Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Great Indoors

Last time I took on outdoor venues, so I think it would be appropriate to discuss indoor venues now, especially with colder weather approaching.  The primary advantage to indoor venues such as hotels, chapels, and church sanctuaries is that event hosts have much more control in the environment.  Guests are sheltered from heat, cold, wind, rain, not to mention the noise of planes, trains, and automobiles.  Also, acoustically speaking, the natural acoustics are more conducive to your guests being able to hear the officiant or speaker of any kind, with or without a sound system.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you are looking at venues:

Size:  Will it accommodate the amount of guests you will be inviting?  It should be not too big, nor too small, but just right.

Décor:  Is the décor appropriate for the kind of atmosphere you wish to convey for your event?  If you event is elegant and formal, make sure the venue matches that vision.  If you are hosting a more informal event, then the environment should reflect that as well.

Staff:  Is the staff at your venue helpful and accommodating?  Make sure you get everything in writing before you sign on the dotted line, so that there are no surprises.

Music considerations:  If you are getting married in a church sanctuary, make sure you find out if there are any specific musical guidelines that the church requires.  Some may request only classical and sacred music be performed.  Others may have less stringent guidelines.  Once you know this information, pass it on to your musician (harpist, preferably!) so that he can make sure all musical selections are appropriate for the venue.  Also, find a good spot for your harpist or ensemble.  People love to see musicians performing (especially the harp, given its visual nature), so set them up front, but make sure you have a flat surface with adequate lighting.  If amplification will be needed, discuss this before the event.

Having performed as a harpist in Orange County and Los Angeles County for over twenty years now, I can state there are many wonderful indoor venues that would be excellent choices for any type of event.  Contact me if you need a recommendation.

Brian Noel

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Outdoors

Given the fact that we reside in southern California, it is to be expected of wedding musicians that we perform for outdoor weddings in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties, almost year-round.  As a harpist, I have had the opportunity to perform for many outdoor events over the years, and I thought it might be a good idea to share some ideas and suggestions should you decide to plan an outdoor event.

I think it is important to remember the practicalities of holding events outdoors, and to always keep in mind the comfort of your guests when doing so.  Are you getting married in August?  Do you have adequate shade and/or cover for your guests?  I recall performing for a wedding in Fullerton two years ago where it was 105 degrees out at 5 p.m., and the guests were sitting in the full sun (my flutist and I were in the shade, as it's mandated in our agreement).  Here were men in coats and ties, and women in formal wear, and the guests put them in the full sun on an August afternoon.

Similarly, I've done weddings outdoors in January or February, when the temperature has been in the 50s, and the family consisted of a number of elderly people who had to brave these temperatures, not to mention the bridesmaids in the strapless gowns, literally shivering in their heels.

So, with that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your outdoor event:

  • Is there adequate shade if there is a possibility of warm weather?  This is the biggest mistake I see at events.  If you are asking your guests to show up to your event and bring you a nice wedding gift, make sure that they are comfortable and do not have to tolerate an hour in the full sun.
  • Is there adequate seating?  Don't make your guestst stand for the ceremony unless it is very short.
  • Is there adequate shelter from the wind?  If you are at the beach, the wind may be blowing so hard that musicians may not be able to keep music on their music stands.  Your beach wedding that you saw on a soap opera might not go as smoothly as you saw on television if the wind is howling, your dress is flying all over the place, the flowers won't stay up,  and guests can't hear anything.
  • Are there flat surfaces for seating?  Harpists and other musicians can't play on slopes or tall grass.  Make sure that your surfaces are paved or at the very least, short grass.
  • Is there amplficiation provided?  This is another one of the biggest errors I see with outdoor events.  When couples do not use amplification, almost no one can hear the officiant or musicians.  Without some sort of natural amplification (i.e. a wall), sound dissipates very quickly, and I have seen events where no one except the bride and groom could hear the officiant because of the lack of amplification.  Make sure your venue provides it, or have a sound engineer on board to amplify (I always amplify when playing outside with a battery-powered portable amp).
  • Are you near any airports or trains that will be disruptive for the ceremony?  There are a few venues in Newport Beach that are right over the flight path to John Wayne airport, and although they are beautiful venues, the officiant has to usually stop two or three times during the ceremony to let a plane pass overhead because the noise is so loud.  There is another that backs right up to the Back Bay, and the sound of boat engines punctuates ceremonies I have done there constantly.  Visit your venue on the same day of the week and same time where you are planning your event.  You might be surprised as to what you see and hear.

In general, if you are considerate towards the comfort of your guests in mind, you can find a great venue.  See my previous posts regarding the Tivoli properties...all are enclosed, shaded, and lovely venues, as is the Wayfarers Chapel.  Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wedding Venues in Southern California

As a harpist who has performed in weddings throughout Orange County and Los Angeles County for over twenty years, I am often asked by clients what are my favorite venues, and why do I like them.  I thought I would list some of my favorite venues below and state why I like them:

Orange County:

Tivoli Terrace and Tivoli Too!  in Laguna Beach:  These venues are beautifully decorated, close to the ocean, and have friendly, helpful staffs.  Tivoli Terrace in particular has a beautiful upstairs chapel, with twinking lights and rustic, lovely decor that enhances their events.  They also offer catering right on site, so once your guests are there, they don't have to move to another location for a reception.  Tivoli Too! is also a great venue, staffed by the same great people with a beautiful environment, including a waterfall at the wedding altar.  This same compnay owns and operates The Hacienda in Santa Ana, which is another beautifully decorated venue with great food and service, and again offering the option of ceremony and reception in the same location.  http://www.tivoliterrace.com/

Los Angeles:

My absolute favorite venue in Los Angeles for weddings is the Wayfarers Chapel in Ranch Palos Verdes.  With its glass walls, which makes the beauty of the surroundings completely visible, Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, designed this structure as a "tree chapel", so that nature could be brought in to the structure.  The strucutre is acoustically sound for great music-making.  Book well in advance for this chapel, which seats no more than about 80 people.  http://www.wayfarerschapel.org/

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wedding Music

Having performed as a solo or ensemble harpist at weddings throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties for over twenty years, I am often asked for advice from both my friends and clients who are getting married as to what kind of music they should use at their events.  Generally, I tell them that the kind of music and musicians they use should refect everything else at the event.  If the ceremony is formal with tuxedos and formal gowns, I encourage them to use classical musicfor their ceremony.   Classical music helps to create a timeless, beautiful ambiance that matches the rest of the event.  If a vocalist is used, it would also certainly be appropriate to use one or two popular tunes (two of my favorites:  "Perhaps Love" and "The Gift of Love").

If your ceremony is less formal, still, classical music always works, but popular music can be a nice addition as well.  Some couples love Celtic music, and the beauty of that music is certainly appropriate for a less formal event.  I've done beach weddings with Hawaiian and folk music that were completely successful and lovely.

As for processional music and recessional music, the standard "Bridal Chorus" and "Wedding March" are always winners.  They are timeless classics, and the reason they are classics is that they work, as do standards like the "Canon in D" by Pachelbel, and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach.  However, there are other options available...just ask your musician.  He/she can offer other options.  One thing I would recommend to avoid are silly or trite music.  Recently, I was asked to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for the recessional, because of the couple's love of baseball.  Well, it went over like a lead balloon.  No one in the audience seemed to understand what it was all about.  It is certainly appropriate to play more light-hearted music at the reception, but stick with "formal" music to match your "formal" ceremony.

Let me know if you have any questions...thanks for reading my first post

Brian Noel