- What is a string quartet?
- A string quartet consists of a pair of violins, a viola and a cello, roughly corresponding to the soprano, alto, tenor and bass sections of a choir. It is the traditional combination of instruments for which Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and others wrote string quartet music, such as the well-known Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. When composers want more, they reinforce the sound by adding musicians to play along on each of the string parts, add a few double basses, some brass, winds, and/or percussion, and it becomes an orchestra. There are basically three kinds of quartet groups.
- Well-known string quartets, like the Shanghai or the Juilliard, consist of four musicians who devote their lives to practicing and performing quartet literature exclusively. Often sponsored by colleges and universities, the same four musicians rehearse their season’s repertoire for months, and then travel extensively playing it for the enjoyment of others, usually recording part of each concert seasons’ repertoire. Such groups do not play background music for social functions; when they give a concert, people buy tickets to sit and listen, and the concerts are reviewed in major newspapers.
- “Working quartets”, such as The Belle Arte String Quartet, play quartets because they love the literature, like being together, and enjoy making music for others. Often they are professional musicians in a major symphony, and while they play together under that umbrella many times each week, it is in orchestra, with many players on each part, and they have no choice in what is programmed. These players are not really in competition with full-time career groups, since they offer a different service. Their performance is usually not meant to be the focal point of a gathering, but instead, serves to enhance an event for special guests who are arriving, talking, eating, or conducting business. Chamber music in these situations still provides an opportunity for players to be their own “boss”, with each person playing separate lines, and allows them to indulge in music-making at a personal level. Nevertheless, when these groups are asked to play, it is usually just to provide ambiance for a special occasion.
- The third kind of quartet for hire is often called a “Pick-up” group, which is exactly how it sounds—four people who don’t play together on a regular basis (or who perhaps have never met until the day of the event), but who are routined players, and who trust their skill to enable them to perform the music in a manner which will be acceptable to those who hired them. Pick-up groups can be fine, but are often a bit of a gamble.
- The Belle Arte String Quartet was formed in 1984 by members of the Richmond Symphony to answer a growing need for accomplished musicians to play personalized, affordable Classical Music for Extra Special Occasions in the Central Virginia area. While only one of the founding members is still part of the group, we have accumulated a very large repertoire to suit the many different types of events at which we are asked to play. Of course, since there are other demands on our time, the only way we can accept advance bookings is to have not only a core of four players who are committed to performing in this group, but also to have a pool of players who rotate their chance to play as substitutes are needed. Our substitutes are used so often that we think of them more as “extras”, and any one of them is able to fit and blend in with the other three members of the group.
- Who wants a string quartet, anyway?
- Someone looking for that last touch of elegance to help mark a milestone in their private or corporate life will have a string quartet play at their special event, whether a wedding, marriage proposal, reception, anniversary, Baptism, corporate or other gathering. Music says what words cannot convey, and a string quartet provides an ambiance of sophistication that enhances any theme, without being so loud that it distracts from conversation. The group can play indoors or outside, (which is handy when there is no piano or pipe organ) and unlike a single instrument or singer, a quartet offers harmony and a blend of sounds with a range that far exceeds that of any human voice.
- The Belle Arte String Quartet has played for the ‘Fortune 500′, a Gubernatorial Inauguration party, a Centennial celebration for a local church, a funeral for a departed soul whose main love in life was playing chamber music, openings of new corporate facilities, many open house events, the Virginia Museum’s Faberge exhibit and, of course, numerous banquets and receptions for individuals, corporate parties, area organizations and clubs. Why not have them play for YOUR special day? Call today for availability – (804) 227-3363.
- How can an important occasion be made memorable?
- Any time you are involved in planning something that you wish to be extraordinary, or to simply impress a V.I.P., including a string quartet will add that final touch of elegance so that in years to come, that event will still be talked about. Let the Belle Arte String Quartet work with you in selecting music that will create the kind of air of distinction and style that YOU want for your guests and friends.
- What do I get for my money if I hire your string quartet?
- With the Belle Arte Quartet, in addition to artist/performers, you get a customized musical palette from which you may pick as much or as little as you wish to reflect your mood and intentions for the event. The versatility and wide variety of repertoire have earned it an enviable reputation by those “in the know”, but whether they are playing for a Gubernatorial Inauguration, a Fortune 500 convention, or an intimate, romantic wedding, the unique blend of wonderful antique instruments played by the Belle Arte String Quartet always enhances any gathering.
- Talk is cheap. How do I know you’re any good?
- One way you can find out more about us by checking our references. We have a pile about three inches thick, because we’ve been around a while. If you’re interested, we’ll send you some from the past year, including phone numbers so that you can contact them directly and ask anything you like about our performance for them. Or, you can download our videotape on file to which you may listen and judge us for yourself. (Click Video for more information about how you can see us in action).
- Members of the Belle Arte are all professional musicians and belong to the “musicians’ fraternity’”, the American Federation of Musicians, specifically the Richmond Musicians’ Association, and Local #123.
- How would a string quartet fit into a wedding ceremony?
- While the guests arrive, the Belle Arte String Quartet would play music to enhance your theme, reflect your personality or philosophy, or create the type of ambiance you wish. We would then play your selections for seating parents, bringing in the Bridal party, and the Bride’s processional. If it fit with your plans, the Belle Arte String Quartet would also play during the ceremony. We have often been asked to provide music during communion, or while Unity candles are lit, doves or butterflies released, or roses presented to parents. Following the ceremony, the quartet would play whatever buoyant music you select for the recessional, followed by a postlude selection while the guests depart, so the ceremony has balance—starting and ending with music for your guests.
