Frequently Asked Questions
What instruments make up a string quartet?
We play in the traditional string quartet format of two violins, one viola and a cello. When we perform as a string duo, a violin and a viola combination works very well, although a violin and cello duo can be arranged by request.
How far in advance do I need to book?
We never not take on more than one engagement at once by hiring another quartet to play under our name, so once a date is confirmed in our diary it is exclusively reserved for that client. As we are a busy quartet with on average over 100 engagements a year, it is adviseable to book your date early. As with everyone in the wedding industry, Saturdays over the summer get booked up much more quickly than Tuesdays in February. Although we currently have confirmed bookings up to two years ahead, it is sometimes possible to play for a very last minute engagement and always worth asking!
What happens if one of the musicians is ill on the day?
Many of the pieces we play - (in particular the pop and rock tracks) are complex and full of intricate rhythms and detail. For this reason, playing them is beyond the sight-reading capabilities of many orchestral players so we can't easily hire someone in for the day. We have worked hard to find a small pool of highly skilled musicians who are all fully prepared and rehearsed with our repertoire. On the occasions that a permanent quartet member is unavailable, we call on one of our reserve players who takes over on that day. If you have requested special pieces of music that have been arranged for your event, these will all be thoroughly rehearsed - usually on the morning of your event, with the same group of musicians who will be playing for you.
Can I have a special piece arranged and how much notice do I need to give you?
Although we have probably the largest repertoire of any string quartet in the UK, there are times when a client wants a piece especially preparing because it is meaningful to them and will make their occasion memorable. To create a quartet arrangement of an average 4 minute pop song takes approximately 6 to 8 hours of work, depending on the complexity. Although we could simply buy the piano / vocal score and tweak it for strings in about an hour, the results would usually be dull and oversimplified. To really bring a song alive, we arrange by listening directly to the track. It's a painstaking and highly detailed task, but the only way to truly capture the spirit and vitality of the original. Some are more suitable for quartet format than others - for example if a song is heavily reliant on a drum machine, creative ways have to be found to work around this. It's amazing how funky a cello can be when it has to be a drum kit and bass guitar at the same time, while the violins tackle the lead guitar and vocals and the viola player takes over the rhythm guitar part. The secret of a good arrangement is all in the detail - such as slight inflections or guitar rhythms. If you would like a special arrangement written uniquely for a special moment in your event (such as signing the register during a wedding), we do ask for 2 months notice and if possible a CD of the song you'd like (if one of us doesn't have it already!)
How much do you charge for a unique arrangement?
If there is a meaningful piece of music which is important for your ceremony, we are always happy to prepare this for you. If the piece of music you would like is extremely popular and would be good for our repertoire anyway, we may be able to prepare it for you at no extra charge - but this is at our discretion. If it's something less popular that is unlikely to be played again, for bookings of three hours or longer there is a charge of £75 for an arrangement. For bookings of under 3 hours, we charge £100 for an arrangement. Normally we limit this offer to one piece per booking as the price we charge for arranging is kept artificially low considering the long hours of work involved. Also, there are some songs which will translate poorly to strings - if your request is in this category, we will advise you of this.. Please note, this fee applies to a standard 3-4 minute song and anything longer may need to be priced accordingly, please contact us for details.
Don't string quartets usually just play classical music?
We have found a real shortage of modern popular music available for string quartet and absolutely nothing for string duo. Often collections consist of 1930s Broadway pieces, or a few pop songs lacking in detail. We have discovered that many people nowadays are looking for a variety of different styles of music. As a result we are constantly arranging new music and our repertoire is expanding all the time. Our unique library of hand crafted arrangements is only available from Manor House Music and we are able to offer a huge variety of musical styles. We are happy to select a programme of music so there is something for everyone, so if you like folk, jazz, rock, britpop, palm court, traditional Jewish wedding music, Irish jigs, rat pack, classical or baroque we will happily play it for you.
Can I book the Manor House Music String Quartet for a classical recital?
Yes, of course! We have an extensive repertoire of chamber music (see playlist page).
I am in a quartet and would like to play some of your pieces, do you ever lend out your music?
Unfortunately not - we do not sell, copy or pass them on them to anyone else under any circumstances.
What kind of events do you play for?
We provide entertainment for weddings, parties, civil partnerships, shows, corporate functions, product launches, all kinds of celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, recitals, dinner parties, bar/ bat mitzvah, christenings, concerts and themed events.
Are you available for session work or recordings?
Yes, all our musicians are experienced with studio recording and have worked on many major film soundtracks. We are available for television and film work, arranging and recording a string section for a pop or rock track, computer game, corporate DVD or even providing a jingle for your advert.We have a dedicated site about this service here: www.stringsection.co.uk
Can you play for just an hour?
The minimum booking time we charge for is two hours - or 3 hours for peak Saturdays from the middle of May to the middle of September. Because our musicians also play with orchestras that usually rehearse in the afternoons, playing for just one hour would mean missing an entire day and evening of work, so isn't really viable. However, if your event is local to us or of a 'last minute' nature, we may be able to play for shorter bookings - please ask, we will always try to help if we can.
