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Wedding ceremonies and receptions in Cambridgeshire

By | fedora strings, fedora strings performance, planning your wedding, tour dates | No Comments

Last week our wedding string quartet played for a  reception at the home of the bridegroom’s parents – a beautiful house in Cambridgeshire. There were around 100 guests and we were booked to play for three hours to accompany drinks and the wedding breakfast. A spacious marquee had been set up in the garden and was attractively decorated with lighting that enhanced the happy, celebratory atmosphere.

wedding

The bride and groom had suggested we play mainly classical string ensemble pieces, focusing on baroque and romantic, and asked if we could finish with music from West End shows.   We started with selections from Handel’s Water Music, Vivaldi’ s Seasons and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3  – all very popular – and moved on to include well known arias from Italian operas  and music by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and Debussy. Our show selection featured songs  from Les Miserables, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof  and West Side Story.

It was a lovely occasion. perhaps especially as the venue was so relaxed and personal, and it was a pleasure for us to perform the wonderful string quartet repertoire in such a delightful setting and with such an appreciative audience.

Fabulous cellists!

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One of the great advantages of You Tube is being able to see and hear other wonderful musicians play, and recently I’ve found two stunningly good cellists who I love listening to: David Finckel and William Molina Cestari. Cestari makes a beautiful sound, phrases expressively, looks like he’s really enjoying the music and has a touch of the hero from The Mask of Zorro about him. I especially like his performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, which is one of my favourite pieces and has a fiendishly difficult cello part.  David Finckel is the cellist in the Emmerson Quartet but gives a lot of solo recitals as well and you can see why, as both his playing and his rapport with his pianist are superb. He’s recently posted 100 short Cello Talks on You Tube. These are particularly suitable for professionals and discuss the problems of concert hall projection and getting used to different acoustics, lighting and seating in a performance situation.

But they’re also useful for students  and  give insight into a professional musician’s life – weird though it probably seems to be to the outside world.  Of course everyone’s approach is slightly different and what works for one person isn’t always effective for another. Nevertheless, if you’re a cellist these videos are well worth viewing.

 

Should I Choose a Wedding Quartet, Trio, Duo or Solo?

By | fedora strings performance, planning your wedding | 2 Comments

In the same way that platinum, gold, silver and precious stones symbolise the qualities of strength and eternity, classical music – which has already stood the test of time – is  ideal for a wedding ceremony; and string instruments, which  are the closest to the human voice, have the potential to be the most expressive and sensitive.

But what’s the difference between a quartet, trio, duo or solo? Well, most of the string quartet repertoire  can be played in all combinations. While quartets have the fullest sound,  most people  are unlikely to notice much  difference between the texture of a quartet and a trio. A duo has a distinct quality of its own, but the duo arrangements at Fedora Strings are quite virtuosic, with both parts having lots of extra notes to compensate for the missing players, so the music will still sound sonorous and rich.

For some people the intimacy of a solo line enhances the occasion  and Bach’s Prelude for unaccompanied cello or Bach’s Partita for solo violin has sometimes been requested for the bride’s entrance or the signing, even when we are playing as a quartet. Overall, the tunes that are best for a solo are clear and straightforward, and don’t rely too much on the background harmonies or rhythms for their impact: Londonderry Air and other folk music such as The Dancing Master are good examples of this. Having said that, solo arrangements of complex baroque pieces can also be surprisingly effective, and I’ve performed Pachelbel’s Canon and Arrival of the Queen of Sheba for solo cello at weddings in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and it’s worked well, although it’s obviously a bit different from the full quartet version!

Of course budget and the size of the room and the number of guests are also important factors to consider when deciding which ensemble to go for, and obviously fewer people means less cost. As we offer all four combinations at Fedora Strings we’re happy to discuss these variables without bias. Alternatively you can listen to wedding quartets, trios, duos and solos on You Tube or on our website, and choose which sound you prefer. JB

 

So, You Think You Can Arrange a Broadway Song?

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Fedora Strings’  lead violinist- Roger Stimson – speaks…

The musical arrangements you hear on our website are basically mine. But adapting well known songs for string quartet, trio and especially duo is a long way from the lush sounds of a full Hollywood orchestra, containing the best players in the world on one hand, a band of mellifluous clarinets and saxophones on a second hand or a deliciously intimate jazz ensemble, such as Nat King Cole’s, on a third!

Yet when thinking of the magical effects  the Broadway musical had already achieved a voice of sensitivity within me still cried out for fulfilment. I really love this music. How dare four classically-trained musicians slip off the intense training of high powered precision and rules of engagement and simply play these sentimental melodies with respect and from the heart? It’s not really that unlikely as the music can be so sincere.

In the arrangement of ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’ you will hear strange eerie harmonics at the beginning. This song was written in 1944 and these are the echoes of war, like the haunting drone of an enemy aircraft. Then the scene of two lovers: clearly he is going away to fight and she does not know if he will return – often he did not. The intense moods move between fear, warmth and longing then, at the end we hear the air raid siren which gradually fades into memory, leaving only peace. The opening was a stroke of inspiration by Jo, which she only informed me about just before the recording session. When she played it and we followed with the rest of the music I instinctively added the air raid siren at the end of the song.

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Gershwin enjoys a cigar while composing.

Arranging music is not just a matter of knowing the chords and having an accompaniment strategy. For me it is an adventure into the unknown. Of course, as a Royal Academy of Music trained musician I could use my brain when arranging music – and occasionally, when I am really stuck, I do – but I have to seek out the sounds I hear in my imagination and try to place them on the stave.  At times this can be a long drawn out challenge, at others a quick procedure.  I arranged ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ for string quartet in an hour and a half: ‘Bess, You Is My Woman Now’ took weeks and was changed over and over again.

Our arrangements are also quite special in that they can be played at weddings by quartet, trio or duo. The part writing is richer than most, but one then has the option of missing out a bar here and there in one or another part or doing repeats differently so that the whole performance becomes a creative experiment. I’ve found that as I gain experience the arrangements have become more individual and confident. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

 

 

In Praise of Heifetz

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As well as playing wedding quartets and wedding music, all members of Fedora Strings give concerts and recitals and are enthusiastic teachers. One of the most inspiring ways to enhance your own playing is listening to the interpretations the best players; and You Tube is wonderful in that it offers almost endless free opportunities to hear and watch the greatest instrumentalists in the world. Observe the perfect posture of Heifetz, Rubinstein and Piatigorsky in their vibrant performance of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor, see the sensitivity and imagination projected by the Hagen Quartet, swoon at the characterisation in Hvorostovsky’s singing of Bizet’s Toreador Song or admire the wonderfully humorous expressions of Fats Waller in his rendition of Ain’t Misbehavin’.

For me, though, there is nothing quite so beautiful as the recording of Heifetz playing his own arrangement of Gershwin’s Bess, You Is My Woman Now. Just thinking about the sound he makes is thrilling: the fast vibrato, intensely expressive slides, white hot passion and perfect technique. “The arts are a window into God’s world,” I remember being told by one of the laity at Peterborough Cathedral. Listen to Heifetz and you’ll need no convincing. JB