Right after the Labor Day debacle when Johnny got restricted from visiting me, Johnny invited me to sing several things with him for a gig at his niece Lucy’s wedding in Santa Cruz. He first asked me to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song dear to the bride-to-be, which I had recorded on my CD “Paris,” and to sing “Ingenue,” which I had just written about falling in love with Johnny himself. He mentioned including Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” and Alan Toussaint’s “New Love Thing,” which we had been singing together.

But on Friday September 7th, eight days before Lucy’s wedding, he sent me a long list of songs to sing back-up on, some of which I did not know, some of which I had never heard. I immediately requested lyrics and details via email. He said breezily, “You’ll do fine.”

Fast forward to the rehearsal on Tuesday. Johnny had asked me to rehearse at his house, to go over all of the parts before his band came to rehearse with us. He booked two and a half to three hours for us to go over all of the parts.

Now, I have a reasonably good ear and I have sung most of my life, starting with singing along with records as a small child. I have two primary harmony-singing traditions: I have done a lot of choral singing where you sing fixed parts from written music and you have weekly rehearsals to go over your parts. I also sing with groups of folk musicians where we all improvise harmonies when we are not leading a song and singing the melody.

Rehearsing parts with Johnny was something else again. He either sang a harmony line for me, played it on his guitar, or used some combination of singing and playing to produce the line. He expected me to learn a harmony line, reproduce it in perfect rhythm, memorize it and then go on to learning the next line in that song, or the first harmony line in a different song. The only thing I had to rely on was my musical memory. Also, I was working in genres that I didn’t sing in — R&B, for example.

Johnny spoon-fed me lines for a few hours. Many different lines. I struggled to jam them all into my head. And then he started to complain about my vocal tone, that it didn’t match his. “You don’t sound like a soul singer,” he said.

“Excuse me?,” said the voice in my head. “I never said I was a soul singer. Hello! I’m a white girl, soprano in the upstairs choir, folk musician.”

I had been working hard to please Johnny, but I was working in unfamiliar territory. I tried again. Once we had gone through all of my parts we started singing the songs.

After awhile, Johnny said, “I’m not feeling it. You can stay for rehearsal if you want, or you can go home. Your choice.”

I felt abruptly dismissed. My thoughts raced. “Is he really cutting me from the gig? Am I not going to sing at all at the wedding? What about ‘Fire?’ What about ‘our song?’”

Drawing a deep breath and pushing aside my emotions, I said, “I have a question.”

He looked at me.

“Do you want me to sing on anything?”

“That’s a good question. You can sing on ‘Fire’ and on ‘Center of the World.’ You’ll have to stay for rehearsal.”

Just like that my participation went from a dozen or more complicated parts to the ones I knew in the first place.

The conflict did not end there. We began to rehearse “Fire,” which we had sung together informally a couple of times. I was singing on the tag line and then full out on the third verse, “Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah…” I sang the part the way I always had, with a rising inflection on the second syllable of “Delilah,” the same way you say the name: De-LI-lah.

Johnny keyed in on that word. He asked me to stay on one note for all three syllables.

I tried it. I didn’t like it. I argued for my position. “I’m singing it the way you say it. De-LI-lah.”

“The note’s not in the chord.”

Oh, give me a break! Technically, I was singing a suspension. I didn’t think to say that. Suspensions are common one-note variations from chords that add drama or tension (and resolution when you move off of them). I am an intuitive singer and was singing what felt right to me in the harmony line. Johnny had never objected to my singing the word that way before. When not bound by written music I was used to choosing the notes I wanted to sing.

Johnny didn’t like my line. I didn’t like his. I gave in and sang it his way because I like the song and I liked singing it with Johnny.

Next, we worked out a cue for me to come in on the third verse, which came after an extended guitar solo and some schtick Johnny did vamping over it. We agreed on the cue.

Meanwhile, the band came in, all smiles, greeted each other, set up and began to play. Johnny came alive and on fire during rehearsal. The musicians laughed, joked with each other, called out low-key compliments. I sat listening with one hand over my left ear because the drums were too loud for me to bear, feeling increasingly alienated: the band sounded good, was having a good time, grooved together — I was the odd one out.

When it came time to sing “Fire,” Johnny forgot to cue me and I missed my entrance to verse three. I pointed out that he had forgotten to cue me and he cued me the next time. We sang the song and moved on. No one said a word to me. Not “nice voice.” Not, “Nice to hear the harmony.”

The rehearsal went on into the night. At one point, Johnny called a short break and maneuvered me into the hallway. “What do you think?,” he asked.

“I’ve been thinking how different we are,” I said.

This was already an old conversation between us, only usually he said “We’re so different” and I’d laugh and say “I was just thinking how much alike we are.”

I might have added, “I don’t belong here.” I was certainly feeling that.

Johnny looked puzzled, then hurt. He shone with excitement. “Did you notice the guitar solos? I played every one differently for you. Did you hear me put your name in “Cripple Creek?”

I hadn’t been following the guitar solos. I rarely did: music, for me, is about lyrics and melody and harmony. And I hadn’t heard my name in “Cripple Creek,” maybe because I didn’t know the song and maybe because I had my hand over my ear to ameliorate the sound of the over-loud drums.

Johnny said, “I’ll talk to you later” and went back to rehearsing. When the evening broke up I got a ride home from Patrick the bass player. I told him how frustrated I was: “I can’t learn several parts in a few hours.”

“Of course not,” he said.

Later Johnny and I rehashed the whole rehearsal from my feeling that I might as well not exist in that context to his feeling that I wasn’t happy for him. I was happy for him: it’s just hard to sit through a multi-hour rehearsal when you don’t feel included or appreciated. I saw Johnny in his element no question and I couldn’t see where or how I fit in. We didn’t go over my musical numbers with the band, other than “Fire”: “Hallelujah” and “Ingenue” would be solo performances for me while the band was on break. In fact, while I was onstage singing a love song for Johnny at the wedding, Johnny was having a conversation with the wedding officiant. I told him that I had looked out in the crowd for him while I was singing, “Here I am falling, falling for you,” only to see him talking to someone rather than listening to me.

Johnny told me he had picked out a spot from which to listen to me sing and the wedding guy had found him and button-holed him with questions about the schedule. I don’t know why he couldn’t have said “Shh. That’s my girlfriend onstage. I’ll be with you in five.”

A month after the wedding I got me and Johnny a gig to play at The Arlington cafe in Kensington on December 21st. I wrote in a Facebook publicity announcement “Johnny Harper, the great and powerful, and Sharyn Dimmick, the small and meek (well, small anyway) will be playing at The Arlington. You heard Johnny at Cur-Ville, now come hear him sing with his new love thing in bucolic Kensington, California.” I had hopes for us as a duet act as well as for us as a couple, despite the emergence of early differences.