- After the parents have been seated, the music must come to a musical a stopping point so that it sounds finished, and not like someone poked “STOP” in the middle of a CD! The group then changes music and restarts with different music for the wedding party, comes to another musical stopping point when the last member or flower girl has reached the front, and must quickly change again to the music for the Bride. An organist can handle that easily, since there are no other players to communicate with about when to stop or start. The most difficult aspect for a group of musicians is in making a smooth, seamless performance despite the quick sequence of events during the ceremony. (This is more readily achievable indoors, where we don’t have to attach clothespins to the music to prevent it from blowing away!) Only through playing hundreds of ceremonies can a reliable, well-timed and worry-free performance be achieved, one of the biggest differences between professional and student groups.
- Even after hundreds, the Belle Arte finds that each wedding is unique. One Bride was an hour late in arriving because she didn’t like the way her hair looked; another time, the Groom’s mother, a rather independent lady from out of town, got lost trying to find the church on her own; one Groom left the marriage license at home, half an hour away from the church. The Belle Arte always has enough spare music to keep playing for the guests, and tries to be prepared for the unexpected.
- How much music do you provide when you play at weddings?
- The Belle Arte Quartet allows up to an hour and a quarter for most weddings, beginning with thirty minutes of music prior to the ceremony. If you like, we will include special pieces for seating the parents, as well as the processionals for the wedding party and the Bride. We will also be happy to play during the ceremony (such as for a quiet moment of meditation, a hymn to be sung by the guests, or the lighting of a Unity candle), and of course, the Recessional, followed by some general exodus music while the guests disperse, so it doesn’t just “stop” without ending.
- Some couples like to add a vocalist for a special song, a trumpet for the pro-and recessional marches, or have the organ provide the Bride’s processional music, while others are happy for the quartet to provide all the music. We are happy to work with other musicians and will even help you find them for you, if you like.
- The Belle Arte books as much as a year in advance, but will of course, always have “holes” in the schedule. Call today for availability.
- How can I get more information?
- The Belle Arte String Quartet has worked with numerous people to create different moods for different occasions. To learn more about us, and talk to others who have worked with us, ask for our packet of materials. It includes sample programs, our repertoire sheet of frequently requested music, and a list of current references with phone numbers. If you are unable to access the music samples from this site, tell us, and we will be happy to also include a cassette duplicate of the online samples.
- To receive a materials packet, please send us your snail (U.S. Postal) mail address along with the time and date of your Special Day (we need to know where things will take place so that we can be sure there will be enough time between a symphony rehearsal or other obligation, and your event), to: email@example.com
- How do I book the Belle Arte String Quartet?
- Booking our group is easy—we send you a contract for your date, time and place; its return, plus a nominal deposit reserves that time period for you. We often book ten months or more in advance, although of course there are always gaps in the schedule, which we can fill if the time is right! We do not hold dates at the time of inquiry, however, so don’t wait too long before you decide!
- Most people go through a two-step process; first they request the information packet, check on our references, and discuss it with family and friends. The second step is easy– simply e-mail or call us at (804) 227-3363. If we are not in, please leave a message, including a number where you can be reached, as well as the time, date and location. It will also help if you tell us what time zone you are calling from, and what time of day you would prefer us to return the call, if we happen to miss you.
- For more specific information or answers to questions perhaps not covered here, please e-mail us or call the above number. Be sure to provide details such as the date, times needed and the location of the event for which you are interested in having us play, as well as your questions or concerns. We promise that we will call back during the time frame you request, or as soon as we are available at a mutually reasonable hour.
- Is it customary to tip musicians?
The Oxford dictionary defines a tip as a small sum of money given to someone for performing a service.
Tipping etiquette at a wedding is a common area of confusion. Although we tip service providers in everyday life, when it comes to your wedding day the etiquette of to whom and how much to tip can be bewildering. Tipping is supposed to be voluntary. However service providers do expect tips nowadays. Traditional wedding custom is to tip a wedding supplier if you think that they did a great job or provided you with outstanding service. Tipping should be based on the quality of service provided to you on your wedding day and in the run up to your wedding. By tipping them you are letting them know that you are happy with the service they provided you with prior to and/or on your wedding day. If you appreciate the work that they have done for you then you can show your appreciation by tipping them.
Tipping is an additional cost which you should include in to your wedding budget so that you ensure that you have money allocated for this purpose. Wherever possible calculate the tips you intend to give before your actual wedding day. Wedding tips are commonly overlooked when couples set up their wedding budget. It is important to calculate as much as possible prior to your wedding how much you can afford to tip your wedding suppliers. This cost and a contingency amount for extra tips which arise prior to and on your wedding day must be added to your overall wedding budget. Use the following information as a guideline but also use your personal judgment. Whilst tipping costs should be factored into your budget you must remember that they are discretionary and if you are on a tight wedding budget you should not feel obligated to tip.
You should calculate your budget on the basis that, if you can afford to, you will tip most of your wedding service providers and then you can make the final decision on the wedding day as to whether the services provided exceed your expectations. Do bear in mind that your decision on whether or not to tip is entirely at your discretion. If a wedding supplier has gone above and beyond the call of duty for your wedding then tip them to show your appreciation of their extra effort they put into making your wedding day truly perfect. Sometimes in the run up to your wedding day some wedding suppliers work wonders to accommodate you and your hectic schedule. If this is the case for you then it would be nice gesture to give them a tip to show that you appreciate their extra efforts for you.
Musicians – If you consider their performance at your wedding and/or reception to be exceptional and worthy of a tip then you should allow about $25 per band member. The actual amount is up to you and how well you believe they delivered the service you expected.