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Guest Artists at RBG Kew Gardens guest artists

We’re thrilled to have been awarded a very exciting contract!

Have you seen the press coverage and billboard adverts for the wonderful exhibition of Dale Chihuly's beautiful glass artworks at Kew Gardens - Chihuly: Reflections on nature?

A highlight of the exhibition (which runs until 27 October 2019) is a series of evening events called Chihuly Nights, where you can experience the majesty of Chihuly’s forms and colours, beautifully illuminated under the evening sky.

Kew Gardens have asked us to devise a unique soundscape to accompany visitors’ experience of these events. We’re collaborating with internationally-acclaimed composer Nico Muhly to create an ever-changing musical backdrop to complement Chihuly’s art.

Our ambient recorded soundscape will be augmented by a varied line-up of our favourite musicians, playing live in the Temperate House and the newly-opened Pavilion restaurant. The line-up will include Alasdair Malloy - the UK’s only glass harmonica player. What better instrument to provide a musical background to Chihuly’s glass sculptures?

Some musicians will also offer Chihuly Nights visitors the opportunity to add their own sounds to the composition, making for a truly immersive experience.

We’re very excited about the project and we can’t wait to experience these wonderful works of art in such an atmospheric setting. We hope you'll have the opportunity to visit the exhibition, and if you do come along to a Chihuly Nights evening, please say hello - we'd love to see you!

When “bespoke” really means “bespoke”! the wedding music company

This time last year, we embarked on a project to provide music at a beautiful wedding at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire.

We were contacted by our friends Bryony and Penny at The Entourage Collection on behalf of their clients who were getting married in front of 300 family and friends in a glass marquee, with drinks in the House, followed by dinner back in the marquee.

The brief was to provide a string ensemble for the ceremony, musicians to lead the guests into dinner with music audible to all guests as they moved, and a jazz band to accompany dinner.

This brief presented us with lots of exciting possibilities, and also lots of issues to consider, such as:

  1. 300 people will make a lot of noise and take a loooong time to get from the house into the marquee!
  2. there are three distinct areas to cover – the house, the area between the house and the marquee, and the marquee…
  3. …which is ENORMOUS
  4. how do we ensure that guests don’t get an ‘overlap’ of music as they move?

In the end, the solution was remarkably simple, in a complicated kind of way…!

Three string quartets played together as a mini orchestra for the ceremony, and then one quartet played in the House, one on the ‘walkway’ outside, and one in the marquee. Each quartet was hooked up to the PA system, with in-ear monitoring, and playing the same music in the three areas!

The sound guys from Ross Co were amazing and as you can imagine, the musicians had great fun during rehearsal, making sure that the sound was working properly! Here’s a video of the rehearsals – bear in mind that it was a freezing cold day in late October…!

The orchestra sounded wonderful when all three quartets played together, and here are a couple of clips from before the ceremony (Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto no 3 by JS Bach), and as the bride and groom left (Wedding March, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by F Mendlessohn).

We were all bowled over by the amazing flowers, designed by Woodbrown, and well fed and watered throughout the event by Last Supper (not a dry, curly sandwich in sight!). And of course, the fantastic marquee from PBI Event Architecture was just fabulous! It’s always a pleasure to work with such talented people to bring an event to life, and to realise the vision of the client and event designers.

Multi-cultural music for our multi-cultural business world music for business

It is increasingly common that event organisers wish to celebrate the cultural heritage of their company, or to demonstrate their company’s sphere of business, through the entertainment provided at company events. We are regularly approached by event planners for whom something “off the shelf” just won’t work and so we design entertainment to cater to their specific requirements.

Last Summer, we worked with a couple who were to marry in Tuscany and were fans of World music. The groom was Jewish, and whilst the bride wanted to enter the ceremony to Pachelbel’s Canon, she didn’t want a string quartet. Oh, and they wanted to dance to folk and contemporary tunes, and some traditional Jewish Horas too - this was a brief for David, our Director, to really get his teeth into!

Based on the bride’s request for Pachelbel and Western classical music during the ceremony, he started with a string duo and added a sitar for an authentic Indian sound. To help with the contemporary and folk side of the request, he added a guitar for its harmonic foundation, and finally percussion in the form of Indian tabla and various Japanese instruments.

The result was Synergy Six. As you will see, they performed repertoire as varied as John Legend’s “All of me”, Verdi’s “Libiamo” and Jewish traditional pieces such as “Hava nagila”.

