We play in the traditional string quartet format of two violins, one viola and a cello. When we perform as a string duo, we can either provide a violin with a viola or a violin with a cello. Do get in touch if you’d like more information on which combination to choose when it comes to booking a string quartet or string duo for your wedding.
We never take on more than one engagement simultaneously by hiring another group 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 and duo (with on average between 80 and 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 say, 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!
Many of the pieces of music that we play (in particular the pop and rock tracks) are complex and full of intricate rhythms and detail. For this reason, playing them requires many skills, such as a strong sense of rhythm, a dynamic approach to performing and excellent note-reading capabilities. As a result, we have built up a strong team of highly skilled musicians to ensure we always have many players to call upon in each instrument in the very rare event of a last-minute replacement. All our players are fully prepared and rehearsed with our repertoire. 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.
Although we have a huge repertoire of over 800 pieces of music, there are inevitably 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 3 minute pop song takes approximately 5 to 6 hours of work, depending on the complexity. Vaughan, our arranger doesn’t just purchase a piano / vocal score and tweak it for strings in a couple of hours, as this could end up sounding dull and oversimplified. To really bring a song alive, he arranges 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 songs 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 in the vocal melody or guitar rhythms. If you would like an arrangement written uniquely for a special moment in your event (such as signing the register during your wedding ceremony), we do ask for 2 months notice for this. We charge an additional £75 per song for a 2-hour booking and £50 for a 3-hour booking.
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 2 hours there is a charge of £75 for an arrangement and for bookings of 3 hours or longer, we charge £75 per arrangement. Normally we limit this offer to one piece per booking as the price we charge for arranging is kept artificially low (as there are many hours of work involved). Also, there are some songs which may not translate well for 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 so please contact us for details.
We have found a shortage of really good arrangements of modern popular music available for string quartet (and absolutely nothing for string duo!). Often collections consist of 1930s Broadway pieces, and the few pop songs available lack detail and are flat without the rhythmic impetus of the drums. We have discovered that many people nowadays are looking for a variety of different styles of music. As a result, Vaughan is constantly arranging new music and our repertoire is constantly expanding (up to this time he has arranged some 350 pieces of music for string quartet and 250 for string duo!). 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 – whether you like folk, jazz, rock, pop, palm court, traditional Jewish wedding music, Irish jigs, rat pack, classical or baroque music we will happily play it for you.
I am in a quartet and would like to play some of your pieces, do you ever lend out or sell your music?
Apart from our selection of 46 Christmas Carols for string quartet, unfortunately not – we do not sell, copy or pass them on them to anyone else under any circumstances as they are unique to our group.
We provide entertainment for all kinds of events including weddings, civil partnerships, shows, corporate functions, product launches, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, recitals, dinner parties, christenings, concerts and themed events.
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 for a pop or rock track, computer games, corporate DVDs and even providing music for adverts.We have a dedicated site about this service here: www.stringsection.co.uk
Like many groups, we do have a minimum booking time of 2 hours. 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. We can provide music for one or one and a half hours but would still have to charge for the minimum 2-hour booking, 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.
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.
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 (as 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.
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!
Manor House Music are based near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and most of our work is around the South East of England, London and the Midlands. We do realise that our repertoire is unique and have had requests to play from Scotland and the North East, but usually set a limit of a 200-mile round trip (so approximately 100 miles in any direction from Aylesbury) for up to a 3-hour booking. We are willing to consider travelling further than that for longer bookings though, so do get in touch and we can calculate travel costs as well as letting you know whether it’s feasible to take on your booking.
Does a ‘3 hour booking’ mean 3 hours of continous playing, or could you take an hour break in the middle?
A 3-hour booking does mean 3 hours of continous playing (apart from during the ceremony, where we may not play continously but wouldn’t be able to take a break). If you would like to spread music throughout your 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, you could book the quartet to play for 3 hours spread across 4 hours of time and this would be charged at an additional £40 for the waiting time.
As shocking as this sounds, we do have a panicked call/e-mail at least once a year from a bride or groom who have been let down at the last minute by a quartet who were offered a better paid engagement elsewhere. Although it beggars belief, it’s a reminder of the benefits of always having a contract in place, as well as researching whether your group are indeed a professional outfit or students/part-time players whose reputation is not necessarily going to suffer much even if they let other people down. If we still have the date free in our diary, we’ll do our best to help with emergencies wherever possible. Organising a duo (with two players) is always 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, even supplying you with a list of pieces for the various points in the ceremony which have proved popular in the past. 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 excellent knowledge about different pieces of music and how suitable they’ll be, so do feel free to pick our brains – we’re very happy to make suggestions.
As we all have antique instruments, we try to ensure these instruments aren’t exposed to direct sunlight, rain or high winds. In some venues, the shade of a tree can provide cover, but bird droppings have a surprisingly corrosive effect on the varnish of stringed instruments, so this is not always ideal! Umbrellas can also provide excellent shade as do archways and other architectural features. 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 £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.
We’re aware that there are all-male and all-female groups out there, but when people ask for this, 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. Oh, and which bride would want their guests talking about how glamorous the string quartet looked!!
Many groups offer a string trio as a serious alternative to a string quartet. This isn’t entirely fair as what they aren’t revealing is that they’re taking the four string quartet parts and simply omitting one. This isn’t done for entirely musical reasons and leaves it lacking that extra part. Our usual format is to go out as either a full quartet or a string duo as all the arrangements for these combinations are complete, with no parts missing!
Yes, we’re happy to play for schools, colleges, arts groups and other community projects. We have a varied repertoire and are happy to put together a creative programme of pieces (often on a specific theme) which will entertain and capture the interest of any age group.
The Manor House Music String Quartet and Duo 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, deducted from the total on the day. Once we have received this, the date will be reserved for you and we can start thinking about planning your musical programme whenever you are ready. From day one, clients always deal directly with Vaughan, who runs Manor House Music. He will go to great lengths to understand your needs and work closely to achieve exactly what you are looking for.
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. Whenever possible, we will try to fit in with any special colour scheme you prefer. It may be that your theme is purple and that the gentlemen wear purple ties and the ladies may have a hint of purple, but we’ll always do our very best and let you know the limitations of our wardrobes early on!
Put simply,’Yes’. Although you may not know the specifics of your event that far in advance, you can always book us for your date and let us know the finer details (such as timings) later on. It’s worth knowing that if you decide to change your wedding date later on, we may then be booked for another event on your preferred date. In that scenario, it is possible that you may lose your £100 deposit (if this happens within a year of your preferred date).
We’d love to list the 400 or so venues we’ve played at over the last 10 years, but we’ll always let you know in our initial e-mail reply whether we have played at your venue before. This can be useful in offering you insights into what worked well (or less well!) and can give you the benefit of our experience in deciding whether a string quartet or string duo could be more appropriate at your venue (although ultimately the choice is yours).
I see you are already booked on the date I wanted, can some of your other players take on a second engagement?
Unfortunately not – we’d like to retain the integrity of our setup by resisting the temptation to farm out more than one group simultaneously. Also, the whole process of preparing 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 you have booked us, we are exclusively reserved for you – 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.