Posts Tagged ‘musicians’

Add Hollywood Style Sophistication to Your Ceremony or Cocktail Hour with Boccherini’s Minuet

Portrait of Luigi Boccherini

The Composer and Cellist Luigi Boccherini believed to have been painted around 1768. Courtesy of Dr Gerhard Christmann, Budenheim, Germany

There is one melody that is often used by Hollywood to emphasize a sophisticated atmosphere. That tune is the Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11 by Luigi Boccherini. Harmonious Music also includes the piece, often times referred to as Boccherini’s Minuet, regularly for both wedding ceremony and cocktail hour performances.

This Rococo hit is typically used as background music to depict high society durring the late nineteenth century in period films. It is actually a very fitting use of the music because the song was written while Boccherini was employed by King Carlos III’s brother the infante don Luis de Borbón in Madrid, Spain. In this post Boccherini was paid a handsome stipend of 30,000 reales as a cellist and composer.

The Minuet was written in 1771 as part of Boccherini’s second series of quintets under don Luis’s patronage. Boccherini’s quintets are unique from many other composers because he wrote for two violins, one viola and two cellos. Most other composer’s string quintets utilize two violins, two violas, and one cello. Boccherini’s preference certainly results from the fact that he was a virtuoso cello player in his own right. It is said that he was capable of performing the violin parts of string quartets in their original pitch on cello when musicians fell ill and a substitute was needed.

Luigi’s aptitude on cello was only one motivation for his unique quintet compositions. He had also befriended a family of string players by the name of Font who were also employed by don Luis. This highly esteemed quartet presented the opportunity for Luigi Boccherini to perform his own compositions with a skilled string ensemble on a regular basis.

Although Boccherini was Italian by birth and training, he is considered a Spanish composer. As a result many critics note a Spanish influence in Boccherini’s Minuet. This is especially evident in the original rendition written for string quintet, which utilizes pizzicato and syncopation between the various voices resulting in a guitar like effect. The following recording is a Piano and Violin reduction, which is performed regularly by Harmonious Music.

There is some misinformation floating around the internet indicating that Boccherini was dismissed by don Luis for refusing to change a passage of music. This assertion, however, is erroneous. Boccherini remained in don Luis’ patronage until the Infante’s death in 1785. Tragically in the same year Luigi Boccherini’s first wife Clementina also passed away after suffering a stroke.

The loss of his employer and his wife left Luigi Boccherini in a difficult position because he had suddenly become an unemployed single father of six young children. Fortunately, Luigi Boccerini was offered a pension from three sources, The Real Capilla (Royal Chapel), the Countess-Dukes of Benavente-Osuna and most significantly the appointment of composer to King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II’s court. Shortyly after the death of three of his daughters and his second wife, Boccherini passed away most likely from Tuberculosis in Madrid, Spain during 1805.

Although, the end of Luigi Boccherini’s life was wrought with tragedy, it does not change the fact that most of his earlier works are airy and uplifting. This is particularly true in the case of Minuetto from String Quintet in E, Op. 11. This fine composition properly earns its place as a staple in the films of Hollywood as well as Harmonious Music’s repertoire for wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours. It certainly is suitable for any event in New York’s Hudson Valley where an atmosphere of sophistication is required.

Classical Sheet Music Store in Norwich England

Elkin Music Storefront Norwich

Sign above Elkin Music's storefront at 31 Exchange Street in Norwich England

The English weather has arrived and it is time to move the electronic equipment indoors. Miraculously a music store appears on the horizon. Elkin Music, located at 31 Exchange Street in Norwich, England, is a wonderful surprise.

The music store is of special interest to classically trained musicians because it offers a wide selection of sheet music. They also carry some instruments in their storefront location.

It turns out that the Elkin family has been in the music business for more than a century. Robert Elkin founded Elkin & Co. Ltd. in London originally as a music publishing company. However, it was sold in the 1960s. William Elkin then opened a music distribution business shortly after, hence their amazing selection of classical sheet music.