This ensemble is perfect for events reflecting multi-culturalism within companies and their business, and the ensemble are keen to investigate the relationship between other musical cultures. They went down a storm, and the musicians loved working together in such an unusual ensemble, and we think you’ll agree, their sound is a wonderful cultural mix.

For more information about Synergy Six or to discuss your specific requirements, please give us a call, or drop us an email.

Top 5 pieces for during the Signing of the Register
at civil/humanist weddings the wedding music company

It was a very busy end to 2018, and the start of 2019 continued in the same way here at Guest Artists, but as a result, we have some very exciting news to share with you soon, so watch this space!

We thought we should pick up the blog thread we began in the Autumn, looking at the favourite choices for ceremony music over the years. So far, we have looked at entrance music for both church and civil / humanist weddings, so today we’re looking at the music for during the Signing of the Register at civil / humanist weddings.

Whilst the top five most popular entrance pieces for civil weddings are all classical, the signing of the register top six (couldn’t help ourselves… it makes it so neat!) are equally split between classical and contemporary pieces:

  1. Guest Artists Air, from The Water Music – GF Handel
  2. Guest Artists Chanson de matin – E Elgar
  3. Guest Artists Air on the G String – JS Bach
  4. Guest Artists Marry you – Bruno Mars
  5. Guest Artists One day like this
  6. Guest Artists Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol

As with any of the music for your wedding, you can choose any piece, as long as it has no religious connotations.

What about some more unusual ideas then?

Our favourite, new and unusual choice last year was Cantina Band from Star Wars, which our String Quartet was thrilled to play. It was the perfect choice for the couple, combining the groom’s love of Start Wars with the 1920’s vintage theme of the wedding!

For the metal-loving couple there’s Sweet child o’ mine – Guns ‘n’ Roses

Largo ma non tanto, from Concerto in D minor for Two Violins – JS Bach is a beautiful choice. It’s the least well known movement from the work, and invites the listener to quietly contemplate the serious, and legal, part of the ceremony.

Our last two suggestions are rarely chosen, and we don’t know why! Salut d'amour – E Elgar, despite its French title meaning “Love letter”, is a beautiful, quintessentially English piece.

And finally, Dein ist mein ganzes Hertz – F Lehar – or “You are my heart’s delight”. Need we say more?!

Any of our wonderful musicians can play any piece or song, so if it means a lot to you, it can be done! We have some wonderful arrangers too, so if an arrangement doesn’t exist, we can commission it for you.

Let’s get this party started! music for business

We’re getting to the time of year when thoughts are turning to Christmas parties, and whilst the venue might be booked, the poor frazzled person dealing with it (as well as their ‘proper’ job!) may only just be getting round to thinking about the entertainment.

And therein lies the £64 million question…Band or DJ?

Here are some things to think about when making this important decision!

It’s hard to beat the atmosphere generated by great live music, therefore a band is the obvious choice. Having said this, booking a DJ means that you get to hear the original versions of the songs everyone loves to dance to, plus you can have a much greater input into the playlist for the evening.

You should consider the number of guests you’re expecting - if your party is relatively small, a DJ could well be a better option for you.

If you have a long evening of dancing planned, you might consider a band and a DJ, as a band will charge pro rata for performing longer than their standard set time, so hiring both might actually be more cost-effective for a long playing time.

If the performance area available isn’t huge, DJs are normally pretty compact, whereas bands can take up rather more space, and can get a little upset when asked to shoe-horn themselves into a corner.

Finally, of course, there’s the cost. A good DJ will cost about as much as a very mediocre band and a good band will cost three to four times as much as a good DJ. In our experience, there’s no such thing as a good, cheap DJ or band: they’re either good OR cheap: never both.

Choosing the hymns for a Church Ceremony the wedding music company

If you’re having a church wedding, you will almost certainly need to choose some hymns for your wedding. But which to choose? Your favourite hymn from school? The one your Mum really wants you to have? That hymn your fiancé knows from the rugby? Relax – it’s not that difficult really! Here are our top six tips:

  1. • The hymns are the only part of the day when absolutely everyone is involved, so choose well-known hymns. It’s not the time to educate
  2. • Although every hymn book contains hundreds of hymns, in practice, 99% of hymns chosen for weddings come from a list of about 15 favourites
  3. • Make sure the hymns are balanced within the service – one popular formula is to start and finish your service with “big” hymns, with a gentler hymn in the middle
  4. • “Jerusalem” is the “biggest” hymn there is, so if you’ve chosen it, it really needs to be the final hymn
  5. • Uncertainty makes British congregations nervous, so avoid irregular hymns like “Lord of the dance” or “I watch the sunrise”
  6. • Beware of looking up hymn words on the internet - it’s a minefield out there. Click here for the correct words to all the most popular hymns

And don’t forget that a first-class choir and organist will give the congregation a great lead in the hymn-singing, and can also sing/play at other times in the service. Email us for a costing!

