Why Do You Need Live Music? Part I

David Ice - Harpist

David Ice (pictured above) is a fabulous Phoenix harpist. He is also an entertaining writer, and gets to the point in a way we can all appreciate. Here is an open letter to a bridal magazine, which he posted in the Harpcolumn (membership required to view forum posts)

As a vendor at the recent Bridal Fashion Debut bridal show in Phoenix, Arizona on June 10, 2012 I was given a copy of your magazine.

What distressed me was an article. In it the author states “if the DJ’s already there for the reception, you just have to adjust the time for the ceremony…..it’s cheaper than bringing a harpist or a guitar player in.”

The advantages of having a live musician—an instrumentalist—for the ceremony are huge, and I feel this has been totally neglected and our contributions ignored. Indeed, with the possible exception of the Phoenix Boy’s Choir, I can find no other ceremony musicians advertising in your magazine. And, given the above statement, I can guess why.

Why do I feel this way? Let me explain, and please, really think about what I’m saying.

Let us assume that a DJ is providing the ceremony music for a wedding ceremony. Now, I’m not picking on DJs at all. This is just the physical reality of how things are.

All it takes is one lost bobby pin and all the timings, rehearsals, and planning go out the window. The ring bearer starts to cry, and simply refuses to go down the aisle. (I see this more often than not!)

The DJ has 73 seconds of recorded processional music. And the kid refuses to budge. What is the DJ going to do? All he can do is hit REPEAT.

A live musician can do much better. For example, I can realize what is happening, and think to myself, “okay, go back to bar 17, play up to bar 26, then vamp on bars 23-26 until the kid starts moving, and then jump to the coda.” Voila….a processional that times out perfectly. If I need an additional 22 seconds of music—or 8—I can make it work. A DJ has no other option than hit REPEAT and fade out. Think about this. Play a CD….hit repeat at the end of a tune, and then fade it out at random. This is exactly what the audience will hear.

Conversely, you can rehearse a processional until you are blue in the face—but at the actual event, people are nervous and can practically run down the aisle. Your 73 seconds of music must now be cut to 42 seconds. A live musician can do it. The DJ has no option but to just fade it out—just like turning down your car radio.


And more often than not—we’ve ALL done it—you hit the wrong button or hit it too many times on your CD player, your iPod, your computer—and the wrong track plays. Another vendor told me about a wedding where the Canon in D didn’t repeat…what came on was the Theme from The Tonight Show. Oops. I’ve personally heard a DJ start the first dance for the bride and groom and hit the wrong button on his computer, and what came out the speakers could only be described in polite company as The F-Bomb Deluxe.

Similarly, having a family member sing to a karoke track can be hysterically awful. People get nervous and emotional, and it’s a rare wedding where something does not go wrong using a pre-recorded track. I was at a wedding on Sunday where the singer (a family friend) got nervous, and was soon 4 or 5 bars out-of-sync with the track. It was truly awful. A live musician can follow and accompany appropriately. But a mechanical recorded track marches on regardless of whatever problems the singer is having!

Another personal story: I had a bride ready to go down the aisle. I got the cue from her, and started Here Comes The Bride. A couple of seconds later, I looked up to see where she was. She was nowhere to be seen!!!

I started adapting and vamping. It was the longest 90 seconds of my life—did she get cold feet? Was she the proverbial “runaway bride”??

She finally reappeared. It seems she forgot her bouquet, and ran off to find it!

Had it been a DJ, he would have had no option than to hit REPEAT several times. And it would have been immediately obvious that something was wrong.

As it was, I was able to vamp a very long Fanfare and Introduction to the classic Wagner processional—while aging about 10 years in the process—praying she would reappear! But in the end it was seamless and nobody knew what had happened.

If a bride is spending huge sums for everything else to be perfect, why gamble on the ceremony music? Would you advise, “don’t worry about shoes, nobody looks at your feet anyway”? Music is the emotional glue that holds the ceremony together! Has there ever been a wedding guest who stated, “Every time I see a pink lisianthus I cry remembering your wedding” or “every time I see a Vera Wang #1729 I think of your wedding”?

But people will say, “Every time I hear that song, I think of your wedding.”
Since the music is so important, isn’t it equally important to make sure it fits, it is in sync, and it is as flawless as possible? DJs can only do so much. A live musician can do so much more.

Sincerely,

David M. Ice

I  mean, which would you rather have – this…

Or this?

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2 Responses to “Why Do You Need Live Music? Part I”

  1. Rev Steve Barnett Says:

    A point very well taken, indeed. Some day I hope to play as well as you do. Presently, I play harps I have built, and have nowhere the level of competence you have. I play at weddings…in the vestibule as background, and at dinners, etc…AS BACKGROUND. But to play in an environment where such professionalism is required…I’m not there, yet, and would not pretend to be….For the fee one bride’s family would have paid, it was very tempting to try, But how embarrassing that would have been for everyone. Being a pastor, I’ll stick to conducting the wedding services.


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