Some of Elkin Music’s inventory has since become part of Harmonious Music’s repertoire. Particularly a Baroque book nicely arranged for Violin and Piano. The volume is comprised of 12 wonderful short classical dance songs composed by, Telemann, Purcell, Marchand, Bach, Hasse, Rameau, Tartini, Handel, and Lully. We’ve especially enjoy performing this quaint minuet by Johann Sebastion Bach.

Elkin Music was such a joy to be in, that this violinist created a bit of a ruckus. After thumbing through a large fakebook and replacing it on the rack too heavily a substantial vibration was created.  The resulting aftershock lead to a Ukulele falling helplessly on its side near by.

Cue Exit!

Renaissance Wedding Music

Two Newlyweds dance to the sounds of a Violinist during a wedding</br> from the time of the renaissance.

Two Newlyweds dance to the sounds of a Violinist during a wedding from the time of the renaissance.

There were several factors influencing the music that was being performed for weddings in England during the mid to late 1500s and early 1600s. The first major influences were the Protestant Reformation and Puritanical beliefs. Another driving force was the newly emerging educated middle class and its quest to follow the fashions of nobility. All the while newly invented musical instruments were improving sound quality and versatility allowing for more complicated and intricate instrumental music. These conditions set the stage for music to manifest itself in every walk of life during the Renaissance. Therefore, music was certainly an important element for a memorable Renaissance wedding.

By the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the church had become an important part of any marriage. In fact, for a marriage to be legal, the pending union needed to be announced in church on three consecutive Sundays. It is important to understand, though, that in England the church was in a tremendous period of transition. This was a result of Henry VIII’s excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church and his subsequent creation of the Anglican Church. When Queen Elizabeth I rose to power she made a concerted effort to maintain peace in the potentially volatile struggles between Catholics and Protestants. As a result, a group of highly educated Protestants became extremely critical of the Queen’s religious compromises. This group became known as Puritans because they wanted to purify the Anglican Church of Catholicism. Since Marriage was so intrinsically tied to the church, the Puritan’s religious principles managed to manifest itself into most aspects of wedding music.

Once the intention to marry was made public in church through Crying the Banns it was possible to hold a wedding ceremony. Then as now, the first part of a wedding ceremony was the procession. In the time of Renaissance England the procession was a noisy and raucous affair. It began at the bride’s house where the bride would prepare for the ceremony with her bridesmaids. The groom and his family would often meet at the bride’s home and commence the procession following the bride’s family. The procession would then travel to the local church accompanied by musicians who performed on flutes, viols, drums and other “haut” (loud) instruments. Through the first half of the 16th century Bagpipes were also used in processionals and there is documentation of ministers performing on them during the procession. However, by the end of the century the popularity of bagpipes had waned significantly. There are records that indicate that the Puritans objected to the processionals and even brought the matter before Parliament.

The procession would eventually arrive at a Christian worship service that was quite a bit different compared with the customs of today. One of the most noticeable differences would have been the lack of seating. There were no pews, and the congregation stood for the duration of the service.

The Renaissance wedding ceremony was a very solemn service. There would have been little to no music performed during most ceremonies. If music was performed it would have most likely been Madrigal or vocal. The sparse presence of music resulted from the Puritan’s believe that most of the traditional religious music should be discarded. This was largely because the Anglican Church service was to be held entirely in English as opposed to Latin. Unfortunately this has resulted in a great deal of early English sacred music performed in Latin being lost to the sands of time.

The Puritans were also quite vocal about the style of music used in religious services especially when it regarded Polyphony and instrumentation. Polyphony is music with two or more independent melodic parts sounded together. This counterpoint had become the mainstream in music throughout Europe during the Renaissance. The Puritans believed that the gospel sung in polyphony interfered with the congregation’s ability to comprehend the word of God. The Puritans also believed that the use of musical instruments during a church service was an element of Popery. They deemed instrumental music in worship services to be profane leaving the worshipers more interested in the musical performance than in the word of God. This mindset resulted in the removal of 100s of organs from churches by the over zealous reformers throughout England and much of the rest of reformed Europe. Interestingly, though, many smaller organs created by the same craftsman who had previously built instruments for churches began appearing in private homes.

