Comming Up! 8th October 2017 – Wedding Open Day at Smeetham Hall, Suffolk – Free Admission – Demonstrating The Baby Grand Piano Shell

Baby Grand Piano Shell

Baby Grand Piano Shell

Come and see me play the piano at Smeetham Hall’s wedding open day on 8th October from 2pm – 6pm. I am going to be demonstrating my baby grand piano shell which really does look the part at any wedding.

You can enjoy a free glass of Prosecco on arrival and experience this beautiful venue set up for a wedding. You will also have the chance to meet Bridget to chat about your wedding thoughts and plans.

There will also be an opportunity to meet and chat to quite a few of the other venue’s recommended suppliers.

Contact Details:

Address: Smeetham Hall Barn, Smeetham Hall Lane, Bulmer, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 7EU
Telephone: 01787 374 544
Email: hydep@globalnet.co.uk
Web: www.smeethamhall.co.uk/

2nd September 2017 – Wedding at Lauderdale House, Highgate, London – Piano Music for Ceremony and Drinks Reception

Piano Keyboard

Piano Keyboard

Yesterdays job was quite a lot different from the norm in that I could go by train, rather than drive. If I am playing the piano in London, as on this occasion, I usually opt for going by train if at all possible. I had tried to phone the groom previously to try and find out if the venue had a piano that I could use. I’d also left a message, but he hadn’t got back to me. So this meant that I had to take a digital piano with me on the train just in case it was needed. I do this by using a foldable sack trolley and placing the digital piano in a padded case and strapping it, together with a foldable keyboard stand, to the trolley. I have a small amplifier which is quite powerful (150 watt) which fits easily into a small rucksack. This rucksack easily holds this together with essential power supply units, cables, pedals and a small extension lead.

I managed to catch the 9:45am train from Lingfield and I eventually arrived at Lauderdale House in Waterlow Park, Highgate at 11:45am. On arrival the staff were surprised to see me arrive with a digital piano. There was a lovely Steinway grand piano In the room that I was going to be playing in and it was there for my use. I wasn’t going to be playing until 2:30pm, so I asked them if they could put my digital piano somewhere while I went into Highgate for something to eat. While I was in Highgate I just happened to have a chat with a lady who knew someone who had got married at Lauderdale House and she was telling me how expensive it is to hire as a venue. She also told me that they charge by the hour for the venue hire and then charge extra for nearly everything that you need including £5 for each chair that you use. If I had paid £5 for the use of a chair, I would want to take it home afterwards.

I returned at around 2:20pm and there were already a few people gathering in the ceremony room, so I started playing a few tunes. I played for around forty minutes and then the registrar announced the entrance of the bride. This was my cue to start playing “Little Dancer” by Elton John which had been requested by the groom. For the signing I played Elton John’s “Your Song” and “At Last” which were both my choice of music. Then for the recession I played “The Love Cats” by The Cure which is a piece that I have never been asked to play before, apparently it was a particular favourite of the bride’s.  Everyone then left the ceremony and stood outside in the sunshine for the drinks reception. They kept the ceremony room doors open so that I could carry on playing and the music could be easily heard outside. I then played throughout the drinks reception until Holly (the bride), James (the groom) and all the guests went into the room where they were going to have their wedding breakfast .

It was a really lovely wedding and I really enjoyed playing the lovely Steinway grand piano.

 

Contact details of Lauderdale House

Address: Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG
Telephone: 020 8348 8716
Email: enquiries@lauderdale.org.uk
Web: www.lauderdalehouse.co.uk/

 

26th August 2017 – Wedding at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire – Piano Music for Evening Reception

Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Yesterday’s event was a late one so I made the fatal mistake of setting off a bit later than usual. I had been booked as a pianist in Oxfordshire for a wedding reception. If you have read previous entries on my blog you will know that on Saturdays I like to set off early, so that I’ve got the bulk of the journey done by 9am. This usually ensures that I avoid most of the heavy traffic. Due to the fact that I was due at the venue at 6pm to set up, I decided to set off at around 11:45am. According to my Satnav I was due to be at the venue by 1:15pm, this would allow me plenty of time to have a good look around nearby Thame. The first ten miles was fine, but then I reached the motorway. From then on I spent most of my time in first and second gear or in neutral with the handbrake on. The arrival time on my Satnav got later and later. This traffic jam lasted all the way round the M25 until I left for the M40. By now my Satnav gave me an arrival time of 2:25 which was the exact time that I arrived at the venue.

