This past weekend was one that I have hoped and prayed would come for years, and it finally happened.
My good friend Cameron got married!
It was a weekend overflowing with memorable moments, and it was bookended at beginning and end with this comforting fresh arugula pesto pasta. But before we get to the pasta, I’d love to tell you about why this wedding was so extra-special…
A little over 8 years ago, I was in that fresh-out-of-college stage when everything was bright and shiny and new. I had just moved to a new city, just accepted a new job at one of the biggest churches I had ever seen, and I had just started leading a new contemporary choir. Granted, I had been in a “modern” worship band all throughout college, and could roll with the “contemporary music” scene at this church. But my background and my training were actually in classical voice. (Yes, opera major right here!) And as much as I loved the crazy loud guitars and drums blaring in my monitor week after week, a part of me still missed my first musical “comfort zone” of sorts.
Then we received an email in our department from another recent college grad asking to come audition for the choir. He claimed to love singing both classical and contemporary, which piqued our staff’s interest. So we met him one day for a routine audition standing around our big grand piano. But the second Cameron began to sing, we realized this was anything but routine.
Quite simply, Cameron has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard.
He can sing everything from Pavarotti, to Sinatra, to Jason Mraz. And each time, he will knock your socks off.
Cameron and I singing “The Prayer” at COR, circa 2005.
The first time that we had Cameron come sing in worship, our music director paired the two of us up to break out of the contemporary “norm” and surprise the congregation with the classical Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church arrangement of “The Prayer”. Singing it together the first time at age 22, and then singing it together again for probably the 100th time (literally) a few weeks ago at age 30, is always such a thrill. I mean it. There are those few special times as a musician that you just “click” with someone, and whenever I dabble back into the classical duet world, Cameron is the guy I always hope will be my partner.
But even more than his incredible voice, which I should note that he diligently keeps in shape, Cameron is deeply-respected by those around him for being one the most humble, gracious, and encouraging people I know. Salt. Of. The. Earth.
Singing together a few years ago at a freeeeezing cold holiday radio concert.
(For anyone interested, here is a live clip of us putting on our classical hats to sing “The Prayer” at church for a concert in 2005.)
One of my favorite memories of Cameron singing. Our little choir had the chance to sing in front of 12,000+ people at a national choir competition. And after the song, Donald Lawrence singled Cameron out, and put him on the spot to “just sing one more riff” for the crowd. Thunderous applause. (And of course, Cameron was as humble as could be.)
Anyway, from time serving together at church, to singing at countless weddings/funerals/concerts, to becoming workout partners for a few years when we both lived near the Plaza in Kansas City, it’s safe to say that I got to know Cameron pretty well over the past 8 years. We would talk about the ups and downs of my job, his crazy stories from medical school, and of course, share stories and laughs and a few tears about the long line of set-ups and dates that never quite seemed to go as we hoped.
But I had always told Cameron that I had a sneaking suspicion he would end up with a girl from his hometown. And lo and behold, nearly two years ago, he popped the news on a walk one night that he was driving home to Joplin, Missouri to take out a girl he had reconnected with from high school. They had never really known each other growing up, but from the first date, it was clear she was completely and wonderfully someone that he wanted to know. Usually, our obligatory post-date “how’d it go?” was met with a shake of the head. But I remember very clearly that he told me with a smile and without missing a beat that it was absolutely great. And he couldn’t wait to take her out again.
As soon as we all met her, it was clear that they were literally a match made in heaven. Emily was sweet, caring, bright, and funny, and the crazy thing is that her parents and Cameron’s had been friends for years! For two people who are super-big into family, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
But a few months after they began dating, we all received the text one night that made the world stop spinning. Cameron’s newlywed 26-year-old brother had been killed in a car wreck, and the story was devastating beyond belief. With Emily by his side, Cameron and his parents sat in the front row of the funeral service, and through their grief and tears celebrated a life well-lived. And the hope that they would make it through, and one day see him again.
It has been a long year and a half since that day, full of ups and downs. But this weekend, we gathered in the same church with the same friends for what felt like a profoundly good reunion — Cameron and Emily got married! He was all smiles, she was radiant, and there was not a dry in the house as they said their vows after such a long wait. My friends and I were all happy teary wrecks, but somehow I held it together to sing our classic song with his old vocal instructor who sent us that recommendation letter long ago. But the musical highlight of the wedding was when — you guessed it — Cameron gave a surprise serenade to his beautiful bride, singing her a gorgeous version of “Always”. That wedding definitely goes down in the history books as a special, special day.
Now granted, the other hugely memorable moment of the weekend was getting lost on the streets of Joplin as tornado sirens were wailing and people were driving like bats as we couldn’t seem to make it to our hotel. (And then once there, the deafening sirens indoors and the — surprise! — lack of a basement was less than settling.) But the town was spared this time, and we thankfully all made it to the church on time.
But before I left for Joplin, and upon my return home, I have to get back to food blogging and tell you about the most wonderful arugula pesto pasta I made. I’ve made homemade pesto recipes for years and years, and during that time have been a huge fan of arugula, but somehow I had never combined the two into a pesto! I finally decided it was time. So I made a big batch to enjoy right before I left and then take on the road. And then the leftovers were waiting for me upon my return to KC. Let’s just say that if you love arugula, it really is as wonderful (and simple!) as you think it is. A definite new favorite I look forward to reprising again and again.
Cheers to the happy newlyweds, and the good food that’s woven into the heart of good memories.
Cook pasta in generously-salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, pulse together arugula, garlic, 2/3 cup pine nuts, Parmesan and lemon juice in a food processor until combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to pulse the pesto until it is incorporated.
When the pasta reaches al dente, drain the pasta. Then immediately toss with pesto, and remaining pine nuts. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra Parmesan.
This pasta would also be delicious served with grilled shrimp or chicken.
*Clip of “The Prayer” is from Resurrection Live, a recording of a live concert from Church of the Resurrection. Original song by Carol Beyer Seger and David Foster.