A Conversation with Classical Guitarist Chris Dunn - District Weddings

A Conversation with Classical Guitarist Chris Dunn

May 28, 2009

Today, the birds are chirping outside my window and it is seriously music to my ears.  With this, I cannot help but think about the beautiful sounds that a joyous wedding must include!  Luckily, today, we have the perfect advice on entertainment for a wedding, as Classical Guitarist Christopher Dunn, owner of Classical Guitar Ceremonies, Inc., stops by to share his insight and recommendations…

What entertainment packages do you offer for a wedding? Are there a variety of packages from which a couple may chose?

My wedding packages usually break down into a few different categories such as wedding ceremonies, wedding ceremonies and cocktail hour, or dinners and private events.  In addition to these common packages, I encourage couples to speak with me so that we may discuss their vision and any unique details, and together, decide what would best work for them.  It is not unusual for weddings to have specials requests so I always suggest discussing the event prior to contracting entertainment, to ensure that each couple’s package fits their needs.


What should a couple look for when meeting with (and eventually deciding on) a musician?

Each type of entertainment will have differing criteria but as a classical musician it is important to consider the following:

Credentials: Is the musician trained from a music school or conservatory?  Most serious classical musicians almost always have credentials from a formal music school.

History, Longevity and Experience:
How long have the musician(s) performed events or weddings?  This is very different than performing concerts and requires many small details which are often overlooked.  The most experience the better…

Who Are They?: If the contractor or agency is not the actual performer, do they have samples of the specific musician performing for you and their background information?

The Product: Most importantly, how do they sound?  It is important to use your ears – many people feel a little overwhelmed trying to make musical decisions for the first time in their life.  Have family and friends listen to samples to help guide your decision.  Do the musician(s) present them self in a professional way both by phone and online?  Do they have a comprehensive website?  Do they have reviews or references that you can read?  Do they respond promptly to your inquiries?

Sound Restrictions: Depending on the format of the wedding and the location, will the volume of the instrument be audible?  I play a very delicate soft instrument (Classical and Spanish Guitar) but use a high quality amplifier for all events eliminating any issue with sound.  It can be used indoor or outdoor, occasionally even on a sailboat!


 

chris-dunn

 


What music do you recommend for the major parts (the prelude, the wedding party processional, the bride processional, the interlude, the recessional, the postlude) of a wedding? How do you work with couples to select their music?


For the music, most American wedding ceremonies have six major parts, each with their own special requirements: The prelude, the wedding party’s processional, the bride’s processional, the interlude, the recessional, and the postlude. I often refer to the suggestions of  Courtney Lawhn, a Chicago Harpist and Wedding Musician, who offers the following advice:

The Prelude: The purpose of the prelude wedding music is to welcome guests as they are being seated before the wedding ceremony.  It also should give a cheerful yet subdued atmosphere, setting the stage for the solemnity of the event.  The prelude generally begins 15 to 20 minutes before the ceremony start time, and it often involves quite a few songs.  Because of this, it’s best to give the musician(s) an idea of the genre of music you want and leave the individual song choices up to their discretion.

The Wedding Party’s Processional: The wedding party’s processional marks the official beginning of the wedding ceremony.  It should have a slow but flowing feel, ushering the beautiful bridesmaids and other members of the wedding party down the aisle.  The classic example here is Canon in D by Pachelbel, but you should listen to various musical selections to find a song that strikes a chord with you.

The Bride’s Processional: The bride’s processional can be an incredible moment, as memorable to everyone involved as the vows or any other part of the ceremony, therefore, it is important to choose a very special song here.

The Interlude: The interlude can actually be many different moments in the wedding ceremony, my very loose definition being any time there are no words being spoken for a minute or more.  For most wedding ceremonies, the interlude is the unity candle, memorial candle, or rose presentation.  These are moments of quiet reflection, and the wedding music you choose should encourage this mood.

The Recessional: At last, time to celebrate your wedding!  The wedding officiant’s pronouncement of husband and wife is followed by enthusiastic applause and joyous recessional music as the happy couple leads the way back up the aisle.  The song you choose should be bright and upbeat, inviting everyone to celebrate your union.

The Postlude: The postlude to your wedding sets a pleasant atmosphere as guests are leaving.  It can last between 10 and 30 minutes, so it is best to treat the postlude like the prelude music and simply give the musicians an idea of what you want.  Experienced wedding musicians will play postlude music that is refined but upbeat, adding the finishing touch to your beautiful ceremony.

If you do not want to choose individual songs for your ceremony, experienced wedding musicians will be able to play appropriate songs in the right places.  However, picking out your own wedding music can be more meaningful and satisfying.  The first decision you should make that will guide you in your choices is whether you want your wedding music to be traditional and classic or lesser-known but unique.  The professional wedding musicians you hire should have a supply of music from both categories in their repertoire.


How are you able to tailor your performance to fit different themes and cultures?

The Classical Guitar spans repertoire from over 400 years and is found in many ethnic and popular folk styles of music from all over the world.  The instrument lends itself very well to a transcriptions: JS Bach or the Beatles.

Most musicians will have a core group of selections that they perform so it is always a good idea to get their opinion based on what you are looking for.  Religious ceremonies have obvious restrictions with repertoire and should be made note of by the musician performing.  I have found it most useful to provide clients with musical ideas and then follow up with an email or phone call to cater directly to what they are looking for at their wedding.

I also have a special arranger in Philadelphia that can arrange any piece requested for a small fee.  I try to avoid extra costs to clients but occasionally this has been very helpful to met specific requests not available.


Thank you so much to Chris Dunn for stopping by today to share his expert advice! Be sure to check out his website to listen to the glorious sounds of his Classical Guitar!

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