I found myself under this willow tree recently – a last minute venue change from city to country due to the pandemic. It’s the only wedding I’ve played in 2020 – with one or two scattered to the fall, most have either cancelled completely or pushed to next year.
I was alone this day and staked my claim on a few square feet, easily maintaining social distance. (Actually – this is probably where I would have set up anyway, pandemic or not.)
Venues are fun to explore, in general, and I’m in Pleasant View, Tennessee, at The Barn at Murphey Farm. Here are the perks, and honestly I don’t know that anyone would turn these down. Ticking all the boxes, and musician-friendly, that’s for sure.
flat ceremony lawn
lawn leads directly into barn for cocktail hour and/or reception
shade from a gorgeous willow tree
ample woodsy photo ops
a red barn
PA not necessary for ceremony
The client left much of the music selection to me, so I played a few favorite movie themes, including the Love Theme from the film Cinema Paradiso, composed by Ennio Morricone.
Morricone had a hugely successful career as a composer for film in Hollywood, spanning many years and several academy awards, writing themes that have become famous alongside the films themselves. His themes translate well across instrumentation, and make great selections for preludes, unity candle/meditations, processionals – I’ve fit them just about anywhere.
Here’s my stripped down solo version direct from our living room and other interpretations with fuller instrumentation. I like Chris Botti’s and then Itzhak Perlman’s with orchestra.
Movie themes are more popular than ever these days – many are a good fit for solo violin as well as string quartet or trio. If you like these and are thinking of movie themes for your ceremony, I recommend checking out more of Morricone’s work. Happy listening and stay safe!
We’ve grown so accustomed to playing outdoors that set-up seems to come naturally – but in reality, there are lots of details that need to fall into place before the wedding music starts to play! Outdoor venues have expansive settings, long aisle walks, and multiple ceremony configurations to suit your taste. No matter which direction we’re facing, we want to make sure Jet Set Strings conveys both excellent sound and music timing for your day.
Matching Music to Setting
I was in a wedding music planning meeting with a client this summer, and she commented on the length of the popular wedding piece Canon in D. It became clear to me that she was trying to match the length of the piece of music with the processional down the aisle, and it just wasn’t matching up. She was totally correct – it’s a long piece, and we’ll never get to the end of it. The wedding party always makes it down first, and we make an adjustment based on their arrival. Thus, there are many points within pieces of music that serve as an ending – the phrase ‘fade out’ is used a lot – but technically, we musicians try to find a point within the structure of the piece that sounds like an ending.
A Seventy Foot Aisle is No Problem
In this particular client’s case, the aisle was seventy feet, and this is well within the safety zone of Canon in D – rest assured we’ve got plenty to play; in our own rehearsals, we review passages within the music that would be great ending or returning points if the setting dictates that we need more music.
Here’s my day-of check list tweaked for outdoor weddings, always keeping in mind the expansive outdoor venue and timing of the music for a seamless ceremony flow. By this time, all wedding music has been selected by the client and matched with specific parts of the ceremony. You’ve also shared with us exactly how many are in the wedding party, how many family members will be seated, and other special details about your ceremony.
It’s go time – we want to make your day the best it could possibly be!
1. Arrive at least 45 minutes in advance, and know venue parking options prior to arrival.
2. Transport gear to ceremony site. At this point, I’m looking for the armless chairs.
3. Assess the space: Is there a clear aisle? What’s the approximate length? Where will the wedding party enter? Is the ground surface relatively flat? What about angle of the sunset or cloud cover? How’s the wind? Am I going to need my plexiglass clips to keep music from flying off my music stand?
4. Locate wedding coordinator, planner team or venue staff and wave a big hello across the lawn (of course!).
5. Ask about any preference for Jet Set’s location, and if there are designated areas for gear & case storage.
6. Discuss music cues and touch base about ceremony flow. Is there a person who will cue me to start the music?
7. Once I’ve said hello & checked in, arrange our armless chairs in a semi-circle at the most level ground that I can find. Most often, we are to the left front or right front of the ceremony chairs in outdoor settings.