Entertaining Foreign Clients music for business

At Guest Artists we do a lot of work with Destination Management Companies. DMC’s, like us, are experts in arranging events, but whereas we stick to the entertainment side, they – poor things – have to look after EVERYTHING for large groups visiting the UK.

And when we say EVERYTHING, we mean every minute of every day and evening – from meeting and greeting the delegates at the airport and sorting their hotel and restaurant reservations, to organising every last element of both the business and social aspects of the trip – which could be anything from providing personalised flip charts to arranging a unique behind-the-scenes tour at a West End show.

When our friends at Wedgewood Britain were asked to arrange a quintessentially British experience for a group of Russian business people, they knew that the music and entertainment had to be diverse, and so called in the collective brains of our three offices.

Together we decided on two evenings of entertainment, the first of which was a “traditional British pub evening”. Although this was, indeed, based in a pub – the excellent Butcher’s Hook & Cleaver in Smithfield – this was a very unusual “traditional” pub evening. When we go to the pub, we aren’t normally greeted by a bagpiper, and it’s pretty rare for someone to draw a caricature of us whilst there too – and still less to invite us to take part in highland dancing. But this wasn’t a normal evening, and our Russian guests enjoyed all this and more – including a tutored beer tasting with a beer sommelier from Fuller’s Brewery.

Their final evening in London needed a more formal approach. Hosted at the lovely Middle Temple (one of our favourite venues) we felt a nod to the pomp and ceremony for which Britain is universally known was in order, so to the delight of the guests, a beefeater greeted them as they arrived. A jazz trio accompanied their reception on the lawn and rounded off a happy - and sunny - few days in London!

We put together a little video (below) of the entertainment they enjoyed – we think you’ll agree that the piper and the beefeater were the highlights!

As always, it was a pleasure working with Vanessa and her colleagues at Wedgewood Britain. They certainly deserved a couple of days off after such a busy time in the sweltering heat that was early July…

Top 5 pieces for the Entrance of the Bride
at church weddings the wedding music company

This week, we thought we’d carry on looking at popular music for the Entrance of the Bride, but this time, for church weddings.

You may (or may not!) be surprised to hear that Pachelbel’s Canon in D is the top choice for both civil and church weddings – here it is played on the organ, followed by the rest of the top five:

  1. Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. Guest Artists The Prince of Denmark’s March – J Clarke
  3. Guest Artists Bridal March, from Lohengrin – R Wagner
  4. Guest Artists Trumpet Voluntary – J Stanley
  5. Guest Artists Trumpet Tune in D - H Purcell

All these pieces are perfect played by solo organ, but many bridal couples add a trumpet if they’ve chosen the Clarke, Stanley or Purcell.

We are increasingly being asked for “something different”, and given our Director David’s background in choral music, these pieces are always at the top of our list, and the good news is, there’s a choral version of Canon in D!

  1. Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. Guest Artists I was glad – CHH Parry
  3. Guest Artists Ave verum corpus – E Elgar
  4. Guest Artists If ye love me – T Tallis
  5. Guest Artists Eternal source of light divine – GF Handel

Our colleague, Emma would like to point out that she chose ‘I was glad’ for her wedding well before Prince William and Kate Middleton even got engaged, and you might recognise ‘Eternal source of light divine’ from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Elgar’s beautiful ‘Ave verum corpus’ was famously used at the theme tune for ‘Brideshead Revisited’ but we think it makes a beautifully elegant bridal entrance.

Which would you choose?!

Wedding music fails…and how to avoid them! the wedding music company

We’re often asked about the worst wedding fails we have encountered, and we’re proud to say that, in terms of the music and musicians, we have never had a fail (the trains, planes and motorways are another matter…). So the music-related fails we’ve come across have been from clients or friends telling us “I went to a wedding and…”.

High on the list of no-nos has to be involving children of family and friends. No matter how accomplished they are, they are children, and probably have very little experience of performing in front of an audience.

Tears, whether induced by wrong notes or the pressure of the day, are all too common, and even though no one will blame them for a wrong note, or for bottling out entirely, they will feel a huge amount of pressure. As musicians ourselves, we know how the memory of a bad experience can shape our attitude to performing in later life.

