Rock On: Advice for Hiring Music Masters

We chat with Melegari Chamber Players and Karaoke from Hell to get the scoop on their top wedding tunes and tips.

PALOMA GRIFFIN HÉBERT

Violinist and Founder, Melegari Chamber Players

When it comes to wedding music, Paloma Griffin Hébert gets that tunes take top priority, which is why the violinist founded the Melegari Chamber Players 11 years ago. She and her crew of strings, woodwinds, and brass have been playing a melodious mix of classical and eclectic chamber music ever since.

Q | Your ensemble plays everything from classical music to tango and even the Beatles. How important is it to be able to read the crowd you’re playing to?

A | We try to get a sense of the energy in the room and provide music that’s appropriate. For example, when it’s time to settle and prepare for the ceremony, we will playsomething soft and mellow. We’ll switch to more upbeat, lively music for cocktails, maybe from a few different styles. We are constantly mixing it up during reception and cocktails, depending on the vibe of the room. We do this without really thinking about it. It’s something an iPod or playlist can’t really provide.

Q | How much do you collaborate with the bride and groom on the music you play?

A | Some couples have very specific ideas of pieces or songs they want for each moment, from the ceremony throughout the reception. But some couples ask us to choose all of the music for them. It really depends on how involved they want to be.

Q | What does live music bring to a wedding that an audio playlist doesn’t?

A | Live music adds a magical element and special touch that prerecorded music doesn’t capture in the same way. It is usually a very small fraction of the average wedding budget, but is often overlooked. Use of prerecorded music will likely necessitate rental and setup of a PA—and someone to run it—which in itself may cost as much or more than live musicians.

There are also logistical matters to consider. For example, prerecorded music will force the transition between the wedding party music and the bridal march to be cut unnaturally. People will either time their march to a natural break in the music, have everyone wait at the altar for such a break, or just cut the music off or fade out awkwardly. Experienced musicians have ways of picking natural walking tempos and stops by using cadences or alternate endings. This allows everyone to walk with ease. “If music is really important to the couple, given the choice between professional live music and recorded music, live wins every time.”

BRIAN SAUNDERS

Bass Guitar Player, Karaoke from Hell

Nearly a decade into playing with Portland’s own live karaoke band, Karaoke from Hell (the band boasts a selection of more than 600 songs guests can sing, all backed by a full rock band), Brian Saunders has seen it all. Still, he says playing weddings are often his favorite part of the gig.

Q | What’s your favorite thing about playing weddings?

A | I really enjoy the multigenerational aspect of our wedding shows. It’s not at all uncommon to have singers as young as 10 or as old as 80 join us on stage. Karaoke from Hell brings a unique level of interactivity. With guests (and the wedding party) being the primary focus of the show, the whole sense of camaraderie and togetherness is really heightened. The reception entertainment can be the most memorable part of the entire wedding.

Q | Is there a most requested song from the weddings you play?

A | Song selections are usually pretty diverse, but there are definitely some songs that pop up more than others. We often have people from the wedding party singing in groups, usually picking songs that are good for sing-alongs. There are a lot of choices for those, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t do at least one of these at any given reception:

• Bridesmaids: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

• Groomsmen: “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks

• Bride and Groom: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

Q | Any tips for couples to consider when looking for live wedding and reception music?

A | Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, or to request an in-person meeting to sort out details, before making a final decision about hiring entertainment. We’re very good at tailoring our show to fit various events and go out of our way to make sure we’re on the same page as our clients, with regard to overall tone of the event.

Photos: Tracy Woods | Courtesy Karaoke From Hell