I was still three and a half hours early so I drove down the road to Thame to kill a few hours there. I’ve played the piano at venues around Thame on many an occasion, but I’ve never actually had a look around the town. It is a lovely place, which is what you come to expect in Oxfordshire, and it has more than it’s fair share of historic buildings. It is an old fashioned market town and has managed to survive the modern age without being spoilt by too much modern development.

Having whiled away my afternoon, I decided to go back to the hotel. The venue is named Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which is a bit of a mouth full if you come from Barnsley like me. It is a wonderful venue and is owned by the same company that owns the Orient Express. I’ve been to this venue once before and I do hope that I get the chance to perform here again. It is situated just a short walk from Great Milton, which is a really picturesque village. 

It had come time for me to set up all my equipment, so I went into the reception to find out exactly where I was supposed to go. I was greeted by an extremely friendly and helpful receptionist who took me over to the room where I was going to be setting up. She also introduced me to a very friendly co-ordinator who was in charge of the event that I was playing for. To be honest every single member of staff I met at this venue was extremely friendly and helpful, especially the barman who gave me a nice cold beer later in the evening.

The Greenhouse at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

The Greenhouse at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

I was due to start playing at 8pm and it was now around 6:10pm, so I should be all set up by around 7pm. I was going to set up the grand piano shell and it does take a while to put together, but it does look the part and there is a big demand for something that looks more like a piano than the normal digital keyboard. I got to work and I was tightening up the last bolt at around 7pm. I still had an hour to kill before I was due to start playing the piano, so I took a stroll into the village.

I came back an was ready to start, but the guests hadn’t yet come into the room where I was playing. I had been hired to play solo piano for the evening reception, so I was there instead of the usual disco or band. This sort of thing happens a lot these days, as a lot of people have realised that the most important thing at a wedding is that people are able to talk freely. A loud disco or band can often kill conversation.

It was a further half an hour before they came in and I started playing the piano as soon as the first person entered the room. The bride and groom had made a preference for jazz and swing, so I was in my element playing all the jazz standards from the 30s and 40s. It’s really nice to play for an event where I can the style of music I love, and just let my imagination take me where it wants to. There was a guy sat to my left and I couldn’t help notice that he would stop talking and his foot would start to tap every time I played a swing number, so I knew that I had got this guy on my side at least. The evening progressed and I had a ball, especially when quite a few of the guests started dancing. This developed and I started playing more modern numbers (but not too modern!) by the likes of Billy Joel, Elton John and The Beatles.

The evening went well and Sarah (the Bride) and Alex (the groom) definitely had a great time. It took me about 50 minutes to pack everthing up when I after I had finished at around 11:30pm. My drive home was a lot more pleasant than my journey to the venue and took me a lot lesss time.

 

Contact details of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Address: Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD, UK
Telephone: 01844 278 881
Email: manoir.mqs@belmond.com
Web: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

12th August 2017 – Wedding at All Saints Church, Kenton – Piano Music for Ceremony

All Saint's Church, Kenton, Devon

All Saint’s Church, Kenton, Devon

I woke up at 5:30am and it took a while for me to come to my senses. I very slowly realised that I had work to do and I had to drive around 190 miles to Devon. There was no time for dosing, so I quickly got ready and I was on the road just after 6am. The journey down to Devon via the A303 can be tedious if you set off too late, as experience has taught me. The journey down there was really good, but the M25 was surprisingly busy to say that it was so early.

