|I really love the sound of strings, but how do I know which ensemble to book and what exactly is the difference between a duo, trio and quartet?
While budget considerations sometimes dictate which ensemble you select for your event, often the venue is an important consideration as well. In a small chapel or other intimate setting, a duo or trio will carry enough sound while a quartet is really preferable for a larger church, venue, or outdoor setting. A duo simply means two instruments and it can mean two violins or a violin and cello. A trio can either be a violin, viola and cello or two violins and cello – there is very little difference in the sound between these two possibilities. A quartet is two violins, viola and cello and is the fullest sound of the ensembles. With some pieces, a duo will suffice but with others, such as Pachelbel’s Canon, you need at least a trio to get the Canon’s effect. If you are unsure which would be best for you, we will advise you taking into consideration the venue and the type of music you would like performed. Our trio seems to be the sweet spot for price and quality.
What do you wear?
Unless otherwise requested, we wear concert attire, which is tuxedo for the men and formal black for the women.
When do you arrive?
For a wedding ceremony, the musician who is responsible for the cues will arrive thirty minutes before the prelude music starts. They will make sure the placement of the musicians is appropriate, and consult with the officiant or minister and coordinator to ensure that all the cues are clear. The rest of the ensemble arrives twenty minutes before the prelude begins. For a reception or party, we all arrive around twenty minutes prior to start time.
How long should we book you?
We do have a one hour minimum booking and have found that a ceremony, complete with prelude and postlude, rarely takes less time than that.If you are planning an elaborate ceremony, please discuss it with your officiant or minister and they can give you an idea of the length of the ceremony itself, then we will add a half hour on to the beginning for the prelude music. If in doubt, we recommend that you book us on the longer side — the last thing any of us would want is for us to have to leave for another event before your ceremony is over.
What if the wedding ceremony takes longer than planned or we start late?
Due to the nature of our free-lance schedules,we often are going from a ceremony or other function to another concert or event, so additional time can often be a problem. We will try to accommodate you, however, if you think there is a chance that you may run late, it is best to book us for an additional hour to avoid paying overtime charges. Overtime is to be paid in cash at the event.
What kind of setup do you need?
We will need a shaded space of about 8 by 10 feet.
We will need chairs with no arms to accommodate the number of players in the ensemble.
If the lighting is expected to be poor, we will need an electrical outlet to plug our lights in.
How far in advance do we need to book you and do you require a deposit?
We book up to a year in advance. However, we have received last minute phone calls, so it’s never too late to call to check availability!
We require a deposit of 50% of the total balance at the time of signing to reserve your requested date and time. This is non-refundable.
The remainder of the balance is due two weeks before your event. Any overtime is due at the time of the event.
Payment may be made by check or money order made payable to Alda Hilsinger. We also accept credit cards on our website through the secure Google Check out system. Please see the Rates Page for more information.
My favorite piece isn’t on your repertoire list – can you still play it?
Our repertoire list is not exhaustive, by any means. Please ask and we can check to see if we have an arrangement of it as our library is growing every day! If we do not have one, you may send us the piano score and we will arrange it for a fee of $25. This is due two weeks before your ceremony.
How well do your instruments carry and is it better to amplify the sound, especially for a reception?
Our instruments are acoustic and do not require amplification.For both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, the sound of the strings carries extremely well.
Do you play outdoor events?
Yes, we do! Obviously because our instruments are made of wood and are very old and fragile, we cannot play in the most extremes of temperatures, nor when there is any precipitation at all – a slight mist which would feel wonderful to you and your guests would cost literally thousands of dollars in repair work.We will find compromises (such as playing on a covered porch if your ceremony is on a lawn, or playing the prelude indoors where your guests are and going outside just for the ceremony itself) but we ask your full cooperation and understanding if it is about to rain.
What is the difference between a standard wedding ceremony and a Mass ceremony?
Basically, it’s the length of time your ceremony lasts.A standard ceremony, complete with prelude music (music we play while the guests are being seated) and postlude (music we play while guests are exiting) lasts about an hour. A Mass ceremony lasts about an hour and a half and often includes additional musical selections such as hymns which we play either alone or with organ and other instrumentalists.
What is the basic structure of a wedding?
Prelude music will begin 20 to 30 minutes before your ceremony begins, when the first guests arrive to be seated. The ceremony officially starts with the music of your choice for the seating of the grandmothers and mothers. The men will then come out followed by the attendants, including junior bridesmaids, flower girls, and ring bearers, and then of course, the bride! We sometimes play for the lighting of the unity candle or another moment of reflection within the ceremony, then conclude with the recessional and postlude.Most weddings follow this general structure .
Who chooses the pieces for the ceremony and how do you know when to play them?
We sometimes have brides or grooms who say, “you’re the professionals, play something beautiful” and then we have others who have very clear ideas of what they do – and don’t – want.This is why we have provided some sample ceremonies on the LISTEN TO US page. Some pieces, such as Wagner’s Bridal March, have a definite one-place-only function within a ceremony, but many others are appropriate for several different points within the ceremony. We work with the coordinator on-site or find an individual who is able to cue us to begin the first processional. With a copy of your program in hand, we will know how many people are in the processionals so we can time the piece according to that. We will be able to smoothly and elegantly end the music as the last person in each processional comes to their place, but occasionally we will have to play an additional three to five seconds to make the most elegant and natural finish. The timing of the processionals with the music is not something you need to worry about at all. This is a professional advantage we offer so that you can enjoy this special time.
Why shouldn’t I use an ipod for my ceremony instead of live music?
Entertainment is one of the most important things that will ‘make’ or ‘break’ your wedding and reception. After all of your hours of planning, and all the expense of your event, success will come right down to how well your musicians and DJ perform. If you leave this to amateur or an ipod, you may be in for a disaster. A co-worker of mine used an ipod for her ceremony, hoping to save money. However, her friend could not get it to cue up correctly, even though it had been working perfectly a few minutes before the beginning of the ceremony. When they finally got it to work, it was the wrong selection. On top of this, there was no way to find a good stopping point once she reached the altar and the music had to be cut off abruptly. When you hire experienced professionals like the Alafia String Quartet, we will be able to end your wedding processional on a very natural stopping note. We have many years of experience tailoring ceremonies, and it will sound much better than someone hitting STOP on an ipod. You won’t have to worry about the music at all! Our rates are very affordable especially when you add up all the expenses associated with a sound system and setup.
Do you attend the wedding rehearsal?
The wedding rehearsal is primarily to organize who will walk and stand when and where. As we have played literally hundreds of weddings, we have not found it to be particularly beneficial to be there and in fact we would probably be in the way! We will already have the information required to facilitate the timings and flow of the ceremony, but if you or your coordinator would feel more comfortable with someone there, we may be able to arrange for a representative from the ensemble to attend for an additional fee.
Will you play the hymns that we want within the ceremony for our guests to sing?
Generally we can play hymns that you would like included. We need a copy of the music for each musician provided, in the key required, clearly marked with the verses you would like us to play.
My cousin/aunt/best friend is a singer – will you accompany him/her?
We are happy to accompany singers and have string arrangements of some often-requested songs. If we don’t have the song you would like, we may be able to order an arrangement of it for an additional fee. (See above for custom music.) We can meet a half hour prior to the beginning of the ceremony music to rehearse with your singer for no additional charge. In most cases, this will be plenty of time to rehearse.
Should we provide refreshments for you?
We very much appreciate the thought and for longer bookings, especially those with a buffet, we would appreciate being able to have a bit to eat during one of our breaks. However, please don’t feel obligated to make provisions beyond water for us for more formal affairs and sit-down dinners.