Are you able to accompany a choir in a church service?
Yes, we are more than happy to arrange your choice of hymns to be played either alongside a choir and organ or to accompany the congregation.
Before I decide whether to book you, can I come and hear you play?
Sometimes we do play for public events or recitals but as the majority of our work is for private functions it's quite hard to ask people along just to listen. (We can't really invite you to someones elses wedding!). On our playlist page, you can click on any of the tracks listed in blue to hear a sample - this will give you a very accurate idea of how we'll sound on the day and the standard of our playing.
Do the samples I can hear on your website reflect the quality of playing I will hear at my event?
Yes, to give a fair example of how live music will sound we recorded all the pieces in one single take without 'touching up' any of the notes later on. Although it's always tempting to edit out any tiny imperfections afterwards, we feel that it is important to demonstrate the quality of playing you will hear on the day rather than an artificially enhanced version!
How far do you travel?
Manor House Music are based in Buckinghamshire and most of our work is around the south east of England, London or the Midlands. We have usually found the costs of travel make it unrealistic for someone to book us from say, Northern Scotland. However, we do realise that our concert repertoire is unique and are increasingly being asked to travel quite large distances, including recitals overseas. If you would like us to work out a travel quotation for you, do get in touch.
When is your next recital?
Whenever we are performing a concert, details will be listed on our diary page, so do check through the next few weeks as there is usually something coming up.
Does a '3 hour booking' mean 3 hours of continous playing, or could you take an hours break in the middle?
If you would like to spread music throughout a day, with a long break (of half an hour or more) between periods of playing, this is not charged as playing time, but at a nominal fee of £10 per player per hour of 'waiting' between periods of playing. So for example, a duo playing for four hours, with a two hour gap in the middle, would be charged at an additional £40 for waiting time.
Help! I have been let down and need a string quartet for next week!
If we still have the date free in our diary, of course we'll do our best to help with emergencies wherever possible. Organising a duo (with two players) is slightly easier to arrange than co-ordinating four people at the last minute, but with our pool of experienced players, we can sometimes arrange a full quartet suprisingly quickly. The fastest so far? - Providing a violin / cello duo for a corporate event with 8 hours notice.
I want classical music but don't know where to start, can you give me any advice over which pieces would work well?
Yes, once your booking is confirmed we will spend as much time as you need going through various options. It is not unheard of for Vaughan to play his violin down the phone for people when he's trying to explain how a piece will sound. As musicians we have an encyclopaedic knowledge about different pieces of music and how suitable they'll be, do feel free to pick our brains, we're very happy to make suggestions.
Are you happy to play outside?
As we all have valuable antique instruments, we try to ensure these instruments are never exposed to direct sunlight, rain or high winds. In some venues, the shade of a tree can provide cover, but bird droppings have a corrosive effect on the varnish of stringed instruments, so this is not always ideal. If you are planning an event where we might be asked to play outside, you will need to arrange for there to be a shaded area (such as a gazebo). We can supply this and put it up for you at an additional cost of Â£20. On the day of an event, we normally arrive at least half an hour early, but would be happy to arrive at the venue an hour early to put the gazebo up in exactly the right place for you.
Can I Book an 'All Girl' or 'All Male' Quartet?
We're suprised how often people ask for this and the simple answer is No. We are an 'equal opportunities' quartet and work with players of both sexes, chosen for the high standard of their playing and professionalism. To us, the most important thing is our sound and providing clients with an outstanding service.
Do you ever play as a string trio?
Yes, it is possible to play as a trio although your choice of music would be limited to a selection of more serious chamber works especially composed for trio. In other words, this is purely for concerts and not generally suitable as music for a function or party. All of the arrangements listed on our playlist are written for quartet or duo - they generally can't be adapted for trio and performing a quartet score with one member missing sounds empty. Our usual format is to go out as either a full quartet or a string duo.
Do you play for educational projects?
Yes, we're happy to play for schools, colleges, arts groups and other community projects. We have a varied repertoire are happy to put together a creative programme of pieces which will entertain and capture the interest of any age group.
How do I make a booking?
In order to offer our clients the best possible price, the Manor House Music String Quartet are not available through any entertainment agencies who would charge an additional percentage - the fee pays only for our hard work. To book musicians, we ask for a signed booking form and a deposit of £100 for bookings under 3 hours, or £150 for over three hours. Once we have received this, the date will be reserved for you and we can start thinking about your musical programme whenever you are ready. From day one, clients always deal directly with the musicians who will be playing for them on the day so that we can understand your needs and work closely to achieve exactly what you are looking for.
What will you wear?
Although quite often we are asked to wear formal dress (dinner jackets and black bow ties for the gentlemen and evening dresses for the ladies), we are happy to dress more casually - it's entirely up to you. Wherever possible we will try to fit in with any special colour scheme you prefer. For example, if you'd like the gentlemen to wear pink bow ties and the ladies to wear pink dresses, we will do our very best.
I really don't want to miss out, can I book you for my wedding in 2014?
As a general policy, booking for a date opens a maximum of 2 years earlier, so if you'd like us to play for your function on the 14th December 2014, we'll happily send out our contract form from the 14th december 2012.