8. Situate my chair with direct line of sight to processionals and with ease of sight line to any music cues.
9. Watch out! Have instrument close to me and protected at all times. Tons of potential for falling objects, event gear and elements of nature to collide with my violin.
10. Heads up for my awesome team, who I see now coming across the lawn with instruments and gear.
11. Keep an eye out for the officiant. Inquire about the presentation – an important detail for the wedding music. Some officiants present the couple and send them right off, but others may have a blessing or a few words after the presentation. We want to wait and start the music at the right moment.
12. If amplification is provided by the client, introduce myself to the A/V tech.
13. Set up my music stand with the rest of the Jet Set team, now that we’re all seated and configured. Tune our instruments together, clip music into place, and turn on stand lights if necessary.
14. Drink water.
15. Work with the tech on mic placement as a team, and then sound check.
16. Drink water.
17. Smile 🙂
18. Survey the venue, seated and ready as the first guests begin to arrive.
La Rejouissance (G.F. Handel) from Music for the Royal Fireworks Jet Set Strings
This weekend, Jet Set Strings played as a quartet, and I had the opportunity to choose wedding music from our Baroque repertoire. Even though the Baroque is part of the larger Classical genre, it’s a subset that was written between about 1600-1750. The list is long, but some of the big players in the composing world were Handel, Corelli, Bach, Telemann, Purcell, Rameau, Vivaldi and Pachelbel (Canon in D). Technically, the progression goes like this: Renaissance music, then the Baroque, then the Classical. In today’s terms, when clients are looking for the Classical sound for their wedding, it includes all below. One of my faves is La Rejouissance. It was part of a suite to accompany fireworks in London in 1749, and yesterday in 2016, I put it in the prelude. It would also be a good exit/recessional piece for a wedding ceremony – it’s a celebration!
Prelude: Menuetto (Corelli) La Réjouissance (Handel) Passacaile (Handel) Corrente (Corelli) Air (Handel) 2 Minuets (Bach) Largo from Winter (Vivaldi)
Seating of the Mothers: Flower Duet from Lakme (Delibes)
Bridesmaids: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bach)
Bride: Canon in D (Pachelbel)
Hymns: For the Beauty of the Earth Blest Be the Tie that Binds
It’s no wonder that Canon is one of the most requested pieces of music at weddings – it makes all of the ‘best of’ lists, it’s on every classical music hit list, and the chord progression and melody itself have been worked into many pop songs and commercials. Jet Set Strings even has an arrangement of Piano Man in which Canon sneaks in at the end – to which one of my cellist colleagues said “I knew it! I knew I couldn’t get through a wedding without playing Canon!” So there you have it – Canon + Billy Joel in a modern day mash up. Whatever or wherever you choose the Canon, or if you don’t choose it at all, it’s the opening phrase that has come to accompany life’s important moments and hush the fidgety crowd for so many brides. It works, trust me.
As musicians we all have a little fun with it – in the string quartet, the cellist has the 8-note phrase, played over and over again, 28 times through. Repeat, repeat, repeat. On top of the cellist’s 8 note phrase are the two violins and viola, playing the melody line in a round. What we play now is very close to the original; he wrote it for a bass instrument and 3 treble (violins). The Piano Guys also have a humorous take with one of their recent recordings.
No doubt Pachelbel knew what he was doing back in about 1680, although the Canon was one of thousands of works that he completed during this lifetime. He was a composer of the High Baroque, and left quite the framework for Bach, Mozart and many, many of the later classical composers. Even though we solely identify him with Canon, I don’t even think there’s a system yet to categorize his volume of work. (For example, with Mozart’s, someone came along and numbered and categorized them, which is why each of them begins with a K. followed by a number).
Since then, countless ears have taken the Canon and adapted it, rearranged it; and then musicians played it with different configurations of instruments, sang it, played in on street corners, played it in churches, and played it for friends. I’ve played it with my quartet, with piano, with accordion (my husband Jeff Jetton graciously took over those 8 famous notes), and as a solo.
If you do want the Canon, I am at your service! And even if you don’t, know that the famous framework may just be the foundation of some of your dance-grooving favorites at the reception.