During the Renaissance the chief benefactor to the arts was the Church. Unfortunately, the Puritans pious and hard-nosed stance on sacred music created a great void in the labor market for instrumental musicians. Many of the most talented musicians were forced to work abroad or even gave up the trade entirely. The performers that managed to scrape by found work performing in weddings for wealthy and middle class families with enough status to ignore the Puritan’s creeds. A select few musicians were lucky, or perhaps talented enough to gain patronage from the extremely wealthy nobility in private chapels. One example of a private house of worship was Queen Elizabeth’s own Chapel Royal. Chapel Royal was the primary venue for several famed Elizabethan era composers including William Byrd.

William Byrd became one of the most renowned composers of the renaissance in England and specialized in music utilizing polyphony. Some of Byrd’s Hymns are still favorites of the Anglican Church today. Although it is unclear whether any of Byrd’s work was actually performed during weddings of the Elizabethan Era, some of his compositions used subject matter directly related to marriage. Two prime examples The Match That’s Made and La Verginella were contained in his 1588 volume Psalms, Sonnets & Songs of Sadness and Piety.

Eight pieces for Virginal by William Byrd were also published in Parthenia, a wedding gift for Elizabeth Stuart who was the daughter of King James I. Parthenia was published between 1611 and 1613 and has the added distinction of being the first published collection of English keyboard music.

Composition II by William Byrd from the Virginal Work, Parthenia. This is an excellent example of the pricksong of the time. Notice the extra number of  lines on the staff and the interesting rythmic markings.

Composition II by William Byrd from the Virginal Work, Parthenia. This is an excellent example of the pricksong of the time. Notice the extra number of lines on the staff and the interesting rythmic markings.

There may have been little or no music performed during Renaissance wedding ceremonies, however, melody filled the air during wedding feasts. The music performed at a feast would have varied widely depending on the social class of the newlyweds.

The newly emerging middle class had an extremely strong appreciation of music. Most nobleman and merchants were able to read pricksong or sheet music. In lieu of video games and television, Elizabethan families would sing and play instruments following dinner in their newly found leisure time. Lutes were by far the most popular instrument and at least one could be found in most middle and upper class homes. Music was so important that if it was found that a dinner guest could not sing pricksong at sight, (sight read) he would be looked at in disdain in many circles and considered to be of unsavory character. With an appreciative audience like this it is easy to understand the importance there would have been in hiring the best professional musicians during a wedding feast.

Any wedding feast, regardless of class, would have included dancing. Dance was a popular form of social exercise. Queen Elizabeth herself would dance every morning. During the English Renaissance dances would be set to a variety of instrumentation including a cappella, instrumental or a combination of both. The Dancers would follow the periods “pop” music, which tended to be Broadside Ballads. One of the period’s most popular broadside dances was called Turkeylony. The following lyrics were printed in 1557 or 1558 and are believed to have been sung along with the Turkeylony melody.

If ever I marry, I’ll marry a maid
To marry a widow I’m sorely afraid;
For maids they are simple, and never will grutch, (grudge)
But widows full oft, as they say, know too much

The dances at wedding feasts for all classes would have most likely been stepped in circles or in rows that could support an unlimited number of participants. However, There were other popular dances of the time that included a fixed number of dancers such as two or three couples.

Although the upper and middle classes did partake in the dances of the commoners, they also had a long list of specialized dances known as Court Dances. Court Dances could be divided into two categories basse which were slower dances or Haute or fast dances. A dance party during the Elizabethan Renaissance would begin with basse dances. Basse Dances were considered “low” dances because the dancers would stay on the ground. As the wedding feast progressed, the music’s tempo would increase to tempos suitable for haute dances. Haute Dances were considered “high” because the dancers would actually skip, hop and jump during them.

The slower basse dances included the Allemagne which was considered the most sentimental court dance, and would have certainly been suitable as the first dance for a pair of newlyweds. The couples partaking in Allemagne or Alman held each others hands through the entire dance. The beauty of this dance didn’t come from fancy steps and flourishes, but rather from its grace and tenderness.