Are you familiar with the venue where my event is being held?
Usually we try to turn up early (before any of the guests have arrived) to find a place to leave instrument cases and get set up. If a room has an unusual layout or there are any potential problems with space it may be worth putting us in touch with a representative from the venue just so we can talk through what our requirements will be on the day. We have also performed before - sometimes many times- in all the following venues: (in no particular order!) The French Partridge, Woodlands Manor Hotel, West Lodge Park, The Barn at Bury Court, Shardloes, The Bush Hotel, The Dorchester Hotel, Avenue House, Orchardleigh House, Clearwell Castle, Oaks Farm Barn, Hedingham Castle, The Royal Festival Hall, Coltsfoot Retreat, Bourne Abbey, Dukes Hotel, Marylebone Town Hall, Wadhurst Castle, Manor by The Lake, Headington Campus, Forty Hall, Millhouse Hotel, Hanbury Manor Hotel, Newick Park Hotel, Denham Golf Club, Shambala Festival, The Secret Garden Party, The Fens Bocking, The Rectory Hotel, Childerley Farm Estate, Meols Hall, The Manor House Hotel, The Ashmolean Museum, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Walmer Castle, Channels Golf Club, Bellows Mill, The Fishes North Hinksey, Loseley Park, Le Manoir, Ickworth House, Warbrook House, Tudor Barn Burnham, The Stratford Victoria Hotel, Down Hall Country House, Cain Manor, Parkstead House, The Hilton Park Lane, Rhinefield House, Bartholomew Barn, Grove House, Froebel College, Stock Brook Manor Golf Club, Anstey Hall, Lains Barn, Frimley Hall Hotel, Claridges Hotel, Runnymede Hotel and Spa, Eversholt Hall, Coombe Abbey, the Ham Polo Club, The Ivy, The Dome Cinema Worthing, Dulwich College, Lillibrook Manor, Buxted Park Hotel, Layer Marney Tower, House of Fraser at the Eden Centre, Chilston Park Country House Hotel, Notley Abbey, The National Motor Museum, The Ravenswood, Oxford Brooks University, Bedford Arms Hotel, Harpenden House Hotel, Horwood House Hotel, New Mill Restaurant, The Swiss Gardens, The Manor (Hemingford Grey), The Grove Hotel, Chantley House Hotel, The Raven Theatre, Waddesdon Manor, The Old Dairy (Waddesdon), The Old Bridge Hotel, The Stables Milton Keynes, Putteridge Bury, Henley Management College, Silchester House, Yaxley Hall, Derby Conference Centre, Inn on The Green, West Bromwich Albion Football Club, The Complete Angler, Sir Christopher Wrens House Hotel, The Old Ship Hotel (Brighton), Dodmoor House, Hunters Meet Hotel, RAF Walters Ash, Cock Hotel Stony Stratford, Forest of Arden Country Club, Sulgrave Manor, Woburn Portrait Gallery, Woburn Abbey, Priory Barn Little Wymondley, Micklefield Hall, Eastwell Manor, RS Hispaniola, Ettington Park Hotel, Donnington Grove Country Club, Sopwell House, Highgate House, Castle Royal Golf Club, Esseborne Manor, Ashridge Management College, Bradenham Manor, Kings College Cambridge, Culford School, Heythrop Hall, The Royal Show, Wentworth Golf Club, Stoneleigh Park, The Bull Hotel, Woodlands Manor, Whitelands Barn, Harrowden Hall, The Old Swan, Coulsdon Manor, Cannizard House Hotel, The Orangery Club, Oakham Castle, Hotel Felix, Stapleford Park, EF International Language School, Hinchingbrook House, Northcote House, The Bay Tree at Burford, Costwold House Hotel, Gilwell Park, Clare College Cambridge, Hartwell House, Marriot Court Hotel, The Pump Rooms (Bath), Flitwick Manor Hotel, The Swan Revived Hotel, Brocket Hall Hotel, Notley Tythe Barn, Parklands Quendon Hall, Easthampstead Park Conference Centre, Kelmarsh Hall, Chilford Hall Vineyard, Denham Garden Village, Bawdsey Manor, Windsor Guildhall, St Michaels Manor, The George Hotel Stamford, Theobolds Park, Fawsley Hall, Crockwell Farm, Taplow House Hotel, Sandhurst Barracks, The Springs Hotel, The Pavilion at Lane End, University of Essex.
I see you are already booked on the date I wanted, can some of your other players take on a second engagement?
Unfortunately not - the whole process of preparing the folders of music for each unique event, then getting those folders to another player who may live miles away and picking them up again afterwards takes up an enormous amount of time so as a rule, we only take on one event at a time - even if it's a duo. Once a date is gone, it is exclusively reserved for the first client - although if you'd like us to come and play later on and timings allow, we frequently take on more than one booking in a day.
ï»¿ Dear Vaughan, Once again a huge thank you to you and your colleagues for providing such exquisite entertainment on our wedding. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed your playing and was raving about Manor House Music after the event! All the best, Sarah and Adrian (Wedding at St Michaels Manor, St Albans)