Why are strings the preferred instruments for fancy events?

October 11, 2021, 11:28 AM · I was just watching some anime – yes, I watch anime – and there was a fancy party scene. Surprise, surprise! The background music was played by a string quartet.

This is actually a rather accurate representation of real life (rather rare in anime), so I was just thinking about it.

Why are they the preferred instruments for such events? Do strings automatically sound fancier than other instruments? Or do we perceive them as fancy BECAUSE they are commonly used for fancy events?

I'd really love to hear(read?) all your opinions.

Thank you in advance for responding to the idle curiosity of a fellow violinist.

Replies (21)

October 11, 2021, 11:37 AM · They have the advantage of being portable and not too loud.
Edited: October 11, 2021, 11:54 AM · I think that to some, it suggests "high culture".

Funny thing though: Despite being a professional in the stringed instrument trade, for my wedding, I hired a superb high trumpet player along with an organist who really knew their way around a real pipe organ. There were no string players.

At one of my niece's weddings, there was a string quartet which was decent, but not all that good. I wish my sister had consulted me. But I bet most other attendees didn't notice, since the string quartet was much better than horrible. ;-)

October 11, 2021, 11:58 AM · If you are speaking of background music for a reception where the guests are mingling I think winds would bee too loud.
October 11, 2021, 12:32 PM · David, the quartet usually plays at the reception, not at the church ceremony (though there is no rule against that as far as I know).

The requirement for playing at a reception (or similar ceremonial events) is simple and you put it eloquently: better than horrible. Anything better than that would make people listen to the music and distract them from the required proper socializing. We can't have that!

Edited: October 11, 2021, 12:51 PM · The music, and the players I chose were for the marriage ceremony, not the reception. There was no music at the the reception, with the possible exception of a treasured old hillbilly friend or two whistling "Dixie" or somethin'. LOL

Funny thing: The formal music at the ceremony had these hillbillys saying that this was the best wedding they had ever attended, and they specifically mentioned attributing that to the music.

October 11, 2021, 12:55 PM · Because no one actually likes string quartet music, so if you act like you really get it, it's a good way to signal that you're smarter than everyone else.

I'm an exception, of course, who just came out of the womb humming the Grosse Fugue.

October 11, 2021, 12:55 PM · Stephen, you're so right about that. No one wants their conversation to get drowned out by the music.

I would personally pick a pianist for my own wedding, though. There's only one person to pay. ;)

October 11, 2021, 12:58 PM · The sound of string ensembles carries fairly well without being overbearing, for one thing. I think strings don't become "tiring to listen to" as quickly as winds - I realize I'm biased as a string player, but it is also far more common to have "string orchestra" concerts for a paying public than "wind ensemble". So much classic great music from Vivaldi to Bach to Haydn and Mozart, etc. are for string ensembles. Plus, the quartet can almost "play anything". It is common for our quartet to start the ceremony prelude with baroque and classical material, play a custom song for the bride's entrance, then play a mixture of pop, songbook standards, and a few classical or opera pieces for the cocktail hour.
October 11, 2021, 1:02 PM · And Mike, I'm not ashamed of my habit of watching anime.

There are other habits I'm not so proud of, though...

*looks away*

October 11, 2021, 1:21 PM · Just an observation that the strings are always at the front of the orchestra too. Nobody puts the string sections in the back and all of the horns and woodwinds in the front. Evidently violins and cellos are more "presentable."
October 11, 2021, 1:29 PM · Of course. Violins and cellos don't have spit valves.
October 11, 2021, 2:39 PM · @David Burgess - good one!
October 11, 2021, 2:51 PM · David the violins and cellos also don't have whole pages of rests, either, like the trombones sometimes do. LOL
October 11, 2021, 2:54 PM · Musical wallpaper. If we're lucky we could get two or three wedding guests listening to the quartet as an excuse to escape from the conversation. We may also get the chance to perform to a silent congregation during the ritual "signing of the register".
October 11, 2021, 3:29 PM · @Steve Jones many years ago we had an amazing experience - we were in the beautiful old San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque for a wedding. During the prelude, we started playing the Andante Cantabile from Tchaikovsky's first quartet, and as we played, the talking got quieter and quieter until it was absolutely silent in there for the 2nd page lullaby section with the violin solo and the "heartbeat" pizzicatos. We were all very moved by it. It is always gratifying to realize you are "reaching" someone, and usually it is just one person or maybe a few. Here, it was everyone in the church. I'll never forget that!
October 11, 2021, 7:42 PM · Greetings?
Becky, is ‘anime’ (as in the Japanese ) now being used as a general term for cartoons/animation or do you particularly enjoy Japanese anime?
Cheers,
Buri
October 12, 2021, 1:57 AM · @Karl - we played that piece at a church in Edinburgh!
October 12, 2021, 9:07 AM · Dear Buri,

I used the term to mean Japanese animation (in fact, I think everyone does). And yes, I do particularly enjoy Japanese anime.

Don't judge me (too much).

;)

October 12, 2021, 9:08 AM · @Steve

Wallpaper can sometimes be very nice to look at. :)

October 12, 2021, 11:20 AM · Karl--

When I was at Blue Hill, groups would get farmed out to local restaurants and other venues to warm up before their performances. We ended up doing the slow movement of the Franck quintet-- music so fragrant, erotic, French and decadent that Franck's wife slapped him after hearing it-- in a nearby Baptist church. A very plain, white Baptist church with a real old-time guest minister.

They all loved it.

Edited: October 14, 2021, 12:02 AM · My main playing job is as a Mariachi fiddler(!). Trumpets, violins, guitars, and singers. We do a lot of weddings, both the church service and the receptions, and for dances, Polkas, Waltzes, Cumbias, Paso-dobles, "zapateados". We have our own set of music for the mass, and I usually get asked to do the Schubert Ave Maria, solo. Our music works for both low-brow and posh events, foreground or background.


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