A consort performs on viols at an outdoor renaissance wedding for reveling dancers. Puritan's look on in disdain in the background. Painting by Joris Hoefnagel Fete 1859

A consort performs on viols at an outdoor renaissance wedding for reveling dancers. Puritan's look on in disdain in the background. Painting by Joris Hoefnagel Fete in 1859

At a racier wedding, the married couple might dance a Lavolta, which were written for two people. This haute waltz was one of the most difficult dances because men would lift their dance partner into the air. The leap often caused the lady’s skirt to lift. In some circles this would be far too obscene. The more conservative members of the court were dismayed that a lady’s knees would be shown and in some cases their garter would be revealed. A Fashionable woman who planned to dance the Lavolta would be sure to pick a garter that was adorned with gold or silver. Onlookers would laugh as the newlywed’s grasped and bumped parts of the anatomy that were considered taboo by most. The groom would place his right hand on the bride’s back and his left hand just under her bosom. The groom would then use his thigh to push the bride’s hindquarters further into the air as she twirled. Many preachers and Puritans condemned the Lavolta because it could lead to much debauchery, and at a wedding feast this would certainly be the case.

The peasant or servant class during the time of the Renaissance also was very fond of dancing. There isn’t a great deal known about the daily lives of the peasant class, however, their dances eventually became popular with the nobility as well. As a result there is a fair amount of documentation regarding the peasant “country dances.” Some of the dances that found their way into noble society included Brawls, Gavottes, Jigs, hornpipes and reels.

Many of the peasant wedding customs were passed down from pagan traditions. One key example of this would be Morris Dance. Morris Dances were especially associated with May Day or May 1st, but they were also common at country wedding feasts. The May Day celebration originated in England as far back as the time of the Druids. The tradition continued with the Roman occupation of England as it became a time of praise for the God of Spring, Flora. The May Day tradition had further evolved by the time of the renaissance due to many centuries of European conflation and conflict. As a result a new set of characters was associated with Morris dance. They included the Queen or Lady of May, a Jester, A Piper, and up to six Morris Dancers.

The Piper in a Morris Dance would have most likely been a Pipe and Tabor player. The pipe and tabor was perhaps the earliest version of the “one man band.” The “pipe” in this case was a home made three holed whistle or flute played using the thumb, index and middle fingers. While the performer blew away on the pipe, he would pound out a lively beat using a stick on a drum slung over his shoulder called a tabor. It also wasn’t uncommon for other percussionists, fiddlers, harpists and bagpipers to perform during Morris Dances. Although still popular in the lower class during the time of Elizabeth I, the pipe and tabor was quickly being replaced by more modern woodwind instruments in more affluent circles.

Harmonious Music actually still regularly includes a Morris Dance in their wedding ceremony set. The name of the tune is English Country Gardens. Although the ensemble does not include vocals for the performance they are as follows:

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian, lupin and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots
In an English country garden

How many insects come here and go
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Fireflies, moths and bees
Spiders climbing in the trees
Butterflies drift in the gentle breeze
There are snakes, ants that sting
And other creeping things
In an English country garden

How many songbirds fly to and fro
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Bobolink, cuckoo and quail
Tanager and cardinal
Bluebird, lark, thrush and nightingale
There is joy in the spring
When the birds begin to sing
In an English country garden

Other variations of Morris Dances would include the use of a “Hobby Horse.” A Hobby Horse was a man wearing a wicker frame in the shape of a horse. He would prance around and mimic the movements of an actual horse. In some versions another person would wear a similar costume intended to resemble a dragon. The Hobby Horse Knight would then slay the Dragon reenacting the story of St. George.

The Morris Dancing at spring wedding feasts took place around the May Pole. The May Pole was another relic of England’s pagan past and most likely originated in Germany. It was a large tree of varying sizes sunk into the ground. This giant post would be painted and adorned with flowers and wreathes. The May Pole was considered a phallic symbol, and dancing around it was actually a fertility right. Visitors to modern renaissance fairs will watch dancers weave ribbons around the May Pole. However, this tradition did not start until the 19th century as England reexamined its “Merry-Old” past. Puritans despised the May Pole believing May Pole dancing to be a form of idol worship. As a result, it was banned in England by the Mid-Sixteen hundreds.

