It's one thing to show up and play the wedding, and it's another to contract it. Anna, whose gorgeous wedding I played for a week ago Saturday, has been calling me for nearly a year as we have made plans for this day.
It's taken me some years to get this down to a science, but I'm pretty comfy now with being the contractor that hires the quartet for a wedding.
Here's how it goes. About four months ago, I sent the bride an incredibly elaborate contract. I have found this to be essential. It helps both parties know exactly what the terms of payment are, when the musicians are to play, for how long, on what date and where. I even have thrown a few things in there about having four straight-back chairs, a tent for shade if the wedding is outdoors, a cancellation policy, a deposit payment, and contingency plans for if they want the quartet to play for longer than the contract says.
The deposit is generally half the total the quartet will be paid, and the contract allows them to get it back if a cancellation is made a month or more in advance. If they cancel less than a month in advance, I keep the deposit.
Remembering gigs at which musicians who never met each other loudly introduce themselves, I set about hiring people I enjoy working with two months in advance.
That helps avoid the potential embarassment of musicians who have never met introducing each other at the front of the church, “Oh, so glad to MEET you! Where in town do you live? Or really? I can't believe I've never ever run into you! Wow, well..”
You know, this does make the bride a little nervous. Or at least I'm projecting that it could. Sometimes it's just necessary; the people you work with most often are all doing other gigs, and you have to hire three other reliable people. Non-musicians can get a little unnerved by this; they may not understand that this is perfectly acceptable in our little music world; that any professional musician can sight read (and possibly play by memory) wedding music.
At any rate, I lucked out, and three good friends who I know well from orchestra were able to play for this, making it much less stressful. I knew they would show up, and they'd show up on time. When sitting in the contractor's seat, this winds up being just as important, if not more important, than knowing that they play well. And they do play well, too!
Then there is the matter of the music, which I papered with Post-Its so that everyone would know what to play and when. Of course, at the last minute, I changed my mind and we ended up playing different versions anyway!
After this wedding, though, I can heartily recommend Matt Naughtin's arrangements for string quartet, and in particular The Wedding Album. I've had them for some time, but I've been a little slow to start using them, as they include a bit of the unexpected. That's exactly what we enjoyed about them today. We played Matt's version of Meditation from Thais, which was lovely. And his Pachelbel Canon arrangement includes the following note to the cellist: “The variations in this part are intended to prevent cellists lapsing into a comatose state midway through the piece. If strict authenticity is desired, the first four bars may simply be repeated 28 times.”
That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
And yet, it never fails to move people on such occasions. Congratulations to Anna and Jeremy, and thank you for having a string quartet at your wedding!
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