I eventually arrive in Kenton and their was a car park only a few yards away from All Saints Church. This magnificent church was where I was going to be playing the piano. I walked into the church and saw the piano the I was going to be playing. It looked very old and it had a candle stick holders, which looked as though they had been used recently. The wax had dripped and stuck to the wood on the inside of the piano lid (see photograph above).  I did have two digital pianos in the car, so if the piano was terrible I could easily provide an alternative. The piano didn’t look good, but when I tried it I was pleasantly surprised. It was a really nice instrument, and all of a sudden I was feeling a lot more optimistic about playing for this wedding. With an inner feeling of peace and contentment I went back to the car and had a sleep.

The Old Bechstein Piano

The Old Bechstein Piano

After having a sleep and a walk round Kenton I came back to the church and met Mark the parish priest who was really friendly and amiable. I checked everything through with him so that we both knew that we were on the same page with all the arrangements. I was only required to play for the gathering of the congregation and the entrance of the bride. The resident organist was going to play the hymns and the music for the recession, while the music for the signing of the register was going to be provided by a flautist. The signing of the register can sometimes last quite a while. With this in mind, Faye had asked me to play Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” If there was time after the flute solo. Faye chose the following music for me to play:

Gathering of the Congregation

– Elgar ‘Salut D’Amour

– Strauss ‘Voices of Spring’

– Chopin ‘Waltz in Ab major Opus 69 No 1’

– Bach ‘Air on a G String’

– Brahms ‘Waltz in Ab major’

Bridal Entrance

– Debussy ‘Arabesque No. 1’

Signing of the Register – depending on time

– Debussy ‘Clair de Lune’

I played all Faye’s music choices for the Gathering of the Congregation, but there was still more time to be fill so I played “Evening Primrose” and “Autumn Crocus” by Billy Mayerl. The rest of the ceremony went really well and the flautist was a fantastic musician. After the organist had played the last notes of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and all the congregation had gone, I went up to the organist and had a chat. Stanley was his name and he was a really nice bloke who was an absolute music fanatic.

I really enjoyed playing the piano for this wedding, and being able to play some classical music made the experience especially enjoyable for me. All that there was to do now was to set off home. Do you remember how I managed to avoid all the traffic on my way down? Well the journey home was terrible, especially on the A303 where there was a really long traffic jam. There were times when I just didn’t move at all, and drivers were getting out of there cars to try and see what the problem was. During this time I had a score of a Chopin Waltz next to me, which I studied to pass the time. I eventually arrived home, but it had been a boring journey home.

Contact Details of All Saints Church, Kenton

Address: All Saints Church, Church Street, Kenton, Devon EX6 8LU
Web: http://allsaintskenton.org.uk/
Parish Priest – The Revd. Mark Lord-Lear

5th August 2017 – Wedding at Calf Heath Village Hall, Staffordshire – Piano Music during Drinks Reception, Wedding Breakfast Followed by Singalong.

Cockney Singalong Pianist

I can see you!

I was on the road at 7am and was on my way to Calf Heath, which is a tiny village not far from Wolverhampton. I was playing the piano for a wedding and I was due to start playing at 4:00pm. So I was ridiculously early, even by my standards. On Saturdays I like to do most of my driving before 9am so that I avoid all the heavy traffic. I would much rather arrive early than add an extra hour to my jouney time because of congestion.

I arrived at the village hall at around 10am and there were people already there decorating the tables. I spoke to the person in charge and she guided me to suitable place for me to set up. I had quite a lot of setting up to do, as they wanted a cockney singalong after the wedding breakfast. So I needed a PA system, mixer, microphones, microphone stands and my digital piano of course. I also needed all sorts of other extras such as song sheets and my Cockney outfit comprising of a Bowler hat, waistcoat, grandad shirt, pocket watch, neckerchief and boots. After setting up I  drove to nearby Brewood and whiled away a few hours there.

On my return to the hall the staff were ready and waiting for the guests to arrive. I quickly changed into my Cockney outfit and after a short wait the guests started to arrive. This was my cue to start playing some background music for the  drinks reception. The plan was for me to play for this part of the day, followed by the wedding breakfast and then rounding everything off with a good old Cockney singalong.