In a similar vein, hiring the musician friend-of-a-friend, or someone you’ve been told is good, without doing some research can be deadly! We’ve heard of organists who sound like they’re wearing boxing gloves, and trumpeters who don’t know which end to blow down!

Of course, we want to support students (we were all there ourselves!), but if you’re hiring them, make sure that your agreement is iron-clad. We have heard too many stories of students pulling out of engagements at the last minute, due to a more lucrative offer (if they are booked through their college, there’s less likelihood of this happening). So whilst we wouldn’t want to dissuade you from giving students the opportunity for paid work, make sure everything’s in writing!

We’ve had many clients say that they have been to weddings at which no one danced to the DJ because s/he was playing purely thrash metal / club anthems / garage music (take your pick!). A good DJ will take the bridal couple’s likes and dislikes into account, whilst taking requests and reading the floor during the evening. Check that your DJ doesn’t specialise in one type of music and will tailor the evening to you and your guests. Tell him / her the likely age range of the guests and provide a list of a dozen or so ‘must-plays’, along with styles and artists that you like (and dislike!). And if s/he won’t accept a list…

Just last week, we were able to help a bridal couple whose DJ had cancelled, five days before the wedding. If you’re hiring a DJ who runs their own solo show, check what the fall-back plan is; a string quartet, then check they have suitable replacement players for if the worst does happen.

We’re rather keen on detail, and David, in particular, has a very sharp eye for proof reading Orders of Service. Some of the most common mistakes are simply down to auto correct or neighbouring letters on the keyboard making different, but real, words. A couple of our favourites are: Angela help us to adore him (rather than Angels help us to adore him) and We'll supply thy sons and daughters (instead of Well supply thy sons and daughters). So check and double-check. Ask someone else to do so too, and don’t rely on the printers to do it!

In top spot, and our favourite, happened in the mid 1990’s when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a recent box office hit, with Bryan Adams spending a record number of weeks at Number 1 with “Everything I do (I do it for you)”. A bride decided it would be a lovely song to walk up the aisle to, so the local organist - an elderly gentleman - was asked to play the ‘theme song from Robin Hood’. He is reported to have been a little surprised but said that he was sure it would be fine, and he’d get working on it right away.

Sadly, the bride didn’t walk up the aisle to the strains of a romantic love song, but instead to the rousing theme tune of the popular 1950’s tv show The Adventures of Robin Hood! The moral of this story? Check that you and the musician(s) are talking about the same piece of music!

Guest Artists does Michael Jackson music for business

David and Emma had a fun evening at The National Portrait Gallery at the end of September, running the entertainment at a private viewing of the Michael Jackson – On the wall exhibition.

Having worked with the NPG earlier in the summer, we were delighted when they approached us to co-host this event and to provide the entertainment. The evening: to demonstrate the Gallery’s innovative and unusual event spaces, and showcase suppliers. The brief: to provide an eye-catching opener, followed by engaging background music.

As you can imagine, this was an exciting brief, with the potential to do some unusual things! The end result was one of our amazing DJs, Flash Mob Dancers (above) and a strolling band, entertaining guests and turning them into a percussion section!

As you can see from the video, everyone had great fun and the cheer that followed the dancers’ performance was magnificent! The evening was mouth-wateringly catered by Alison Price & Company, the fabulous flowers were courtesy of Hayford & Rhodes and Fisher Productions worked their wizardry with the sound and light, and all in the beautiful spaces of the National Portrait Gallery.

We look forward to working with you all again soon!

Top 5 pieces for the Entrance of the Bride
at civil/humanist weddings the wedding music company

Fashions change: meringue skirts come and go; one year flowers are bold and bright, the next pretty pastels.

But music is timeless, and since our business began in 1990, the top five choices for entrance music amongst our brides each year have been:

  1. Guest Artists Canon in D – J Pachelbel
  2. Guest Artists Air on the G String - JS Bach
  3. Guest Artists Wedding March from 'Lohengrin’ (“Here comes the bride”) – R Wagner
  4. Guest Artists Air from The Water Music – GF Handel
  5. Guest Artists Wedding March, from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ – WA Mozart

All of these pieces are fabulous played by ‘classic’ ensembles and instruments such as a string quartet, pianist or harpist.