Conclusion

Although, the customs were somewhat different, there are still many parallels between music that was performed in religious and wedding ceremonies from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the contemporary United States. Currently, as houses of worship struggle to maintain membership many are stripping away the more traditional music in favor of more contemporary sounds. However, customs and traditions still remain varied in the United States, often depending on socio-economic conditions and religious and cultural differences. Meanwhile, the innovations of electricity and the resulting modern instruments such as electric guitars and MIDI keyboards continue to push the use of music in wedding ceremonies to new heights.

Sources

Music from the Age of Shakespeare: A Cultural History
by Suzanne Lord

William Byrd’s Fall From Grace and his First Solo Publication of 1588: A Shostakovian “Response to Just Criticism”?
By Jeremy L. Smith

William Byrd: The Collected Works of William Byrd.
Edited by Edmund. H. Fellowes

http://www.elizabethan.org/compendium/62.html

http://celyn.drizzlehosting.com/mrwp/mrwed.html

http://www.archive.org/stream/popularmusicofol01chapuoft/popularmusicofol01chapuoft_djvu.txt

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/lod/vol2/ecd_16th.html

http://www.hago.org.uk/free/country-garden/lyrics/

The lute in Britain: a history of the instrument and its music
By Matthew Spring

Courtly Dance of the Renaissance: A New Translation and Edition of the Nobilitá di Dame (1600)
By Fabrito Caroso, Julia Sutton, F. Marian Walker

The Lute Books of Ballet and Dallis Music and Letters Journal
by H. Macaulay FitzGibbon

Popular Music of the Olden Time Vol. 1
by William Chappell

Shakespeare’s Songbook Vol. 1
by Ross W. Duffin

DJs Versus Bands at Your Wedding Six Myths DJs Use To Sell You Their Services

Djs Vs Bands Six Myths that DJs Use To try and Sell You Their Services

Djs Vs Bands Six Myths that DJs Use To try and Sell You Their Services Photos courtesy of James Farmer and Professor Alex

If you think that you are better off hiring a DJ instead of  live musicians for your wedding or special event, you should think again. There is a never-ending debate between musicians and DJs regarding which service vendors are better to hire. Most of the arguments that favor DJs are complete myths and this article aims disprove them.

Myth #1 DJ’s Are Capable of Playing a Greater Variety of Music.
This may be the case in some situations, but with modern technology and the use of digital effects that statement is quickly dissipating. In addition, if you know you are seeking a variety of music, most musicians welcome the opportunity to take your requests as an opportunity to add to their own repertoire. I have met very few serious musicians that listen to only one style of music. You probably wouldn’t seriously consider hiring the individuals that fit into this category for a wedding or special event anyway. Besides, most DJs tend to limit their libraries to pop music, so if you have an off the wall request that has a significant importance to your family, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to fulfill it on the spot anyway. Believe it or not, too much variety can actually be a  hindrance to an effective performance. Let me elaborate, not very long ago, I attended an anniversary party. Someone requested the song Dancing Queen. The DJ with his hi-tech computer system, and most likely free downloads, managed to perform some awful techo-remix version that he ended up having to fade out half way through the track because someone literally booed (It wasn’t the author either).

Myth #2 Bands Are Too Expensive.

The same can be said for DJs. I’ve performed in bands with five members laying down tight covers with vocalists that you would swear were the original singer. We often only charged $500 for a public show. The smallest ensemble that Harmonious Music offers only costs $300 for the first hour of performance. The DJs that I see in the New York Metropolitan area charge $1,000 on average. That’s $1,000 in one person’s pocket. Most of the larger bands in the area rates range between $3,000-$5,000.
However, when you hire a musician, you are getting a lot more for your money. Let’s face it, not everyone at your party is going to want to dance. Some of your guests physically aren’t able to dance and some of them just don’t like to, so why not entertain them with a real performance. Live musicians add an extra element that a DJ just can’t provide, and that is multi-person showmanship. At many performances I’ve noticed the majority of the audience just enjoy watching the band perform. Musicians have skills that are easy to appreciate on their own, and the best ones are consummate performers with quick senses of humor, off the wall antics and expressions that aim to impress. You’ve probably been to countless weddings and events where the DJ is annoying at best and rude or inappropriate at the worst. Most DJs have no performance training, while almost all serious musicians take a class somewhere along the line about good showmanship. In fact, the best musicians tend to have studied at least some music in college. When you pay a premium for a live musician, chances are, you are paying in part for their education. How many pro DJs do you know that went to DJ college and came out with a BDJ? Let’s face it, when you hire live musicians you just get a lot more for your money.