The afternoon seemed to fly by and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. Laura and Ashley (the bride and groom) looked to be having a wonderful time as were all their guests. The time had come for the singalong and the song sheets had already been  handed out by the best man and the ushers. I gave some instructions to the guests about introductions and song order and sat down to play. I started a rousing introduction to “Lambeth Walk” and ‘hey presto’, everyone joined in. They all sang with confidence, and to say that most of them came from the midlands, they sang with a lot of Cockney spirit. By the time  I had finished the last song on the song sheet, the DJ for the evening was already starting to set up behind me. That was me done. I packed up as quickly as I could and I set off on my long journey home.

It had been a lovely wedding and everyone had been really friendly which certainly makes things more enjoyable for me. It was also a bonus that the Cockney singalong went so well, although I couldn’t persuade any of the guests to come forward and sing with one of my microphones.

4th August 2017 – Wedding at Camden Place, Chislehurst, Kent – Vocals and Piano for Wedding Breakfast

Wedding Car at Camden Place

Wedding Car at Camden Place

After my long drive from Nottingham to Chislehurst, Kent I was pleased to see the beautiful building of Cambden Place in front of me. This is the home of Chislehurst Golf Club and there were loads of people milling around. I found that the staff were very helpful, and having showed me where to set up, they carried on with their work. It didn’t take long before I had completely finished setting up all my equipment and I then took a short walk around Chislehurst Common. It was a lovely afternoon it was so nice to take in some air having spent so much time in the car over the last two days.

Camden Place

Camden Place

The purpose of my visit to this great venue was to play the piano for another wedding, but this time I was going to be joined by vocalist David Edwards. He sings all the old jazz standards as sung by the likes of Tony Bennet, Nat King Cole, as well as songs made famous by The Rat Pack. After returning from my walk David arrived and he was pleased to see that I had set everything up. He often uses his own equipment, but on this occasion we had arranged that he should use mine.

After a short wait everyone started to enter the room where the wedding breakfast was going to take place, and we immediately started performing. We had been hired to entertain the guests through the meal and both Sarah and Paul (bride and groom) were fans of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s music. At first we kept the volume fairy low, but our audience seemed to like the music and started to join in singing some of the songs. Everyone seemed very appreciative and the afternoon went by very quickly.

I always enjoy working with David and this was no exception. Playing the piano for this particular wedding was a really great way to spend an afternoon. Please make sure that you visit David’s website at http://www.loungejazz.co.uk/.

I hope that Sarah and Paul had a lovely day!

 

Contact Details of Camden Place

Address: Camden Place, Camden Park Road, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 5HJ
Telephone: 020 8467 2782
Email: enquiries@camden-place.co.uk
Web: www.camden-place.co.uk

3rd August 2017 – Wedding at Colwick Hall, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire – Piano Music for Evening Reception

Baby Grand Paino Shell at Colwick Hall

Baby Grand Paino Shell at Colwick Hall

It had been a long slow drive to Nottinghamshire from Surrey and I was really please to be ahead of schedule with Colwick Hall finally in sight. This was my 3rd visit to this lovely venue and I was looking forward to playing the piano for Natalie and Tom’s wedding.

On this occasion I was just required for the evening reception which makes a nice change from the weddings that I have recently played the piano for. Quite a lot of weddings have a disco in one room and then have me in another. This gives wedding guests a place to go where they can chat comfortably, without having to shout over loud music. This was different; there was no disco or band. The idea was just to have me, with my baby grand piano shell, playing music to fit the mood. The evening changed from being fairly quiet to being noisy with quite a lot of people on the floor dancing. I played quite a bit of Billy Joel, The Monkees and The Beatles which was mostly based of requests that I had from the guests. The evening went really well and the happy couple were please with the way that everything had gone.

