FAQ

We have never had a problem fitting into any venue so far (and we’ve played in some pretty cramped medieval churches!), however please bear in mind that four string players will need a reasonable amount of space to play comfortably. As a rough guide an area about 4 x 3metres is a good space to accommodate a string quartet. We’re all friends so we’ll squeeze up if necessary!

The agreed contract specifies the length of time that the Ensemble we will be present at your event. This allows for short comfort breaks, moving from one location to another, speeches and any other gaps in proceedings.

Such interruptions may not be required, in which case we’ll be playing for the whole duration (we do take short breaks – playing is tiring works!). We set up and pack away in our 'own time'.

Please consider your schedule carefully when booking the Ensemble. Although we will consider extension requests on the day, it will be cheaper for you and more convenient for all, if timings are agreed in advance. The contract sets out the rates for ‘overtime’, but bear in mind we cannot always stay on, the players have families and other things to consider.  

Payment is best done by BACS, and the details are on the contract you will get.

We normally ask for a small non-refundable deposit. This secures our booking for your day. Obviously if date or timings change significantly we will be as flexible as we can be to ensure we can still be part of your event.

For the remainder, we will accept cash on the day, but to be honest we prefer full payment in advance. There is nothing worse than interrupting proceedings at the end of the gig (normally the wedding breakfast!) trying to hunt down the money-holder; you guys don’t want to be disturbed and we just want to get going! If you do elect to finalise on the day, please ask the person with the money to find us as early on.

There is nothing nicer than a summer reception on the lawn of a great house. Whilst we are happy to play outside, our instruments are our primary concern; we can tan gently as we play, but the wood and varnish on our instruments is delicate and cannot withstand full sunlight for long periods. We do require shade – and may have to move to follow the shade - so please consider this. Wind and rain are also problematic so it is always good to have a backup location, perhaps just inside near patio doors etc., so that the music can still be heard outside.

In general we do try to follow the main ‘peloton’ of guests around if the venue is large and they move to different parts of the house or garden. But there is a limit to what we can do moving chairs, music, instruments and so on, and other parts of the venue may not be suitable. We will also tend to steer clear while the big wedding photos are taking place. 

All we need are four armless chairs for the string quartet, three for the string trio, and two for the string duo. 

Please make sure the staff/manager of the venue is aware we will be there, and has an idea of where and when we will be playing. We will be there early to acclimatise and get set up and we will need four arm-less chairs (three for trio!), in a reasonably well-lit area. A room where we can leave instrument cases and other paraphernalia is also helpful so we don’t have things piled around us.

We don’t expect food, but if we are booked for a long session (more than 3 hours) the offer is always appreciated and it's best to work this out before the day. While it is always lovely to be offered food when we are playing, this can often be difficult to manage (normally it arrives while we are playing for you!), and sometimes our players just can't hang around after the event, much as they might like the look of the sandwiches and cakes!

We certainly would be grateful to be offered drinks – playing is thirsty work! 

 

We don’t mind photos being taken, and indeed welcome any digital copies if you or your guests wish to share them with us.

If you have arranged for your event to be professionally video-ed (is it still called videoing?) we would appreciate a heads-up first. While video and sound recorded as part of the general environment is fine, we would prefer to not have explicit recordings made without first talking to us! 

Best laid plans and all that... Bride is late for the ceremony, ceremony takes twice as long as anticipated, photos take hours to get done because kids have run off somewhere into the 20acres of landscaped gardens.... We do try to be as flexible as we can be, within reason, when there are unforeseen circumstances.

Sometimes we get asked to stay on for an extra half hour, or hour, or even longer sometimes. It's lovely to feel wanted and we are glad everyone is enjoying the music, and happy that the client is able to pay us our agreed 'overtime' rates... But remember we have families and commitments and we can't always just keep going past our agreed time. 

Sometimes yes. We offer an arrangement service and for a small fee we can often make your favourite song work for our ensemble. But sometimes there are copyright issues with the music which means we can't. And also sometimes pop songs just don't work very well in a string quartet or trio or duo arrangement - think about what makes them great to listen to... the heavy drums, the funky bassline, the shredding guitars, the vocals, the words themselves are often what makes a song special. Some songs work in an 'acoustic' version, many won't. We will always advise you where we don't think a song will work particularly well, we won't just take your money and disappoint you on the day. See also our repertoire page.

Definitely not. For certain parts of a wedding you may want very specific choices (brides entrance, signing of the register, happy couple exit), or at parties certain songs or pieces that mean a lot. But generally we don't need  you to set out any more than that unless you really want to hear something specific. But bare in mind you'll be busy with your friends, relatives and guests and you won't actually hear much of what we play. We are essentially providing lovely background music and will generally play music that seems appropriate at any moment.

If you have certain genres you love then of course let us know; if you don't want pop and rock songs then it helps to know to avoid any of those arrangements. If you love Mozart then tell us and we will make sure we play plenty of Mozart and similar period classical music. If you love jazz, we have plenty of fun jazz arrangements which we will play. All of these are mixed up and interspersed with each other to create an enjoyable vibe to suit the occasion.

Yes we can accompany singers, guitars, pipers, pianists, steel bands... any other instrumentalists. The main thing is to get in contact with them sooner rather than later to make sure we have the right music and so on. If we have to arrange a piece specifically then there may be a charge, please see the 'repertoire' page for a little more information, or contact us to discuss further.

We don't always need to have a separate rehearsal with the person we are playing with; it does depend very much on the piece and how comfortable we, and in particular they, are. However if a rehearsal is required (normally at some point just before the event starts), then we have to factor this into our pricing.

Yes, absolutely. We have some very close links to charities like The Brain Tumour Charity, and have recently performed at Open Garden events in Shropshire and Wales in support of them. We are always happy to talk to you about supporting your event in the best way we can. But in general we still have to charge for our services - after all this is our livelihood. However where possible we will give generous rates or occasionally ask to be paid in food, or beer :-)

From your initial contact to the day of your event, we are always on hand to help!

Please do not hesitate to contact us any time to talk about your schedule, the music, or how best to manage things. There is always some element of uncertainty even with the best arrangements in place; we pride ourselves on being flexible and reasonable and will do our best to help fit in with you both before and on the day.

The Alexandria Ensemble. Beautiful music for any occasion.

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