Myth#3 A Band Will Be Too Loud for the Size of the Venue
This myth is just plain ridiculous. Most professional event bands can play at any volume. If you hire an ensemble like Harmonious Music that specializes in classical or jazz styles of music, volume is never an issue. In fact, with many classical ensembles, you may run into the opposite problem. That is why Harmonious Music has the equipment and ability to play directly into a PA system. The only time that volume becomes an issue with bands is when they are performing with a drummer. However, once again modern technology has changed this. Most of the serious professional drummers today own an electronic drum set that can be adjusted to any required volume level. Moreover, think of all the events that you have attended that used DJs. Now, at how many of them was the P.A. system cranked so loud that you couldn’t hear the person next to you? Probably most of them, DJs tend to like to show off the power of their equipment. Professional event musicians tend not to play overly loud for a number of reasons.

  • The first is it can damage their own hearing, and that would put them out of a job.
  • Second they understand that the music shouldn’t interfere with the most important aspect of a social event and that is the conversation.
  • Finally, professional event musicians understand that it easier to appreciate music when it isn’t too loud and in your face.

So by planning a correctly sized ensemble  with proper equipment, an event band won’t be too loud for a smaller venue.

Myth #4 DJs Are More Reliable than Bands Because There is Only One Member to Worry About.

Hmmm, let’s do the math here. A one man show gets stuck in traffic or lost on the way to a wedding. What is the likely hood that this person will make it to the beginning of the cocktail hour or reception? None. A band with 3-10 people are on their way to a Wedding there is a traffic jam and a few members get stuck in traffic. What is the likelihood that at least some of the music will start on time. Fairly good. Anyone, even the bride and groom can get stuck in traffic. It’s a fact of life especially around the New York Metropolitan area. However, Harmonious Music has been in the area long enough to know their way around traffic congestion. Harmonious Music, always pads their arrival time by one hour to ensure enough time for proper set up prior to the wedding.
Again, when it comes to reliability professional event musicians depend on their reputation as a large part of their lively hood. They aren’t going to tarnish their reputation by stiffing a client and simply not show up to a Gig. Being the consummate entertainers they are, they truly believe “the Show Must Go On.” I know a drummer who played a show with a broken arm. He didn’t want to risk loosing the gig. I’ve personally played many shows where I was extremely ill. When you are a musician, the concept of calling in sick to work is simply non-existent. I’ve never really heard of a DJ calling in sick either. However, to say one is more reliable than the other simply is unfounded.

Myth #5 A Band Will Need To Take Breaks
O.K. this one isn’t a myth, but it isn’t really an actual issue either. The human body can only do so much repetitive physical activity before it needs to stop or it will start making mistakes. At weddings there are plenty of opportunities for musicians to take breaks. One prime example is just following the cocktail hour while people find their seats to be served dinner. Honestly, music can just add to confusion during this period. It’s easy to stop the music and direct people to their seats. In-fact, you can even have the bandleader make the announcement that dinner is about to be served, just let them know what time to do it. Once everyone is finally seated, hey what-a-ya-know, the band kicks in to its quiet dinner music with volume set at the perfect level for conversation. Another great breaking point for event bands are toasts and speeches this even works at corporate functions, because most of them require awards and announcements too. The band usually needs to give up the microphone for these anyway. Then there are other opportunities during typical wedding traditions after dinner such as cutting the cake, and throwing the bouquet or garter. Hey with a little bit of planning, you can break from the dancing and do these on stage as the band steps down so that everyone can see. Guess what, you are supposed to be the centerpiece of your wedding, shouldn’t everyone be paying attention to you and not distracted by what those amazing performers are doing at these points anyway?
So look at that there really are plenty of opportunities for the band to take breaks and not stop the action at weddings and events after all.