After finishing at 11:30pm I had to pack up all my gear and pack it into the car. This usually takes about an hour when I have the baby grand piano shell to dismantle and pack. Luckily my car was parked only a few yards away from where I was set up and this certainly makes things a lot easier. Eventually, I put the last bag in the car and set off to the hotel where I was staying the night. It was only three miles away so it was a real comfort to know that I would be tucked up in bed in about 45 minutes time. Little did I know that I would be sleeping in a room which was only 6.5 feet X 6.5 feet!

Contact Details of Colwick Hall

Address: Colwick Hall, Colwick Park, Racecourse Road, Nottingham, NG2 4BH
Web: www.colwickhallhotel.com
Telephone: 01159 500566
Email: reservations@colwickhallhotel.com

29th July 2017 – Wedding at Warwick House, Warwickshire – Piano Music for Ceremony and Drinks Reception

 
Warwick House

Warwick House

I arrived at Warwick House in Southam a good 3 hours before I was due to play the piano for Donna and Phil’s wedding ceremony. This venue is only around 12 miles away from Compton Verney where I performed last Saturday and Monday. I was hoping to set up nice and early so that I could then have a walk around Southam knowing that everything would be set up on my return. It turned out that it wasn’t convenient to the staff at the venue for me to set up this early so I went for a walk and set up on my return.

Warwick house has very stringent health and safety requirements. They sent me disclaimer which I had to sign and verify that I had a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, PAT test certificate, public liability insurance and rubber ducting (rather than tape) to cover mains leads in public areas. Besides these equipment requirements, they had quite a lot of rules and regulations about where to set up, use of equipment and sound levels. Luckily I had all the safety equipment needed and I managed to abide by all their regulations. Before setting up I asked the co-ordinator  if I should use the the noise limiter mains sockets for my equipment and I very nearly laugh when she told me not to because they were thought to be unsafe!

Ceremony Room at Warwick House

Ceremony Room at Warwick House

Most of the weddings that I’ve played for recently have required me to play the piano for the ceremony, drinks reception and wedding breakfast. On this occasion Donna and Phil (the bride and groom) just wanted me to play the piano for their ceremony and their drinks reception. So it was quite a short gig for me by comparison. Her choice of music for the ceremony was as follows:

Enrtrance of the Bride – Make You feel My Love (Adele)

The Signing of the Register – The Rose (Bette Midler)

The Recession – Wouldn’t it be Nice – (The Beach Boys)

“The Rose” was sung by Bill Etherington (the grooms father) who sang the song beautifully and I really enjoyed accompanying him on the piano. The ceremony went well and I then went into the bar area where I played for the drinks reception. I really enjoyed this part as I had chance to play the more livelier stuff from my repertoire.

I hope that Phil and Donna had a lovely day and that I have the chance to play the piano for them on another occasion in the future. One thing that made this wedding really pleasant for me was the fact that the wedding co-ordinator was really friendly and helpful, as were all the rest of the staff. All in all it was a great day.

Warwick House Contact Details:

Address: Warwick House, 10 Warwick Road. Southam. Warwickshire. CV47 0HN
Web: www.warwickhouse.co.uk/
Telephone: 01926-815738
Email: enquiries@warwickhouse.co.uk

 

 

 

24th July 2017 – Wedding at Compton Verney, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire – Piano Music for Ceremony, Blessing, Drinks Reception and Wedding Breakfast.

Compton Verney

Compton Verney

This was my second visit to Compton Verney within the space of three days. The wedding that I was going to be a different format to the last one here. On this occasion I didn’t need the baby grand piano shell which makes things a lot easier. Another difference was that I was going to be playing the piano in the beautiful chapel for a blessing. The chapel is absolutely stunning and was certainly going to add a sense of occasion to this wedding.The building was designed by Capability Brown and is situated wthin grounds, just a few yards away for the main building.

On arrival I set up a digital piano in the Adam Hall for the ceremony and another on in the chapel for the blessing. I then waited in the ceremony room for the first guests to arrive. It wasn’t long before they started trickling in and I started playing some music. Megan the bride asked me to play Pachelbels Canon in D for her entrance, followed by City of Stars (from La La Land) for the signing of the register and Wedding Day in Troldhaugen by Grieg for the recession.

