of US! It took place in a garden bursting with flowers on a truly radiant day in July. This was several years before I had started doing commissioned songs (I was still pretty deeply in my “extremely autobiographical” stage) but I had composed a song for our wedding. I said to Jim, “If we had a song at our wedding, what would you want it to say?” and he had this really unique, lovely, original idea for a kind of a song I had never heard before. He said, “What if it was a song written specifically to each and every person who had come to be there with us on that day…explaining to them what a critical component of “us” they actually are.” Wow. I thought that was pretty amazing. Everyone held hands, while my friend Jasey performed this song for us at our wedding. It was really surreal. Here’s a link to that song.





How do people access your music or learn more about what you do?

I always say, “the right people just seem to find me.” but beyond just leaving it to serendipity like that, there is my website A get lots of emails from the people I call “Midnight Googlers.” People up in the middle of the night digging around on the web who just stumbled upon me and can’t even remember how or why. (Love those people). I have a rapidly growing membership to (free)”Song of the Month.” Each month I send an email to everyone on the list, and share a song and the story behind it. People seem to love that, and it is a really easy way to enjoy what’s coming forward and ponder commissioning your own song some day. And finally, I do have five albums out.  The Song of the Month songs are downloadable off my website. But it never hurts to remind folks that they can support the arts and purchase a CD of their very own!  To that end, here’s everything I’ve got, so far… Till the next album comes out!