Myth #6 There isn’t enough space for a band.
Now this can be true of a 10-piece band, but there are certainly plenty of ways to book a live band and have them fit into smaller rooms. For example, Harmonious Music can fit its core ensemble into a six foot by four foot area without any problems. Most DJs can’t even fit their gear into an area that small. Think about it, a DJ has a table with speakers on either side plus another table filled with CDs and amplifiers. Most larger dance bands can pare down their set to fit into a surprisingly small area that doesn’t take up anymore space than a DJ would. For example the instrument that tends to take up the most room is the drum set, but most professional drummers possess what is termed a “road set” which can fit into a three or four foot area. The rest of the musicians don’t take up more space than any other adult standing upright. In really tight quarters the guitar, bass, and keyboards can go directly into a Power Amplifier to save space. The short and long of it is DJs require a lot of space also, and a professional band’s past experience has taught them how to use the space provided efficiently to present a brilliant performance.

The Bottom Line
When trying to decide whether to a hire a live band or a DJ it really comes down to what type of atmosphere you want to present to your guests. If you are trying to present an aura of sophistication and elegance then hiring a live band is really a no brainer. The myths listed above can actually work in a hosts favor. For example don’t you want it to look like you spared no expense to entertain your guests and hired a live band? Simply put won’t your guests enjoy watching a stage packed with multiple professional entertainers more than watching someone put a CD into a Drive? Don’t forget that all a DJ is really doing is reproducing the work created by actual musicians, wouldn’t you and your guests prefer to be entertained by the real thing.

Even if you decide that the classical style performed by Harmonious Music is not the proper backdrop for your event, hopefully this article has swayed you to hire a live band instead of a DJ for your wedding or special event.

Once You Get On Stage Anything Can Happen

Violin, Piano Saxophone and flowers

Violin, Piano Saxophone and Flowers — Montage by Eric Ortner

Experienced Musicians learn quickly that you really never know what to expect when you step into the spotlight. You simply must be able to role with the punches and be confident enough to play no matter what happens around you. We had a case in point while performing for Jessica and Jeffery’s cocktail hour on October 17th at Villa Barone in Mahopac in Westchester County, NY.

The caterers had just finished setting the tables and were opening the doors for guests when a tall man with a saxophone walked up to us and said, “Um, are you guys playing here, because I was told that I was supposed to be here at 7 to play the cocktail hour with a keyboardist.”

Self-doubt set in for a fleeting instant, but we had already spoken with Barbara, the bride’s mother and we knew we were in the correct hall. I had a signed contract that stated we were to play the cocktail hour and we’d even been paid in full prior to the performance. He introduced himself as Mark and that he lived in Ossining, NY. He went on to explain that he was brought in by the DJ. We told him he was probably in the wrong room, because Villa Barone is a large establishment. Mark commented that he was sure he was in the correct location and described Barbara in order to verify it. He ran out to find his boss the DJ who was setting up for the reception in another room to figure out what he should do.

By this point the Bride and Groom’s guests were beginning to file in so we opened our set. We usually start out our performances with a few short easier pieces to warm up before moving into the more taxing compositions. As we began the third song Mark came back in with a plate of food and watched us work. As we finished up the tune Blessed Spirits, Mark put his food down and walked over to us with his Saxophone informing that, “I don’t know where he is, he must be running around somewhere. I’m being paid to play here, so do you mind if I sit in.”

I assessed the situation and noticed that the hall was quite full now. I could see Barbara was across the room, but I decided it was best not to stir up any drama with her or Mark.  I thought to myself, well I suppose Dave Mathews Band arranges with Sax and Violin, if this guy is any good it probably won’t sound awful. So I said, “Sure. Can you read music?”

Mark looked down at the music, which was Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons at this point in our set and asked, “I suppose this stuff is all written in C, huh?” I momentarily forgot that Saxophones are tuned to B flat and said, “Oh you want something in C, O.K. We should probably start playing something easier anyway to make sure this is going to work out first.”

I flipped through the pages of my binder looking for something less complicated in C and found an early American composition by the name of Elegance and Simplicity. I put the bow to violin and began to count it off.  To my amazement Mark blew through that tune sight reading, and didn’t miss a single note. I commented, “Wow, way to go! I guess we can try something harder.”

Mark replied, “Yea, it’s not really the site reading that’s hard for me. It’s just a little tough because I have to transpose everything from B Flat.”