During the recesion the bride and groom left the buiding on the short walk up to the chapel and everyone followed everyone followed. After the last person left the Adam Hall I quickly left the building overtaking the entourage and I managed to seat myself at the piano before any of the guests entered the building. I played Debussy’s Clair De Lune as the bride and groom entered the chapel and the service was given by one of the guests of the wedding. I played the Sinfonia from Bach’s 2nd Partita in C minor as the congregation left the building and they all gathered outside for photographs. While this was going on I slipped away to the main building and moved the piano from the Adam Hall to the gallery next door ready for the drinks reception. They started to arrive into the gallery just as I was finishing setting up and I immediately started playing. I moved my digital back into the Adam Hall after the drinks reception and played for the wedding breakfast. The day went really well and I realised that the day would have been a lot easier had I brought 3 digital pianos with me rather than 2.

22nd July 2017 – Wedding at Compton Verney, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire – Piano Music for Ceremony, Drinks Reception and Wedding Breakfast

Compton Verney

Compton Verney

Wow! What a lovely view there was in front of me as as I drove steadily down the drive to Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park. It seemed really amazing that I’d never ever been to this venue before and yet I was going to be playing the piano here for two weddings in the space of 3 days. it was about 10:15 when I parked up by the venue. There was no one around and the doors in front of me were locked. I walked around the outside of the building and a really friendly middle aged man asked me if he could help. I told him that I was playing the piano for the wedding and he said that he would come down and open the doors in about 5 minutes.

A few minutes passed and he let me in the venue. There was quite a lot more setting up than normal, as I had to set up my grand piano shell in the Adam Hall where the ceremony and wedding breakfast was going to take place and set up a normal digital piano in an adjacent gallery for the drinks reception. After just over an hour I had set everything up and I was ready to hit those ivories.

Jacqui (the bride) had chosen the following songs for her ceremony:

Entrance of the Bride – Bridal Chorus – Wagner
Signing of the Register – Make You Feel My Love (Adele)
Recession – Daydream Believer (The Monkees)

I was really early, but it wasn’t long before people started arriving at the venue and I waited for the first people to enter the ceremony room. Eventually the groom entered with the ushers and the best man, and I started playing some gentle piano music. One of the ushers shouted out to me and he had a big smile on his face. He looked as if he had been drinking already and he was definitely out for a good time. It wasn’t long before the room was full and the registrar was announcing the entrance of the bride. The ceremony went smoothly and the couple looked really happy as they walked down the aisle to “Daydream Believer”. After the recession everyone went outside for a group photograph which was taken by the official wedding photographer.

After the group shot everyone went into the gallery next to the ceremony room for the reception drinks. I played quite lively music as the guests were quite a jolly crowd and there was a lot of laughter. I kept seeing the usher who had shouted out to me before the ceremony and he had a permanent grin on his face.

After the drinks reception I went back into the Adam Hall where the ceremony had taken place and the room had been completely turned around and was all set up for the wedding breakfast. I sat behind my baby grand piano shell and waited for everyone to come in for there meal. One of the first to enter was the usher who had kept making his presence known ealier in the day. He had definitely had quite a bit to drink by now, and he sat at the table which was right next to the piano. It turned out that he was a really keen pianist and had a great love of piano music. Some of the other ushers also sat down at the same table and they looked equally inebriated. This was definitely the ‘naughty table’ next to me and I would just have to go with the flow. As time went by they kept asking for requests including “Let it Be”, “I’m a Believer”, “Sweet Caroline” and “Hey Jude”. As I played their favourite songs their singing got louder and many of the the other tables joined in. I couldn’t help notice that even the bride started to join in with some of the songs.

Although the people on the table next to me were a bit noisy, they were good fun and really made the wedding breakfast entertaining for everyone. It was a wonderful day and I’m back here again for another wedding on Monday.

Venue Contact Details:

Address: Compton Verney Gallery and Park, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire CV35 9HZ
Telephone: 01926 645 500
Email: info@comptonverney.org.uk
Web: www.comptonverney.org.uk