But what to choose for something a little bit different? There are so many wonderful options! Staying with classical, some of our favourites include:

  1. Guest Artists Salut d'Amour - E Elgar
  2. Guest Artists Allegro, from Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G - JS Bach
  3. Guest Artists La Rejouissance from 'Music for the Royal Fireworks' – GF Handel
  4. Guest Artists Waltz of the flowers - P Tchaikovsky
  5. Guest Artists Minuet - L Boccherini

However, just because you have a string quartet or harpist, for example, doesn’t mean you can’t go for a more contemporary twist for your music choices. So how about:

  1. Guest Artists Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls
  2. Guest Artists Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
  3. Guest Artists We found love - Rihanna ft Calvin Harris
  4. Guest Artists Marry you - Bruno Mars
  5. Guest Artists What makes you beautiful - One Direction

Any of our wonderful musicians can play any piece or song, so if it means a lot to you, it can be done! We have some wonderful arrangers too, so if an arrangement doesn’t exist, we can commission it for you.

What entrance piece are you considering, or do you have no idea where to start? Join in the conversation on Facebook.

Guest Artists does Top Gear! the wedding music company

There are many days in our working calendar that stand out for us as a team. We thought it may be interesting to share with you some of the (sometimes, in retrospect, hilarious) hiccups we encounter, and the lengths we go to, to ensure our clients receive the very best service we can deliver.

Here’s what happened when David, our Director, spent a rather hectic 24 hours running the music for a very elegant wedding in Europe.

The Runaway Priest…

For a start, the priest told me that he didn't like to hang about. He wasn't joking, sounding at times like the auctioneer on Storage Hunters (only with an Irish accent) - but to be fair, omitting the opening hymn altogether and then sending the bridal party out during the final hymn did give him a head start in his record-breaking attempt. The congregation must have wondered what this thing noted on the order of service as "recessional" was all about...

Frankly I'm not convinced he had even read the order of service at all - my suspicions being particularly raised when at one point he announced: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith in bold type"...

Combining this with a request given just before the service for an extra (unrehearsed, of course...) "special piece" for the bridesmaids to enter to - they were sent down the aisle individually at 5 yard intervals by the wedding coordinator - made for a service more challenging than was strictly necessary.

But that was the easy bit…re-wind to the middle of the night before the wedding…

A flight cancelled late the previous night had led to a merry, early hours game of find-a-flight-going-within-200-miles-of-where-we're-going-before-anyone-else-finds-the-same-flight, to say nothing of a £2.5k bill - and this only once I'd explained to the nice Barclays lady in Newcastle that my desire to spend £2.5k on flights at 2am was entirely genuine. Having done that it was then simply a question of contacting the performers (it’s the early hours of the morning remember), to get them all to change their plans and get to Gatwick rather than City for their early morning flight. Easy peasy.

Even this would have been fine except the replacement flight was then delayed on the tarmac, meaning that there was a fair chance that my esteemed colleagues wouldn't actually make the service at all anyway.

What to do? What would Jeremy Clarkson do? Hire a helicopter to meet the flight, of course. But the helicopter only seated six - and seven needed transporting.

So the day morphed into a "GA does Top Gear". Who would win over a 200-mile trip? A fast Mercedes going straight to the venue or a helicopter flying to its base about 30mins drive from the venue, plus car from there to the gig. (If you're interested, it was the helicopter by about 20 minutes). But all musicians made the service.

All in a day’s (and night’s) work

Once the service ended, all was disappointingly plain sailing!

But none of it would have been possible without the assistance, good grace and forbearance (and, of course, excellent performances) from our amazing musicians! I might perhaps have got a teensy bit shouty at some points, for which I apologise, but you were all stars!

This wedding was under a strict confidentiality agreement, so we’re unable to share much more detail with you – but we wanted to share the logistics of what can happen with some of our client projects. We absolutely love the work we do, are passionate about music, and work with an amazing group of artists – which makes our jobs that much easier.

Guest Artists are on the Blog! guest artists

It has been said, many times, that we should start a blog to record the life and times of Guest Artists, and try to pass on our wealth of knowledge after 25 years in the business. As musicians and event managers, we regularly experience situations that just wouldn’t happen to anyone else, and are daily in the privileged position of advising people about the music for their Big Day, organising spectacular entertainment for events large and small, and also giving comfort through music, after the passing of a loved one.

Through this blog we aim to: pass on tips for organising the music and entertainment for your event, be it large or small, private or corporate; take you backstage to show you the build up to some of our bigger events; and of course, share the “you won’t believe what just happened…” moments.

We hope you’ll join us on our journey into the world of blogging, and if there are specific topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know!

Guest Artists x