We went back to Spring and performed it. We really lucked out in this situation because Mark was a phenomenal saxophonist. He proceeded to play through Spring and Autumn of the Four Seasons, with about 95% accuracy sight reading the music while transposing every note.

The next song in the set following The Four Seasons was a composition entitled Allegro from Pièces de Clavecin Op. 1 by Joseph-Hector Fiocco. I looked down at the page and saw that it was blackened with 16th notes and remembered that this tune just flies by as you run through it. Moreover one stumble on any section and it was next to impossible to get back on track. So I looked over at him and said, “You better sit this one out.” He agreed and said, “I’m going to go find the DJ.”

We were on the last page of the Fiocco when Mark walked back in. He listened patiently and applauded as we finished up the tune. He then grabbed his sax and stand and said, “Well I spoke with DJ and he told me he just wanted me to play a few songs with you guys, so I guess I’ll see you later.“

I don’t think the guests really had any clue what had just transpired before them. It’s not every day that you hear classical tunes performed in an arrangement of Sax, Violin and Piano and especially not one that had never been rehearsed. As far as I’m concerned, they just received a once in a lifetime amazing and impromptu performance by three accomplished musicians who know that you’re never really sure what to expect in show business.

The Ancient Roman Wedding Processional

Many of today’s wedding traditions base their origins from the customs of Ancient Rome. A key example is the Wedding Processional. However, many of the Roman’s customs have changed quite a bit over the past 2,000 years.

In ancient days, the Roman wedding processional began at the bride’s house where the wedding vows were exchanged. The deductio in domum mariti or pompa, procession, was a necessary part of the Roman wedding ceremony, it publicly acknowledged the rites of marriage and anyone in the community was allowed to join in the procession as it moved to the groom’s home.

Music was certainly a part of the processional. The groom would take part in singing the Fescennine verses. A surviving specimen of the Fescennines used at weddings is the Epithalamium of Manlius. These verses are distinguished by their licentiousness.

The groom would also take part in lighting a wooden torch called a  Spina Alba from the bride’s hearth. At the door of the bride’s house, the bride and groom would re-enact the scene of the seizure of the Sabine women. The bride would clutch her mother’s arms, only to be pried away by the groom.

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. courtesy New York Public Library

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. Courtesy New York Public Library

The bride was then escorted by three boys as she traveled to the groom’s home. One of the boys would hold the Spina Alba.  Priests would lead the bride to her future home followed by her family, friends, musicians and slaves. The slaves would carry gifts that would no doubt be needed for the bride’s new life.

As the bride processed, her guests and on lookers would take part singing the hymen hymenaee, and shouted Talasio, or other crude jokes. Hymen Hymenaee is an epithalamium or bridal song. It was to be sung by a chorus of youths and maidens singing alternately, but not always with precisely equal stanzas. The youth would sing sections praising the Hesperus and marriage, while the maidens would recite the stanzas pertaining to the fears and sorrows of surrendered maidenhood.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on syrinx and aulos, and tympani.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on aulos, Cymbalum or cymbals and tympani.

The procession was often accompanied by musicians performing on, flutes, pan-pipes, syrinx and aulos (reed instruments), the kithara (a Greek lyre), and tympani (early tambourine). It is interesting to note that musicians in the time of Ancient Rome held low social position, although, they sometimes enjoyed public patronage and even imperial patronage.

The groom would need to arrive at his home to greet the bride as she arrived so the procession would split into two parts giving the groom time to arrive home first. Once the bride arrived the torches were thrown away and the bride would rub the doorway with oil and hang wool over the door. She was then lifted over the threshold. It is believed that the threshold was sacred to the goddess Vesta and stepping on it could lead to infertility. The Ancient Romans were also very superstitious and should the bride trip while walking through the door it would have been a sign that ill fortune would be ahead for the marriage.

Resources:

http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-life/roman-weddings.htm

http://www.jstor.org/pss/3297312

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fescennine_Verses

http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/ancientweddings7.html

http://www.wedthemes.com/ancient-roman-wedding.shtml

http://www.aug.edu/~cshotwel/2001.Rome.htm